Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

THE CAPITOL THEATER

Post By Gloria Schirpik

Austin was already a booming city when I appeared in 1938 and downtown is almost the same now as it was then.  “Main Street” was Congress Avenue. The Texas capitol building formed the north boundary and the Colorado River bounded the south.  Along each side of this paved avenue were hotels, offices, cafes, and retail stores.  Street parking was angular available.   The small changes to the downtown came slowly with taller buildings and the addition of parking lots to manage the limited parking on the street. 

The best movie theater was the Capitol Theater located at 120 West Sixth Street just off Congress Avenue, known for its sticky floors and seats.  Mom’s dropped us off for the show warning us over and over, “Don’t put anything in your mouth that has been on the floor.”   The sticky was caused by the herds of kids at Saturday morning showings of Roy Rogers, Looney Tunes cartoons, Three Stooges, Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy.  Three-fourths of the kids lost their popcorn and Jujubes to the floor.  Moms also told us to “beware of strangers,” but that was said as an afterthought, because the city was safe and all strangers were good.  

The Capitol Theater was built in 1896 on Sixth Street right next to the First National Bank which was on the corner of Sixth and Congress, and which was where O. Henry had worked.  The theater was originally built as the Hancock Opera House, and when opera fell out of favor, it was changed to a movie house.  It had a stage and an orchestra pit with a piano in it.  The movie screen was covered by a heavy red curtain with gold fringe that opened just after the lights went down.  There was carpeting in the aisle and the seats were padded and upholstered in itchy fabric.
The most memorable movie I saw at the Capitol was Frankenstein.  When the monster was revealed, the theater filled with screams.  You couldn’t look, he was so scary!  Sometimes, when they had migrated into town, a few river bats got into the theater and flew around or hung from the ceiling, making a Dracula movie even scarier. 

The Capitol Theater had been closed many years before they tore it down to build the high-rise office building at Sixth and Congress.  By that time, I was married and my husband and I were taking the kids to the drive-in. Busy with family, I didn’t notice the loss.

Take a look at an old-time movie with cowboys singing:  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXnx5CjBl6Y

Photos courtesy of Gloria Schirpik and Austin Public Library

No comments: