New Castle News

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July 6, 2013

Movie Memories, Part 6: News readers share their favorite theater moments

NEW CASTLE — My husband, Ralph, had been back from serving in Korea for maybe two years, and we were living only about two blocks from the Hi-Lander. I walked up to see the movie and to see Aldo Ray. He talked with me for a while and gave me his picture. He was a very nice guy and also very handsome. I am 81 years old but will never forget that evening. — Marilyn Clark, Edinburg



“I worked as a cashier at the Cinema while I was in high school, from around 1970 to ’72. I loved my time there.

Whenever I run into Mr. Mickey, it’s like a family reunion. One time, my mom was out of town for my birthday, and he brought in cupcakes for me. I was really touched by that.

Back in those days, they’d have a 6, 8 and 10 (p.m.) show. I remember if there was one person in that 10 o’clock show, they’d run the movie.” — Cheryl Crawford Rosenholm, Shenango Township



(About the Hi-Lander and two of its co-owners, John Favorite and Joe Glorioso): We also had the “Ben-Hur” movie, at that time the actors gave us a book with signatures from all actors. Charleton Heston was in the book, it was so awesome. And on Saturdays they had cartoon Saturday. I loved that. When my grandfather picked up the film reels they were from McKnight Road. Ah, the good ol’ days. Also my Grandpa and Uncle Johnny owned the Blue Sky Drive-in where my mom and dad met! — Emma Glorioso-Fallat



I remember working the ticket booth at the Penn Theater. On matinees, it was so busy, and Mr. Mickey would help out at times. He was a wonderful person to work for. In the winter, it was sometimes so cold, he kept a small heater in the booth to help keep a little warmth in the booth.  It was a great after school and weekend job. — Ronalyn Eppinger



We lived near the Hi-Lander when I was a kid and I recall spending many summer afternoons in the front row with my popcorn and Lemonheads! I vividly remember seeing “Grease,” “Jaws”and, of course, “Star Wars” at the Hi-Lander.  Maybe it was just my youthful view of the world in 1977 but it seemed like going to a movie was really a big event! I laughed out loud at Dave Kalata’s description of how he “extended his stay” at the (Penn) theater!  I wasn’t quite as creative as Mr. Kalata, but I did something similar.  Instead of hiding in the restroom between showings, I would simply sink down in my seat and sit quietly until the next show time. I don’t recall any Hi-Lander employee ever saying a word to me. I like to think they were perhaps amused by the funny kid who loved movies and didn’t want to leave. — Dale Brenner, Volant



I remember my father dropping my sister, myself and a few friends at the Hi-Lander at 9 a.m. with a shopping bag full of snacks for the 1 p.m. showing of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” and staying for all four showings. We did this for three days in a row. I remember how nice Mr. Mickey was. A lot of good memories. — Robert Margel Sr., Shenango Township



When I was 16, I worked at the Victor Theater for a summer. I was paid 50 cents an hour and the thing I remembered the most was the movies were ones like “The African Queen,” and the crowds were so large that they were held over for weeks. I could recite every line before they spoke them. I was always glad when they changed movies. — Fred Harlan, Jackson Avenue



Penn Theater, 1951. What a classic place it was! We went to the Penn for the evening showing of the classic 1951 sci-fi movie, “The Thing from Another World.” It was in black and white, of course. In those days, most B movies were not in color.

I was 10 then, and my sister was about 17. We paid our admission — me 20 cents, my sister about 40 cents. Popcorn was 10 cents a box and candy bars about five cents! How about a cup of pop from a dispenser machine, 10 cents? How’s those movie prices, huh?

Getting back to the movie, it was a cold winter night, and yes, the movie was done up in Alaska, I believe, and in cold, snowy weather, too. We watched the show and it was damn scary for the times.

Oh, by the way, James Arness played “The Thing” in this flick and went on to become Marshal Matt Dillon of the famous TV series “Gunsmoke.”

Well, after the movie was over, we were scared out of our wits, and we had to walk back home to Beaver Street, about four or five blocks from the Penn Theater, and it was dark and cold as hell. There was snow on the ground from a previous storm. All the earmarks of that movie were there to remind us of the fear we encountered from “The Thing from Another World.” Yes, we ran all the way home! — George Nader, Neshannock Township



I remember Saturday after matinees with Chilly Billy watching scary movies and the Tarzan yelling contest. My older brother Bob McCartt got a big kick out of scaring me even further than the movie did. — Barbara E. McCann, Largo, Fla.



