A Roxy rendezvous

Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

At the height of the second World War, Bremerton was dotted with theaters. A city of more than 80,000 — double what it is today — had a seemingly insatiable demand to escape to the movies or take in live theater. There was the Tower on Fourth Street. The Rex and the Rialto on Second Street. Even the Bay Bowl, on Bremerton’s east side, started as a theater.

The only two still standing from that era are the Admiral and the Roxy. The Admiral was restored and reopened in 1997. The Roxy remains shuttered.

Here’s how Frank Wetzel, author of the famed World War II-era Bremerton book, “Victory Gardens and Barrage Balloons,” described the Roxy Theater’s opening:

“Even more important for youngsters was the new Roxy Theater on Fourth Street, advertised to cost $150,000 for construction and equipment. The Roxy hired the best-looking girls in town as usherettes; they were permissive in letting their friends sometimes sneak (local vernacular was “leach”) into the theater without charge and also, some said, in other ways as well.

The Roxy opened on May 31 with Hollywood-type searchlights probing the sky and a swing band led by Jackie Souders. The opening attraction was “The Devil and Miss Jones.”

As you probably read in today’s Kitsap Sun, there’s a new effort to restore the Roxy. I packed the article with as much history as I felt could get past my editor. But the place just has so many stories.

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So on Thursday night, we’re going to revive as many of those memories as we can. The Kitsap Historical Society and Museum has invited me to give a talk and tour of some of downtown Bremerton’s most historic buildings. It’s my latest Story Walk. My main focus will be the Roxy but we’ll take a stroll around the block to see some of the other famous buildings of Bremerton that remain standing (and so that aren’t).

Some goodies that are in store for Thursday: an old uniform from the Roxy, old ticket stubs and even a five minute newsreel documenting the theater’s opening in 1941.

Hope you can make it.

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