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Sunday, February 11, 2018

80 Years Ago Today in Kerrville

Kerrville's Rialto Theater March 1940
Kerrville's Rialto Theater, in the 600 block of Water Street.
The photo above is from around March, 1940; note guy in top window.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Eighty years ago today, Kerrville got a new movie theater.
The Rialto Theater, which stood in the 600 block of Water Street, was opened with much fanfare on February 10, 1938. The site today is a parking lot, the parking lot between our print shop and Grape Juice.
The first movie shown in the new theater was "Hollywood Hotel," starring Dick Powell and Frances Langford. Admission was 10 cents, 20 cents, or 25 cents.
Rialto Theater Kerrville October 1946
The Rialto Theater, October 1946
A front-page story in the February 10, 1938 Kerrville Mountain Sun offered this schedule for the theater: "One-day runs will be shown on Saturdays, and the theatre will offer four bills each week, three of them on two-day schedules. The first of a regular series of Saturday night matinees is set for 11:30 pm Saturday."
I checked up on that late time -- 11:30 pm -- and it appears to be accurate. I thought Kerrville, in the late 1930s, would be all buttoned up and asleep at that time, but I was wrong.
The Rialto Theater was built by B . C. Parsons, at a cost of $40,000, and was leased to Hall Industries, headed up by Henry W. Hall of Beeville. Hall Industries also owned the Arcadia Theater a block away on Water Street, and the Rio Theater, one block farther. I believe Henry W. Hall is from the same family of Halls which own the Rio 10 Theater in Kerrville today. 
Rialto Theater Kerrville 1945
600 block of Water Street, around 1945
The new Rialto Theater featured many innovations: "hearing aids" for the hearing impaired, including a device using the "bone conductor principle" for the totally deaf. A "spacious lounge" above the lobby was available, "where patrons may rest or smoke."
There were a lot of movie theaters here in the late 1930s!
In fact, the businesses in the 600 block of Water Street took out an ad to celebrate the new Rialto Theater. "The Theatre District is Extended into the 600 Block on Water Street. The following firms Welcome the Modern, New Rialto Theater: F. F. Nyc (public accountant), Miesch Optical Co., Norge Appliance Co., Roland Insurance, Campbell's Lunch Room, the Modern Beauty Salon, Kerr County Motor Co., the Cone Car Co. (and service station), the Sunshine Laundry, and Peterson's Garage (and service station)."
I mention this because the 600 block was once filled with businesses. Now it's just us two, really: Grape Juice and Herring Printing.
Rialto Theater Kerrville 1946
Rialto Theater, 1946
Some remnants of the Rialto Theater still exist. Grape Juice's northwest wall (the wall closest to the print shop) is actually a wall of the theater. If you stand in the parking lot and look at the Grape Juice wall, you'll see several smooth places in the plaster: these are hints of the stairway to the movie theater balcony, and the risers of the theater's balcony.
Likewise, some remnants of the other businesses in our block also remain: our print shop offices are in the building that once housed the "Modern Beauty Salon," and a sign for "Campbell's Lunch Room," which was originally painted on an exterior wall, is now an interior wall in our building. 
The Rialto was empty for many years, though for a brief time in the late 1960s it was a sort of dance/ music venue called the Casket. My memories of the building are from this period, when it was empty. We neighborhood children found a way to get inside the place and explore; it was dark and spooky in there. 
The Rialto Theater was eventually torn down in 1974 by the Charles Schreiner Bank, and the land was used to construct a parking lot. In 1990, my family purchased the parking lot from what was left of the Charles Schreiner Bank after it failed.
My thanks to Michael Bowlin for reminding me of the 80th anniversary of the old theater.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who some say once locked his little sister in the empty Rialto Theater, or at least that's what she remembers. Why would a brother do something like that? This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 10, 2018.

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Kerrville Stories by Joe Herring Jr
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1 comment:

  1. I remember the building being there and I think they may have had private events, not real sure. This was in the late 50s and early 60s. I was to scared to go inside - not of what was in there but because my Father said not to.


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