Wall of fame: Found movie posters recall bygone era

A discovery made inside the walls of a Saunders Street building has one man remembering a time when some of Hollywood’s biggest stars graced the big screen in Whitehall.

The inside of Dominic and Dorothy Valastro’s house, in some ways, is like a small museum, with a collection of items spanning the more than eight decades he has lived in Whitehall.

The house, located on Rock Avenue, is more than a hundred years old and at the time of its construction was the only home on the narrow street

Hanging on the walls are photographs of Dominic’s brothers, sisters and other family members who were born in Whitehall. Nearby is a framed picture of the house they grew up in, located almost exactly on the same spot where the Skenesborough Park Gazebo sits today.

“It was the only house on the street,” Valastro recalls fondly, explaining the house was moved to the location to make way for the railroad.

There are other pictures of Valastro proudly wearing his Whitehall police officer uniform. There’s a 1960s’ era jukebox that used to play music at a local eatery and there’s his wife’s collection of salt and pepper shakers, one pair featuring John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie, and countless others that look nothing like salt and pepper shakers.

And resting against the wall in the living room is a pair of 1950s-era movie posters that once hung outside the old Capitol Movie Theater on Saunders Street.

Unlike modern movie posters, they feature several titles, not one feature on each poster.

“They were put outside the movie house and advertised what was playing at that time,” said Valastro.

However, for the last several decades the posters were hung completely out of sight.

The posters were found stuffed within the walls of what was once Sabo’s Restaurant on Saunders Street, before the eatery was relocated to Broadway, where it eventually became Captain’s Diner.

“They were actually used for insulation and were nailed right to the two-by-fours,” Valastro said.

When the current owner of the building began demolishing it last year, they discovered dozens of the posters and a friend of Valastro was able to secure two of them.

Besides the nail holes that held them to the wall, the posters are in remarkably good shape. Judging from the titles and the dates they were released, probably hung outside the theater in the early 1950s.

Some of the titles include “East Side, West Side,” “Western Renegades,” “The Blazing Sun,” starring Gene Autry and Champion the horse, and “Bedtime for Bonzo,” which starred Diane Lynn and Ronald Reagan, before he entered the political fray.

Valastro said he can recall catching a movie of two at the theater as a boy.

“I remember going, not very often because we didn’t have a lot of money, but I did go. It was 10 cents to watch a movie,” he said.

According to an old Broadway and Canal excerpt taken from the Whitehall Times, the Capitol Movie Theater opened in April of 1924 and was owned and constructed by a William E. Benton of Saratoga.

The story read, “While they are many high class houses of amusement in northern New York, none of them compare with the new Capitol Movie Theater in architectural design, in equipment and in charm.”

The theater featured about 90 seats, had a latticed-window lobby and was trimmed in a cream color which contrasted with the dark green ceiling.

Its slogan was “The Big Picture — We Show It; Good Music — We Have It.” And for three or four decades it did just that until it was closed sometime in late 1950s or 1960s, said Carol Senecal, a member of the Whitehall Historical Society.

The building still stands today, and although most of its grandeur has long since faded; the memories and a pair of posters remain.

“We brought them down to the meal house (the Senior Meal Site at the American Legion Post 83) and the people went crazy when they saw them and remembered going to the theater when they were younger,” Valastro said.

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