On May 2, 1911, the old school building located at Second and Clark streets was rented for one year to S.L. Taylor on condition that he paint the building, put a fence around it, and pay $12 per month in order to operate a moving picture show.
Flicks in the Pass
Flicks in the Pass
(as gleaned from writings by Pat Mowry)
The Kozy Theater was showing “Mutiny on the Bounty” when it caught on fire, January 23, 1936. The attending crowd tried to save the theater along with the owner S.L. Taylor’s next door home. The big blaze was finally contained by the efforts of firemen and engines from the Pass, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, and Biloxi.
When G. Adolph Schmidt, dual resident of the Pass and New Orleans, found out that Taylor was not going to rebuild, he presented a $40,000 check to his friend, Max Connett, to make the acquisition and oversee the rebuilding process. With Bernard Knost, reconstruction of the Avalon began on February 28, 1936. The plans called for a Confectionary Shop which was squeezed between the new Avalon and the Lazar Drug Store. Besides having a soda fountain, there were candies, sandwiches, and a nickle Slot Machine.
The Grand Opening was held on April 19th with a repeat performance of “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
The new foyer had red carpet with lots of flowers lined along the walls. During the Christmas seasons, the lobby was decorated with a tree and a miniature city that lay beneath. Free of Charge – the Pass children were invited to a Saturday Cartoon Matinee that was followed by Doll and Toy Fund distributions.
For adults, Saturday nights offered Bank Night with drawings that paid cash to the winners. The Movie Menu consisted of a comedy on Sundays, drama/melodrama on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a choice big hit on Thursdays and Fridays, and another big hit or drama on Saturdays. Before the days of air-conditioning, for an 11¢ ticket, patrons enjoyed the Avalon’s “washed air” cooling system.
Through the years, many of the Schmidt family worked in ticket sales or in the projection booth on weekends and during summer vacation and local residents Guy Bufkin, Bob Van Court, Charles Hursey, and Thelma Spence Pulkowski were among the first to be employed at the Avalon.
After the Moonlite Drive-Inn was opened at East Pass Christian in the early 1950s, the Avalon theatre building was sold to E.V. Richards who continued operations until December 1959, when televisions and home air-conditioning became its biggest competition.
In an amusing booklet written by former dual-resident Prieur Leary, who lived next to St. Paul Church — he stated that “the power of laughter is strong, as I uster try it out in the neighborhood show in our block. For no reason at all, I would start with a light giggle, then with a stoopid laugh, then from all parts of the theater, they would start laughing at my raucous laugh. It got so, one would start and his wife and kids would laugh at him and it went on and on.”
In another instance, “the picture was “Squaw Woman” with Bob Hope. The outdated projector would go on the blink and on this particular Saturday, Bob Hope was about to be married to the squaw and all of a sudden a news reel came on with President Eisenhower taking the presidential vow and he said “I do.” Hope and the Indian came back on and the theater patrons screamed Holy Hell.”
“During the kiddie matinees, they were real cut-ups. Mrs. Ross, the usherette, had her hands full. In order to distract them, I would sit in the back and shoot M & Ms to different parts of the show. They were slapping the backs of their necks, thinking it was flies or misquitos. It was fun for me to see the little rascals being conned from worse to bad."
"Mrs. Ross told me that I was as bad as the kids,” proudly exclaimed Prieur Leary.