Verdugo Views: Remembering an old theater's golden days

Local residents turned out in huge numbers for the opening of Lon Bard's Glendale Theatre near Adams and Colorado streets in October of 1925, built on property owned by local businessman M. G. Khodigian.

In fact, so many showed up that some couldn't even get in for the festivities: two full shows with entertainment, the first screening of Pathe News, a Felix the Cat cartoon, a comedy and the feature, "Speed."

It seems possible that a young boy about 10 years old named George Haney might have been at that grand opening.

He and his parents had moved from Omaha two years before and were living nearby in Atwater. His father later opened an appliance store on Brand and the family moved to Glendale in 1930.

In an interview several years ago (Verdugo Views, Jan. 18, 2008), Haney told me that he and his friends used to watch their favorite cowboy movies at the Glendale Theatre.

The eastern section of Glendale was growing by leaps and bounds in those days.

Two huge construction projects — the $1-million Glendale High School, at Verdugo Road and East Broadway, and the $500,000 Hotel Glendale at Glendale Avenue and Broadway — had opened the year before, and building permits passed the $10-million mark the year the Glendale Theatre opened.

The city's mayor couldn't make it to the theater on opening night, but City Councilman C.E. Kimlin was on hand.

"It brings a more metropolitan aspect to Colorado Boulevard," he told the Glendale Evening News on Oct. 10, 1925.

Bard promised to show good pictures with something on the bill for each member of the family. Comfort was the goal and viewers could watch the program from any of the 1,000 soft-cushioned seats.

The latest in orchestral pipe organs, a Wurlitzer built especially for Bard's new theater, featured the tones of a huge church organ and the instruments of an orchestra, plus the sounds of a huge brass band. All were controlled by one player.

The new building included apartments on the upper floor. Haney, who was 97 when he passed away in 2012, witnessed much of Glendale's growth. In the 2008 interview, he said that Bob Wian purchased a small food stand called the Pantry just a few doors down from the theater in 1936 and that his office was on the upper floor of the theater. That small food stand became the first Bob's Big Boy.

Haney and Wian were classmates at Glendale High; Haney graduated in 1934 and Wian in 1933.

"We were friends, our fathers were friends. We went to Bob's all the time," Haney said.

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