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Several Old Theaters Still In Use

Longtime resident Roger St. Martin of suburban Lake Worth, who once was a pin boy at the Carefree bowling alley, asked for some details on the West Palm Beach area’s early theaters and its boxing arena.

Former child actor Carl Kettler opened the Bijou, the city’s first theater, in 1908 on the southwest corner of where Clematis Street now splits in front of the West Palm Beach library. He later moved it to Clematis and Narcissus streets and replaced it with the Kettler in 1924. The Kettler (above, in a 1920s photo from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County) cost $500,000, in 1920′s dollars, and boasted 1,400 seats, colored lights, fans and smoking rooms. It became the Palms and was razed in 1965.

The Florida Theatre opened in 1949 north of the Kettler. It closed in 1981, operated as a stage theater until 1991, briefly reopened in 1996 and now is the Cuillo Centre for the Arts.

The Carefree Bowlaway, south of downtown, opened in 1939; it became the Carefree Theatre (above, in a 1984 Palm Beach Post staff file photo) in 1948 and continued to present films and live shows. Its roof collapsed during Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and it remains closed.

The 1,068-seat Paramount Theatre in Palm Beach (above, in a 1939 photo from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County), showing major films and drawing top-name entertainers, operated from 1927 to 1968, then reopened briefly, and was converted to a retail and office complex in 1982.

And the Oakley Theatre, a Lake Worth vaudeville and movie house, opened in 1924.

Damaged by the 1928 hurricane and victimized by the Depression, it was dark for decades, then reopened as an adult theater in the 1970s, and became the Lake Worth Playhouse (above, in a 2007 Palm Beach Post staff file photo) in 1975.

Co-founder Lucien Oakley supposedly haunts the place.

Boxing will have to wait until next week, Mr. St. Martin!

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg August 30, 2006 at 9:35 am.

3 comments

3 Replies

  1. Richard Jul 17th 2009

    The Oakley theater in Lake Worth during the late 40`s and until the late 50`s showed regular movies. They had special saturday movies and cartoons for the kids. The Lake thearter, 2 blocks east and across from the M&M Caferteria, also followed that same type fare. The arena across the street from the LW Post Office and behind Fountains Department store, run by the American Legion, had wrestling and boxing during the 40`s and 50`s

  2. Richard Oct 26th 2011

    As for boxing arenas, I remember one in W.P.B. along the FEC tracks, I think between Clematis and 1st. in the early 50`s

  3. Does anyone have a photo of the old American Legion Arena that was on Clematis St near the FEC Railroad tracks in the 1940s &1950s? I would be most appreciative. Looking for it for a friend. Thanks in advance for any help on this.


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