The Bay Theater wasn’t the only picture show in my home land, Old Baytown. The Arcadia had been in business since before I was born, and if the Bay was my second home, the Arcadia came in third.
Located in the heart of the business section on Market, the Arcadia -- at various times -- had close neighbors such as the two department stores, Bernstein’s and Wiener’s, Barber & Brunson Grocery Store, Tyler Café, Shamrock Tailors, Humble Bee Grocery Store, Blue Arrow Café and Rettig’s Ice Cream Parlor. Across the street, you could mail a letter at the post office and, if you were a member from the Baytown Refinery, could get a health checkup at the Mutual Benefit Association clinic. A sure sign of membership was the way you pronounced Mutual Benefit – “Moochabenfit.”
In back of the health clinic and post office stood a baseball stadium, the home of the Humble Oilers semi-pro team, so there was always something going on in the vicinity of the Arcadia Theater, the pride and joy of theater mogul Howard E. Brunson.
I remember it well. The Arcadia had a maroon curtain separating the auditorium from the lobby, and my mother – in a disciplinary action -- once had to march me to the maroon curtain in the middle of a movie. In a scene from “Boys Town,” a car had struck a little boy, and I started crying -- loudly enough to drown out the dialogue on-screen. As we approached the maroon curtain, Mother threatened to take me home and never return to the Arcadia if I didn’t shut up.
Crybaby suddenly got quiet, and we returned to our seats. After all, I was only 4 years old and had years of Arcadia movies ahead of me. Didn’t want to miss anything.
Some of my favorite Arcadia scenes: Tarzan yelling from the tree tops, dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers putting on the Ritz, the “Perils of Nyoka” star nearly getting wiped out every Saturday morning in the cliff-hanging serial, cowboys Gene Autry and Roy Rogers singing while riding their horses …
Often double-featured with the westerns, horror movies didn’t bother me. They did bother a younger friend, Elaine Coker, who accompanied me one time to see a horror film paired with a western. We never got around to watching the western. Elaine became so frightened during the scary movie that we had to get up and head toward the maroon curtain and keep going.
The most memorable movie I saw at the Arcadia was “Sergeant York.” To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorites. I’ve watched it several times on TV.
I missed one of the most unusual events at the Arcadia, because it occurred when I was one-year-old. I’m referring to the wedding held on stage, uniting in marriage Erna Beth Seammen and John Foxworth. The Daily Sun sponsored the wedding during the peak of the Depression, and local merchants donated gifts to the couple. Sun executive Bob Matherne emceed the program.
The Foxworths one day would welcome a son, Robert, and he became an actor, best remembered as the star of the TV show, “Falcon Crest.”
Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, Attention: Wanda Orton.