08
Aug

REVISED SUMMER IN THE CITY, ’40’S STYLE

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About five years ago I submitted an article to the Washington Post, “Close to Home” section,that was published. The article featured my memories of the busy shopping area of F Street,N.W. before the rise of the many strip centers and regional shopping centers had been erected.
A recent visit to the Warner theater on 13th and E Street,N.W. brought back memories of a different downtown Washington.
Back in the ’40’s a dollar would get you into the Earle, now the Warner. Your buck paid for a full-length movie, a vaudeville show, cartoons and a newsreel. The vadeville show, usually featured singers, comedians, dancers, and occasional magician or acrobats. Without a doubt, the most memorable performer, I saw at the Earle, was the King of Swing, Benny Goodman and his orchestra.
Before he became famous, Red Skelton often played the Earle. Often, he would greet patrons at the theater entrance. One afternoon, as I was handing the usher my ticket, I spotted Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney ahead of me.
The Earle wasn’t alone downtown-other popular nearby movie houses-all segregated-included the Fox theater(later called the Capital),between 13th and 14th Street, on F,and also Loew’s Palace and the Metropolitan on the same block as the Capital.
The headquarters for stage plays was the National ,located near 13th and E Street,N.W,(Still there). My older brother, Sam, ushered occasionally at the National. One of his most important duties was distributing paper fans and cups of water during the summer months,since there was no air conditioning provided in those days.
Before or after hitting the movies, we would walk up and down F Street, which was crowded with shoppers and visitors. The popular stores of that era were the National Shirt Shop, Eiseman’s Men’s Wear, Hahn’s Shoes, Babbitt’s Cut Rate Vitamins, Hecht Company, and Garfinckel’s–all vanished.

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