Tom and Jennie Vartabedian Interview

Emily Pingel 2002-2003

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Interview Participants
E
Emily Pingel, interviewer (female)
T
Tom Vartabedian, interviewee (male)
J
Jenny Vartabedian, interviewee (female)
E
Ok great
E
I'm actually gonna sort of like
E
Ok ok this is Emily Pingel and I'm interviewing Jenny and Tom Vartabedian for the lost theatres of Somerville project.
E
Ok let's start off, well I told you guys about myself why don't you tell me a little bit about you and your lives and your family
J
Well what do you want to know
T
Well I'm Jenny's son the oldest of two boys. We lost, we lost my brother two years ago of a heart attack at the age of 56.
E
What was his name?
T
Eddy, eddy junior, So I'm the only surviving son right now. We lost, she lost her husband, uh...
J
In 1975
T
1975 so she's been living with us for almost 35 years
J
Longer then that
T
She has been living right here
J
For 40 years
T
For 40 years
E
In this apartment
T
[inaudible] Mystic valley parkway and the line goes right through the house. half of the house is in Somerville and half of the house is in Medford
J
[inaudible]
T
But in reality we spent most of our lives in Somerville. Where we had a business, a family business called the Broadway Coffee shop at 81 Broadway.
T
Essentially it was my mother, Jenny and my fahter, Edward K who managed and ran the business 7 days a week at the old store and us boys pitched in when ever the opportunity presented itself, after school weekend, holidays, that sort of thing.
T
It was a quintessential family business. And out of that came a very decent living for our family, college education and all the amenities that went along with it.
T
And uh, I work as a journalist.
E
Ok
T
The [inaudible] Gazette I've been there for 35 years.
T
My brother worked for the transit authority in Boston. First as a bus driver and later as a videographer.
T
So toward the end of his career he ended up videotaping documentaries for Massport,
E
ok
T
Primarily, in and around the Boston area. And these included everthing from films on stress relief, stress management, safety, first aid, that sort of thing.
T
So both of us have had a photography background.
E
ok
T
ok,my mother, after my father passed away in '75, ok you tell her.
J
I went into the medical field,
E
ok
J
I studied and I started taking blood tests, doing blood test and I worked with the doctors...
E
So do you work as a nurses aid?
J
Yes, I was taking blood, yeah and helping the doctors with things like pap smear and all that and then after that I worked for [inaudible] and after that I retired. Now I go to the health club
E
Really! How old are you? If you don't mind me asking.
J
90 going on 91
E
Wow, congradulations that's great.
E
Um, yeah actually, So you, what made you want to work as a nurses aid? Is that something that you wanted to do before?
J
I've always wanted to be a nurse
E
Really
J
But my parents didn't have any money for school.
E
So tell me about your family?
J
My family, my father bought a store here and my first store that he bought for me when I was 17, and it was a candy store in porter square.
E
Was that when you graduated from high school?
J
Yes, and then after that I ran that for about three years
E
On your own?!
J
Yeah, my sister helped me, I was running the place
E
What was the name of it?
J
We called it Jenny's Sweet shop
E
Oh that's great ok
J
And then after that we sold that to a couple that came from the north end. After that we went underground for about a couple of months. Then I bought, then my father bought another store in Davis square. We called that, Jennie's Sweet Shop and it had an icecream palor.
E
ok
J
And so I worked there until I met my husband, my husband came all the way for popcorn, we had a popcorn machine there [inaudible] his brother came down. Six months later he had bought a new car so when he came down he said, "Do you want a ride?" Now my father was very strict but I said so the worst he could do was slap me down. So I took a ride and the first night as he went down on Memorial Drive somebody hit us from the back, brand new car
E
Oh my gosh. Do you remember what kind of car it was?
J
Oldsmobile
E
Ok
J
So after that, I had a white dress on and I had cherries on the bag, cherries all over the place, you know. so the police man said stand up let me see, I had told him that I hurt my knee, because they had the shift. So I stood up and the red cherries looked like blood and this lady at the curb, she said, "My dear you're bleeding all over the place!" and so she said, "Sit down," that was a good one
E
yeah, So was that, so that was before you guys got married?
J
Well then we got married in 1939, and then we had the two kids and then we bought our own place, the Broadway coffee shop, near the Broadway theatre
E
And that was right next to Broadway theatre ok
J
Yeah right next door
E
And uh, oh. was your husband of age to go into World War II?
J
No, he was working in the Navy Yard well and he graduated as a thing there uh, he used to print but his brother needed him in the store. So he left after 6 months to help his brother. We lived originally on Temple Street.
E
I know where that is. it's right off of Broadway also
T
near the capital theatre
E
Right, right
J
It's not there anymore
E
We heard quite a bit about that there was the the mafia was down there in Winter hill
J
Even on Broadway, they've got stories there. The doctor I worked with and she opened up an office and they were out strollen. She was there for about a year and then she left
E
So what was the coffee shop like?
J
We had a few sandwiches in the beginning when we bought the place, you know. We used to have a fountain that was manned by ice. Then we changed the fountain and the we had you know electric, new, fountain put in. I made sandwiches in there and on Fridays I used to make chowder and potato salads. And the customers would want the recipe then and we have this picture there in the background there [in the shading]
E
So this was in the shop
J
[inaudible]
E
That's great
J
That's the Swiss border that's Italian side and that's the Swiss side
E
OK,
E
Is your family lineage Italian?
J
beg your pardon
T
No we're Armenian
J
Armenian
E
Oh ok
T
My mother is survivor of the Armenian genocide.
E
really?!
T
And uh, the genocide occurred in 1915. We lost a million and a half.
E
Wow
T
There was destruction by Ottoman Turkey and my mother was forced to survive that
J
I was 8 years old when I came here. We came here in June, my birthday was in December and but I became 9 in December and I started Kindergarten which didn't know nothing, you know. And then, gradually they had alot of thing that they used to promote you, you know, they don't have any double promotions there now. But I graduated grammar school with in three and a half years...
E
Wow
J
Having double promotions
E
Wow that's neat. So did it take you long to learn English when you came over?
J
Beg your Pardon
E
Did it take you long to learn English when you came over?
J
No I was going to school and I graduated
E
Wow, that's great.
E
So the Turks were trying to take over Armenia?
T
They were trying to take over the land.
E
OK
T
They were trying to [Christian skirt] in Armenia. Basically slaughter the [inaudible]. Alot of envy alot of land control And uh, more then a half million people died and another million your disposed
E
Wow
T
And many of them escaped and came to America [inaudible] and began working in Sweat shops,
E
Right
T
In places like wood, rubber and serious leather factories. Shoe workers and what not.
E
Is your family or was your family a part of the Armenian Church?
E
Because isn't it....
J
Yes my uncle was a catholic priest, he [Tom] went to Vienna to study to be a priest
T
I don't know about becoming a priest I went to Vienna to study
J
He studied Armenian and he speaks Armenian
E
Really
E
I know, I was curious because there's a really well known Armenian professor at Tufts
T
[inaudible, name of professor]
E
I've taken her class, you know her?