I worked after school, summers and weekends as a cashier/typist at the Penn until I graduated in 1956. There were two assistant managers there at the time with two shifts of ushers, ticket takers, etc.

I worked there during the strike and remember relating messages to and from Leo Mickey.

I would try to get out of working the kiddie matinee because we would have to ask for proof of age. If we did not, the ticket taker would send the kid back out to us.

It was such a nice place to work that my two younger sisters both ended up working part time at both the State and the Hi-Lander Theaters.

We used to have yearly reunions up to a few years ago. There is a scrapbook and pictures floating around somewhere — Vicki Francis, New Castle



One Sunday I took the kids to the Penn for an afternoon movie. The girl said, “There is no refund on tickets today,” and I replied, “That’s OK, we just want to see the movie.” We went in, and there was no heat. We did get a refund, but it was a struggle.

The Victor had a ledge on the left you sat on until they took you to your seat.

The first time we went to the the State on Long Avenue was to see “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” my grandmother’s favorite movie. We did see it some four times.

The Regent had Saturday movies for the kids and they made us sit down on the floor in front of the screen. For years I thought all cowboys were 15 feet tall. Maybe that’s whay I am wearing glasses today. — J.R. “Pat” Patterson, Volant



I can remember many Saturdays when my two cousins and I would pack our lunches and get a ride down to the Penn Theater where we would spend most of the day alot of times with cartoons, a movie and documentaries.

On some days, when there were monster movies showing, there were live “monsters” in the theater and it would be very scary.

There were always contests and prizes and the place used to be packed, and I always remember Mr. Mickey being there.  We’d sit in the balcony and for the price of a ticket and a drink, had a great afternoon.

Several years later, I’d be in line at the Hi-Lander and I’d see Mr. Mickey checking out the line and I thought he owned all the movie theaters in New Castle! What wonderful memories! — Sandy Reed, New Castle



I was born and raised in New Castle I left New Castle back in 1959 and joined the Air Force.

Prior to leaving for the Air Force, I ran the 35mm projectors at the New Vogue and Victor Theaters. The Fry Family trained me in the profession, and I worked as a union projectionist for about 40 years out here in the Midwest. Most of my projection jobs were in Omaha.

I really owe my life’s career as a projectionist to the Fry Family, George and Albert Fry.

While I was in training at the New Vogue we were playing a double feature, “Trapese” with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in Cinemascope and “War Drums” with Lex Barker, which was a flat print. George Fry let me thread up the projectors with the first reel of “Trapese” and told me to go ahead and thread up the second reel of Trapese.

By mistake I grabbed the wrong reel, which was the second reel of “War Drums.” All went well until reel changeover time. Here is Tony Curtis swinging on the trapese and when I made the changeover to Reel 2, we had Indians running all over the place. What made it worse was that the Indians were all short and fat due to the Cinemascope lens stretching them out. A lesson well learned and one I have never forgotten.

I’m now retired from my last job at the 20 Grand, which has 20 screens. I also had the opportunity to run 70MM with magnetic sound tracks, and I worked several drive-in theaters.

I’m now doing outdoor movies for parks and recreation at area parks. Not using film anymore. Using DVD projectors and 16-foot-wide inflatable screen. Good-bye, motion picture film. — Larry Koski, Fremont, Neb.



In the mid to late ’60s, I have many fond memories of the Penn Theater. On Saturday afternoon, it was a different mom/dad taking turns driving the kids, then dropping us off at Murphy’s, then we would walk to the show. One weekend Paul Shannon from Channel 4 was on stage as everyone came up to do a Tarzan elephant call! At the time a lot of Godzilla was being shown, and the first Santa Claus movie with a devil playing a part.

Two special memories include the nuns from St. Lucy’s taking the communion class to see “The Sound of Music,” and the Brownie troop took us to see “Mary Poppins.” I can’t recall the last show I saw there.

It was a beautiful era then, and I’m happy to have been a part of it. Thanks for the memories — Terri Perrett  Haney, Slippery Rock Township



I was in the Ne-Ca-Hi Class of ’49 and I got married in ’50. I got a job at the Victor. A man had the boss of the Victor and Penn. I helped the boys who had lights get their seats.

