Elmira, New York

Memories of Eldridge Park

Now appearing on stage, Magician Lew Thrasher and his lovely wife and assistant, Polly.

Those might have been the words you'd hear during a wonderful evening at Eldridge back in the Forties. There were many stage and aerial acts that performed for appreciative audiences at the park. Each evening would start out with a movie that began right about dusk.

At fourteen years old, Bob Sardo was the projectionist. His family also owned several of the concessions at the park ran the old-time movies that was part of the evening entertainment at the park.

"I remember one night my dad told me not to run the title or the credits," says Sardo. "The movie advertised Bing Crosby, but it was one of Bing's early movies and so he had kind of a bit part in it. When I asked Dad why he didn't want to show the title or the credits, he said, "This movie is so old, I'm ashamed to have to show it.'"

But sometimes there were some pretty good movies, including shoot-em-up westerns, which were a favorite in those days. Usually they were two reels in length and Bob would load up the second reel and then wait awhile to start it so as to give everyone a chance to go get more popcorn and drinks.

"The first year my dad showed the movies, only had one projector," says Sardo. "It was an old 1932 Motion Graph that was hand cranked. You'd crank it at a speed of 24 frames a second - and no takeup reel. He didn't have time to rewind the film between reels, so he'd have two bags of film on the floor at the end of the movie. Being a hand-cranked machine, it was obviously for silent films only. After the first year, he brought in two Powers machines with sound. So, by the time I got involved in it, we were modern"

The movies would start at 9:00 and be over by 10:30 with the intermission. And then at 11, the stage or aerial acts would begin."

How about you? Do you remember Eldridge Park?
What was it like when you went? Any favorite memories?
write to us.

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