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History of Freeland, Pa.
Refowich Theater

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  • More views of the Refowich Theater
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More views of the Refowich theatre, from Ed Merrick

Refowich Theatre Ed Merrick sent this photo showing the building in its early years. Notice that there is no marquee over the entrance! In the early 1920s Candyland, an ice cream parlor managed by George Sax, was in the corner space later occupied by Lenny Steward's Florist Shop, as listed in the 1921 city directory. We see that they sold candy, ice cream and Hire's root beer (according to Wikipedia, first created in 1876). There's a Hire's poster on the side of the building, along with two others that are hard to read. There is a sign lettered on the windows above the candy shop, but I can't read it. The center upstairs windows are lettered for an what I think is the Metropolitan Life Insurance company (lettering still there in a later photo), and there is lettering on the right upstairs windows but I can't read it. George Wise apparently had a business on the ground floor on the other side of the theatre entry area, although in directories his harness business is listed at other addresses and not this one. Can anyone tell us what the sign says that is fastened to the telephone pole in front of the building? And look at how cool the entrance to the theatre was! Movie posters and photos of the stars in glass-covered displays on either side, and there's the ticket booth. Wow. And there's some patriotic bunting hanging over the entrance, so maybe this was taken around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

Ed adds that those steps to the right of the ticket booth "did not go into the theater but led upstairs to the offices and also the projection booth, into which Stanley Potoski allowed me once. The entrance to the theater was to the left of the steps and had double doors, which opened to a short hallway usually lined with posters of coming attractions and which ended at the back of the theater. The end of the hallway had a set of stanchions across which a velvet rope could be fastened to hold back a crowd waiting for the next showing, and to the right was the refreshment stand."

Here's what it says in city directories from the 1920s about this building, and it shows there there were a number of rooms upstairs that were rented out for office space:
Refowich Theatre Building (1921 city directory) and (1928 city dir.); Novelty Cloak & Suit Store, Samuel Presel & Samuel Steiner; Thomas H. Mays, Physician (1921 city directory); Rooms 6-7, James F. Gallagher, physician, and Patrick H. Dunphy, dentist; rooms 4-5, Thomas H. Mays, physician, Prudential Insurance Co., and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (John J. Gallagher, asst. supt.); Refowich Theatre and Refowich Theatre Co., Inc. (theatre managed by Clyde D. Klinger, 1921 city dir.) (1921 city directory) and (1928 city dir.) Candyland, George Sax, mgr., Centre corner Main (1921 city directory) [Note: Patrick H. Dunphy, dentist, was listed in Birkbeck Bldg. across the street in 1921 dir., but in the Refowich building in the 1928-1929 directory.]

And here's an interesting piece of information: Charlie Stumpf reported that in the 1890s, I. Refowich Men's Clothing and Tailor was on this same site (current building not built yet - thanks to Harold Refowich for that correction), as was Jacob's & Barasch, clothiers.

Refowich Theatre Another photo from Ed Merrick. Pinocchio in Outer Space was made in 1965. Ed was taking a lot of photographs in downtown Freeland area in 1966, so this photo might be from 1965 or 1966. On the side of the building we see a poster for the movie Lord Jim, another 1965 film. Lenny Steward's Florist Shop occupied the corner part of the building and we see a lovely display in the window - I'm not sure what was on the other side of the theatre entrance, looks like a mannequin in the window and an "N" above the windows. In previous decades there were various businesses and offices upstairs as well, but I don't know about the 1960s. I don't see any signs in the upstairs windows, although I do see some icicles. Freeland winters! What a beautiful building this was, though. The many decorative details on the exterior are so interesting, very ornate for our town. We were lucky to have this wonderful theatre for such a long time, and it's very good that the building has been repurposed as seniors' apartments rather than left to deteriorate and then torn down.

I see that in the 1920s Samuel Presel's & Samuel Steiner's Novelty Cloak and Suit Store was in the Refowich building. Maybe that was the source of the "N" above the windows on the business space to the right of the entrance in this photo from four decades later. In email with Charlie Gallagher, he suggested that maybe it could have been Lucy forte's Novelty Dress Store (531 Centre Street, next to the Refowich Theatre). It's also possible that the "N" was there for the earlier Novelty Cloak and Suit Store and then years later when Lucy Forte set up shop in that space, she selected a name for her shop that would use the "N" that was already on the windows, maybe even referencing the earlier Novelty name. ???

Refowich and Timony theatre ads Ed Merrick has these movie ads in a scrapbook! Thank goodness for people with scrapbook hobbies. Here we see ads from the Refowich and the Timony theatres for shows playing in Freeland in mid-December, 1929. Note that the top left ad says "all talking," as this was not long after sound was introduced into movies. Before that, they were all silent, with live music provided locally. Also note the "9 shopping days till Christmas" ad. The Timony was on South Street mid-block between Centre and Ridge. It would later become the Rialto Theatre, where my dad occasionally went to movies as a kid and where I did the same in the 1950s.

Refowich in 1939 or soon after Refowich in 1939 or soon after Ed and Harold Refowich both say that the man in the photo at right was Irving Refowich. Ed said that these two photos were taken on February 15, 1940, adding: "I don’t know if you will be able to read it from the photo, but the windows upstairs designate a Prudential office on the left and a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. office on the right. To the left  of the entrance downstairs is the Sugar Bowl, a soda fountain, candy, and sundries business, the name of whose owner I can’t remember. I think that might have been a hat shop to the right. The marquee reads: “To-nite $70 bonus” and the movie “Intermezzo.” The lobby cards on the left advertise a Charlie McCarthy movie and on the right the movie “Eternally Yours.” The hanging banners read “Cash BONUS every Thursday” and “Eternally Yours."

That's interesting about the Sugar Bowl, apparently the business that succeeded Candyland in that corner location.

Ed, thanks for these photos and information. More photos and information about the Ref and other theatres on the Entertainment page.

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