July 1, 2009

A postcard tells a story about "Theater Row"

Theater Row, Lawrence, Massachusetts

A couple of weeks ago I promised to blog about postcards - well I got waylaid but here I am at last.

Back almost a month ago, I decided to pull out all of the postcards we have in this house and enter one of the Festivals of Postcards hosted by Evelyn Theriault on her A Canadian Family Blog. First my husband and I pulled out all the postcards that he has had for years that belonged - from what I can figure out - to his father before his father was married and to one of his uncles. We pulled those out and I could not believe the treasure trove of postcards that have been sitting around all of these years. Many date back to the early 1900s!

After doing a bit of research about old or vintage postcards I realized that back in those days there were postcard clubs and this is how they worked: people would agree or sign up to send a postcard from wherever they traveled to the name or names of the persons they had. What helped me to figure this out was because some from the Gaspé region of Quebec were on dates that would have been impossible for my husband's uncle Peter to travel to Canada because of the business he owned at the beach. He and his wife could definitely not travel in the summer. The other thing is that some postcards are from France and different parts of the U.S. Anyhow we know they did not travel to those places.

Now other than uncle Peter's and my father-in-law's cards, I've been searching high and low for the postcards my mother had. I have come across a very few but I know there are more. I've put them in such a safe place that I've not yet found them - to my great chagrin.

Nonetheless, I did find the two postcards posted in this blog. They are two different views of "Theater Row" in Lawrence, Massachusetts where I grew up.
When I was a kid, my mother would pay for me and one or two of my cousins to go to the movies. In those days they were all double feature movies and started with Looney Tune Cartoon, the first feature, the news reel and then the second feature. Lots of value for twelve cents wasn't it? When I was in high school the cost to go to a movie increased to eighteen cents then to twenty-five cents where it remained for a very long time.

Back to "Theater Row" - it was so named because on one side of the street the movie houses began with the Palace then it was the Broadway then the Modern and then the Strand. As if that wasn't enough, across the street was the Victoria.

According to "Rilpey's Believe It or Not," the only place in the world where one could find a street with four movie theaters in a row was in Lawrence, MA. Known as "Theater Row" on Broadway, there were the STRAND (built in 1917), later renamed as the ASTOR, the MODERN (1921), BROADWAY (1910) and PALACE (1921). Along with several other theaters in downtown Lawrence, these venues entertained Merrimack Valley citizens for decades.

We would do one theater on Saturday and sometimes we do another on Sunday afternoon. I remember seeing Shirley Temple live on stage at the Victoria once. During WWII different people would come on stage to encourage people to buy War Bonds to support the war effort.

Though the various theaters sold candy and pop corn there was a candy and variety store before the Palace and one after the Strand. The one before the Palace was called Charlie Mann's and the one after the Strand was called Louis Pearl's. Interestingly enough, when I was researching through Lawrence City Directories for my father's family it turned out that they lived in a tenement over Louis Pearl's.

As though Theater Row wasn't enough, there were other theaters in Lawrence. My husband grew up in the Italian neighborhood of the city and they used to go to the Central Theater. On the same street (Broadway) where Theater Row was located but much further in a northerly direction was the Warner Theater.

What I've shared just goes to show how many memories can be evoked through old or vintage postcards.

So if you have vintage postcards, why not share what memories they hold for you?


Your Cousin Lucie

This blog has been submitted to the Festival of Postcards hosted by Evelyn Theriault at A Canadian Family Blog

Lucie's Legacy

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