Remembering the Eastwood

Eastwood Theatre, Houston, Opened in 1936.

The Eastwood Theatre once stood at the corner of Leeland Avenue and Telephone Road like the gatekeeper to the deep southeastern section of Houston’s even larger Eaat End. Opened in March 1936, the Eastwood stood as merely one of the legion movies houses of the suburbs, one of those close to home places where most Houstonians saw their movies in the days prior to television, dvd, dvr, and Netflick-like movie mail services. If you were a kid back in that day, it was also one of the places where you got your Saturday morning kid movie fix, usually some kind of blended diet of Roy Rogers, Charlie Chan, The East Side Kids, The Crimson Ghost, and Bugs Bunny. How good was that? Words defy description, and, even though my home field for the Saturday morning kid movie fare was the smaller Avalon Theatre at nearby 75th and Lawndale, the Eastwood ranked high on our available list of local movies houses. Others in our territory included the Wayside and Santa Rosa, both located further down the winding tour route that was Telephone Road – and also the Broadway over near Milby High School,

We could list movie places all day long and deep into the night, In the end, it was the part of our childhood in Houston and America that these places played in the lives of us who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. They were the spark that lit the fuse and fed the hunger of our new and growing imaginations about a better life in a bigger world beyond the fences and gates of our own little cultures. Little did we all know back then how well we already had it on our sandlots, with our friends, and in our families. For the most part, we had it all. Except for the money that could buy us the cars, clothes, travel, and adventure that we saw on the movie screen, we pretty much had it all – and all we had to do was keep up with our homework. We didn’t have to spend January, February, and March either working on, or procrastinating about, filing our federal income tax reports.

In having less, we had more. We just didn’t know it. The fact was beyond our experience of those times. And we felt no tax on our movie-inspired dreams.

My memories of the Eastwood, in particular, include the fact that it was the place I got my first taste of the real world. You see, at age 14 in 1952, I decided to apply for my first job there. I saw being an usher as a nice way to pick up some money and watch even more movies for free. So, I got all dressed up one day.and went down to the Eastwood to talk with the manager, a nice man we all knew as “Mr. Vallone.” I think his full name was Rocco Vallone, but I am only sure of the surname.

Mr. Vallone listened kindly to my job request and then invited me to fill out an employment application. It was about April of 1952 when I applied, hoping to start after the summer break, but June came and I never heard anything. Finally, after a few quick jobs in the neighborhood, I hooked on with A&P Grocery as a package boy and forgot all about the Eastwood.

And now the rest of the story.

Flash forward twenty-five years. I walk into a doughnut shop on Gessner over on the Westside one morning and guess who’s in line ahead of me? Of course, as fate would have it, it’s “Mr. Vallone,” the same guy who took and, for all I knew, was still holding my open application for a job at the Eastwood. Should I just let this moment slide and say nothing?

No way. I could not resist the opportunity for a little fun.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, “aren’t you Mr. Vallone, the fellow who used to manage the Eastwood Theatre?’

“Why, yes I am,” said the startled, but smiling Vallone, as he turned to shake my hand.

“Well, twenty-five years ago, you took my application for work as an usher and promised to get back with me, but you never called.” I said. “I just wanted to know if you’ve yet made  decision. – Did I get the job or not?”

Mr. Vallone almost fell on the floor laughing. We small talked our way through both our doughnut orders with a few fond shared memories of the Eastwood, but I told Vallone, as we parted, “Nothing will ever top this moment in my Eastwood file.”

We said goodbye and Mr. Vallone, the man who always physically reminded me of William Bendix, this time, was gone from my life forever once he walked out the door of the doughnut shop.