T
[inaudible]
E
Yeah she's a great woman. I took her class art and politics in the middle ages and we talked alot about Armenian art
T
She's into politics
E
right exactly, yeah wow, ok great.
E
So, what did your parents do when got over here?
J
Well my father used to work in the foundry and my mother she had a job at the silk mill, they had a silk mill in Newton
E
What is a foundry? I have no idea.
J
They make uh...
T
Hats, clothing
J
Huh? no, no, no, it's like steel, they work with steel, they melt the steel
T
oh Steel, steel, steel
J
They melt the steel and they have these forms that the pour in to make the form
E
ok. ok ok and you said you have sister
J
Yes I had a sister. She stayed with my grandmother in France in Marseille. And she was there. She could have to come to Berger but she had to stay with my grandmother and she waiting for the [cooker] which took seven years before she was able to come to America and my sister came the year before
E
Was she older or younger?
J
She was younger, She's two years younger then I am
T
She's still living
J
Yeah, yeah
E
oh
T
She lives in Davis Square
E
Oh ok
T
near the, near the theatre, the Somerville theatre
E
Right, right and That was owned by the same by the Vianos
T
The Vianos
E
The same family as the Broadway
J
Yes, Yes, oh yes, even when we worked at the store it was owned by the Viano brothers
T
They had another one, I believe
E
The other was in I want to say Teele square
T
Teele Square
E
But I'm not sure
T
I think that's where it was
E
I think that's where it was too.
E
Let me see. Ok um, So what was was... I guess what I'm trying to ask is, what made your father come up with idea to buy a sweet shop?
J
Well they closed the foundary and he was out of a job and I was out of school, so he had like 500 dollars so he invested it in the store
E
That's great,
E
um and what did you sell at the sweet shop? What, Were the two similar? The one in porter...
J
Beg your pardon
E
Were the two...
J
The one in Porter, not porter square, yeah porter square,
J
They used to be the porter theatre there and they used to have vaudevilles down there and we had a concessions in the theatre and there was a little store that we made candies in, we used to make homemade candies then. I used to fix this I used to get the form of a house and I used to decorate it with gumdrops and it used to be a house like. and I used to put a mirror for water and I used to put benches at the windows and it used to look so beautiful. People would stop and look at it. And used to have these papers that you know you would pull and I would have stars on them [inaudible]
E
So did the store in Davis look similar?
J
Beg your pardon
E
Did the store in Davis
J
Davis Square
E
Did it look similar?
J
No, well I had some candies there too, homemade but we were selling ice cream alot,
E
right
J
they used to call them sundaes at that time, no they used to call them an ice cream parlor.
E
right yeah, ok,
E
Um, and so then what made you move to Broadway, to the Broadway theatre?
J
Well I got married, I got married [inaudible]
E
And then you and your husband?
J
My husband and I, he used to work for his brother and the corner of [farm don] avenue and Broadway. They used to have an icecream parlor and they used to make their own ice cream. He was working there before he met me, you know. And he was still working there until the war came up you know, and during the war he got a job at the Navy Yard, He was working at the Navy Yard
E
And you were running the shop?
J
No we had no shop then, I had the two children
E
And you were ok.
J
And then we he got out of the Navy Yard. Now he was going to go back to working with his brother who was paying him 18 dollars a week or else have our own place. But we thought Broadway and we had the Broadway coffee shop.
E
And did you guys live nearby?
J
Pardon me
E
Did you live nearby?
J
Capital Street
E
That was were you lived
T
about a mile
J
And that's were my youngest boy was born and then he was six months old when we headed to [inaudible] street. I lived originally on Langley Avenue, which is up the street a little bit.
E
So, Do you remember what year the shop opened in the Broadway?
J
In 1946 the Broadway coffee shop was opened.
E
So right after the war...ended.
J
1946, yeah.
J
In 1935 the one in Davis Square opened. In 19, let's see when it was, in 1930 in Porter square.
E
wow, and do you remember did you go...
J
When we started the Broadway coffee shop the coffee was 5 cents a cup
E
5 cents a cup!
J
And then it went up to 10 cents.
E
wow, so then...
J
sandwiches were 40 cents a sandwich and when we tried to sell the store we couldn't sell it because it was so cheap the sandwiches and they said who ever buys it they have to go way up because. They used to love coming in we have to the orange fresh orange and we used to squeeze it and give it to the customers.
E
How long did you have it for?
J
We had that for about 24 years
T
What the shop?
J
Yeah the Broadway Coffee Shop
T
'46 to '74 right?
J
'75
T
'75 ok then
J
I think wait ok no, he died in '75 we sold it in '72
T
ok
J
He was sick for 3 years, your father with cancer, he had cancer
E
What kind of cancer?
J
Bone cancer, he suffered so much
E
I'm sorry
J
that's ok
E
um, so where was the coffee shop in relation to the theatre
T
They were joined
E
So you could access the coffee shop through the theatre or did you have to go out?
J
Well no when they had intermission they would come to the coffee shop, during intermission like 9 o'clock and they used to get all the snack food, juices and coca-cola
T
The show, the movie theatre protruded into the restaurant and there was an entry way and what we did was turned that into a house, it looked like a little house, a little shack, a caddy shack type of thing.
T
So that the only way to access the theatre was to go outside. You would go around that way, it got to be too magnanimous, the customers coming in. This way they had to go outside, because it facilitated the flow of traffic is exactly what it did.
E
ok 'cause did people, was there any way that you could have gone into the sweet shop, I'm sorry the coffee shop and then gone into the theatre without paying?
J
No, no this was intermission time, dear. This wasn't during the time that they could go in.
T
What they used to do is alot of it was based on trust. You would pay one admission, you would go into the movie theatre, this is in the evening primarily. And then you would come out at intermission and then you would go back in.
E
Right
T
People used to come out at intermission and would grab a sandwich or a soda, stock up on candy, popcorn, this or that, whatever they wanted to. Kind of relax, you know like a seventh inning stretch.
E
Right
T
And then you would go back into the theatre but they never checked your tickets. So conceivable you could have gone in for free
E
But people never did that
T
no
E
no, ok.
E
And then was there a concessions stand that was in the theatre also?
J
Yeah, they had their own concessions. At the Porter square we had our own concessions when I had the candy shop I had a bunch of concessions
T
But they would come in and more less
J
Buy our [inaudible]
T
Get a Frappe or an ice cream soda or a sundae or a fresh fruit orange aid or [Limeiki] or a hotdog and a hamburger or something like that, something more substantial
T
And they'd go back. We didn't, We weren't in competition with the concessions stand
E
And the movie theatre was ok with..?
T
oh yeah, we kind of complimented one another really.
T
People, I mean we essentially made a good living off the theatre. Alright, the people who patronized the theatre, also patronized our establishment. And vice versa, the people that came here went to the theatre. They would stop in before the theatre started, opened. Hang around, spend money and then go to the theatre when they opened.
E
How long was the intermission?
T
It was 15 minute?
J
Yeah
T
It was about 15 to 20 Minutes,
E
ok
T
We would have everything prepared
E
Right because you knew...?
J
Oh yeah we had the glasses were all ready
T
We knew when the theatre was going to let out.
