02 July 2008

Urban Pioneer


See the unsightly edifice above. Hard to look at, isn't it? What ghastly colors. And that charmless sign.

This was once a center of old world Red Hook activity. This building, at the corner of Pioneer and Richards Streets, was, from 1921 (Jazz Age! Woo-hoo!) to 1955 (Dodgers win the Series! Yes!) the Pioneer Theatre, a 600-seat first-run movie house. Longshoremen and their families gathered here nightly for a little fun. Facing Coffey Park and just down the street from the Visitation of Our Lady Roman Catholic Church, it's hard to imagine a place of recreation more central. Wonder why, when they converted it, they felt compelled to erase every bit of evidence that it was ever a movie theatre.

I have discovered a few things about the theatre from reading a rather fascinating website called the South Brooklyn Network, in which former Red Hook born-and-breds reminisce in the most sentimental and unguarded way possible about the old days in the Hook. You learn a lot of history that wasn't in the papers from these folks. And you meet a lot guys named Natz and Joey Big Head.

Apparently there was a man who worked at the Pioneer who had a missing finger named Mr. Nichols. There was a tall lady matron named Mary who caused the kids to jump whenever she spoke. And one poster offered up a yarn as to why the Pioneer closed. I don't believe it, but I like the story, so I'm going to repeat it here. The tale is that the owner's wife ran off with a married man named Eddie. (It would be a guy named Eddie, wouldn't it?) He was so distraught, he closed the Pioneer and spent his life saving chasing after his wife to bring her back home.

1 comment:

Carol Gardens said...

That South Brooklyn site is GREAT! I've spent hours reading those posts. I've been meaning to make myself a map and take a look at where all the old theaters, candy stores, pizza places, and etc. were. I think they had a reunion last year--I bet that was truly entertaining!