Past paper: A Warner Baxter bonus

We’ve come across any number of theatre flyers over the years (including the drive-in flyers from the late 1950s featured in this post), but we’ve never encountered one quite like this one.

At first glance, it appears to be simply a promotional headshot of once-popular leading man Warner Baxter with a printed autograph (which is surprisingly convincing, by the way—we were briefly fooled into thinking we’d scored an genuine autographed photo of Baxter for a mere five smackers), but turn the photo over, and voila—it’s a programming schedule for three different New Jersey theatres. Part of the name is missing from the top theatre, but a little research has us convinced it was the Branchville Theater in Branchville, New Jersey. All I’ve been able to ascertain about the Branchville is that it was listed in the Film Daily Yearbook in 1944 and 1951, and on one weekend in 1937, they screened The Awful Truth, with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, Angel with Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, and Melvyn Douglas, and Conquest, starring Greta Garbo and Charles Boyer.

How much earlier than that the theatre was in operation or when it closed, we can’t say. But we’d pay good money to see those three pictures at a small-town bijou like the Branchville, of that you can be sure.

Also featured on this promotional photo is the Colonial Theatre in Beach Haven, New Jersey. (Did you know that no fewer than ten Jersey towns had a theatre called the Colonial at one time or another? It’s true. And an eleventh burg, Hopewell, had a movie theatre called the Colonial Playhouse.)

This Colonial opened in 1922 as the New Colonial on the corner of Bay Avenue and Center Street, replacing an old wooden structure some blocks away. One source says the old Colonial was retained and used in the winter, when the crowds thinned out (Beach Haven, as you might have guessed, is on the Jersey shore, so the population no doubt used to drop precipitously each year at summer’s end. Probably still does.)

Here’s a pair of then-and-now photos of the Colonial. Word has it, it’s now a private residence and no longer the hardware store it was in 2007, but I have no proof of that.


Interesting to note they were featuring the same three movies the Branchville was showing, but each played one day later at the Colonial. (We can’t help but wonder what the Colonial was showing on Friday, Nov. 12, 1937. The flyer doesn’t say.)

The last bijou on the flyer is the Park Theatre in Barnegat, New Jersey. Both the Barnegat and the Colonial (and, we’re guessing, the Branchville) were owned and operated by one Harry Colmer, who died in 1956. His family operated the theatres until 1964, when they sold them.

The Park, which opened in the early 1900s as the Barnegat Opera House, a venue for vaudeville and minstrel shows, began also showing movies between 1915 and 1920. It later became a full-time movie house under the new name. The Park Theatre, since demolished, was located on Shore Road in Barnegat, which is presently Route 9.

The weekend of Friday and Saturday, November 12th-13th, 1937, the Park was featuring Ali Baba Goes to Town, starring Eddie Cantor, Tony Martin, and Roland Young. That one we’d have to think twice about catching. We’d likely opt to drive the twenty miles over to Beach Haven to take in The Awful Truth or Angel at the Colonial (Branchville lies 142 miles away, a bit of a trek to catch a movie).

A visit to Vintageville, Penna.

Whenever we hit the road with Ms. Cladrite, we try to include a bit of time travel, tracking down classic bijous, drive-in theatres, venerable eateries of the non-chain variety, and vintage clothing and housewares shops.

Our recent sojourn in eastern Pennsylvania was a brief one, but we managed to find a few worthy spots to patronize.

On Friday night, we dined at the Paxtang Grill, a classic neighborhood working-man’s joint in Harrisburg. The front room is a bar, filled on this particular night with a boisterous after-work crowd, while the back room is a dining room specializing in simple but pleasing diner fare. Ms. Cladrite had a Greek salad topped with a pickled beet egg (also known as a “red egg”), while I opted for the broiled crab cake sandwich.

We were told that the Paxtang Grill is about forty years old, but we’re inclined to assume that, if it’s not older than that, then another bar and grill must have been in the same space prior (we have no evidence of this; it’s just a hunch). We found the vibe very welcoming in this establishment and recommend it to you when you’re in the area.

From there, it was a half hour’s drive to the Cumberland Drive-in in Newville. The Cumberland’s not the flashiest ozoner we’ve ever attended—the management seems to have given up entirely on replacing the neon lighting on the entrance sign, for example—but it’s well-run and will be celebrating its 60th anniversary next season, so they’re doing something right. And Crazy, Stupid, Love was enjoyable, too.

On Saturday, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours at one of the several Renningers Antiques & Farmers Markets in Pennsylvania—the Kutztown branch, to be specific. There’s food, prepared and non-, to be found at these markets and the work of craftspersons, but it was the assortment of antiques and collectibles that drew us. We limited ourselves to the purchase of a 1930s necktie with a spot or two that we’re hoping will come out, but we paid just a dollar for it, so if the stains are indelible, not a huge loss.

We also spent an hour or two in Hamburg, where the 8th annual Taste of Hamburg(er) festival was underway. We passed on the burgers, but did indulge in a hot fudge sundae at the newly reopened soda fountain at Adams and Bright Drugs.

The drugstore’s been in operation since 1906 and the soda fountain with its marble counter was installed in 1929, but the fountain had gone unused for years until the new owner restored and reopened it just two weeks ago.

The sundae was tasty and the setting delightful. Pay them a visit when you’re nearby. And in the meantime, you can like them on Facebook.

While in Hamburg, we also got to pay a visit to the Strand Theatre, a classic small-town bijou. We didn’t manage to attend a show there, but we did get to peek in at the auditorium during a screening of The Smurfs. It’s a charming spot.

On our way home on Sunday, we spent some time at Shupp’s Grove Antique Market in Adamstown. Its charms were not unlike Renninger’s, but it’s held out of doors beneath shade trees and open-sided tents. Thankfully, it was a relatively cool day so we enjoyed strolling from booth to booth. Ms. Cladrite bought a Girls Scout dress from the 1950s (she’s amassed a small collection of these dresses) and a small cast iron skillet. We limited ourselves to a bit of paper ephemera, a pamphlet entitled Money Management: Your Clothing Dollar that was published in 1950 by the Household Finance Corporation, the contents of which we may well share with you here one day soon. It includes a good deal of valuable advice for men and women of the day about building a personal wardrobe.

Our final bit of time travel came when we visited the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville on our way back to New York. We’ve long wanted to visit this particular theatre, as it was there that the scene in The Blob (1958) was filmed in which the titular gelatinous goo terrorizes an audience full of movie buffs before wrapping itself around the town diner.

There was an evangelist preaching when we arrived (they hold all kinds of events at the Colonial, and more power to them if it keeps the bills paid), but we quietly made our way to the balcony, where there’s a plaque commemorating the precise spot where, in the movie, the Blob came bursting through the projection booth wall and into the auditorium.

They also hold an annual event called the Blobfest during which the Colonial’s role in cheesy sci-fi cinema history is celebrated each summer. We dearly hope to attend one year soon.