2011-06-10 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Old Morrison’s Theatre, Beach 102 Street, Seaside, N.Y.
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

From reading Historical Views over the years, you surely must remember features in the Old Morrison Theatre, a sort of landmark place, on the Bowery at Beach 102 Street, in the Seaside section of Rockaway Beach.

Morrison’s was the biggest thing in the entertainment line ever to hit the Rockaways. The summer theater’s lifespan ran from 1880 to 1921, and was rated with Tony Pastor’s Theatre (NYC) in the old days. That was considered a top rating at the time.

In the words of Jim “Pop” Morrison, who lived in Broad Channel, “They came from all over in their limousines dressed to kill, or in the trolley which did stop nearby. The rich impressed the rich, and the others impressed their girls, but they all came to see the top billing of entertainers or public figures. Among the latter was a Carrie Nation, the axe wielding anti-saloon and alcohol female…who quietly sipped whiskey sours in secret! The twice daily shows played to a packed house, at $2.00 a head. It got everybody who was anybody, once they got in the public eye.

A 17 piece orchestra supplied music for the 1,500 seat theatre, which had a lobby 100 feet long with thick red velvet carpeting. The theatre seats were covered with red velour material and were comfy, to say the least. The popularity was such that tickets were purchased in advanced.

The most expensive top performer to appear at Morrison’s was Eva Tanguay, who was paid $4,000 for a week of shows. In those days that was a rather hefty salary!

Today in Historical Views are three theatre bills from the old days at Morrison’s theatre in Seaside. A list of those who ever appeared at Morrison’s over the years is still being compiled by yours truly. Many, if not all, of the stars of the future appeared at the Rockaway Summer Theater. Stars of the 1920’s, 1930s, and 1940…That is!


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