Pastime: The ‘Other’ Downtown Theater-The Avalon

As I write about the Pastimes of my memories, there is only the Pastime and the Warren Drive In.

But a lot of chatter has erupted on ‘the other’ downtown movie hour or picture show as the folks in Warren and Bradley County called the “Avalon.”

The Avalon was located on the West side of Main street and in a building at 226 and 228 South Main Street.

By Maylon Rice
By Maylon Rice

Saline River Chronicle Freelance Feature Contributor

The building, according to insurance records and city maps, was built in 1910 was damaged extensively in 1920 and was rebuilt. 

That address is now included in what is considered the “Bryant” building.

I was of a generation of Warren kids who knew that address as both the Ben Franklin 5 & 10c Store and West Brothers. Both the Ben Franklin Store, was once called French’s Five & Dime and run by Bill French. He and his wife, Imogene Parrish French, also owned Imogene’s, a fine lady’s wear shop on the west side of Main about the middle of the block anchored by Martin’s on the north and the U.S. Post Office on the south.

More on the French’s and the Five and Dime in another Pastime soon.

The Avalon was not always called the Avalon.  There was a theater called The Palace theater there in the 1930’s and was renamed the Avalon around 1941. 

There does not seem, among the many historians in Warren, exactly when the Avalon closed.

I would say, many of my contemporaries into their 70s can recall attending the ‘Avalon’ especially the matinees where serial Westerns were in great demand, until that tiny, tube filled, home based device the television – ended many of these smaller theaters.

One person remarked that the Avalon only had about 200-250 seats, I estimate the Pastime could seat 300-500 plus the balcony (another 100-125) for a movie.

Most all the same employees who worked at the Pastime also worked at the Avalon. I can only imagine the Wharton family, trying to work three separate staffs, say on a Friday or Saturday night, must have been a staffing nightmare.

But they did it and they did run the movie theaters – Pastime, Avalon and Warren Drive In, well.

Back to the Avalon, once the closure was done, the theater seats had apparently been anchored in the last and thin layer of concrete for the floors, hence the metal seats were cut by a blow torch to remove the metal frames and then the metal embedded in the concrete were ground down smooth with the floor surfaces. You could still, however, see where the rows and rows of the seats in the floors.

 I also do not recall a marquee on the street scape for this theater, as I am about 6-10 years too young, apparently, to remember the theater. Was there one? Any photos survive to show such a marquee?

In fact, I can recall one of my first real shopping trips to Warren, where a kid had his own money – probably from his birthday to spend it as he wished. I know Ben Franklin’s 5 and 10 cent Store got that little bit of change.

When I worked for the Eagle Democrat and the Eagle Printing Company the back shop still contained many of the old, outdated, signature “cuts” or metal dies for printing off the name of businesses in advertisements.

There was one for the Avalon, although it had been out of business for at least 40 decades by the time I was moving on to Henderson State College in the fall of 1973, as a college freshman.

One thing over the years, I have never seen in the more than 50 Rotary Club meetings I have attended all over surrounding four states – was a Rotary business signature like the only Mr. Sydney Wharton.

It simply said Motion Pictures Management.

And that’s a Pastime I’ll always cherish and remember of movie lore in Bradley County.

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