A Broadway Fender-Bender

Looks like there might have been a minor fender-bender east of Pacific on Broadway on a warm night when the streets were wet. The negative is in poor shape, but there are all kinds of interesting things captured in the frame. Click on the photos to make them larger.

  • I think it’s a fender bender because the car in the foreground (with a Ford Groves license plate) is empty.
  • There’s a small crowd of gawkers gathering on the sidewalk.
  • There’s a guy standing behind the second car exhibiting body language that he’s not particularly happy. You can see that same sort of thing at another crash at Fountain and Broadway where you can also read about Cape’s singing policeman, Fred Kaempfer.

Barely worth two shots

  • It had to have been minor because it was only worth two shots. It wasn’t newsworthy enough to make the paper and it didn’t look like it would turn into an insurance job.
  • The Esquire Theater is showing Walt Disney’s Moon Spinners.
  • The Wayne’s Grill sign is still lit, probably open to catch late-night moviegoers. Wayne’s was the home of the best filet I’ve ever eaten, all for $1.25.
  • Beard’s Sport shop is on the left side of the street just beyond the Esquire and just before the phone company.
  • There’s a guy standing in front of the price sign at the Cities Service gas station, so we don’t know how much you had to pay to fill your tank, but I’m guessing it was going for about .39.9 a gallon. Thoni’s price wars that took it down to 19 cents didn’t usually make it that far into town.
  •  If you look above and to the left of the highway signs, you can see one of the cheesy plastic rose baskets that were supposed to symbolize City of Roses.
  •  Vandeven’s Merchantile is on the right. There’s a sign that looks like it says “Novelty Shop,” that might have been Bodine’s Gift Shop at 823 Broadway. Beyond it is the vertical sign for Radonics Electronics Radio and TV.

Is the Esquire deal off?

When I was home last fall, the big news was that the Esquire Theater, closed for first-run movies since 1984, was going to renovated by its new owner, John Buckner.

Well, it looks like the excitement might have been premature. One of Buckner’s enterprises, a new restaurant named Razing Cain, closed in less than a month. The Missourian is reporting that Buckner is now “rethinking” if he’s going forward with the Esquire project.



Esquire Gets New Life

The Esquire Theater, 824 Broadway, may not turn into a parking lot after all. John Buckner, the building’s new owner, has announced plans to spend up to $2.4 million to renovate the 67-year-old building as an art-house theater. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

New owner like a kid with a toy

Buckner is tackling the project with a lot of enthusiasm and a healthy dose of fun. He couldn’t wait to get a message on the marque, even though a cold front was moving in and dropping lots of chilly rain down his collar.

The place is a mess

The Esquire closed as a motion picture house Oct. 7, 1984, with a showing of Purple Rain. After that, it tried to be a second-run movie theater; a teen club; a gospel music theater, and ended up a repository for junk, including the set from the Tom Hanks movie, The Green Mile.

This photo, taken from the projection booth, gives only a hint of the clutter. Wife Lila’s brother, John Perry, is helping Buckner clean out the accumulated stuff so Penzel Construction can begin renovation. He said that the building was crammed so full that they could barely get the lobby doors open.

Tiny concession stand

The concession stand, with the candy counter still showing prices, was much smaller than I remembered. Another thing mis-remembered by me and some of the curious folks who wandered in on Tuesday was a balcony. Most of us would have sworn that the Esquire had a balcony, but it didn’t. The Broadway must have been the only theater of the three on Broadway to have upstairs seating.

(The dishes weren’t used by the theater. They were some of the miscellaneous stuff stored there.)

Short of seating

The theater seated 800 when it opened in 1947. The audience had better have stayed seated in the red upholstered seats because there was a dearth of another kind of seating.

The men’s room had a urinal and a toilet – and you’d better be skinny to use the former – to handle the needs of the audience. Maybe they didn’t serve extra-large drinks in those days.

Esquire stories

  • Scott Moyers did a long piece in The Missourian on plans for the building. I’ll point you there for the details. An accompanying sidebar has a historical timeline of the theater.
  • Missourian photographer Laura Simon made it into the Esquire a day before I did (and went to the trouble of lighting it better) to produce a photo gallery.
  • I ran a collection of exterior photos of the theater in March of 2010 and went into a little of its history.
  • In September 1965, I used infrared flash and film to capture kids watching The Beatles movie Help! It was the first (and only) time I used that technique.

Esquire photo gallery

I prowled from the boiler room in the basement to the projection room high above the viewing area. I discovered the old projectors, boxes of tickets, the plastic marque letters, the 1947 Workman’s Comp placard and a devil’s brew of mold that will either cure anything I have wrong or kill me.

Many of the things I photographed won’t bring back memories because they were just items that were stored there and had no connection with the theater we remember. I’m including them to give an idea of the scope of the project in the before stage and as a reminder of how far the building has come (assuming that the project is completed).

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the picture to move through the gallery. Please, leave comments. It seems like everyone who walked into the place had a story to share. I wish I had set up a video camera on a tripod to capture those memories.