Advertisement for the gala opening of the Times Theatre on Macdonald between 23rd and 24th. All three cinemas were opened by Robert L. Lippert, an Alameda native who later gained noteriety as a film producer.
Olive Oyl was already a popular cartoon star by the time the United States entered World War II, but still did her part during the war by puncing the clock as a welder. Amorous advances by co-workers Popeye and Bluto lead to some workplace safety issues, however.
While work on the Popeye cartoon “Mess Production” started months earlier, it actually was released by Famous Studios on Aug. 24, 1945, 10 days after VJ Day.
The cartoon incorporates a number of gags from two 1930s black-and-white Popeye cartoons from the Fleischer Studios (predecessor of Famous Studios): “A Dream Walking” and “Lost and Foundry,” as well as the 1942 Superman cartoon “Destruction, Inc.”, a wartime cartoon with Lois Lane in the Rosie the Riveter role.
Plans to renovate and reopen the historic UC Theatre on University Avenue in Berkeley were announced last week.
Here is a look at the landmark movie house over the years:
This photo of Solano Avenue from the late 1920s shows the original Albany Theater, a small one-story building at the left that dates from 1914 and hosted vaudeville. Behind it is the two-story building that was built as an Italian organization meeting hall. The hall would be renovated and reopened in 1935 as the Albany Cinema. In its original form, the meeting hall had two storefronts at street level and a ballroom and meeting rooms on the second floor. Note the Southern Pacific street car tracks (and overhead wires) on Solano and the Key System tracks on San Pablo Avenue in the foreground.
(Click on the pictures for a larger view.)
The movie house on Solano Avenue known over the years as the Albany Theater (or Theatre), Albany Cinema, and now the Albany Twin, is a survivor in an era when many neighborhood film emporiums have closed. Victims include The Oaks at the Berkeley end of Solano, shuttered for several years.
But the Albany Theater was not the original venue with that name, nor was it originally a theater.
It succeeded a one-story predecessor next door on Solano that was built in 1914 and operated as a vaudeville venue.
The second Albany Theater was originally a two-story meeting hall built in 1926 by an Italian-American organization. It had two storefronts on the ground floor and meeting space and a dance floor above.
The building was purchased in 1934 by a successful theater operator who hired Berkeley architect William Garren to redesign the building to show movies. Plans were announced in November 1934 and the building’s interior was gutted and turned into a movie house that opened in 1935.
Garren took control of the theater when the man who hired him died and the well-known architect would go on to manage it for the next 30 years, becoming a popular figure in town, becoming a leader of the business community and serving on Albany commissions.
One longtime resident recalled that homebuilder C.M. MacGregor would annually treat the local kids to a free matinee and ice cream at the theater and would dance down the center aisle wearing a tam o’shanter and singing a little ditty.
Garren had a good run as the unplanned cinema operator, but finally bowed out in 1965. He did remain active in civic affairs for some years to come.
Jack Tillmany, who managed the Albany Theater after Garren stepped down and provided many of the photos and clippings we will post here. He offered the following reminiscences:
In the early 1960s, I managed the Piedmont Cinema in Oakland for Martin Foster, who also operated the Parkway Cinema on Park Blvd. Both of them were tremendously successful, thanks mostly to a well selected format of popular titles, such as the James Bond and Pink Panther series at the Piedmont, and more international fare at the Parkway, seasoned with hotties like Dr. Strangelove and Romeo and Juliet. It was inevitable that Foster would expand and the Berkeley market beckoned. In October 1965 he took over the Albany from William Garren and I was promoted to general manager for the three enterprises. Garren had operated Albany as a mom and pop venue for the local family trade, with Saturday afternoon matinees for the kids, etc., all of which had, by that time, had become part of a bygone era. Foster wanted to appeal to the Berkeley crowd, with more of an off beat, and European flavor, and the changeover was an immediate success, bringing new life into a dying operation, and a new Berkeley audience who had probably never before ventured that far West on Solano Ave.
The earliest (circa 1941) and only photo I’ve ever seen of Albany, is before its 1950 remodeling, when SP trains still ran on Solano Avenue.You can’t see much of the theatre, except its original vertical, and the “Any Seat Any Time 30 cents” sign on the West wall, but that sort of says it all.
The Albany Theatre (“30 cents cents any seat, any time”) about 1941 with a streetcar of the Southern Pacific line in the foreground. At the left is the S.P. (Southern Pacific) Store, managed by Max Etingoff and now Max’s Liquors. Also note there is a street level billboard on Solano at the left of the streetcar.
I really don’t think Garren every quite understood the 1960s or what was happening to his beloved theatre, but it had suddenly become part of the era and Foster was smiling all the way to the bank. I remember one evening, with a sell out crowd inside and a line around the corner and up the block waiting for the next show, and Garren stopped by and just looked around in amazement! Here it is in June 1967, with another tremendous success that Foster had milked dry at the Parkway and then moved up to the Albany for an even longer, continued run, Georgy Girl.
Work to convert the meeting hall to a movie house began late in 1934 and it opened in 1935. The interior was gutted and the second floor removed to create an auditorium and the exterior was remodeled and a marquee added. Note that plans included an airplane beacon and a nursery with cribs and toys.
