Ah, the irony. The deal the city made to bring the University of Windsor’s music and visual arts departments downtown to create a cultural hub triggered the closing of the Palace Theatre. In case you missed the news flash, some of the changes taking place involve The Windsor Star building being taken over by the University while the theatre space will be occupied by The Windsor Star.
The Palace’s last shows will be shown Sunday, January 8, 2012. (I’m planning to go.) Once the theatre’s doors are closed for good, Windsor will witness the end of the “neighbourhood” cinema house. It’s really hard to believe that back in the good old days (see, that isn’t just an overused expression… in this case, they were really good), every business district in Windsor had at least one theatre: The Empire, The Centre, The Kent, The Park, The Tivoli, are just a few that come to mind.
I, for one, will definitely miss the Palace. Not only was it conveniently located for inner city denizens like me, you couldn’t beat the price of tickets. And, I liked the fact that you could go have dinner or a drink before or after the show, at one of several fine restaurants and lounges within walking distance. And guess what? I never had trouble finding parking.
With the future of nearby Capitol Theatre still unclear (after five long years! Don’t get me started.) I hope that more movies will be offered in the playhouse to pick up the slack. A person can dream, can’t they?
Just over a decade ago, Stan Scislowski, a regular contributor to our local history publication, The Walkerville Times, sent in an intriguing story about some of the gimmicks local theatres used during the depression years of the 1930s to lure people into the Palace and Tivoli Theatres.
For your reading pleasure, I give you…
Anybody Got a Soup Ladle?
by Stan Scislowski
If you happen to be one of that dwindling segment of the local society that grew up during the “hungry thirties”, then you’ll probably remember when they held ‘Dish Nights’ at a couple of the local movie houses: the Tivoli in Walkerville and the Palace downtown.
To get people into the movie theatres on the slower weekdays, the managers dreamed up the idea of giving a dish to all adult ticket holders, with a different dish being given each week. It turned out to be one good way to get the mothers out of the house for a spell, and at the same time stock the family cupboard with a set of good dishes.
And they were good, dishes too or so I’ve been told.
And then there were those zany Auction Nights held at the Palace Theatre when people flocked to the show carrying all kinds of junk, bric-a-brac and household items in brown paper bags, in burlap bags, in their pockets and purses, hoping the emcee or auctioneer would call for them.
The auction went as follows: At the intermission between the feature movie and the ‘B’ movie, the auctioneer on the stage would call out something like this: I’ll pay fifty cents for a corkscrew. Anybody in the audience have a corkscrew?
If you happened to have one, you hollered out: “Okay, Palace!” and the first one to do so, ran up the aisle to exchange the item for a shiny fifty-cent piece. (We called them half bucks). And then he might offer a whole dollar for a bottle of ink, or a chisel, or a “Big Little Book”.
Some of the stuff he asked for you wouldn’t think anybody’d have the presence of mind to bring along. But darned if they didn’t. Unbelievable! Hilarious too!
What pains some people took to make a buck or two. But you couldn’t really blame them. After all, a buck went a long way in those lean days.
Here’s a few of the items I remember people bringing in: a hot-water bottle; a thimble; a spool of thread, a soup ladle, a darning-needle, a cork, a bottle-opener— yes, and even a coat-hanger. You name it, someone had it.
We might not have had TV in those days, and a lot of people didn’t even have radios, but there were all kinds of other ways to have fun, to push back the cares and concerns of those hard-scrabble days. To tell you the truth, more so than there are today.
Or so I like to think.
Perhaps I’ll bring a corkscrew and a spool of thread with me when I head to the Palace, for old time’s sake.
(to read more of Stan’s stories, go to walkervilletimes.com.)