T
And we would have the orange aids all premixed so that all you had to do was put ice in it and fill it with water.
E
ok
T
We would have hot dogs you know on the grill, ready to serve just like they do at a sidewalk vendor. And cold sandwiches usually were all easily made. And we would all be prepared. You know like there would be two of us, three of us, four of us, whatever it is. Hanging around the shop because we knew that there was only fifteen minutes. It was a surge, they would come in, shoooop, like that.
E
Right and then it would be empty again
T
Bingo, And then after that we would close.
T
And intermission was usually around 9:30
E
So there was only one a night.
T
yeah
J
yeah
E
ok
T
but the theatre started at 7 or 7:30 or 8 even whatever.
T
When did it start?
J
At 7:30 the usually started. They usually had a newsreel, a comedy and the feature picture
J
Recently I was reading in one of these papers I don't know what it was. That years ago we used to sell popcorn, they didn't have it in the theatres. Now they say those theatres are run by popcorn, you know. Otherwise they could make a profit. I was just reading that recently
E
And they charge so much money.
J
Well Yeah but it seems like they don't seem to mind paying 3 dollars or something for a bag of popcorn we used to sell them for 20-25 cents lady.
[BANG]
E
Sorry
T
That's alright
E
Ok, So they would show two pictures every night?
J
They would show two pictures most of the time, yeah
E
What was the crowd like at the Broadway?
J
What?
T
the crowd
E
What was.. the crowd like?
T
The crowd
J
oh the crowd in the afternoon they had the kids and at night the adults.
E
ok
T
Used to have a um, it was basically a place for families to go.
E
ok
T
A place for mothers to drop there kids off on a Saturdays and Sundays. After they would go about there business they would come back and pick there children up. It was accepted
J
It was safe, it was very safe
T
It was safe and secure.
T
The movies were always geared toward children if that was the afternoon. The afternoon matinee was, there would usually be a serial, a cartoon and something that kids might enjoy.
E
Right
T
Back then, the Boston Pilot used to publish a list of movies that were condemned by the catholic church
E
Right
T
Alot of parents used that as a guide. You know, like now you have R rated films, general family type films so you get a feel what is proper for kids and what isn't. But back then very little was lewd and unsanitary. Movies weren't made like that. Movies weren't considered immoral. They were decent.
E
Right
T
Very seldom did you hear a vulgarity in a movie. And the acting, I mean the acting was ever bit as good as it is today. Ok comparative. You know, we had some good actors back then.
E
Right
T
Clark Gabel, Harold Flynn,
J
And good stories...
T
Maureen Ohera, John Wayne.
J
They were good plots, you know
T
On and on, James Cagney, Kerry Grant and I can't remember.
E
Yeah, oh yeah
T
And those are great movies, they're classics. And people still watch those movies today and enjoy them very much.
T
I think the greatest all time film that I remember when it first came out was Gone With the Wind. That was a great movie
J
They still play it, too
E
Yeah Yeah
J
Quite a movie
T
Oh yeah, I mean.
T
The Ten Commandments was a great thrill when the Ten Commandments came out with its special effects, How the red sea was actually red.
E
Yeah
T
You know so,
T
Yeah, It was good, you know. You often had the Launccini films, the house of wax, [inaudible], that was he first 3D movie that was introduced
E
3D? oh with the
T
With the glasses
E
With the glasses, ok
T
And it was funny walking into the theatre seeing everybody with glasses on. And House of Wax was just coming right out at you and then we saw the cinema scope made its debut back in our era. As far as surround sound whenever that came out, that was a big thing you know.
E
Right
T
In stereo the whole theatre, so, Yeah, I mean we went through all the phases except silent film, Silent films.
E
Well, Did you ever go see silent films?
T
I think you did, Didn't you ma, see the silent films?
J
I don't remember but I think I did. I'm not sure
T
Charlie Chaplin?
J
Oh yeah I saw Charlie Chaplin
E
So do you remember when the first movies came out with sound in them?
J
no
E
It must have been quite, quite different
J
Was it the Around the World in 40 days, what that the one?
T
Around the World in 80 days.
J
It was 80 days. Was that the first one?
T
No that had sound, that was, Around the World in 80 days was I believe, one of the very first color, Technicolor pictures
J
Yes
E
OK.
E
Along with the Wizard of Oz?
T
The Wizard of Oz was in black and white
E
Oh and later, they did the second half or when she arrives in Oz
T
Then later They colored it, they colored it
E
ok, Then I think the first sound picture was the Jazz Singer with Al Jolson
T
Uh, with Al Jolson
J
That I've seen it was silent
T
Yeah
J
Was that the first time he was in it. Al Jolson
T
Yeah Al Jolson was in it but they remade it three times, at least three and Neal Diamond was in the last one but I'm trying to think who played the part after al Jolson, Parks, Burt Parks
J
Yeah I think
T
Burt Parks played the part after that I believe
E
How long were the movies usually, were they the same length?
T
Feature film was about 90 minutes,
E
Ok so a little bit shorter maybe
T
A little bit shorter
T
So you had two feature films plus this and that. Its about, I mean its about three hours and some change
J
Yeah it was about three hours
T
So if theatre started at 8 o'clock it would end about 11, elevenish. Which on the weekend isn't terribly, terribly long.
E
Well and they say that people used to go out more at night on weeknight.
J
They used to go to the theatre, there wasn't anything else you could do, really.
T
There was really three kinds of entertainment back then. Movies were number one everybody's list.
T
There was bowling. People used to go bowling. And people were very big into roller skating.
E
Oh ok, was there a rink?
T
We had the Bell Areau in Somerville. It still stands today.
J
Where was that?
T
Right near Mystic Avenue. The Bell Areau Its still there, its still there the Bell Areau one of the oldest skating, roller skating rinks in the country actually.
E
wow
T
So but uh, the movie theatre was certainly a culture
E
Right
T
It was an icon back in those days.
T
You got cheap entertainment, good entertainment.
T
People went because the shows had a message to tell them whether it was morality or what. And there was theme to it to everything we saw back them.
E
Right
T
you know None of it [vivacious], you know. I remember the first time a profanity was uttered in Gone with the Wind. When Scarlett Ohara stood by and heard the word "damn" "I don't give a damn". Clark Gabel played that.
E
Right
T
As a matter of fact, I jotted down the name.I can't remember. Oh good Lord I thought I had it but I don't. Who Clark Gabel played that. Gone with the Wind do you remember?
J
Who played with him
T
No what part he played
J
Oh he played he was the, he was a gambler and uh
T
Yeah I know but I'm trying to think of the name but I can't
E
Brett Butler
T
Yes, Brett Butler
J
Brett Butler
E
Um that was a great, great movie
T
It was, it was. The movie was years ahead of its time.
J
If we had a night off we used to think well we'll go to the movies.
E
Well, That was what I was going to ask? Did you and your husband go to the movies?
J
Well yeah like when he used to work at his brothers store and we used to have Friday nights off. And his brother used to give him Friday nights off but we never used to catch the news we never used to catch the comedy. By the time we got in there the first picture would have been started already. You know
E
How much did the movies cost?
