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A crowd gathers on the northern side of the 1000 block of 4th Avenue to watch Huntington firefighters work after a fire at the Roxy Theater on Aug. 25, 1952. From left, the Frederick Hotel, the S.P. Brown Co., Morgan's Office Machines, the Palace Theater (which was playing Audie Murphy's "Duel at Silver Creek" and Gary Cooper's "High Noon") and the Becker Music Store. The Roxy Theater, 1037 4th Ave. in Huntington, opened Aug. 31, 1933. It burned Aug. 25, 1952, according to James F. Mitchell. The location is now a parking lot. The two movies that were playing at the time were "The Pride of St. Louis" and "The First Time," both starring Dan Dailey. The theater's owner was C. Bertram Hukle, originally from from Lexington, Ky. At one time, Hukle owned a chain of motion picture theaters that was headquartered in Huntington, according to Ken Reffeitt. "About 1949, he led a group of theater owners in a suit against the City of Huntington, styled Hukle v. City of Huntington, for imposing an entertainment tax," Reffeitt said. "The same was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court in 1950 which upheld the lower court's ruling against the city." Thanks to Mitchell and Reffeitt for the information.

HUNTINGTON - When fire destroyed a Ford auto showroom at 1030 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington, plans were announced for a new theater to be built on the site and construction was started. But financial problems stalled the work and its uncompleted skeleton sat for three years. Finally, the structure was purchased by the Smith Amusement Co., which rushed it to completion.

The grandly named Palace Theater opened Nov. 15, 1925. In a page-one article, The Herald-Dispatch described the new theater as "a structure of rare beauty." A box office finished in bronze and gold and equipped for two cashiers stood at the center of the exterior lobby. Lobby walls trimmed in marble featured bronze cases to display photographs and announcement cards for forthcoming features. One hundred and fifty girls were interviewed and 10 hired to be uniformed "usherettes" at the new theater.

When the photograph printed here was shot in 1939, the Palace was showing "You Can't Cheat An Honest Man," a comedy starring W.C. Fields, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. The marquee noted that coming soon would be "Made for Each Other," with Carole Lombard and Jimmy Stewart, and "Stagecoach," which would prove to be John Wayne's first hit film. (Someone seems to have had a bit of trouble spelling "coach.") For many years, the Palace was operated by the energetic and outgoing John Goodno. Johnny, as he was known to one and all, was quick with a smile - and equally quick to tell you all about the next big movie he had booked. He worked tirelessly to promote the city's downtown and was a generous friend to Marshall University, the Huntington YMCA and other local organizations. He retired and moved to Florida in 1967. He was 94 when he died in 1999.

When multi-screen theaters became the industry standard, the Greater Huntington Theater Corp., which had acquired the Palace, converted its balcony into a second screen and renamed the theater, christening it the Camelot.

The Camelot closed in 2006. The building is now home to the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center, a dance studio.

For more from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on News, then Lost Huntington series.


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