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That’s entertainment, recreation in 1949

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This year marks many a milestone in local history, especially in entertainment and recreation.

Seventy summers ago, 1949 launched the opening of the city’s first big park and swimming pool at Roseland Park; the area’s first outdoor theater, the Decker Drive-In; and Baytown’s largest, most elegant movie theater, the Brunson.

Adding to the fun for teen-agers in the summer of ’49 was the acquisition of the Quack Shack in a renovated building donated by Humble Oil & Refining Co. During World War II it had been used as a barracks for the Baytown Ordnance Works. The building was moved a site across the road from Robert E. Lee High School on land leased by Sam Stasis for a dollar a year.

Before obtaining the building, the teen recreation center had used the REL gym for dances.

Advertised as “easy to find and convenient to get to,” the Decker opened its gates at 6:30 p.m. March 29, 1949.

“Now you can enjoy your movie entertainment under the stars,” the program proclaimed. “Come as you are in house slippers, in work clothes, in play clothes, any way you wish. Your car is your theater.”

Also, the program noted that customers could smoke as they wished. “There is no restriction. Light up and enjoy your favorite smoke.”

Of interest to parents was the information about sanitary bottle warmers being available at no charge at the concession stand.

In regard to the speakers provided for each vehicle, customers were told, “If you should accidentally pull the speaker loose from its connection, please leave it at the manager’s office on your way out.”

Titled “important” in the program is this instruction: “When leaving the theater always drive forward and to the right. Never back up or turn to the left.”

Tickets cost 44 cents for adults and 9 cents for children. For the Decker’s grand opening, Koto the clown entertained the kids and gave them bubble gum and balloons.

The first film shown was a musical comedy, “The Time, the Place and the Girl,” starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson.  A Bugs Bunny cartoon completed the night out at the Decker.

Among coming attractions, listed on the program, were Roy Rogers in “The Old Spanish Trail,” Robert Young in “Relentless” and the Walt Disney classic, “Bambi.”

The Brunson Theater’s first movie, when it opened Aug. 23, 1 949, was “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” a Technicolor musical comedy starring Donald O’Connor and Gloria De Haven.

Miss Texas of 1949 --Ysleta Leissner of Fort Worth -- cut the ribbon as theater owner Howard E. Brunson stood by. Brunson, who had been bringing movie entertainment to Baytown and East Harris County for a quarter of a century, was the man of the hour.

A “Salute to Mr. Brunson” drew an appreciative crowd in front of the theater. Bob Nolan of Radio Station KREL served as master of ceremonies.

As the first customers filed into the theater to view the elegant surroundings, organist Al Sacker from Beaumont provided background music.

The crowd mingled for nearly an hour before the show began. Visiting dignitaries were introduced and a short film was shown, featuring Miss Texas.

Customers were informed that the matinee price for adults would be 50 cents, and on Sundays and evenings, 60 cents. Children under the age of 12 would pay 9 cents.

The program for the grand opening included photos of Brunson and his theater manager, Rufus Honeycutt, who had been at the helm of the Bay Theater.

At the Brunson Theater, Honeycutt would become the Pied Piper of Baytown, drawing countless young fans every Saturday morning to the legendary Kiddie Shows.

Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at viewpoints@baytownsun.com, Attention: Wanda Orton.

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