The Port Theatre
Appeared in the Seaway News on February 16th 2012.
Cornwall's Port Theater - Testing The Passage of Time
I worked my very first shift at the Port Theatre at the age of fifteen. My first shift created a lasting memory. After cleaning up, I walked down the isle, with rows of seats slowly falling behind me. I reached the front of the theatre and starred in awe, captivated by the big screen and the "stage" like presence of the drapes surrounding it. As I turned around to head back towards the lobby, I couldn't move for I could see the entire theatre in all its glory, balcony and all. Red seats starring straight back at me, rows upon rows and the dim lights casting small shadows up the drapes on the sides of the walls. The theatre spoke to me that night, I wanted to know more.
Cornwall has been home to many theaters over the years. Some are very familiar, while others have come and gone in what seems like the blink of an eye.
The “big three,” the Palace Theater built in 1919, rebuilt in 1927, the Capitol Theater which opened on January 23, 1928 and closed its doors in 1991 and the Roxy Theatre which changed it’s name in 1966 is the only theatre of "the big three" left standing today.
Originally known as the Roxy Theatre, "The Port,” designed by Toronto architect Benjamin Swartz, opened on December 26, 1941. The day after the Roxy Theatre opened, the Standard Freeholder described it as "one of the finest theaters in the province. Costing approximately $75,000, the new Roxy displays the very finest in theater construction and convenience." Swartz was quoted, "I believe that Cornwall can be justly proud of this handsome new theater as it is the most modern theater for it's size, in the province."
Roxy Theatre's were a chain owned by Samuel Fingold of Mount Forest, Ontario. After speaking to his son, David Fingold on the phone one afternoon, I learned that Samuel Fingold was a self made business man who started this chain of theatres from scratch. He had approximately 40 Roxy Theatres built, and deliberately built his theaters in smaller towns and in parts of those towns that during that era, could have used some entertainment. They were always placed in what seemed like perfect places for his businesses to boom. Fingold made his point early in 1941 stating, "I have long entertained the prospect of adding a fourth theater to my chain, and a tour of the province has suggested that east Cornwall to be the most suitable location. That is to say there is a great need existing in this part of the town for a new theater, and I feel that the Cornwall Public will be none than satisfied with the quality of entertainment it will consistently provide."
To my delight, David Fingold was actually very surprised to find out that one of his father's theatre's is still up and running, and while the Roxy/Port theatre has complimented Cornwall's history, it has also complimented David's family history as well.
Some Roxy/Port Facts; after taking a peak in old newspaper articles, I found out the fee's for admission in 1941. In order to get yourself into the Roxy Theatre, you would be spending 25 cents. Children got into shows 10 cents cheaper. On matinee's, ticket prices dropped three pennies for the children, while adults would pay the same admission price as they would a normal show, tax included. Going up to the balcony today doesn't cost you a penny extra. However, back in the day in order for you to sit upstairs, you had to pay an extra 10 cents for what seemed to be for the privilege of smoking during the show. Putting up with smokers didn’t seem to bother young lovers who necked the night away for an extra dime.
The Port is a great place, full of memories and hopefully there is room for many more.