One night, the man thought he heard the roof cracking. Me and my husband shoveled snow off the roof over the side. — Adelle Johnson, Princeton Road



I remember the opening weekend of “Jaws” in 1975. It was shown at the Hi-Lander, and the line extended around the building. The 10 p.m. showing was delayed until everyone was seated and started at around 10:30. The movie was highly “hyped up” and it lived up to it. — Dan Thomas, Jackson Avenue



When I was 12 years old, on Saturday my best friend and I would take the bus downtown to shop, go to a movie and eat afterwards. We went to the Saturday matinee at the Penn Theater.

One of my greatest memories was when Leo Mickey played games. Everyone would try to sit up near the front and would wave their hands trying to get picked. One day, I was picked along with other kids and our job was to eat saltine crackers and then we were given bubble gum and was told to blow a bubble.  The first one that did that won. Do you know how hard that is to do?

I can’t remember if I won or not but it was pure fun being up on that stage and the crowd in the audience cheering everyone on. That was 52 years ago and it seems like yesterday.

Afterwards, we went to the Temple Building where there was a drug store there and had a hot fudge sundae. — Judy Maggie, West Washington St.



I was an usher at the Penn Theater from 1950-52. Louis Lutz was manager, and Tom Robinson and Fern Todd were assistant managers.

In 1950, we had that big snow. I had to walk from Waldo Street to the Penn Theater through the snow. I could hardly beleive the number of people who came to see “King Solomon’s Mines.”

I helped put  up the signs on the marquee every Saturday and Sunday. We had a packed house.

Usher pay was 50 cents an hour — but we got to watch all the movies and met a lot of nice people. I enjoyed working there, and it broke my heart when it was torn down. — Kenneth Thomas, Young Street



Being the oldest girl when I was growing up in my east side neighborhood I was often responsible for my younger sister, Barbara, and the twins next-door, Darlene and Marlene Murphey.

One summer, the Penn Theater was giving away one bicycle a week for six weeks. On one of those Saturday matinees, my dad dropped the four of us off in front of the Penn. I remember him jokingly saying,  “Now don’t go winning that bike.”

Being the oldest I was in charge of purchasing the four tickets and keeping them for the drawing during the intermission. As the big moment arrived, I tried to keep track of which ticket belonged to whom. As Leo Mickey read off the numbers I realized that the winner was in my hands. Trying my best to remember the owners of the tickets I felt the winner belonged to my sister.  We were told to go to the box office after the movie to claim our prize. As it turned out, all six bicycles being given away were boys’ bikes. We would later sell it and purchase one for a girl. When I called my dad to come and pick us up and that we had won the bicycle he didn’t believe me. It wasn’t until Mr. Mickey got on the phone that he realized that we had indeed won the bike. We enjoyed riding it for many years. — Linda Spinney Burns, Wilmington Road



My fondest memories of the State Theater were the hours I spent watching movies as a young kid growing up on the South Side.  In fact, the theater was a second home to many neighborhood kids.

During WWII, we saved our dimes to buy war stamps at school.  A filled book of stamps turned into a war bond worth $18.75. Lincoln-Garfield school held a contest to buy the most stamps. Our class won the contest and earned a trip to the State Theater during a school day. I can still remember our teacher marching us down Long Avenue to enjoy an afternoon at the movies. I wish I could remember the name of the movie we watched that day.  It was likely a western, which were the most popular movies in those days (to the delight of guys more so than gals).

Driving by the State Theater today takes me back and the memories flash by after so many years. I would like to thank those responsible for maintaining the theater, extending its place in history. I also appreciate and thank the New Castle News for keeping these memories alive, and all who did the research for the articles.  Hopefully, many others join me in reminiscing about our theater days and a by-gone era.  — Joseph Fair, Crestwood Drive



The summer between my junior and senior years in high school, I answered a help-wanted ad and Leo Mickey hired me as an usher at the Penn Theater. I worked there until the spring of my senior year, which was 1968. Six month later the theater was torn down.

As a kid, I was a frequent patron of the Penn and the State Theater in my South Side neighborhood. I still reminisce with a good friend of mine about seeing such classic sci-fi thrillers as “The Brain from Planet Arous” Look it up.

Now I was an employee. Leo was interesting to work for. He was always on the move. I don’t think I ever saw him walking slowly. Your article about him was very accurate.

Our job required us to offer to usher people to their seats, check to make sure all the exits were secure, sweep up and pretty much anything else Leo told us we had to do. Every Tuesday night after the 10 p.m. showing started, the two ushers on duty pulled out the tall step ladder and changed the marquis by hand. We used red plastic letters. The feature changed every Wednesday.

