April 25, 2011
REMEMBERING THE MEADOWBROOK THEATRE
By FRANK BARNING
Our recent blog post about the demise of the Meadowbrook Theatre received many comments. Here is a sample:
Roslyn Haberman '61: "I enjoyed the Meadowbrook like it was part of my home."
Kathy Stahlman Zinn '63: "I saw it being torn down and almost cried."
Tom Filiberto '63: "I remember going to mass at the Meadowbrook Theater, before St Bernard's was built. It was good because you didn’t have to kneel down."
Another nameless person wrote: "I remember those ushers with flashlights would come around just in case your face got stuck to someone else's."
For me, the Meadowbrook was a great place to go immediately following my final class of the day when I had no after-school activities. If I walked really fast south on Division Avenue and then turned right on Hempstead Turnpike, I could make it in time for a matinee. In addition, it wasn't a long stroll home, north on Newbridge Road, past the fire house and then a few blocks to our house on Hyacinth Road.
When I saw the address of the Meadowbrook State Parkway along with the information about its history, I found it surprising that the building was in East Meadow, not Levittown. The Wantagh State Parkway separates Levittown from East Meadow. Looking at a map, I see that I obviously crossed the Wantagh State to get to the theatre. That was so long ago.
In those days (choosing 1958 as a base year), television was broadcast in black and white and the picture tubes were small. Many of us had 12-inch screens. So going to any movie theatre was a big upgrade from television. I don't recall seeing TV in color until 1963 when a college friend, Mickey Sherwin, invited me to see a World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers at his home.
Elvis Presley records were played at Division Avenue's dances while I was in junior high school, 1954-56. They were great to dance to and many of us were huge fans. When his first motion picture, "Love Me Tender", opened in 1956, Levittowners flocked to see it at the Meadowbrook Theatre.
The Meadowbrook was also on the way home from Hofstra. I clearly remember seeing Bye Bye Birdie and The Pink Panther there because both had incredible opening sequences. The Birdie opening had a very young Ann-Margret singing the title song. At the time, it was the hottest thing I had ever seen, so it is still memorable.
Where did the name Meadowbrook come from? I don't really know but my wife (Vivian) conjectures that it is a combination of East Meadow and Brooklyn. Why not! Lynbrook is the syllables of Brooklyn transposed.
Old Levittowners have bid a tearful bye bye to the Meadowbrook Theatre, but thanks for keeping us in the dark.