Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A postcard tells a story about "Theater Row"

Theater Row, Lawrence, Massachusetts

A couple of weeks ago I promised to blog about postcards - well I got waylaid but here I am at last.

Back almost a month ago, I decided to pull out all of the postcards we have in this house and enter one of the Festivals of Postcards hosted by Evelyn Theriault on her A Canadian Family Blog. First my husband and I pulled out all the postcards that he has had for years that belonged - from what I can figure out - to his father before his father was married and to one of his uncles. We pulled those out and I could not believe the treasure trove of postcards that have been sitting around all of these years. Many date back to the early 1900s!

After doing a bit of research about old or vintage postcards I realized that back in those days there were postcard clubs and this is how they worked: people would agree or sign up to send a postcard from wherever they traveled to the name or names of the persons they had. What helped me to figure this out was because some from the Gaspé region of Quebec were on dates that would have been impossible for my husband's uncle Peter to travel to Canada because of the business he owned at the beach. He and his wife could definitely not travel in the summer. The other thing is that some postcards are from France and different parts of the U.S. Anyhow we know they did not travel to those places.

Now other than uncle Peter's and my father-in-law's cards, I've been searching high and low for the postcards my mother had. I have come across a very few but I know there are more. I've put them in such a safe place that I've not yet found them - to my great chagrin.

Nonetheless, I did find the two postcards posted in this blog. They are two different views of "Theater Row" in Lawrence, Massachusetts where I grew up.
When I was a kid, my mother would pay for me and one or two of my cousins to go to the movies. In those days they were all double feature movies and started with Looney Tune Cartoon, the first feature, the news reel and then the second feature. Lots of value for twelve cents wasn't it? When I was in high school the cost to go to a movie increased to eighteen cents then to twenty-five cents where it remained for a very long time.

Back to "Theater Row" - it was so named because on one side of the street the movie houses began with the Palace then it was the Broadway then the Modern and then the Strand. As if that wasn't enough, across the street was the Victoria.

According to "Rilpey's Believe It or Not," the only place in the world where one could find a street with four movie theaters in a row was in Lawrence, MA. Known as "Theater Row" on Broadway, there were the STRAND (built in 1917), later renamed as the ASTOR, the MODERN (1921), BROADWAY (1910) and PALACE (1921). Along with several other theaters in downtown Lawrence, these venues entertained Merrimack Valley citizens for decades.

We would do one theater on Saturday and sometimes we do another on Sunday afternoon. I remember seeing Shirley Temple live on stage at the Victoria once. During WWII different people would come on stage to encourage people to buy War Bonds to support the war effort.

Though the various theaters sold candy and pop corn there was a candy and variety store before the Palace and one after the Strand. The one before the Palace was called Charlie Mann's and the one after the Strand was called Louis Pearl's. Interestingly enough, when I was researching through Lawrence City Directories for my father's family it turned out that they lived in a tenement over Louis Pearl's.

As though Theater Row wasn't enough, there were other theaters in Lawrence. My husband grew up in the Italian neighborhood of the city and they used to go to the Central Theater. On the same street (Broadway) where Theater Row was located but much further in a northerly direction was the Warner Theater.

What I've shared just goes to show how many memories can be evoked through old or vintage postcards.

So if you have vintage postcards, why not share what memories they hold for you?


Your Cousin Lucie

This blog has been submitted to the Festival of Postcards hosted by Evelyn Theriault at A Canadian Family Blog


Marie Reed said...

I've been to Lawrence! Does St Anne's still have a service in French? What delightful Theater Row postcards! I'm always putting everything in a 'safe place' too:)

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Marie... Ste Anne Church has long been closed. When the membership of the Marist Fathers decreased, they were no longer able to serve the parish so the archdiocese of Boston closed the parish. A few years ago Sacred Heart in So. Lawrence closed then Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Ste Theresa's was first taken over by the Augustinians and renamed in a merge and today diocesan priests serve that parish. All ethnic parishes have now been closed in Lawrence. A true loss to all hertiages.

Harold's Daughter said...

Wow, four theatres in the same block! And the only time admission to a movie in my hometown was a quarter was for Saturday matinees. Takes more than a quarter's worth of gas to get to a movie theatre now. I miss the cartoons and newsreels before the main feature. Even then, the newsreels were hokey, but I miss them anyway!

