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Restoration of the historic Pastime Theatre was the first major project undertaken by Winfield Main Street. Bob Henger, former administrator of Carraway Northwest (now Northwest Medical Center) is credited with having the vision to restore this old historic building. The theatre was built in 1937 by local laborers Elwood Smith, Sim Tidwell and Little Boy Tidwell; carpenters Arlon Trull, S. Trull and Radburg Bryant; and brick masons Penny Trull and Al Smith. The theatre opened in 1938 as a movie theatre with a stage large enough for vaudeville productions. The theatre was owned by Mr. and Mrs. George T. Thornton and daughter Glenera R. Horn and her husband R. J. Horn. In 1965 Jack Lane and Frances Borders purchased and operated the theatre through the 1970’s. It reopened under different management for a short period in the 1980’s, but closed permanently in the mid ‘80’s. The A. P. Seals family purchased the building in 1993, and it sat vacant until purchased by Main Street in late 2000.
The theatre was very dilapidated and was literally home to the pigeons. Under the direction of Bob Henger, the first phase of the restoration included roof, floors, walls, ceiling, electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. Layers of paint on the front of the building were stripped down to the original yellow glazed brick.
When the acoustical tile from the ceiling was removed, we discovered a wooden grid that was holding the glued tiles in place. We left the wooden grid and with some repairs and paint, it became the new ceiling structure. Careful attention was given to detail in order to retain the original art deco. Nine original seats, which served the black entrance, were left untouched in the balcony. State-of-the-art sound system, stage lighting, seats, and curtains were installed. A wooden marquee was constructed complete with theatre lights.
There was a lot of support for this restoration effort from the community. Funds for the purchase and renovation came from local fundraisers, donations from individuals, our local banks and businesses, private family foundations (Pate Family Trust and The Nelson and Charleen Kemp Foundation), corporate foundations (Alabama Power Foundation), and state grants obtained with the help of Senator Roger Bedford and Representative Mike Millican. When this phase of the renovation was completed, we were able to have musical concerts and some events for children, but still had no dressing rooms or theatre prop storage, so we were unable to present live theatrical productions.
In 2005, U. S. Congressman Robert Aderholt helped us obtain a Save America’s Treasures Grant. Again, our local individuals and businesses helped raise the matching funds for this grant. With these funds we were able to install a metal marquee, new roof, purchase a grand piano, projection system and other needed items.
In 2005, Main Street, primarily for insurance purposes, deeded the restored theatre to the city of Winfield, who then appointed a seven-member volunteer board to handle the day-to-day operations of the theatre. The theatre continued to utilize the Main Street office and employee. Expenses (other than insurance) have been paid by the theatre.
In 2007, Main Street purchased the vacant building on the corner, adjacent to theatre, and completely renovated that building. That building, which was originally built in 1928, was owned by Marion County Motors, a Ford dealership (Dr. Murray C. Hollis, Murray Lucas Hollis, William Moore and Ed Hollis, who ran the business). T-model cars were shipped to Winfield by railroad in kits and brought to the building where they were assembled. Cars were received without wheels and bodies. These had to be assembled onto the frame by the dealer. Today, in the basement of this building you can see where the doors had opened directly to the street. In the early 1950’s the business and half of the building was sold to White Bedford, Roger Bedford’s grandfather. Dr. Hollis bought out the other owners. Beverly Hollis bought the building and opened Hollis Pharmacy in 1966. The pharmacy was closed after a fire in the basement in 1989. The building had also been home to CarQuest and New Vision Worship Center.
Funding for the purchase and restoration of this building came from basically the same sources as the theatre. U. S. Congressman Robert Aderholt was instrumental in getting a $323,000 HUD grant and State Representative Roger Bedford secured a line item appropriation through the Alabama Historical Commission. Winfield Main Street’s portion of the funding came from the brick/granite sale and grants from The Kemp Foundation. The city of Winfield’s contribution toward the purchase and restoration of this building was $80,000 which had been approved under Mayor Bill West’s administration. Warren Ballard did the renovation work on the inside of the building and Richard Sprouse Construction did the outside work. Jack Nix was the architect. Sherrian Logan and Chanda Thomas were responsible for choosing colors and furnishings. Theatre board member Don Studdard spent almost two years as a volunteer on-site project manager for this renovation. Many local clubs and individuals donated furnishings for the new building.
