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January 12, 2003

The Largo Theatre

By Ruth Ann Zandanel


The year is 1948. Just about two blocks west of the Largo Sentinel newspaper office downtown, past the West Coast Garage, past Sadie and Jack Johnson’s house and the Bullock house on the corner, across 4th St., past the Sinclair Service station and Cole Electric was our theatre.

The Largo Theatre was almost right across from my house at 405 W. Bay Drive when I was a little girl. How fondly I remember standing in line to buy a ticket for those Saturday matinees.

It was November 9, 1948 when Largo’s new theatre opened downtown at 420 W. Bay Drive. I was just 5 years old. There were 400 seats to hold the anxious kids and adults that waited in line to see the opening feature, a Bud Abbott and Lou Costello movie called “Buck Privates Come Home.” Gerald “Sonny” Cunningham, a senior at Largo High School at the time worked at the Largo Theatre and helped to open it on that opening day. My Aunt Vi McCalister sold tickets at the theatre.

With WWII over, Douglas Thrall had purchased the war surplus Quonset hut and made a theatre out of it. Doug Thrall owned the theatre and “Charlie Durham managed the theatre while I worked there” said Sonny Cunningham.

Evelyn Williams recalls when the second manager of the theatre, Tommy Tarbox, had a special showing at the theatre just for the second and third graders at school to see the movie Secret Garden. As a room-mother back then she helped with her daughter Nancy’s class when they attended the movie.

I remember going to see that movie also and it is a movie I will never forget and still love to this very day.

The second owner of the theatre was Henry Glover while Tommy Tarbox was the manager.

Bob Delack remembers the time he was in Mrs. Hoffman’s 9th grade English class and there was a special showing for his English class of the movie Julius Cesar, with Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony. Bob also remembers, as do I, how kids sometimes liked to pick up pieces of gravel from the parking lot behind the theatre and throw it onto the tin building. On the inside of the theatre it made quite a noise.

I loved that little ole theatre where one of my best friends, Aleta, and I first saw Walt Disney’s Cinderella. There was not one thing fancy about the theatre but I loved it. I loved the excitement, the laughter, the drama I found there. I loved being transported from the present into a world of imagination where I could relate to a larger than life character up on that big screen.

I especially loved the “feel good” movies that made me laugh. Among some of my favorites were Abbott and Costello, the Donald O’Connor movies such as Francis the Talking Mule, all of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. I loved musicals and movies with Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Carone. Tony Curtis, Jeff Chandler and Audie Murphy were my heartthrobs back then.

In November of 1980 our theatre was dismantled and flown by helicopter to its new location on 8th Ave. at the Public Works Dept. where it has served the city of Largo for many years as a maintenance building.

Posted by Terry Moore at January 12, 2003 01:31 PM