Posts Tagged ‘Eastwood Theatre’

Remembering the Eastwood

March 9, 2011

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,