The Turner Classic Movie channel is presenting a great series on the history of the movies. It's fascinating, and, as a great fan of early movie history, I started thinking about the early entertainment venues once here in our own area.
Of course, most of us baby boomers immediately think of downtown Hammond's Paramount and Parthenon. Growing up, I could never remember which one was which, but now that they're both gone, I wish I had paid more attention to their architecture. I vaguely remember watching a Jerry Lewis movie, sitting in a rounded, fairly ornate box seat. I was probably in the mezzanine. At the time, I probably just thought it was old and ugly.
Of course, there were many more houses of entertainment in Hammond. As early as 1887, the Hohman Opera House opened and was home to any number of vaudeville acts and live entertainments. And in 1903 a more elegant establishment opened, the Towle Opera House.
A few years later, a much more ornate theater building opened up on State Street, the Orpheum.
Eventually, the Towle lost its glamor and customers as well, and changing its name to the Hammond Theatre and later the Deluxe Theater still didn't help its demise. Of course, today it's the home to the Towle Theater, a great boon to the arts in Hammond.
The Parthenon, which opened in 1921, was even more opulent but found itself soon surpassed by the opening of the State Theatre. I've read that this, Hammond's most elegant, was bombed to smithereens in 1927. It was never rebuilt. It was then that the Parthenon regained its popularity.
Now even here in little Whiting, we've had five movie houses and an opera house. Our opera house began before 1900 and was called Goebel's Opera House. Henry Goebel's place was certainly not the elegant opera houses one found in neighboring Hammond, but it was home to musicals, minstrel shows, balls and concerts.
Our first movie house was the Royal built in 1909 followed by The Palace, which was on 119th Street where the All Good Cafe is today. Both were nickelodeons. In an editorial of the time, it said they furnished "a high class of entertainment."
Around 1917 a Mr. Obresk started the Star Theatre, which was in today's Sandrick Agency. But it's been said it was a rather miserable place with filthy graffiti-covered walls. It was known for running serials.
Competition for the Star came with the building of the lovely Princess Theatre. Fearing that his Star was going to fail by comparison, Obresk then built the Capitol Theatre in 1922. Much of the theater stage and side walls still exist in this building, which had been Sherman's Hardware for many years. It was known for its Saturday matinee cowboy fare.
But in 1924, Whiting's true "movie palace" was built, the Hoosier Theatre. And unlike its predecessors in the area, the Hoosier has been preserved and restored thanks to John Katras and his family. Today it still runs movies at a reasonable price in a true movie palace.
The opinions are solely those of the writer.