Late twenties memories"Even earlier," Dunwiddie continued, "I'd guess about '27 or '28, I saw my first moving picture, The Wolf Man. It was not black and white, but green and white; a very scary film with some old man with fur pasted on his face playing the title role. Another very early one was Covered Wagon a story of the westward movement of our forbears over the Great Plains to California."
I searched and found movies that I thought might be the ones Dunwiddle remembered, but when I sent copies of panel ads promoting them in newspapers from the twenties, he didn't recognize either.
"The Apollo Theater was a poor specimen of the genre," Dunwiddie continued, "its balcony was located so late arrivals would have to walk in front of the projection booth and block out the screen for the rest of us. Audience reaction was loud but short."
Beverly closes temporarily
As I recall, the Beverly had a balcony; MacDonald, who worked at the pharmacy in the same building, thinks so, too. My memory can't be trusted, however, because I was only four and a half if I saw a movie there.
I'm certain of my age because my parents moved to Janesville from Marion, Wisconsin, which is about 50 miles northwest of Green Bay, in late May or early June, 1955, and lived south of the city in a house on Prairie Avenue.
My sister recalls that the family didn't relocate until the year she graduated from Marion Senior High School which was 1955. (She stayed behind and lived with relatives so she could graduate with her class.)
Trying to zero in on when I might have visited the Beverly, I found a May 31, 1955, Gazette ad that notified patrons the Beverly would be "...open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only until further notice..."177 Not quite six weeks later, on Saturday, July 9, an ad announced the Beverly "...will be temporarily closed after Sunday. Watch for our re-opening dates." 178
HypnotistAt the time, it was still a Fox theater along with the Jeffris. I searched random Gazettes through the remainder of 1955 and into 1956 but couldn't find any notice the Beverly re-opened until June 7, 1956, when an ad appeared promoting a live performance by hypnotist Joan Brandon179 along with the 1952 movie It Grows On Trees starring Irene Dunn. "Fox" was nowhere to be seen though an ad for the Jeffris on the same day lists it as a Fox theater, meaning the chain was still in business.
From what I can determine the Beverly closed permanently after Sunday, June 10, 1956. I performed another random Gazette search through the remainder of 1956 and into 1957 but didn't find any Beverly ads.
I don't recall seeing a hypnotist on stage, so if my dad took me to a movie at the Beverly, it must have been sometime in late May, June, or early July, 1955.
MemoriesThree memories of that early movie outing have endured: First, sitting in the balcony. My dad was a great guy and always thought of us kids before himself. I believe he steered us to the balcony because he thought I'd be able to see the screen better. He was gutsy, too, and sometimes took reasonable chances.
On one occasion in the late fifties, he took my brother and me to a Braves game at County Stadium in Milwaukee. After speaking to an usher, he sat down in the first row of seats above one of the entrances to a grandstand area. This meant no one could sit in front of us and obstruct our view of the field. It was great until the people who actually paid for those seats arrived. Off we went as the newcomers flashed tickets. He tried and there was no penalty except a moment's embarrassment.
Second, I believe the movie we saw was a science fiction film with scenes of star fields passing by as viewed through a rocket ship's windows. And fourth, it had a title that was similar to Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which was based on Jules Vernes' 1870 novel,180 with the demented Captain Nemo (Latin for "no man"181—like Odysseus' reply to the Cyclops that his name was "Outis," Greek for "Noman"182) played by James Mason.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was released six months earlier on December 23, 1954183 and possibly I saw commercials for it on one of the two TV stations (WISN Channel 3 Madison and WREX Channel 13 Rockford) we received on our black and white, VHF-only, Philco.
Click for ad in context on
Gazette movies page.
Even though the above promotes a "great demand for tickets," the
"Special" announcement of an additional performance at the
Log Cabin tavern seems to indicate not enough were sold
to Brandon's appearances at the Beverly to make
her visit to Janesville a financial success.