Of course, we were able to watch all the movies while we were “working.” The James Bond classic “You Only Live Twice” was the feature when I started and ran for three straight weeks. I could recite the entire script by heart by the time it had finished its run. Other movies that ran that year included “Bonnie and Clyde”, The Good The Bad and The Ugly”, The Dirty Dozen” and “In the Heat of the Night.” Not too bad.

All in all it was quite an experience. My exposure to the movie business had no other impact on me. I became a pharmacist and I am owner of Hyde Drug Store. — George Stefanis



I remember going to the Crescent when I was young and paying 12 cents to see the great cowboy movies starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Gene Autry, and watching the newsreels and the cartoons.  We would sit on the floor in front of the first row if the theater was filled and also up the aisles. No one seemed to care about "capacity" back then.  It was a wonderful time.

I was a movie fan and went to all of the movie theaters in town. We all loved the “kiddie” shows at the Penn Theater and could hardly wait for Saturdays so we could go to the movies.

I remember in the late 1950s when the actor Aldo Ray made a personal appearance at the Hi-Lander Theater.  The theater was filled to capacity because he was there.

On another note, I remember when the Crescent Theater became the New Castle Playhouse and was in the first musical “Finian’s Rainbow” which opened On May 18, 1961. The show was directed by Frank Scalera, with Joy Tobin as Sharon, Del Fletcher as Woody, Frank “Dixie” Dewberry as Finian and Frank Scalera as Og.  It was my first Playhouse show and I played a sharecropper.  — Eleanor Logan, Erie



I remember working at the Penn Theater when I was in my middle teens. Don’t remember the year, but I wasn’t old enough to drive and Moby Dick was playing at that time. Must have watched that movie 100 times.

If my memory is any good — and  that’s suspect — the popcorn came already popped in large, black plastic bags. Also that was where I first heard the word “air conditioning.” They put two huge units larger than a double fridge on either side of the theater and one on each side in the balcony.

I don’t remember what I got paid, but I can’t really remember what I was making when I retired 5 1/2 years ago. I don’t even remember what it cost for a ticket. I lived in New Castle from 1941 to 1958. — Richard Saas



Loved going to movies (at the Hi-Lander)  back in the day. There was a room on each side of the projection booth with plexiglass. One was a cry room for people with babies. But the other side was for smokers. We thought we were so cool, watching the movie while having a cigarette. Thankfully, I quit smoking!

My friends and I wanted to see a movie that we knew our parents would not approve of, so we had my Dad drop us off at the Penn. Soon as his car went around the corner, we ran down to the Victor (the theater by the LS&T bldg) and after, ran back to the Penn to call someone to pick us up! — Bridget Williams, Union Township



In the late ’50s and early ’60s, my grandfather,  J.P. Brogan, was a projectionist for the State Theater on Long Avenue.

My grandfather lived above the State Theater with my great-grandmother and uncle. I can remember going there and staying for days at a time. I would watch my grandfather put the reels on the projectors and then sit there on my stool to watch the movies. I would go with my uncle to Pittsburgh to exchange the reels we had for different ones.

I got to do everything from selling tickets and candy to cleaning up after the show. — Bill Buckel



During and following World War II, it was a time of economic recovery with many and various limiting shortages. Visiting with families and singing together around a piano was a normal entertainment. But our theaters provided a sight of a whole world outside of New Castle.

One summer Saturday, my parents had brought us to town. The Regent was showing a great, black-and-white, morale-boosting war movie, “Sahara,” with Humphrey Bogart. Dad and the boys decided to go there, and I wanted to go there, too. But Mom and the girls wanted to see some yucky romantic comedy at the Penn, and I had to go with them.

Here I sat with the girls, probably grumbling, to endure a romantic comedy. Suddenly, awesome Technicolor filled the screen and I saw — in color — a young, beautiful Lana Turner in clothes and gowns the likes of which I’d never imagined. The male lead that nobody would throw stones at, either, was a young Ricardo Montalban. Good-bye to Roy Rogers, cowboys and black-and-white B movies. The Penn Theater was my new favorite.

As a teen, I had my driver’s license and took another girl with me to see a matinee at the Victor. It was a summer day and we were well dressed for town in suits and heels. But instead of wearing a blouse as I had, she wore what was called a “dickey” — only a blouse collar with a bib front — under her jacket.

The usher seated us in front of four or five teenage boys. Soon we were engrossed in the story and we forgot about each other. Suddenly, during a dramatic scene, I heard snickering behind us. I turned to say something to my friend. I was stunned to see that she had become too warm and, captivated by the story, had taken off her jacket.