For the record, I didn’t get the job. Some kids who showed up looking for work on the last day of school got the work as ushers. Mr. Vallone told me again what I already knew. “You  should have checked back with me,” he said,

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19 Responses to “Remembering the Eastwood”

  1. Vito Schlabra Says:

    I remember the Eatwood very well. I lived in the Eastwood addition on North Super and Eastwood street was one block over near Ripley House where I worked 3 years. The theather near my home was the Don Gordon on Canal Street. It is now a church. Great memories Bill and thanks.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Vito:

      It was Rocco Vallone that managed the Eastwood, was it not? I wasn’t quite sure of the first name, but I was certain of the Vallone part.

      • Roger Choate Says:

        It was Ross Vallone–& he did remind one of William Bendix. I met him later, when he was managing the Interstate River Oaks–which is, of course, still functioning, as a theatre.

  2. David Munger Says:

    I was a Broadway guy. The Theaters either were Churches, Porn Movie
    Houses, or torn down. I saw Blue Hawaii 6 times in one day, I still know
    all the songs Rock-a-Hoola Rock-Rock-Rock-a-Hoola-Rock-a-Hoola-Rock….David has left the building….

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      David:

      The Broadway, Wayside, Eastwood, and Santa Rosa were all my haunts – with the Avalon feeling more like my home field because of all the Saturday double features and serials I watched there as a kid. My memory of Blue Hawaii is that I was exposed to the movie at the Winkler Drive In movie theatre with my steady girl friend of the time. I’m not sure I saw much of it that night, but good old Elvis sure created a romantic serenade in that film. … “I love you ….. in Bluuuuuuuuuuuuuue Hawa-ha-ha-he……” Man! Those were the days, my friend. Were they not?

      • Lee Hawkins Says:

        I realize this blog is a few years old but I thought I would try it. I am looking for anyone who may of known of my family back in the 1940’s on through the 1970’s. My dad was born in 1942 and lived his entire life just about at 605 Stiles at the intersection of Lockwood and Harrisburg. I also was born living there in 1969. Our house butted right up to Eastwood park. My fathers name was Lloyd Hawkins and he had three brothers, two older, Norman and Mac. And one younger, Larry Burrow. I know my dad played drums in a band around Telephone Road and Houston area. I would love to come in contact with anyone who knew them. My name is Lee Hawkins

  3. Roy Bonario Says:

    I lived on Telephone Road between the Eastwood and Wayside in 1940-55 and went to both regularly. I was at the Wayside the night it opened in 1942. It was the only theatre with a soda fountain that included ice cream sodas, malts and milk shakes. My sister sold tickets at the Eastwood around 1954 and let me in free many times. I saw James Stewart in “The Man From Laramie” about 6 times. I may be predjudiced but I think it was the best time for a kid to grow up in the history of the world. Thanks Bill for bringing back all these great memories.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Roy:

      Thanks for fleshing out how those days were with your comments. I could not agree more. They were the ebst of times to be a kid in America.

      Unless my memory fails, I think I recognize your name as the former owner of “Roy’s Memory Shop” on Bissonet in the early 1970s. I used to stop in there. Once I bought a movie still picture from the old serial known as “The Daughter of Don Q.” Roy Barcroft played the henchman they called “Donovan” in that weekly cliffhanger. The pictureI bought is from the last chapter. It shows Donovan being knocked off a high suspension bridge and falling to his death below in the gorge, – “Good guys win again!” – Anyway, thanks for stopping by and leaving that worthy comment.

  4. Roy Bonario Says:

    Bill and Vito,
    Mr. Vallone’s first name was Ross. I saw him at the Eastwood and later at the Majestic, Tower and finally the Westwood on Westheimer.

  5. Roy Bonario Says:

    Bill,
    I closed Roy’s Memory Shop aka Roy’s Collector’s Showcase when I retired in 1996. It was great while it lasted and I made many good friends along the way. I have a VHS of “Daughter Of Don Q” and other serials. I never tire of watching them.