J
It used to be a quarter at one time
E
And was it different for kids?
J
And kids were a dime
T
Kids were a dime.
E
Was the ticket taking booth inside or outside?
J
It was like in a lobby like you know
T
It was outside we used to have to. We used to buy the ticket outside and they used to go in and the usher used to take the ticket
E
Oh and they had ushers.
T
They had ushers and you were seated. You were seated, you were shown to your seat.
E
Oh that's different
T
The seats were very comfortable. The screen was big
E
Was it as big as today?
T
no
J
no
T
no comparatively speaking it was big for, you know. You have to understand that back in the forties TV was just coming out
E
coming out, right
T
There was really, you know. TV hit the scene when uh, I'm going to say right before around world war II
J
1946
T
1946 is when we bought our first TV
J
That's when we bought our first 16 inch and that was a big one
T
So I think when TV came out it took something away from the theatre industry
E
That's one of the main things we are looking at. Why the movie industry has changed over time. Where as people during the 40's and that time might go to the theatre once, twice or even three times a week. And now most adults I think go to the theatre, once a week is alot, you know, I think.
J
Well it's so expensive
E
Right and then so...
J
And if you go into town it's an arm and a leg
E
Right and that's what alot of people that we've talked to have said. That those are the two big factors. One, that television, you can watch a movie in your own living room so why go out when you have to work the next morning and all that. And secondly, the price, the price of concessions.
J
And another thing everybody has a VCR to put a tape in and see a movie. So why spend. I think when you go to a movie it will cost you at least 10 to 15 dollars between parking a everything and you owe them that. If your going to town, forget it
T
It's expensive. And when you figure the cost of a babysitter
J
Oh yeah.
T
As well as maybe dinner. You know, You're talking about money.
E
Right
T
What's prominent these days are places like Chunky's. I don't know if you've ever heard of Chunky's?
E
I don't think so
T
Chunky's is a restaurant - theatre. We've got some north of Boston.
T
You go there and you eat, you have dinner and you sit in a Lincoln Towncar seat that swivels
E
oh ok, so is it like a diner
T
Cabaret style.
E
ok
T
And then you have your dinner. You order off the menu. It's pretty inexpensive they have vegetarian and everything on it. And everything from burgers to Philly cheese steaks to soups and chowders. And the food is decent. It isn't what your going to get in you know, in Boston at a restaurant
E
Right
T
But it's certainly very filling and reasonable. And the waitress takes your order and brings you the meal and you can eat dinner while you're watching the theatre.
E
Oh that's great. It's like a dinner-theatre.
T
While your watching the movie. It's like a dinner theatre.
T
And for two people the average price would be about thirty dollars less then that
J
That seems like quite a bit
T
Not for two people
J
No, yeah Oh, yeah that's right
T
Not for two people.
T
It's pretty reasonable, you don't have to eat.
E
You can just see the movie
T
Just the movie alone is, I want to say five dollars. Kid less then that
E
Right and there are other theatres now like the Somerville which show pictures later. You know Pictures that have been out for maybe a few months So the price is reduced.
J
Yeah, oh yeah.
J
How much is the price over there now? I think senior citizens can go there for four dollars
E
Yeah and students and everybody else are 5.75. So for Tufts students it's great you know because it's right down the street from us.
J
They have alot of students there too
E
Right, yeah true
J
Howard came all the way from Framingham once to see something there.
T
Yeah he did. Of course they have more then just movies there. They have concerts
E
oh Yeah we go, I've been to several concerts there. they're great.
T
Didn't Tracey Chapmin perform there.
E
MMhmm, she's a graduate of Tufts
T
I know
E
Yeah, I wasn't sure. So yeah,
E
So along with the movies you were saying there were the newsreels and the serials? What were...
J
Most of the movies at that time, they had a newsreel of the news crew that would come out and bring you the news.
T
RKO,
E
What is it?
T
RKO
E
ok what's R?
T
It was just like, it was like a symbol. The talking [inaudible] what ever it was. They would give you the news of the day.
T
They would give you smart news. Actually news of the week, highlights of the week. And Edward R. Murrow back then was the commentator and then he would come on and announce the news and we would have a sports round up as well.
E
ok
T
And then after that, after the newsreel. They would have a cartoon. I should say previews then a cartoon and then they would have the feature film.
E
So what, what were the serials?
T
Serials might have been the Lone Ranger.
E
ok
T
The seriels were usually on weekends. Were you would leave the hero dangling off a cliff and then they would come on and say.
J
They would shut it
T
Continues next week.
E
Right so then you'd come back
T
So you would have to come back to see if the hero was able to save himself.
T
You know. The lone ranger was very prominent back then, Spiderman, Captain Marvel, the Superheroes,
E
The red rider
T
Tom nix, Scotty king, Michelle.
T
These were all serials. What was read on radio was being transformed on to the silver screen so that you know and
E
Right
J
Jane [inaudible]
T
Tarzan
J
Jane [inaudible] in the woods there
T
Tarzan
J
Oh Tarzan yeah
T
Tarzan,
T
so yeah it would be something like that but they were just for the kids,
E
Right
T
The serials. And the serials would take place on Saturday afternoons.
E
Were there movies on Sundays?
T
Yes there were. There were movies on Sundays in the afternoons you would get the kids and in the evenings you would get the adults.Both Saturday and Sunday. During the week they had afternoon movies but they didn't get that much of a crowd. We did get them at night.
E
Right,
T
because the kids were in school and the adults were..
T
I can say they they had movies everyday of the week. There was never a hiatus.
E
Right
T
You know, I mean the movies went on. It didn't matter what the weather was. It didn't matter what the holiday was.
J
[inaudible]
E
They still ran the movie
J
Still on yeah.
T
Christmas day they had movies
E
Really! Was it during all four seasons?
J
During what?
E
all four seasons. The movie theatre, did it run?
J
I don't know there always was something going on.
T
There was never a vacation
E
So it didn't shut down for the summer.
J
No
E
Was there air conditioning?
T
uh, no. There were fans.
E
So was it hot?
J
Oh yeah
E
during the summer.
J
It was always hot, always.
T
It was warm.
J
Warm? It was hot.
T
ok,
T
It warm during the summer time. They had air conditioning later on, if I recall. But back in the forties and fifties they didn't.Air conditioning didn't come into play until the 60s.
E
ok
T
Actually, but you didn't notice it.
E
right
T
First of all because it's really hot outside. Don't forget, You're in a dark area
E
dark area
T
and you're a little cooler. So and the fans are blowing too. They had ceiling fans and they had fans off to the side. So the air was constantly being circulating.
E
Were people allowed to smoke in the theatres?
T
You could smoke in the theatre
E
That's another big , definitely a big difference
T
You could smoke in the theatre there was definitely alot of smoking.
T
There were things they didn't allow in the theatre. No horseplay was allowed in the theatre. No vulgarity was allowed in the theatre and that's about it pretty much.
E
Were there ever, was there ever any rowdiness outside the theatre?
T
Oh yes
E
Like did people get in fights?
T
oh yes
E
really
T
There was fights in the movie theatre. Oh there were fights. Not bad
E
Right
T
But when you get kids.
