David Wojtowicz is on a crusade.
The former Wilkes-Barre resident, now living in Danville, hopes to retrieve and share with others at least one small part of the life he knew decades ago in his neighborhood.
Growing up in the Rolling Mill Hill section of town in the 1950s and 1960s, he was a huge movie fan, and his favorite venue was the Hart Theater, just a few doors from his own home on Hazle Avenue.
He’s even a member of an informal group of people from that neighborhood in that era, and his quest is to find a photo or two of the old movie house, which opened in 1938 and was torn down exactly 30 years later.
While he’s not doing genealogy, he’s hoping that somewhere there is a genealogist or two with a family photo showing the Hart during its heyday. While the big downtown theaters of Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and other regional cities have been well documented, the old neighborhood and small town movie palaces have largely faded into obscurity, and historical organizations he’s checked with have not produced anything.
Most smaller theaters have been torn down; a few have been converted to other uses. The Hart’s old site is now part of a church parking lot.
“It’s disconcerting that a place that was there for 30 years has no photos,” he said. “It sticks in my mind.”
The Hart, incidentally, was part of a regional theater chain owned by the Comerford family. Wojtowicz has praise for the family’s blog, which operates from Ireland and contains a history of the chain, along with a few photos of its former holdings in the area.
But even that colorful and scholarly blog has not led to Hart photos.
“My nightmare is that someone will tell me that he had a photo, but lost it in the (1972) flood,” he said.
Anyone who has photos of the Hart – or any other vanished smaller theater in the area – may contact this column at the email address below.
News Notes: The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is looking for members in good standing who are interested in serving in leadership positions. Offices to be filled are president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and seven board seats. Officer terms are two years. Anyone interested may contact the society at firstname.lastname@example.org. Elections will be held this fall.
In this year of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, be sure to stop by the Luzerne County Historical Society Museum to see the exhibit of local artifacts from the Civil War. You’ll find vintage photographs, clothing, equipment and many other materials from the society’s collection. The museum is to the rear of the Osterhout Free Library on South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre. It’s open Tuesday-Friday 12-2 p.m. and Saturday noon-4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. The exhibit will run until Dec. 21. Of course, the society’s library is invaluable for helping trace your Civil War-era ancestors.
Don’t miss the annual observance of the Battle of Wyoming, coming up at 10 a.m. on July 4 at the monument, Route 11, Wyoming. The speaker this year is Dr. John B. Frantz, emeritus professor of history at Penn State, according to the Wyoming Commemorative Association’s Facebook page. He’s a scholar in Pennsylvania history and the American Revolution. Events get under way at 10 a.m. Frantz is the co-editor of “Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland,” according to the university press home page.