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi.. and how true! It takes more than a quarter for gas and lots more to get to see ONE movie - instead of a cartoon today they show tons of commercials and coming attraction... waste of time lol lol

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

I particularly love postcards with theatres or cinemas because in a few cases It's allowed me to date the cards according to what's shown on the playbill.
I'm so glad you've ben able to put your hands on a few cards and I think when you register for the Signs Festival you should include this one with your entry!
Evelyn in Montreal

Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

You might also want to think about taking part in Lynne's Postcardy Scavenger Hunt.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Evelyn,

I will submit these oistcards as well - just wish I could make out the playbill.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

What is her address?

Terry said...

Thank you for visiting my blog today and becoming a follower that gave me the opportunity to visit your delightful blog and follow you.
Your postards are so thrilling .
Thank you for sharing :)
Have a wonderful day .
Happy Trails

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Terry! I loved the photo of "you" on the horse! lol.. I was really crazy about horses as a child. I enjoyed visiting your blog and happy I came upon it. Thank you for sharing.

Pearl Maple said...

Great collection of postcards and stories to go with them.

A post card club would have been good fun. Always nice to receive a postcard in between all those bills.

Thanks for sharing with the fesitval of postcards.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Pearl. Wouln't have been fun to participate in a postcard club?!

Alex said...

I love that night shot - what a unique location, and fun memories to boot! Thanks for sharing.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thanks for stopping by Alex. These postcards certainly do evoke lots of good memories.

Sheila said...

It's very interesting to hear of such a place with 4 movie theatres in a row. I've hardly ever lived in a town large enough for that! I agree with you about the memories evoked from old postcards. I find that all the time, going through my father's collection.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Sheila and you are correct. I don't think people would ordinarily even consider building so many theater next to one another. They also use to use the brick sides of the buildings lke billboards and they advertised that movies were only 5 cents. That stayed on the building for many years.

James V. Roy said...

Hi Lucie,
I just wanted to make a correction to something in your blog. You said "On the same street (Broadway) where Theater Row was located but much further in a northerly direction was the Warner Theater."

Actually the thaeater up that street was the Star theater. The Warner was several blocks away up Essex St. and a block south of Essex on Lawrence Street.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you James. you are absolutely correct about this. My error. It was the Star at the other end of Broadway near the Arlington Mill.


James V. Roy said...

Hi Lucie,
I came across your blog a few weeks back while helping some folks at the Cinema Treasures website with some details about the Lawrence theaters. I've since compiled some pictures and info that you and your readers might find interesting. Feel free to peruse the galleries here

I believe I saw in another section something about a relative of yours that was a musician at the Orpheum in Haverhill. You are aware I hope that the the Orpheum was the first theater opened by Louis B. Mayer and give him his illustrious start in the film industry?


Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Jim..I took a quick look – I will add a link to my blog explaining what people will see. I love that 1920s photos of theatre row because she shows an entrance to tenements where my grandparents lived before the bottom floor ( if it was the same building) became Louis Pearl’ you know anything about that?


You can email me at

James V. Roy said...

I believe the building you are referring to is just after the Post Office in this postcard
which I believed to have been the Post Office Hotel.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi, that isn't the one. The link you've posted is of the old post office - The building I meant was next to the Strand theatre and in that old photo you can see the entrance.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said... is this photo

James V. Roy said...

Hi Lucie,
Right, I know which one you mean. I'm talking about the red building in the postcard that is to the right of the Postoffice up Broadway. That is the building that will become the location of Louie Pearls and is adjacent to the Strand there in the other photo.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Jim,

Really? Are you certain of that? To my recollection was there not an alley between Louis Pearle's building and the old Post Office but I could be mistaken about that. I'll have to look at more photos. A McDonald's was built on the P.O. site - I don't think they should have ever torn down that P.O. building but that's another story.


James V. Roy said...

Yes, I'm certain. It was actually Common St. not an alley that seperated Louis Pearls building from the Post Office. You can see it better in this aerial shot. The building with the yellow awning was Louis Pearls and the building to the right of it the Strand/Astor theater.

This was the post office not long after it was built at Essex and Broadway

this is the intersection today

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thanks again Jim! These are just great photos! All this time I thought my grandparents and their children had lived in what was the Post Office Square Chambers. Now I have a much better understanding of where they lived thanks to you.