T
I'll tell you what caused a fight on a Saturday afternoon was when a teenager showed up with somebody else's girlfriend. And they were caught necking by the boy, the boyfriend. You would get some abuse. once and a while somebody would hit you off the head with a popcorn box, you know, that would usher in a debate.
E
Right
T
So these kids would debate. But yeah kids will be kids and that part of it hasn't changed.
T
You don't see that much kids anymore. We're talking about movie theatres. The movie industry has changed so that it caters primarily to an adult crowd, primarily. The only time, the only things for kids are the Disney movies
E
Right
T
And things like Monster .com and the Toy story
E
right
T
And things have that nature and those are only periodically.
E
there aren't as many kids films.
T
There aren't, but when they do come out I frequently see mothers taking there children to see them. You know, Anything to get them out in a group like that.
J
I thought I had the picture of the store down in Davis square.
T
I think you gave it to
J
I gave it to you.
T
To Guss, to Guss
J
Oh yeah, he didn't send it back.
T
He's got them Ma, he's going to hold to them for awhile.
J
oh no, not that picture.
T
Which picture?
J
I need that. I mean the store, that was the only.
T
He's going to photograph them and then give them to you.
J
He said he was going to mail them to me.
T
Yeah, he will.
J
This is some of the picture of the store we had. This was taken at the health club where they gave me a 90th birthday party. You've probably seen it. They had an article about me in the paper
E
oh that's great. wow
J
These are of the Broadway coffee shop, there's the theatre there.
E
Is that your husband?
J
No that's my cousin. And this is Tommy and his sister.
[END SIDE A, TAPE ONE]
E
Sure, sure that would be great
J
And take some more cookies and cake.
E
So were there ever any, were there ever any hold ups?
J
Just once, no not hold up. The theatre was held up once and my store and once we had the, at 2 o'clock in the morning the phone rang and we were in bed and so uh and the police man called up and see we had two doors. and we left the back door but it wasn't really back, but used to call it the back door so he says we left the back door open.
J
So we went down, my husband went down to close this door and there was this boy that stood guard at the door so that no one would go in. There was one pack of cigarettes missing, he stood and there was nothing missing. That's unusual. You get people to do that nowadays it's something.
J
I used to. Sometimes my husband used have a back ache. I used to have to close the store which was after theatre left which was 11 o'clock and then by the time they came in and had their coffee and everything. And so um, by that time it would be like 12 0'clock, I would be closing up the store, I'd close up the store and I'd walk home onto Temple street. All by myself, by the park there. There was nothing there
E
There was no danger
J
No one ever bothered you. Nowadays at nine o-clock they don't even go out.
J
It's such a difference. There been alot of difference.
E
So then, but the theatre got held up as well?
J
I think most of the theatre got held up. Hey Tommy, remember the time the theatre got held up.
T
Somebody didn't like the movie so they pointed a gun at the teller and they wanted everybody's money back.
E
Really!?
J
Oh is that what it was dear, oh my god.
J
Do you want another piece of cake dear.?
T
I'll get it
J
There's a nice man. See that was something
T
We grew up in the theatre.
E
Right
T
We saw just about every movie that ever came out.
T
Ok we weren't working at the theatre. We were working at the restaurant but we were also hopping out at the theatre. My father would love to get away from the restaurant for a little bit and he'd go in to the theatre and occupy a back seat and watch a movie. Sometimes he would doze off
E
right
T
and catch a nap.
T
So between the two establishments the coffee shop and the theatre, it occupied pretty much our whole day.
E
Well yeah, I heard that when you were younger that you, didn't you used to go there during the day. Your mom would drop you off. I think Professor Guss mentioned that, he mentioned that to us.
T
We saw just about every movie. We were very fortunate to work next to a movie theatre. It's really a luxury and the owner of the movie theatre, the manager
E
Joe Langone
T
Joe Langone
J
He lives on Michigan avenue.
T
knew us and gave us complimentary admission
E
Because you all work next door
T
He used to come in and get free coffee and we used get a free ticket. So I don't think we ever bought a ticket. We used to go right by him. And just go and sit anywhere we wanted to.
T
We also went to other theatres
E
Did you?
T
oh yeah The Capitol theatre was like the Cadillac of movie theatres
E
Right that's what I've heard that it was really nice
J
There used to be a stand in the Capitol theatre and at first my father wanted to buy that stand that sells concession. They wanted 750$, he didn't have 750 dollars so all he had was 500 so he bought the porter square one.
E
What did, How would you say that the Broadway compared to other Somerville theatres?
J
Lower level
T
Well not that low. It wasn't quite as ritzy as the Capitol
J
the capitol was ritzier.
T
But I would say it was right on par with Ball square. Right on par with
E
ok
J
I don't remember the Ball square.
T
Oh yeah,
J
Oh yeah I do remember it.
J
Oh yeah because there were Armenians that owned that you know. And they had a son. And the father bought a store in Newton. And he wanted the father talked to my father, he wanted me to go and show him the ropes. I was there two weeks.
E
That's great.
T
It was certainly better then Cross street.
E
The Peterson's orpheum.
T
That was, that was, that was, the pits
E
Well that's what we heard. For the most part, that it was sort of.
J
It was cheaper too they used to give admissions there to. The admissions there was about 10 cents wasn't it Tom?
T
But according to the level of the movie theatre determines, obviously, the nature of the crowd. At the more elaborate theatres you get a more elaborate crowd.
T
But I think at the Broadway at the Broadway theatre you got a decent mix. You got, most of these theatre don't cater to the neighborhood crowd. You think that people from Broadway going up to the Capitol and so forth going around depending on what the picture was. But in most cases the movie theatre catered to you know, the environment.
E
Right
T
That's why there were 8 movie theatres
E
Right.
T
But that didn't mean that we didn't go to Ball square and Ball square didn't come here. But we didn't have cars back then.
E
Right, you didn't, you tended to go
T
You had to rely on trolley or walking.
J
We did alot of walking which people don't do know-a-days
E
Yeah
E
What was the ethnic makeup of, would you say, of the theatre and also the surrounding neighborhood?
T
Very cosmopolitan, very cosmopolitan.
T
You had different ethnic groups mingling together to watch a movie. We didn't quite have the Hispanic population that you have today. We didn't have the Asiatic population. You had a good mix of European immigrants as well as the American born. By that I mean, you know, The French, the polish, the Italians the German, the Armenians and people obviously born in this country.
T
And alot of times the immigrants would go the movie theatre because it was a way for them to learn the English language.
E
Right that's another thing we have been looking at
T
It was a good tool and good learning tool. You know like when you went to see Amelia
E
Right
T
ok it's an education for you.
T
And it was a place that young girls could pursue their dreams of being a movie starlet. And guys the same way because we all wanted to be like John Wayne and Marlin Brando you know. Those are our stars.
E
Right.
T
Our heroes.
T
And it's a place where people could develop dreams. And there is nothing wrong with that.
E
I don't know.
T
You know we go to the ball park and do the same thing.
E
Right
T
You know, The movie theatres were a place for minds to wander hearts to rest. That was what was so good about it.
