On the western side of Queen Street, about halfway between the highway and the railway line, stood the famous Crown Theatre.
In the 1950s and 1960s the cinema was a major magnet in Australia’s social life and everyone from town was going to “the pictures”.
Crown Theatre St Marys in 1960s
Photographer, date and source unknown
The Crown Theatre
I can remember the Crown Theatre being built next door to the Methodist Church, which at the time was the only building on the western side of Queen Street. Lamming's general store would have been on the opposite side of the road with some private houses. I didn't know what it was going to be at the time it was under construction. It had concrete block walls with a semicircular roof supported by steel trusses. It was pretty impressive for St Marys at the time.
Screenings scheduled at the Crown Theatre St Marys during Christmas 1968
Source: Penrith Press - Advertisement
The local theatres were community places, often used as a stage for local bands and other entertainment, a place to meet friends, get a touch of style or possibly new romance.
My vivid memories involve getting dressed up of a Saturday night and going to the movies with my girlfriend and holding hands. At interval we would go out and buy ice cream and chocolates when we could afford them.
The Crown Theatre in St Marys was opened on 14 April 1954 by the Mayor of Penrith Ald W. L. Chapman. Mr L.F. Spence was the Chairman of the directors who also owned the Nepean Theatre at Penrith.
Jim Hackett and His Bow Tie Boys, a shop at the Crown Theatre on Queen Street St Marys
1963, Unknown photographer
Source: Penrith Press - Advertisement
The theatre was constructed using a steel skeleton frame with semi-circular roof. The steel frame was built by a Superior Welds, a local company that was established in the old munitions area after World War 2. It was prefabricated at the factory and was brought to site and craned into position. It had concrete block walls and concrete rendered facade. In the centre of the building there was a shop that became Jim Hackett Hairdressers. On the southern side of the building was the entrance to the theatre.
The foyer/lounge had a refreshment bar to the left side as you walked in and on the opposite side at the front there was a ticket office and entrance to the theatre. Internally there was a gentle slope to the stage, and the back section was tiered to the projection room. The Theatre closed in 1967 or 1968.
Interview with Eric Kent
My name is Eric Kent. I am retired and I have lived in St Marys since I was ten years old and I\'m about 80 at the moment, so that is getting on a bit like everyone else who is ageing.
I went to St Marys public school and also Penrith high School. At the time Penrith high School was the only high school that was around. St Marys didn\'t have a high school at the time so that really takes me back a bit.
I remember the Crown Theatre being built. And being the curious teenager that I was at the time, I wondered what was happening as I didn\'t know what it actually was at the time. I eventually found out that it was going to be a picture theatre. It had a concrete block wall on the outside building and was rendered in the front; it was quite a nice building.
The people that built the Crown where local builders.
I know that at the time that television took away the social aspect of going to the movies. Funny enough it has turned itself around now and going to the movie s is popular again.
As you walked into the theatre on the left-hand side, there was a shop that sold
confectionery and we used to buy fantails, and Jaffers, which we used to roll down the aisle, but we won\'t talk about that.
I used to go at night time and this was a big outing. Everybody would get dressed up. The girls would have their big flared skirts and big flared petticoats, as did my girl Val who eventually became my wife and it was beautiful time.
I was in the pipe band when I was 14. When I joined the pipe band l learned how to play bag pipes, I was actually the first member of the Nepean District pipe band and my wife was learning the pipes also. She didn\'t like me very much at the time, but we got together later and we were married. After we were married we had six children. I now have to remember the following: I think we have 16 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
The movies we liked were musicals, musical comedies such as movies with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Mario Lanza… and Singing In The Rain of course, this was one of our favourites. They were really good movies and we could enjoy sitting down and just getting lost in them for a little while.
Researcher Eric Kent
Eric Kent (right) with Paul Mills (left) examining an early map of Queen Street St Marys during a visit to the State Archives, Kingswood NSW, November 2017.
Eric moved to St Marys from Kingswood in 1947 when he was 10 years old. Queen Street at that time was mainly residential with only a few shops spread out along mainly the eastern side of the street. Eric lived in the Duration Cottages and attended St Marys Primary School. He also went to Penrith High School as there was no high school in St Marys at that time. After he left school he started work at Ducon’s Condensers. The factory was part of the munitions area that was built during World War 2.
Eric was one of the original members of the Nepean District Pipe Band until illness prevented him from carrying on. He was also involved as Cub Scout leader in the 1st St Marys Scout Troop for a number of years. After working for Ducon’s (later known as Plessy's) for 14 years Eric went into the building trade doing waterproofing and building maintenance.
Eric has also participated in the Penrith Relay for Life for more than eight years and he is now an active member of the St Marys and District Historical Society.
- Written by Adam Gatt Penrith City Council (02) 4732 7777 (02) 4732 7958 firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au 601 High St Penrith NSW 2750 Australia
- Back to QSRT 2018 - Windows on Queen Project