She was sitting there in her slip with a collar around her neck. — Liz Turner, Pulaski Road



My theater memories take me back to 1960.

Spotlight 88 was owned by my uncle and aunt, Ralph and Virginia Felton. Built in North Sewickley Township in 1948 in a bowl shape, each ramp was higher than the other for a good view. I worked at the drive-in as an engineer on Ralph’s miniature train.

In front of the screen were rides for the kids before show time, all for free — miniature train, roller coster, boats, merry-go-round and a tunnel the train went through.

Also in 1960, my mother and dad took a train to Boston to pick up a 1960 Nash Metropolitan miniature fire truck they drove back to New Castle. Siren and loudspeaker; best job I ever had, paid to be a locomotive engineer.

Best movie of that wonderful year was “Shaggy Dog” starring Fred McMurray; sold out, cars lined up on Route 65 to J.T.’s custard stand, at least three miles. Admission price was $1 plus all the rides for the kids for free! — John C. Felton, West Clayton Street



(On Saturdays), Mom would drop (my sister and I) off and we would meet my two grade-school friends — Big Bill and Little Eddie — outside the Penn Theater.

Inside ... we would Sit in the back row and saw the beginning Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Heckle and Jeckle, Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. Then came the coming attractions for next Saturday. If it was a love story, we would always yell, “ah, mush!!”

The first movie was usually a western with Hop-Along Cassidy or perhaps an aviation picture with Sky King and Penny. The films were in black and white ...

The intermissions always held a great deal of fun. Mr. Mickey would turn on the house lights, come on stage and hold a talent show with the audience. He would call upon the kids for volunteers to come up on stage for the Tarzan yelling contest. One by one, Mr. Mickey would hold his hand above each contestant’s head for the audience to judge. Some girl would always win it and a free pass to next week’s show.

And let us not forget the pass-the-grapefruit-under-the-chin. He would strategically place boy, girl, boy, girl. The first boy would pass the grapefruit without hands, under his chin to the next girl under her chin ... The crowd would cheer and jeer because the look of the action gave the impression those boys and girls were amorously necking.

When the lights went out was the time to throw the empty popcorn boxes into the air like Frisbees. Everyone did it, so it was no big deal to have one smack someone else in the head. Us guys would stand up in completely anonymity and throw hard cherry drops that came from the candy machine.

I will always have fond memories of those wonder-packed Saturdays at the Penn Theater. — Garry Cunningham, East Maitland Lane



One of the highlights of our summers as children growing up was going to one of the area drive-in movie theaters — the Skyline, Super Castle or Super 18.

My sisters — Nancy Gibson Hogue and Melinda Gibson — and I, and often our cousins —  Lee Homer Cascino and Elaine Homer de la Rionda from Rochester, N.Y. — would dress in our pajamas and help our mother pop popcorn and mix Kool-Aid to take with us to the movies.

We cried and laughed along with the characters of movies such as “Old Yeller” and “Pollyana.” I’m sure there was not one double feature that we saw the whole length.

My husband, John, remembers playing on the playground equipment prior to the drive-in movie pre-show of cartoons.

The only way John’s sister and future brother-in-law were permitted to have a date to a drive-in was to take her younger brothers along to “chaperone.” John would be dressed in his pajamas and fall asleep prior to the first movie, while his brother, Bob, would usually stay awake at least into the first feature.

Later, some of my dates were to drive-in movies; the last one was with my hubby.

When my husband was a kid, his mother often took his brother and him to the Penn Theater on Saturdays to watch cartoons and movies. One outstanding memory he has is meeting Paul Shannon, a Pittsburgh television personality, and the Three Stooges at the Penn Theater. I remember meeting Paul Shannon in the Penn Theater parking lot and being so excited.

Unfortunately, those memorable landmarks have faded from our view, but the special memories remain. — John and Debbie Miller, Mount Jackson



I was “René Stickle, Candy Girl” at the Hi-lander Theater (for) 80 cents an hour.

Mr. Mickey also worked the refreshment counter, teaching us the proper way to make orange drink, stocking a variety of candy and buttered popcorn.

Ever mindful of inventory, Mr. Mickey required that every cup and popcorn box be accounted for  at the end of each shift.  If not , we were required to recount. It was my first lesson in accounting 101, which to this day I credit Mr. Mickey.

One evening we were showing a nature film, which was not intended to be a comedy. However, the staff quickly noticed the audience laughter. Soon we realized the projectionist had placed the movie real upside down. — René Stickle

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