T
And people used to gobble up these movie magazines and you would see them walking around with movie magazines. You don't see too much of that any more. I don't know if there are any, there aren't that many movies. There are scandal sheets.
J
The movie magazines now When I was a the porter theatre, the porter square candy shop and I used to have a typewriter in there. And my father used to come for a cigar home for lunch and one day I went through those movie magazines and I was typing and there was alot of love in there but I was just typing to get my speed up.
J
So Anyway, we went home and we got our lunch we came back and I put the casing on it and we went home for a half hour lunch. So and then when we closed the store, my sister and I, she used to work with me. And I went home and my father gave me a slap in the face. I fell down and I said, "What's that for?" and he said, "I'll teach you how to love." [laughter] He was very strict.
E
Were there, were there ever any fires within the theatre?
J
Fire, I don't remember any.
T
I don't remember a fire. Other then maybe a little smoke up when some one might of flicked a cigarette butt.
E
Right
T
But yeah, they did alot of smoking.
E
I ask because alot of theatres have burnt down over the years. Especially when films first came out because the film itself was so highly flammable and if you didn't watch it it would catch on fire.
T
Oh yeah,
T
I mean don't forget you were sitting on cushions, cushion seats and a spark you know. I mean. I've never seen anything, I mean, they had the movie theatres and some of them have burned down. But can't recall anything like that happening at the Broadway.
T
I do remember one or two situations where there was a little blaze and a little burst of smoke and the manager quickly extinguished it and all the lights would come on.
E
So the manager was Joe Langone?
J
Joe Langone
E
What was he like?
J
He was very nice guy. [laugher]
T
Joe, Joe was a workaholic. He spent morning, noon and night in that movie theatre. He never knew what it was like being away from the movie theatre. He would be the first one to open it and the last one to leave.
E
wow
T
He had custodian in there but often you would see Joe doing custodial work. And he would have the concessions there. and he would have a ticket sellers, several ticket sellers. And they were basically high school kids in the box.
E
right
T
And he would have volunteers and what people do is maintain the crowd and help a little bit so that you could get into the theatre for free
E
ok
T
and see a free movie, the wash so to speak
E
right
T
and he would have alot of people doing that, retirees and that sort of thing to control the crowd and walk around with the flash light. My father was one of those.
E
ok.
E
Did you know the Vianos at all?
J
Sure I know the brothers. there were two brothers the youngest one died.
E
Is Arthur then the older or the younger
J
The older one just recently died I think.
E
ok
E
Yeah I'm going tomorrow night actually to meet one of the Viano daughters, I believe, maybe Betty.
J
Where is she located?
E
Lexington. So we're going to drive up there and try to do another interview.
J
Do you know just where in Lexington that you're going
E
I have no idea.
E
I've never been
J
Are you going alone?
E
No I'm going, Have you met Cathy Stanton
J
Who?
E
Cathy Stanton. She's David's assistant. She's getting her PhD right now. She's in the process of doing her dissertation for anthropology. So she works very closely with David, with his classes,
T
really
E
with all his classes. I've, Every time I've had him as professors she's worked with all of the students as well. She's great.
J
Is she is a younger woman?
E
Yeah I would say probably she's in her thirties. Um Yeah, And she lives in Northern Mass and is helping out, helping us out with the project.
T
This should be interesting. Does she remember much?
E
How do you mean?
T
As far as the old movie theatres are concerned.
E
oh oh oh, She's not, She didn't grow up here, she grew up in Canada I want to say. And she's doing actually, her work is with the mills in Lowell.
T
ok
E
yeah that's what her dissertation is on.
T
The national park
E
Yeah and that sort of thing. And David teaches several different types of anthropology courses but this is the first about the Somerville theatres or anything and so she helps out with that.
T
What does the movie theatres have to do with anthropology?
E
Well, It's like what you said. Do you remember when you said movie going is a culture? Well essentially anthropology is the study of culture. Usually, primitive cultures.
T
That's what I thought, tribes
E
exactly, exactly. But, I believe and this is just off the top of my head but I believe in the last decade alot of anthropology has been turned around to focus on our own society. And things that we do in our own culture.
E
For example, alot of companies these days are using anthropologists in their advertising units. Because say, like Hallmark does greeting cards and they want to focus certain greeting cards towards a certain ethnic group. Like the Latinos or something like that. They'll bring the anthropologists in to try and figure out what in that culture would appeal most to those people and then the advertisers use that. That's just one example.
E
But also I think what David is trying to do is not only to bring back the history of it, you know. and to exhibit the history for the city of Somerville but also just to study the culture of spectator ship and movie going itself and how the ideas behind movie going have changed throughout this past century.
J
Yeah and how the theatres are really coming down and their putting up new ones.
E
right. right exactly
E
right. right exactly and how also certain historians have argued too that movie theatres back in the 1940s were really important for immigrants especially. Because like you were saying you know, you take these racially diverse groups that normally perhaps wouldn't all come together and socialize together and put them in this movie house and you put American culture up on the screen.
J
But in the 1940s they didn't have that many immigrants that they have now.
E
Right
T
These are different immigrants, ma
J
What?
T
These are different immigrants
J
oh
T
You know I would venture to say that if you had the same situation now has you had sixty years ago the majority of your theatre goers on a Saturday afternoon would be Hispanic. Would be people from the poor side of town. People that are deprived, needy
E
Right
T
That sort of thing depending on what the price would be but I would think they would have to make it affordable for these people. You know so, you know, because you know, they don't have much money
E
Right
T
People that come from welfare families and that sort of thing. You would get alot of those actual people. I can see the way the boys club and the girls club has changed. It's predominately Hispanic
E
yup
T
But that's what it is
E
Right
T
That's what it is. So where would that leave the son or daughters of a rich person.
E
right
T
You know, Would they go the theatre if they know the Hispanic people are going? Not so readily I don't think.
E
Well was it like that back then?
T
We didn't have the Hispanic community.
E
But in terms of were there, was there conflict between.
T
We didn't see didn't see very much conflict back then.
E
ok
T
You had kids of every background, every diversity that went to the theatre. But don't forget once it's dark you can't see who's even next to you.
E
Right
T
So it doesn't really...
E
It doesn't matter.
T
matter.
J
It's sort of how it's like now-a-days. You know nobody ever noticed who was before and who wasn't. You know what I mean. Nobody ever thought that it was all mixed up.
T
you wouldn't really know who was in the theatre.
E
Right
T
You would just go in and take a seat and you would watch the movie.
E
So what, Tell me about a typical day at the coffee shop either of you.
T
go ahead.
J
We used to open up at 8 o'clock and gradually start at 9, 9o-clock. And then we used to stay all hours till 12 till the show came out. seven days a week in the beginning
E
And would be on your feet the whole day?
J
Beg your pardon.
E
Would you be on your feet?
J
What else?
