After buying tickets, patrons entered the Jeffris lobby through a set of glass doors, walked up a slight incline, and gave their tickets to an usher who tore each in half and returned the stubs.
Walls curved away from the ramp on both sides, in the streamlined manner popular when the theater was remodeled. On the eastern end of the lobby were stairs that led to the men's room and projectionist booth. The ladies room was to the west on the first floor.
Straight ahead was a small concession stand with typical theater fare of the time, popcorn to all-day suckers.
My memory of the Jeffris from the fifties and sixties is that it had a red and gold color scheme. Two aisles ran the length of the auditorium, on the left and right, and separated the large, center block of seats from those along the east and west walls. Another aisle, about six or seven feet wide, cut across the auditorium about midway to the screen and led to an emergency exit on the west wall. Curtains were a deep red velour. Two additional emergency exits were in recessed passageways on either side of the screen that went south to the rear of the building. Sometimes, someone would open an emergency exit to admit compatriots who hadn’t paid, setting off loud buzzers. Goal probably was more money for snacks such as Fudgsicles, soft drinks, ice cream sandwiches, and boxes of Good and Plenty.
When the emergency doors swung open, the theater filled with outside light and looked completely different from the subdued illumination that glowed softly before each feature and then was faded to near off when the projector started. Open doors brought in the world, washed out the screen, and ruined the mood. Many booed.
The Times in Clintonville
Indirect lighting in the Jeffris auditorium was fairly simple—nothing fancy or noteworthy like the Clintonville, Wisconsin, theater called the Times, which opened in 1937. Our parents dropped brother Bob and me there now and then in the late fifties and early sixties so we had something to do while they visited relatives. More about it here.
Other than seeing some amazing—at least for a kid—movies at the Jeffris including The Brain Eaters, The H-Man, The Woman Eater, various Bond flicks, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Beatles movies A Hard Day’s Night and Help!—two memories of the theater stand out.
First, the round, muted-blue neon clock that was mounted on the wall to the left of the screen above one of the emergency exit tunnels; second, the stairs on the east end of the lobby. Theater Manager Bill Lalor was in charge when I attended and allowed smokers to light up once they reached the first step.
Then, step after step, all the way to the men’s room, during intermissions for popular movies, smokers stood elbow-to-elbow puffing away. The “hoods” tended to be in or near the bathroom itself, inhaling "'gretts," as we often called smokes back then.
Mr. LalorAll of us kids addressed the theater manager as, "Mr. Lalor," and he was a striking figure with dark, combed-back hair and a compact build. He always wore a sport coat, dress shirt, and tie—at least that's my memory. I also believe his coats were solid green or red.
Mr. Lalor was a patient man and though stern—his goal was keeping things quiet so everyone could enjoy the show—he was friendly and genuinely seemed to like kids. Surely he saw us over and over at successive Sunday matinées, with movies starting at 1:30 p.m. when we were grade-school age and later on Friday and Saturday nights when we reached junior and senior high school. My first kiss occurred at the Jeffris with a lass named Linda. (I liked it!)
According to an article about him that was published in the Gazette when he retired, Mr. Lalor began managing Janesville’s theaters in the late forties.109
Click for larger image.
Jeffris lobby area, circa 1943. Men's room and projectionist booth
are up the stairs located near the usherette toward the back of
the image. A dark-colored—possibly midnight blue—drinking
fountain was located across from the chairs. It might have
been added in a later remodeling (see below).
Courtesy of Richard Haney.
Streamline accents include the stair railing, rolling chrome
trim on curved surfaces, and the light fixture above the pop-
corn dispenser in this closer view. Another remodeling
must have occurred because by the time I began viewing
movies at the Jeffris in late fifties, the concession stand
was behind a counter and some of the chrome trim was
no longer present. Courtesy of Richard Haney.
Click for larger image.