THEATER HISTORY

The Pastime Theatre was built in 1937 by local contractors and laborers, and was operated for many years as a movie theatre with a stage large enough for vaudeville productions. The original building was not air-conditioned, but had a system of fans and air ventilation. The balcony was divided into three areas. The projector room was at the upper end of the balcony. The balcony seating area was divided into two partitioned sections. A part of local history also included the separation of blacks and whites in the theatre. The black theatre-goers bought their tickets on the opposite side of the ticket booth from whites at the bottom of a separate stairway that lead them directly up to a segregated area in the balcony.

During its heyday, the theatre was owned by George Thornton, who was also connected with the drive-in theatre in Gu-Win and the walk-in theatre in Carbon Hill. The Winfield and Carbon Hill theatres were mirror images of each other.

In 1965, Jack Lane Borders and wife Francis purchased The Pastime Theatre. The theatre continued to operate as a movie theatre through the mid-70’s, then closed for a number of years, but reopened in the 1980’s under different management for a few years, finally closing permanently in the 1980’s. The A. P. Seals family purchased the vacant building in 1993 and used it primarily for storage, until Winfield’s Main Street Program purchased it in November 2000.

Bob Henger, who was the administrator at Carraway Northwest Medical Center in Winfield and president of Winfield Main Street, is credited for having the vision to restore this theatre into a performing arts theatre. He oversaw each detail of the restoration, and did most of the fundraising.

Restoration of the theatre began in 2001 and the initial phase was completed in 2002, at a cost of approximately $300,000. Layers of paint were stripped off the front façade of the building to expose the original yellow glazed brick. There were no electrical, mechanical or plumbing features that were functional; all had to be replaced. Acoustical tiles were removed from the ceiling exposing a wooden grid. This grid was painted and became the new ceiling structure. A new heating and air conditioning system was installed, along with theatre stage lighting and curtains, seating, and a state-of-the-art sound system. Restoring the landmark building to its 1937 art deco style was an important consideration and a point of community pride. Nine original seats in the segregated balcony were roped off to retain this piece of history

During the restoration and demolition work, a poster was discovered behind a panel wall advertising a vaudeville act, “Cousin Wilbur and his Tennessee Mountaineers” coming to the Pastime Theatre, February 19." Unfortunately, the year of the show was torn off at the corner of the poster.

To fund this project, grants were received from the State Tourism Department, Alabama Power Foundation, the Pate family and the Kemp Foundation, as well as donations from many local businesses and individuals. Representative Mike Millican and Senator Roger Bedford were also helpful in obtaining these state grants. Main Street sponsored various fundraisers and sold seats for $150.00 each to raise additional money.

As restoration was nearing completion, Congressman Robert Aderholt helped secure a 50/50 matching grant from the Save Americas Treasures fund. $50,000.00 was raised locally, which was matched by the grant. This made possible the addition of a new marquee, a new roof and a grand piano, as well as a computer, a spotlight and miscellaneous furnishings along with additional sound equipment.

In May of 2005, Main Street deeded the theatre to the City of Winfield, and Mayor Bill West and the city council appointed a seven-member board to operate the theatre. The theatre board strives to be self-supporting.

The mission of the theatre board is to enhance the cultural atmosphere of Winfield and the surrounding area by providing a diverse schedule of musical, artistic and educational programs for citizens of all ages. The theatre is a wonderful venue which provides quality entertainment to Winfield and the surrounding area.

Each year a four-performance concert series is scheduled and sold as season package. Individual performances are also scheduled throughout the year. Several free events are scheduled for kids which include special movies, magic shows, storytelling, etc. Pastime Music Revues feature several acts and are scheduled every three or four months.

In the past there has been a wide variety of performances at the theatre—comedians, storytellers, children’s plays, and all types of musicians, including classical piano, violin, an Irish tenor, folk, country, and rock and roll. Broadway and nationally-known stars, as well as local performers, have been showcased.

The empty Hollis Pharmacy building adjacent to the theatre was purchased in April 2007 to be used for theatre dressing rooms, prop storage and dinner theatre, as well as an area to display local art work and historic memorabilia. When the renovation is complete it will be possible to have stage plays at the theatre. This building, like the theatre, was deeded to the city of Winfield.

The Pastime Theatre has a glorious past and warm memories—many stories of courtship, “first kiss”, “met my wife there” “holding a girl’s hand for the first time”, some young brides whose husbands were away during World War II passed their time at the movies and watching the news reels, and people remember going to the matinee on Saturday for a dime. The Pastime Theatre also has an exciting future.


© Copyright 2008 - 2015
Built & Maintained by www.49countynews.net