Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Saratoga - I Miss the Old Community Theater

Yesterday's post about the Scudders sandwich has me waxing nostaligic about other blasts from the past. It got me thinking about places we used to go to in Saratoga Springs before the arterial and exit 15 diverted locals to new shopping malls, when downtown was the place to buy whatever was needed.

During my adolescence, in the late sixties and early seventies, Saratoga Springs was a humbler place. Woolworth's and National Auto were the only retail chains on Broadway. Rather than shopping at Gap or Eddie Bauer, we went to Glickman's, Erlanger's, or Starbuck's (NOT the coffee family) for our clothing. Our specialty children's store was Covkin's. For stationary or a little gift, we'd stop at Patricia's. For coffee -- there were no coffee shops -- we'd stop at the diner now owned by Compton's - it's still exactly the same as in the old days. There were drug stores and soda fountains and movie theaters. There were grocery stores -- the Grand Union and the A&P. I miss Farmer's Hardware where you could buy anything AND the only place to pick up a telephone for your house! Oh, it was a wonderful downtown. Now it's pretty and polished and trendy, but it is lacking the authenticity of the downtown I remember.

The Community Theater on Broadway was the weekend place to be. I remember approaching the ticket window with a group of high school friends. It was one of those individual little spaces outside the theater with an attendant inside. Once you entered the building, the stairs were before you, velvet ropes guiding your way. The refreshment counter was to the left. You could go up the curving staircases to the balcony, or find your seat down below. It was a magical space. I saw my first movie ever there -- Sleeping Beauty. Later my siblings and I would go en masse(there were seven of us) to see all the hits. My brother Michael was a movie buff at a very early age, so we went often. My mother used to pack our snack bags with Dum Dum lollipops and we'd walk from MacArthur Drive to the theater, holding hands as we crossed intersections. I remember seeing Pinnochio, Godzilla, and other hits at the Community Theater. In high school, I saw Love Story, and remember thinking I wanted to be just like Ali McGraw. I even learned to crochet just to have a hat like hers!

When the theater closed, so many of us were really sad, and that feeling lingers. I've often said that if I ever won the lottery in a big way, I'd buy it back and restore it to its former presence. To this day, when I walk by the theater, I'm angry at what has become of it. It is now home to a real estate office and retail shops. I never go in. Probably never will. It may sound harsh, but to me, these businesses are poachers, occupying this historic space in a way never intended by those who built the theater. It was built with a purpose -- to provide entertainment and joy for people of the community. The Community Theater. I mourn its passing.

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