The First Owner: Paul Herman
From "My Memories Of The Strand" by Shirley Zimmerman
Lillie Mae Yoder, my mother, married my father, Paul Alfred Herman, on June 3, 1907. Mama was 21 and Dad was 23 years old. They lived with Mama’s father, William Yoder, who owned and operated the Washington House Hotel on Main Street in Kutztown. The building was Schlenker’s Motor Co. Now it is Held’s Store.
My sister, Marguerite was born in their first house, across from the old fire hall on Whiteoak Street. The next house was on the same street, where the theater is today. The house became part of the new theater which was enlarged in the early 40’s because of larger crowds. The ticket office and foyer take up the old house’s space.
After awhile my parents and sister moved to the house above the Hoppes House. It belonged to the Kohlers. Little Peggy was about 6 when they moved there from the little theater house. Five years later my family was asked to move. Our little brother, Paul, was born in that house, and at the time they were to move, he was very sick with the terrible, killer Flu, which was giving him a leaking heart. Old Mrs. Kohler, as everyone called her because of her disposition, would not extend the family’s stay so they moved across the yard to 252 W. Walnut St. There were two Kohler houses. One was on the corner and the other was twin to it right below. The house on Walnut, our newest and last, had been a part of a farm long ago. It had its first bathroom and modern kitchen built onto the main farm house. The cupboards went up to the ceiling and the counters were black slate.
In only a few weeks, little Sonny, our brother, was gone. The virus and the moving were too much for him at the time. That was in 1920. Two years later in Baer Hospital, Allentown, I was born. One of the first things I remember from the farmhouse was the lights hanging from the ceiling on long cords with bare bulbs at the ends.
Living in the little house next to the empty lot at the alley, wasn’t very happy for Mama, Sister, and Daddy. The Great Depression was in full swing and times were tough. Peggy still hates tomatoes because of all the Depression Soup she ate.
Dad bought the lot next to the alley and beside the little house with hopes of building a theater there. He and his brother Quinn already had the theater down next to the railroad tracks on Main Street. The first show I saw was in their Park Theater Playhouse. It was Peter Rabbit, a puppet show.
Dad and Uncle Quinn also had shows in the back of their father’s tailoring and clothing shop. They had benches back there and for 5 cents you could see a two reeled picture on the screen. The hand turned projector flipped the pictures fast enough to look like the images were moving. That was called a Nickelodian Show.
When Daddy was ready to begin his work on this theater project - the hair brained scheme that his father called it - he went to Charles Herman, his father, for a loan to begin the digging of the foundation. Grandfather Herman didn’t believe that movies were going to be a big business in the future. Daddy was sure they would come to Kutztown. At his father-in-law’s hotel, he saw the people spend money on beer, even though times were so hard. Surely they’d pay for a movie show and a chance to temporarily escape their troubles. Grandfather wouldn’t help him. Well then, he’d have to help himself. Down to the empty lot he went with his pick and shovel, accompanied by some friends and some digging helpers, he began to dig. Grandfather, influenced by town talk, his sympathy for son, and Paul’s determination finally he gave Daddy the loan. This was about 1913 and around 1916 the Kutztown Strand opened for business.
The mortgage became a burdon for the first years. We talked about it at the supper table. That was family council time. I learned about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul Herman and then when things were going good again, reverse the process. When the day finally arrived to burn the mortgage, it was time for a celebration. That took place in the kitchen around the big, black, Majestic Stove with hugs and kisses and ice cream.
The first movies were silent - no music or talking. They looked funny because they weren’t far removed from the hand flip kind. The motions were jerky and funny. Maybe that was why most of the shows in those days were comedies like Charlie Chaplin’s and Laurel & Hardy’s later. Mama played the piano by “EAR” which was a big help because she had to play whatever scene was on the screen. Peggy took the tickets and Daddy ran the projector. After Dad bought the big victrola and lots of all types of music, Mama sold tickets instead of supplying the music. Mr. Bast was the projectionist then. When Talkies became the latest thing, the victrola moved up to the house at 252 Walnut and I played those old records over and over every Saturday morning. Now the little house next to the movie house was rented to Mrs. Fritch.
In back of the house on Walnut Street was a big barn. There was a stable and an upstairs for the hay when it was part of the farm, but Dad only used it for his cars. He took parts from one and put them in the other. I remember the Model T and the Kissel with celluloid, snap on windows. The barn became part of the enlarged theater later. The land it occupied was needed for the expansion.
Larry Fenstermacher rented the business from Daddy. Larry had been Daddy’s right hand man, along with Mr. Bast, for many years. Mr. Fenstermacher bought it after several years, but first it had been remodeled and enlarged. That was the end of that little house next door to the movie. It too went in with the remodeling and is now part of the ticket office and the lobby. The Wartzenluft family had been living there after the Fritches.
Every Monday night was serial night. My first set of dishes came from those Monday night Tom Mix episodes of cliff hangings and shoot outs. Mama kept them in her attic till i got married. Each series meant more pieces to the china set. It was creamy white with gold designs.
It was fun to take my friends in the movies for a free show. I felt very important. I didn’t like when Larry took charge of the business and I couldn’t do that anymore.
When an early talkie, Sunny Side Up, was showing, people were lined up to the corner of Whiteoak and Main and even around the corner. [The A&P was on that corner at the time; today it is Dunkelberger’s Jewelry Store.]
Larry bought the Strand around 1945. Dad had it for about 32 years. I like to remember those good old days. We had such fun.
The Second Owner: Larry Fenstermacher
The Third Owner: Paul Angstadt
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