    • Sol Wisenberg Says:

      Roy:

      I visited your store in it’s early years, when I went to Bellaire High. Can’t remember how I found out about it, but I think someone at Lou’s Record shop told me–or maybe I just recognized you from Lou’s when I walked in? Didn’t you work manage or co-own Lou’s in Meyerland? At any rate, I loved looking in your place for oldies–even in the early 1970’s. It was a great shop.

  6. Jim Michalek Says:

    Bill, I rememebr them all, but my ‘locals” were the Broadway when I was really young and the Santa Rosa when I lived in Pecan Park (7111 Quince) from (7) to (10) years old. When I started Immaculate Conception I was (5) years old, lived at 7714 Harrisburg and rode the bus on Saturdays to the “Fun Club” at the Broadway theater. The little liquor store at the Harrisburg site is still there and was built and owned by my Grandfather, Carl Ellison. He had stowed away on a ship when he was (15) and came over from Sweden. He started work as a dock hand on the Ship Channel and was smart enough to eventually build and operate the only liquor store between the Longshoremen’s Union Hall and Wayside Drive–and those longshoremen didn’t want to walk very far to get what they needed at the end of the day.
    I rememebr that I got a quarter for the Saturday Fun Club at the Broadway Theater. That was (5) cents to ride the bus each way, (9) cents for the theater ticket and that left (6) cents for candy and popcorn. What more could a guy want?
    Jim

  7. Vito Schlabra Says:

    Jim Michalek and I both started school in 1945 at Immaculate Conception. I moved near Blessed Sacrement in 1946. My mother wanted me to continue going to ICS so every day for the next seven years I rode the Canal bus one block past Edison Jr school and would walk ICS. Then I rode the Harrisburg bus back to Eastwood street . Wow what a trip. Two of my favorite theather’s were the Boulevard on Harrisburg and the Navaway on Navigation. In 1950 I won the Roy Rogers Yo-YO contest at the Sears & Roebuck store on Harrisburg. I still YO-YO. LOL

  8. Vito Schlabra Says:

    I ran around with Roy,Steve Oggero,Billy Ryan,Leonard Robeichauex,Little Billy Ryan,Tiny Savvavio,Johnny Carrabba, L.J. Cash,Joe Maida, John L Maida Matthew Provenzano ,Carl Ruffino,Carl Waldrip and many more . We would meet at Annunication Church in the mornings and then to St. Thomas. I knew Roy before St. Thomas he grew up near me off Canal & N. Super.near the Ripley House. We would all go to Schultz Drug store on the corner and some of the guys were Rocco & Rudy Rao,Nuncio Martino,etc.Great old memories.

  9. Roy Bonario Says:

    Bill, My first collector’s store was “roy’s memory shop” between 1970-1980 in a strip center on Bissonnet at greenbriar. I knew Lou in Meyerland real well but never managed or owned part of his store. However I did manage Marc’s Record Shop in Sharpstown in 1968, 1969. Before that, 1961=1968, I had my own record shop, “The Harmony Hut” on what was then southpark blvd. near jones high school. In the 80’s I was at the SW freeway at shepherd, then, An old 2 story house on Binz and LaBranch(Roy’s House Of Memories), after that I moved to westbury Square and became “Roy’s collector’s showcase” and finally in 1991, I moved to a center on S. Braeswood and hillcroft. As I stated before, it was fun while it lasted.

  10. Jeff Brant Says:

    Bill,
    Is it permissible to post your picture of the Eastwood on Cinema Treasures?

    Also, you wouldn’t happen to have one of the Port Theater in Jacinto City, would you?

    Thanks,
    Jeff in Texas

  11. Karl Says:

    sed to go to Roy’s Memory Shop when I was a kid. It was the best in those pre-cable days. Once i started boxing in 1976, I lost my interest in comics and movie serials, but it was a heck of a great time for a kid. Karl

  12. Ruth Quintero Says:

    I wanted to know if y’all is still around.

  13. roy bonario Says:

    HI RUTH, I’M STILL AROUND, 82 YEARS YOUNG AND STILL KICKIN’

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