E
Wow. Well I see why your husband had back problems
J
Well he had back problems before he started [laughter]
J
Yeah so anyway so, we used to send the kids to school, you know they were in first grade and that. I used to send the kids to school and then he used open up. And I used to go there and he used to go home when the kids came home at 2:30 3 o'clock. And then he used to take a nap before the kids got out of school and then he used to bring the kids down to the store and we used to have our lunch or supper over there because we had a grill and I had a little oven there, I mean I cooked everything there. After they ate we would be there to about 5 o'clock or so and then I would take them home give them their baths and put them to sleep. It was quite an ordeal then. No fun.
T
That's right the movie theatre was important because it gave us an escape
E
It was a release
J
Well yeah I used to send the kid to the theatre and I used to have my husband go in there and check on them...
[phone rings]
[phone ring]
J
[into phone] Hello, Hi I have company what do you want, oh ok I'll call you back take care dear.
T
Who was that?
J
Jenny
T
What did she want
J
Jenny's in-laws are here and so they're going to go down tomorrow to her house and do some painting
E
So then you were working pretty hard?
J
oh yes.
E
All the time?
J
All the time. It was a hardship it really was. the kids were small.
E
When did you start working in the theatre, not in the theatre, in the shop?
T
I used to, of course I went to school
E
Right
T
And then after school we used to engage in our activities sports or what ever it was. Essentially we were raised by my grandmother. She was the one that looked after us while they worked. Our grandmother, my grandmother lived with us
E
ok
T
So she kind of watched after us. And we would work in the theatre, we would work in the restaurant usually on Friday nights on Saturdays and Sundays off and on.
T
School vacation we were usually at the restaurant, summers obviously we were at the restaurant and that was about it.
T
Usually on a school night we were home doing our homework or pretending to do our homework. And either my mother or my father would be at the restaurant to close up. They weren't usually there together at night.
T
My mother would open up. You opened up didn't you?
J
Sometimes when he had a back ache I opened up.
T
one of them would open up in the morning the other one would come at 11. They get through the noon time rush together.
J
And one of us would go home and rest.
T
Then one of them used to go home and rest. My father used to go to the Y. And then they'd come together for 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock and do the supper crowd and then somebody would go home.
E
To stay with you guys
J
It was a battle
T
It was mix and match and this and that.
J
It was a battle
T
And on weekends. During the weekday night it wasn't that crowded in movie theatre as it was in the weekend. We could get away with one person working that intermission
J
At night, We used to have a helper, we used to have Kerry used to work us.
T
yeah people used to pitch in
J
We used to have helper
T
you know it was hard keeping help
E
Really, why?
T
Oh they'd steal you blind.
E
Really
J
We had this young girls, and my husband said, she goes to school and she needs the money and she's going to graduate high school, could you give her a job so we said ok. So she used to come in, she used to put the apron on, she used to grab a bag of potato chips and she have them open in her hands and she hasn't waited on anyone yet. Customers would come and go, she's still eating her potato chips. And the next thing I knew some money was missing something terrible, she went broke. I said get rid of her.
T
You couldn't get dependable help.
E
Really
T
Therefore it kind of remained pretty much a family run venture
T
And you know close friends would pitch in and help you know once in awhile whenever we needed it
E
Was there a season that was more busy then others?
J
What?
E
What there...
T
A busy season, a busy season.
J
Well you know, I don't know in the beginning it was busy all the time, you know. It was hard we were trying to, we didn't have any money and we were trying to make every hour mean something. you know.
E
Right
T
Most of the people that ate there were regulars.
J
Yeah, oh Yeah.
J
We used to have people come in all the way from Winchester to get the fresh squeezed orange juice. We used to go through a couple of cases of oranges a day.
T
So if you closed down for the day where are these people going to go to eat.
E
Right
T
We were almost stipulated
E
Right
T
to work.
T
I didn't say that we didn't have a day off here and there because we obviously did. But to take a week off was a tremendous sacrifice.
J
Funny thing one day my sister was down there you know. So I had to go inside to check on the kids in the theatre. So one of the customers wanted to have some fun came up and said, give me 35 hamburger. My sister didn't know what to do, How long are you going to be. And anyway I came up and she said one customer came up and wanted 35 hamburgers.
T
Was he joking?
J
Oh yeah I imagine he was joking. He saw my sister was alone. He said, I think I'll have some fun. She got all frustrated, 35 hamburgers oh my god! She can't even get one hamburger let alone 35. It was funny.
E
Was their seating in the restaurant?
T
oh yes.
J
Well it was a medium restaurant and that was the only sandwich shop. Only on Fridays I used to make chowder, clam chowder.
T
But we had booths were people could sit, booths, booths
J
Oh yeah we had booths, we had, let me see, 6 booths.
T
And we had a counter
J
oh yeah with stools
T
and I would say
J
all kind of sandwiches
T
you could have forty people sitting.
J
But they didn't come at one time.
T
No but you could have forty in there. every booth, every stool taken.
J
oh yeah, oh yeah.
T
And on Sunday after church we used to have people standing.
J
Sundays oh yeah, when they used to come out of church, they used to be standing. They used to have coffee and a donut and things like that
T
That was the other staple was the church. On Sunday they used to have the mass every hour and get the people coming out of mass after they receive the holy communion
J
It was coffee and donuts mostly
T
It was coffee and donuts, but they had eggs, they ate breakfast.
E
That's Sunday brunch
T
Yeah Sunday brunch, Sunday brunch.
J
And then we got so that these kids were out of high school. And then so I said to my husband, I'm going to stay home. If you want to close the store that's fine I'm leaving. You know because I want to be home when the kids were home because they used to get their friend there and I wanted to be there when their friends were there.
E
Keeping an eye on you.
T
Yeah, you know, later on we started closing on Sunday afternoons and then open us Monday.
E
Right
T
Because after mass it was usually dead
E
Right.
T
Summer weren't, if there was a slow period it was summers. The busiest time I would have to say was the winter season because it was a good coffee business. Because it was cold.
E
Right
T
People would come in to keep warm and drink coffee.
J
We had good coffee and we carried [lots of rain]. So one year we thought lets change it, you know. Somebody who came in daily found we changed it and said get back that [lots of rain] again.
E
What did the Broadway itself, what did it look like on the inside or the outside?
T
The Broadway theatre?
E
mm hmm
T
Well you could just walk in where the ticket, where the concessions, where the ticket booth was and they would have billboards up advertising the movies that were coming up. Every, They would change the pictures twice a week
E
ok
T
The pictures would go Monday Tuesday, Sunday Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then Thursday Friday Saturday and it would advertise the shows for three weeks down the road.
E
So would certain pictures stay on if they were popular or did it always change?
T
I didn't see that happening that much. The pictures would change regularly. From Sunday to Saturday twice a week. And, Back then there seemed to be more movies then there were today.
E
Right
T
Today you could get a picture playing for a month
E
Right
T
you know at these showcase cinemas or these Loews theatres
E
Loews theatres yeah
T
you know, and I believe that there are some pictures there that have been playing for three months.
T
"Life is Beautiful" has been playing for three months.
J
This is how the store looked from outside, see
E
Amelia has been playing for at least two months at the Kendall. And this was the shop?
J
Yes from outside
E
And which one was this? Is this the one?
J
This is the Broadway shop
E
ok
J
And this is the window
E
ok
J
And I have the menus, the menus. I think David took all my pictures I don't have half of them.