COMING UP NEXT: BATMAN COMES TO THE ALBANY THEATER
Martha Ross has written a nice piece on cartoonist Morrie Turner, who died Saturday at age 90.
The piece notes that Turner “broke racial barriers in the 1960s when he became the first African-American to have a syndicated comic strip — the gently humored, ethnically diverse ‘Wee Pals,’ which still runs daily in the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times.”
It might help to have some perspective on the world of comic strips when “Wee Pals” debuted in the Oakland Tribune in April 1965.
At the time, the only other sign of something on the comics page even remotely resembling diversity outside of Turner’s new creation was the strip “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp, which definitely reflected sensibilities of an earlier era with its world of hillbillies and “Injuns.”
Turner introduced a new sensibility to the comics page, delivering an ongoing message of equality and inclusiveness, and dropping in countless tidbits of otherwise unsung history along the way that educated young and old alike.
The Musical Teens program at Contra Costa Civic Theatre will perform the 1950s musical “Grease” this weekend.
“Rydell high is filled with rebellious, thrill-loving students. Enter,
Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl and things go crazy.
All of your favorite rock-and-roll songs with vibrant dancing and incredible voices will be on stage this coming weekend performed by the young actors from musical teens.”
Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 18 and 2 p.m. Jan. 19 at CCCT, 951 Pomona Ave.
Tickets are $10, available at the door or online with more details at www.ccct.org.
The cast members are Abram Blitz, Aidan Mulqueeney, Amelia Meacham, Arianna Bertucco, Bella Mercurio, Chelsea McPheron, Devin Elias, Franny Beck, Gloria Leon, Hannah Miller, Jackie Davis, Jaya Pyne, Jenna Englund, Jordan Beck, Kyla Dullum, Lindsey Lam, Lucy Malamud-Roam, Marina Carlstroem, Mary Elsbury, Millie Kaufman, Natalie McCosker, Owen Storey, Sophia Acker, Terra Baer
Christina Martin directs and choreography is by Deirdre Ashby.
El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford, one of some 60 volunteers who turned out to put the Sundar Shadi Christmas display in place on Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive on Dec. 14, also set up his camera and took this remarkable time lapse video documenting the work.
Crawford notes that it took 30-plus hours to upload the video.
RYSE YOUTH CENTER CELEBRATES FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY & Hosts 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event
What: RYSE Center 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland and FiveYear Anniversary Community Event
Where: RYSE CENTER, 205 41st Street (at Macdonald Avenue), Richmond, CA
When: Saturday, December 14, 2013, 12 noon – 4 p.m.
RICHMOND, Calif… The RYSE Youth Center will be celebrating five years of youth empowerment and community service by hosting its 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event.
RYSE’s Winter Wonderland, a free community event, will include a toy giveaway for newborns and kids up to 12 years old, music, arts and crafts activities, tree decorating and more! The purpose of this event is to bring communities together, support youth and their families in celebrating the holiday season, and honor RYSE’s fiveyear anniversary and commitment to serving young people in the community.
The Center opened its doors to the community on October 18, 2008 after a string of youthrelated homicides near Richmond High School in 2000 mobilized students to take action to address the violence and lack of safety at school and in the community. Students organized vigils and community forums with more than 1,500 youth and community members, and met and worked with local officials and stakeholders on a comprehensive assessment of youthidentified priorities and solutions.
RYSE Youth Center
Grounded in social justice, RYSE builds youth power for young people ages 1321 living in Richmond and West Contra Costa County to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities.
Since 2008, more than 3,000 young people have participated in programs and activities. For more information go to www.rysecenter.org.
If you are looking to do something for Halloween for the family or even just yourself, consider going to Albany Haunt, a homemade attraction at 1048 Peralta Ave. in Albany that will be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. this Saturday and again on Oct. 31. You’ll have some homegrown fun and feel good about it at the same time because admission is a donation — canned goods or monetary — to the Alameda County Food Bank.
You’ll feel even better because the attraction is the creation of a teenager wanted to do something for Halloween, but also wanted to help people in need.
From Michael Altfest, communications manager of the Alameda County Community Food Bank:
There’s a 13 year old boy building what seems to be an elaborate haunted house in his driveway – and he’s asking for food and fund donations for the Food Bank as the admission. He’s a really neat kid – seems to be really talented (you can check out his haunted house facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Albany-Haunt/127487577452389). When I asked him why he was doing this he said he really loves Halloween, but he also “realizes that there are a lot of people in our community who are struggling and he wanted a way to help.”
You know the food bank would love to see a full barrel.
You are invited to attend the “4th Annual North Richmond Green Festival,” which will take place this Saturday, October 19, 2013 from 10:00am to 4:00pm at the Shields Reid Park and Community Center located on 1410 Kelsey Street in Richmond, California. This will be a free, family friendly, outdoor event, to celebrate efforts that are being made to improve the environment and the health of the community.
The festival will follow a beautification project where volunteers will plant flowers in target locations at the Shields Reid Community Center and at the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church.
Once the festival begins at 10:00am, the highlights of this community event will include giveaways such as free food, free blueberry bushes, pomegranate trees, olive trees, t-shirts, and reusable water bottles, along with live entertainment, arts and crafts, wild animal tours, jumpers, informational booths and more…
Please come join us for a healthy day filled with family fun and community enjoyment!!