Theaters aplenty in days past
Readers have contributed memories of the Regent and Orpheum theaters in Amsterdam after a recent column talked about the Rialto, Tryon and Mohawk theaters downtown. All of the theaters were demolished for urban renewal.
The Regent opened in 1914 at 19 Market St. The Schine theater chain, headquartered in Gloversville, remodeled the Regent in 1946, promising that everything was new but the name. The opening attraction for the remodeled facility was “Weekend at the Waldorf,” starring Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon and Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra.
John Donlon, a high school student at St. Mary’s Institute in the 1940s, wrote, “The Rialto showed ‘A’ pictures. There were lots of them in the golden age of film. The Strand (an earlier name for the Mohawk) showed mostly ‘B’ movies with occasional re-runs of the ‘A’ type; Saturdays also featured the 12- or 15-part serials guaranteed to bring kids back the next week. The Regent was mostly reruns of the Rialto fare, usually double-billed with a real stinker.”
The Regent was on the east side of Market Street, between the Rialto at Market and Grove and what Donlon called old Amsterdam’s Times Square, the intersection of Market and Main streets.
Donlon added, “The Orpheum Theater on the west side of Market Street just north of the Barnes Hotel was on the way out when I was five or six [he was born in 1927]. I vaguely remember going there once with my father: the seats were portable chairs, most uncomfortable. The smell of anti-vermin spray permeated the atmosphere or maybe it was the smell of the films, ‘C’ or worse!
“That he took me at all was a miracle. A year or earlier my mother had taken me to the Strand and I cried so much she, more patient than I, took this little brat out and missed the movie!”
Donlon’s father was Hugh P. Donlon, a reporter for the Recorder, who in 1980 wrote “Annals of a Mill Town,” a detailed history of Amsterdam.
“Should personal credentials for assuming appraisal responsibilities be required or even be of interest, it may be cited that few Amsterdamians of today have lived here longer and have been closer to mainstream activities,” Hugh Donlon wrote.
He continued, “Decades of newswriting, largely about government at city and county levels, included nearly 15 years of gossip mongering through the ‘Main Street’ column, a daily literary grind that at times was about as painful to the columnist as to townspeople ‘roasted’ in caricature. There are easier ways of earning a living, but none better than reporting in getting to know people.”
According to a childhood friend, John Donlon sang tenor in a barbershop-style singing group that could be heard “in occasionally raffish song” under Guy Park Avenue’s streetlights. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949, and began a career as a nuclear submariner. He commanded the USS Shark in 1963 and later the USS Woodrow Wilson. Today, he lives in Connecticut.
He and his wife and family moved 26 times during his Navy career, living up to a family rule, “Never fail to stay together (kids and all) on home plate (wherever it might be) unless expressly forbidden by direct order of competent authority. Good rule!”
Amsterdam native Don McNamara also recalled the Regent Theatre. McNamara said you could see a show at the Regent for 15 cents when he was 7 or 8 years old in the late 1940s. A show at the Mohawk/Strand, on the other hand, cost 25 cents.
McNamara also enjoyed the Tryon Theater, built in 1949, the only Amsterdam movie house to feature sliding seats.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657 or email@example.com.