T
He's photographing them, ma
J
Well when that was two weeks ago
T
It's a big project
E
I'm sure I'll see them because I know he has everything
J
Well mention to him I really want those pictures back.
E
ok
T
After he's done with them
J
He said he was going to send them right back.
T
Then you go inside. And, the theatre was divided into three sections much like it is now. Three different sections and that part of it hasn't changed. It was nothing special really as far as the Broadway is concerned it's pretty much how it looks like today. There were lights on the wall. There was a balcony.
E
There was a balcony.
T
There was a balcony at the Broadway theatre.
J
oh yeah they did.
T
And people would go up to the balcony. There was no extra charge for that.
T
There was no extra charge for that. You know and they had side entrances, they had a projection room overlapping where the balcony is, just right above the balcony and the most serious thing that would probably happen would be a glitch in the screen in the reel causing it to stop and then the lights would come on and everyone moans and groans and then they'd fix it, they'd splice it with tape and then on we would go. It didn't happen that often really. Considering what the technology was like back then it really wasn't bad.
E
It's pretty amazing
T
It really, really was. That tape didn't break, it didn't server itself more often then it did. I would say the projectionist was very well paid. It was an art to learn that trade back then
E
Right
T
And this guy had to know mechanics he knew everything there was to know about the technology of running a projector.
E
Because if it breaks down he needs to fix it.
T
oh yeah, He did.
T
He was, I mean he wassomebody who was unusual. We never saw him but the theatre couldn't run with out him. It was a specialized art, a specialized field. To this day I don't know if I ever saw the projectionist or who ever who was in but he was there every day behind the scenes.
E
So what about, what about the give aways? Did you collect?
J
What?
E
Do you have collections?
J
David's got the collections.
E
Those are all from the theatre? wow. So tell me about that, did they, what kinds of things would they give away?
J
Well they, the dishes, the dinner plates the different size plates. And you buy your ticket and then, what ever the ticket price was and they gave you a dish sometimes you had to pay on the dish because they had bigger dishes that were on the list.
E
Right
J
For the purchase of the dish but if they were small they gave it with the ticket.
E
What about, did they do bank accounts?
J
Where?
E
Did they do bank accounts?
T
bank accounts
J
What's that
E
It's where they would come in and if you bought a ticket to see the movie you would automatically have a bank account open for you at a certain bank.
J
They didn't do that.
E
They didn't do that?
T
We don't recall that. we do recall contests.
E
What kind of contests did they have?
J
What's that?
T
Yoyo
J
oh contests.
T
At the movie theatre on a Saturday afternoon would bring a yoyo champion from Duncan to the theatre. We used to sell yoyos.
E
At the, at your shop?
T
At the coffee shop we used to have a little toy counter as well.
T
So when everybody heard the yoyo champion from Duncan was coming to the movie theatre, we did a booming yoyo business because the kids would want to learn how to do those tricks, the stunts with the yoyo. And what they did was they awarded patches to the more proficient yoyo players.
E
ok
T
And it was promotion by the theatre. The theatre used to have alot of promotions like that. They used to give away baseball memorabilia, posters, bats. They used to have contests, trivia contests. Anything to entice a crowd. And you know something that's how he got most of his patrons.
E
Really?
T
Through word of mouth. There would be a sign up on the Marquee, yoyo contest Saturday and they would come in droves, you know. and this is when you got alot of people from other parts of the city coming down with their yoyos. The other contest they used to have was paddleball.
E
ok
T
Did you ever see it?
E
We used to play that on the beach.
T
Yeah, but no this a paddle with a ball
E
It's attached
T
it's attached with an elastic.
E
ok, ok
T
you ought to see some of those experts do that, it was absolutely incredible.
E
That's great
T
So then the contests caters to kids to get the kids to the theatre and increase their business. It was absolute fun, to be honest. Back then the yoyo champion of every neighborhood was Mr. Personality. He was a hero or a heroin if you could do it, If you could be a wizz at the yoyo.
E
right
J
So what are you going to do write all about this now in your, are you going to write about this.
E
uhuh, What we do is we transcribe so I will replay the tapes and type everything out.
J
Well that's alot you got there.
E
Yeah, but the more the better.
J
God I think you've got enough I don't think anybody else would give you this much time.
E
I know I appreciate it alot, thank you. Um so I do that and then we formulate a final project where we focus on a certain aspect of the theatre. And i haven't decided yet what I'm going to do as mine. But I have some ideas so we'll see. This is my second interview and we're supposed to do six to ten so figure once I get a few more under my belt. I'll
J
You'll be going to the Viano daughter.
E
Yeah tomorrow and then I'm meeting with two people next week who both live in nursing homes in Somerville. Josephine and...
J
They're in a nursing home?
E
mhmm, both of them, two separate nursing homes.
J
Are they old? they must be old. Are they going to be able to tell you all of this?
E
I hope so, Well see. Luckily, David and Cathy went before hand and spoke to everybody to make sure that it would be ok that we interviewed them. So everyone we speak with should be, they know that we are coming to talk to them. So it's usually, it's fine.
T
So he's laid out all the ground work.
E
Yeah, yeah, exactly he does the behind the scenes work for us and that makes it much more, much easier.
E
Um, let me just look through here. I guess one of the other last questions I had was what was the theatre like during world war II? How did it change? If at all.
J
Where my brother-in-law had an ice cream parlor during world war II his whole business was run by sugar. You know he had to make the syrup. And we all had to make syrups too. And it was difficult to get the sugar
E
Because of the rationing?
J
rationing yeah.
T
But she wants to know how it pertains to the movie theatre.
J
Oh well if he didn't have the syrup the theatres when they came out they couldn't have served their drinks.
T
Are you talking about the theatre about itself? What was it like?
E
Was there a different atmosphere during the war?
T
I would say it was certainly more female
J
We didn't have the store back then
T
no we didn't have the store so it's hard to comment about 1943, 44. I was only 2 at the time
J
you were only, you were born in 1940 so
T
But I would think that while the service men were away fighting the war. The movie theatre industry catered to more, more women.
J
I think the Vianos daughter will tell you more about what it was at that time.
T
She may. yeah but I don't know if she'll remember that.
J
her family was in there. How old of a woman is she?
E
I'm not sure, I haven't
J
She must be along in years
T
There were alot more war pictures back then
E
and then the newsreels must have been,
T
It was all about the war.
E
Consumed by the war
T
It was, Right there were like the sand of Iwo jima alot of world war II movies you know not that people I think wanted to see war movies when the war was going on. But I think that just when the war ended is when you got these war movies. And it was always predominately world war II as opposed to world war I.
E
Do you know what happened to the what's going on with the building today the Broadway itself.
T
Yeah
J
They want to put up a thing there I think a condo or something
E
Right, how do you feel about that?
J
It doesn't make any difference to me. I mean who ever like historians or like David [inaudible]
E
Right
J
It doesn't really matter what you think or I think.
E
Right
J
The money been put up their bidding on it
E
right it's money right ok do you guys have anymore questions for me.
J
No this was fine.
E
ok great thank you so much.
[end tape]
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