Monday, September 21, 2009

The Peabody Theater in 1943

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 10:54 AM

The Peabody Theater
  • The Peabody Theater
Next time you visit the Drum Shop at 878 South Cooper, pay attention as you enter the building. See if you find traces of the ticket window or concession stand, left over from when the building was a neighborhood moviehouse called the Peabody Theater.

Back in the 1930s or so, Cooper-Young was like a small town, and trolley cars rumbled down Cooper and turned onto Young on their way to the fairgrounds. I managed to find a nice photo of the old building, taken in 1943, in the Memphis Room at the main library. Squint hard at the marquee and you can see they were showing (as theaters did in those days) a double feature: My Friend Flicka and Mister Big. A banner over the door reads "All The Best Features!"

The Memphis Room also had two other images of the Peabody, but I didn't bother scanning them because my scanner is too slow and I was in a hurry to get home and take my daily 8-hour nap. One showed a tiny, rather plain lobby, with a little snack bar set off to one side. The other photo showed the auditorium itself, with light fixtures dangling from the ceiling. I tried counting the seats, but gave up after 600, so the building was larger than it looks from the street.

In the mid-1940s, Mrs. McKinney's Beauty Shop stood next door, right next to Sam's Sandwich Shop. Down the Street was Walsh Furniture at 902 South Cooper, East End Hardware at 933, Beaty Brothers Furniture at 937, Grand Five & Ten Cent Store at 940, Rogers Pharmacy (complete with soda fountain) at 942, and Rosenbaum Dry Goods at 944.

I can't explain the name; the Peabody Theater is really nowhere near The Peabody hotel or Peabody Avenue. All I do know is that it opened in 1927 and closed in 1953. The building housed Consolidated Wholesale Florists for almost 30 years after that, in the late 1980 Alice Bingham operated a frame shop there. Today it's the Drum Shop, and an old cast-iron spiral staircase still leads up to the now-empty projection booth at the front of the building.

PHOTO COURTESY MEMPHIS ROOM, BENJAMIN HOOKS PUBLIC LIBRARY

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