Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alpha Theatre, Susan Hayward and the Gas Chamber

Parents and children loved this art deco inspired movie house located at 725 Frederick Rd. in Catonsville, MD. It was truly a neighborhood theater which was within walking distance for many local residents. My best friend and I spent many Friday and Saturday nights there watching whatever fare was offered -- as long as it was approved by the Catholic Archdiocese. In those days the price for children’s admission was 25 cents. I remember a sign in the ticket booth window that said no babes in arms allowed. You can interpret that the way that you want. At the candy counter we loved to buy the Bonomo Turkish Taffy (vanilla flavor) which costs six cent more than anywhere else in town. After the movie started we would slam our Turkish Taffy on the arm rests of the old wooden seats to break it into bite-size pieces. Ah this was such an unpopular habit of ours with the grown-ups. They expressed their dismay by turning around in their seats and glaring. They probably preferred a quieter snack for us such as nonpareils. Now the previews they showed at the theatre often were not tailored to suit the audience. One day we went to see “South Pacific” and the “coming attractions” showed a very disturbing trailer for “I Want to Live” with Susan Hayward. I never, ever forgot the prison scene where, just after kissing her little baby boy good-bye, she went into the gas chamber--wearing high-heels. Even years later as an adult I had to spend many hours drawing and painting to come to terms with that image. I have included some of the drawings I did in the 1980’s while watching the movie on TV one morning. The Alpha closed in 1963 I think. It became a slot-car racing arcade for a while. It was a boys’ domain because according to code, “nice” girls never went inside this place. I did poke my head in one day. It was awful to see my beloved theatre so brightly lit and noisy. Today the building still stands without its artistic marquee.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget the bowling alley downstairs from the Alpha. Your art here is hilarious!