The theatre complex today is a wonderful facility with nice dressing rooms, theatre prop storage, entertainers’ lounge with closed circuit television to the stage, and an entrance to the back of the stage. We have offices, an area to display local art work and memorabilia, a catering kitchen and a large meeting room which is used for dinner theatre, municipal government and school functions at no charge. The room can be rented for private functions. The building, which is the focal point of downtown, has a beautiful clock tower which was paid for by a grant from The Nelson and Charleen Kemp Foundation. This building like the theatre, again for insurance purposes, was also deeded to the City of Winfield and is operated by the theatre board.
Our renovation is almost complete. In late 2012 we will complete some cosmetic work to the outside of the theatre which will include painting (not the yellow brick) and new doors. We also plan to replace the sidewalk in front of the Main Street office. Cost for this work will be paid for by theatre grants.
Each year the theatre presents a four-performance concert series and two or three stand alone performances. We feature well-known international artists, as well as local talent.
We began offering community theatre in 2010. We partner with Self Express Productions to present live theatrical productions. Josh and Casey Kauffman, who moved to Winfield from New York and formed Self Express Productions, both have experience in all facets of theatre, both on stage and in producing, directing and set building. Local actors for our plays are selected by auditions, and rehearsals usually cover a six-week period prior to public performances. The plays are very professionally done and the sets are outstanding.
We present four community theatre productions each year, with one play especially for children. Students from elementary schools from Winfield and the surrounding counties attend these plays as field trips. A small admission fee is charged for students, but those unable to pay are admitted free. Summer theatrical workshops are also offered.
In conjunction with our public library, we sponsor two or three Just Us Kidz events each year such as “Reading with Santa”, movies, magic shows, storytelling, etc. These events, which include refreshments, gift bags, and door prizes, are held at the theatre and are free for children. Funding for Just Us Kidz comes from Kemp Foundation grants.
We have over twenty performances each year and from November 1998 until October, 2011, all work required to operate the theatre was done by our volunteer board. This included all general office work, booking performances, advertising, selling tickets, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgets and other financial functions, preparing programs, writing grants, ensuring buildings were clean and prepared for events, and scheduling use of meeting room. (The board actually cleans the theatre after the performances.) Since we were scheduling more events at the theatre and with the additional work generated by having the dinner theatre and meeting room, it was just no longer feasible to try to do this without an employee. We needed someone in the office every day. In October 2011, we hired Amy Burleson, a highly qualified employee who had been active in the community, chamber of commerce and Main Street, and who had over 20 years of banking experience. Amy is The Pastime Theatre Complex Event Coordinator and also works for Winfield Main Street as Program Manager.
The mission of The Pastime Theatre board is to enhance the cultural atmosphere of Winfield and the surrounding area by providing musical, artistic and educational programs for citizens of all ages and diversity.
Providing these cultural opportunities and bringing internationally-known artists to the theatre greatly improves quality of life in this rural area, not only for our citizens, but it also helps our industrial recruiters as they work to attract any large industries and professionals who may be looking to locate in our city.
The Alabama Historical Commission featured The Pastime Theatre in their list of Places in Peril 2011 as a success story (July-August 2011).
The value of the theatre complex is over $1 million. Most of the funds for the purchase and renovation of these two buildings has come from the efforts of a group of committed volunteers who unselfishly donated their time and talents over a period of ten years.
Our theatre board is made up of dedicated professionals who are active in their churches and community. Current theatre board members are:
Dot Bolton - Retired Human Resources Manager for H. Cotler Company
Mary Hyche - President and Chief Executive Officer, The Nelson and Charleen Kemp Foundation
Wesley McNeill - Accounts Payable Manager, Joy Global
Nancy Moss - Homemaker/Educator
Dr. Ron Moss - Practicing Physician, Winfield Internal Medicine
Stephen Preuninger - Sales Representative, Joy Global
Don Studdard - Retired Vice President, Continental Conveyor
We would love to show you our facilities and invite you to any of our upcoming performances. Our office is located on the east side of the complex across from the city hall parking lot. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.) Phone: 205 487 3002.