Saturday, March 31, 2012

Touchstone Palaces of My Youth

Touchstone palaces of my youth: old Yankee Stadium, the original movie houses up 86th Street and in distant third place various churches. Something holy happened to me in each of these temples. Churches are still here, but don’t hold my attention anymore. Old Yankee Stadium was buried under the horrible renovation after the 1973 season. The RKO and Loew’s theatres on East 86th Street were chopped up shortly after the 1960s. 

Yesterday, I took a trip on the PATH train to the classic Loew’s Jersey Theatre at Journal Square. This beauty opened in 1929 same year my Dad was born. It has 3100 seats, same size as the old 86th Street RKO.  Secret, don’t tell anybody: the Yorkville RKO’s Lounge downstairs under the lobby was huge with lots of comfy furniture, a giant black table and several paintings. Matching its size, the urinals in the men’s room were mammoth. Top of one came up to my eight year old head. When we played hide and seek in the RKO after watching the movie twice we’d sometimes hide in the urinals.

The urinals are not over-sized at the Loew’s Jersey but everything else about it made me feel like an explorer breaking through the bush and finding an ancient city.  From outside the theatre you barely get a sense of the majesty beyond the gold doors. All the luxurious decorations inside are there to help suspend your disbelief for a few hours and transport you to another world.  Last night, I went to the land of the “Dude.” The film was “The Big Lebowski.” I felt safe knowing “the Dude abides.”  By the way, before the film we were entertained by an organ that rose from the orchestra pit. This was a blow my mind bonus since the Yorkville theatres had no live music when I was a boy.  You had to go to Radio City for that. Visit the Loew's Jersey if you can, it will not disappoint.

Thank you, Eric Vetter, for turning me on to this treasure, I had a blast last night.

Below are pictures from Loew’s Jersey Theatre and a link to a hundred other photographs.


LindaLynne said...

I love your description of the urinals, the organ is beautiful, the pictures are so really good you are terrific at photography.

Thomas Pryor said...

thank you, LindaLynne.

Joe Conlon said...

During the war years I would meet my mother coming home from at Horn and Hardarts by Loew's on 86th street.thats where I learned to eat cream spinach. After eating we go see a double feature at Loews.aside..Lindens bar next to loews is where my neighborhood classmates from Hayes would stop off for a Hot Dog at the open air bar and grill.Coming home one day we caught Tommy Henrich hitting a game winning homer off Newcomb.

Thomas Pryor said...

Joe, thank you, Horn & Hardart was one of my favorites, too. I'm jealous you got to see Brooklyn play the Yankees and witness a Henrich homer off Big Daddy Newcombe. I'm too young to remember the Dodgers in NY but having three baseball teams, having them all do well in late 40s and early 50s, that must have been something. The arguing over the three centerfielders that I would have liked to be part of.