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Theater District: 1960

Theater District: 1960

A bright and sunny New Year's Day 1960 found me walking along Grand Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. I snapped this photo because three days later the streetcars would cease running, owing to the closing of a nearby viaduct for replacement. The Fox Theater in the background, opened in 1929, fared a little better, lasting up to 1978. In 1991 it reopened and survives as a performing arts center. The Fox house organist at the time was Mr. Stan Cann, who held that position for 22 years, from 1952 until 1974. They called him "Stan Cann the vacuum cleaner man" because his hobby was collecting antique vacuum cleaners. He lived in Los Angeles during retirement and gave frequent organ concerts around town, many of which I attended. 35mm Kodachrome by William D. Volkmer. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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A St Louis PCC still runs in San Francisco

San Francisco acquired 66 PCC streetcars from St Louis when they were retired there and as part of its historic Market Street Railway line. Most are painted in the livery of other cities' line including car #1050, in the colors of St Louis Public Service transit company.

Here's that car's story: https://www.streetcar.org/streetcars/1050-1050-stlouis/

The Fabulous Fox

If you've never been inside the Fabulous Fox Theatre, its opulence often overshadows what's playing on stage. There's a twin house Fox in Detroit, too, though it also sports an office tower above its lobby. Recently, the owners of the Fox hired a local drone operator to fly through the interior.

Locally Built Streetcar

The PCC streetcars in this photo were built by the St. Louis Car Company, a local industry in St. Louis. They manufactured PCC cars for many cities, and PCCs were built in Canada by Canadian Car and Foundry. Another manufacturer of PCC streetcars was Pullman; its version looked slightly different. You can read all about it here and here . Here is a photo I took in 1972 of an ex-Birmingham, Alabama Pullman PCC streetcar running in Toronto, Ontario.

An American Theatre by any other name --

More on the American Theatre, where "J.B." is about to open. It had a complicated history, with multiple renovations and names between 1910 and 1978. To complicate matters further, "American" also appeared on other theater buildings in St. Louis, including what is better known as the Orpheum on North 9th Street.

According to the Cinema Treasures web site, the North Grand Avenue building had the following names as a stage or movie venue through the years: Princess, Players, Rialto, Schubert-Rialto, Schubert, American, Loew's Mid-City, Campus, Sun Mid-City.

Stan Kann

Stan Kann (not Cann) is the same guy as the frequent talk show guest that Koogan mentions.

PCC

I will limit myself to two other posts that highlight this beautiful streetcar and provide illuminating comments: from Baltimore (and from the glorious Kermy Kodachromes series), End of the Line: 1963, and from Washington, D.C., Streamliner: 1938.

1982, not 1991

Is when the Fox Theater reopened. I saw so many shows there throughout the '80s. It's even more magnificent now.

Much is Gone

Half of the block with the Stag Beer sign is now a parking lot. Everything else is recognizable. The Woolworth building is quite an art-deco piece.

Let's go to Woolworth

What a wonderful picture. Beautiful composition, with the leading line of the street itself, the shadow of the street light, the gaggle of chilly consumers on the sidewalk, and the big orange buses trundling forward. The signage is fascinating and evokes so many memories. But as a kid, finding myself on that boulevard, I would have been tugging my mother's hand towards the big gold letters of F.W. Woolworth, a store which in my estimation contained an infinite number of joys and possibilities, not least the lunch counter.

J. B. / Job

The American Theater is advertising a production of Archibald MacLeish's 1958 play "J.B.", starring Basil Rathbone, famous for playing Sherlock Holmes in 14 films as well as on radio and on stage.

"J.B." is a retelling of the Biblical Book of Job, written in free verse and set in a circus tent. As noted on the St. Louis marquee, it won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Tony Awards. MacLeish had been a Harvard professor and Librarian of Congress.

The combination of Biblical reference, serious subject matter, and highbrow aura attracted audiences. I recall productions through the 1960s. But when a D.C. area theater revived "J.B." in 2012, it was described as "nearly forgotten."

Where's the Starbucks?

Between the streetcars is a Woolworth's. I suspect everyone who looks at Shorpy remembers those stores. They seemed insurmountable. Yet eventually they were replaced by Kmart, then Walmart, and now Amazon is in the lead for that market. I once worked in retail. It's tough to see the future.

I remember a Stan Kann from 1970s TV

Seems like he was always showing up on a talk show to demonstrate various gadgets or inventions, and they invariably broke or just didn’t work properly, on purpose, which was part of the gag.

Stag Beer

The Stag Brewery was in Belleville, Illinois, about 18 miles from downtown St. Louis. Stag was a staple in southwest Illinois back in the days of popular regional breweries. They had a long run, opening in 1851 and finally closing their doors in 1989. I find it interesting that this small brewer would advertise so boldly right in the shadow of Anheuser-Busch headquarters. Little Jack showing fearlessness when faced with the giant!

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