Stories

Many people have shared their memories of the Circle Cinema from its glorious beginning through its controversial periods and back from the brink of extinction. Here are just a few…
As a high school student in the late 60’s, graduating fromWillRogersHigh Schoolin 1971, I worked in concessions for my spending money.  Several of my friends also worked there with me, many of us having attended St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, located at First andAtlanta.  The school closed after we graduated from 8th grade, in 1967.  I have a lot of fond memories of that time of my life.

I didn’t attend many movies while working there, although I did see “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, which is a big favorite of my three sons today.  I also remember working during the “kiddie movies”  in the summer, and being really frustrated at the kids who were more interested in buying candy than in watching the film.  It seemed, however, that they could never decide what they wanted, and would click their quarters on top of the glass candy case until their decision was made.

On one of the few occasions that I worked the ticket booth on a Sunday evening, I asked a man for his I.D. when he was buying a ticket for an “R” rated movie.  I don’t recall the movie, but I do recall that his son, probably about 12 years of age, was with him.  The dad told me that I made his day by asking to see proof that he was old enough to see the movie.

I am really pleased that the Circle is being restored, as theWhittier Squarearea is such a part of my childhood.  T.G. & Y. store used to occupy the space where Swinney’s Hardware is now.  The Swinneys are also a family from St. Francis, and their hardware store was my Dad’s home away from home after his retirement in 1983.  Both of my parents passed away within four months of each other in 2001 and 2002, and I know that they would both be happy with the good things happening in their old neighborhood. – Patty Conry-Brown

My grand parents lived at 9 North Gillette.  My granddad was James B. McGuire Toward the end of his Police career, late 40′s and early 50′s, he worked as school  crossing guard at Admiral and Gillette until some form of dementia took over and he would forget why he was at the corner. But long before that,  my mother and dad and I used to go to the dish nights and the ScreenO (?) nights with hopes of winning big.  We hated to see the Beauty Parlor built across the alley exit so we lost our short cut and had to walk down Admiral past Fergusons Bakery and the Safeway. We lived with my grandparents because at that time my grand dad. was a Captain on the Tulsa Police Dept. and dad was peddling NEHI pop and hanging window shades for Sears or what ever he could find to do.  In 1934,  dad went to work on the Tulsa PD so we were able to move back to our home on East Archer.

I still came in to the grandparents every Friday and stayed until Sunday night.  This enabled me go form friends in the Gillette/Zunis neighborhood.  So every Saturday afternoon Calvin Zonker and I would go to the Circle to see the latest chapter of the current serial–Flash Gordon, Buck Jones, etc. It was a dime to get in and I could stop at Farrs 5& 10 and get enough Lemon Drops for a nickle to last through about 4 times through the movie and serial. I thought the roof of my mouth would never be the same.

This went on until we were in about the 7th grade at Cleveland Jr Hi–by then we had begun to notice that there were girls.  We didn’t really have dates as such, but we would sorta accidentally meet there around 7PM every Friday night..  We’d go “dutch”  giggle, hold hands and sometimes get so bold as to put your arm around her shoulder and generally drive the ushers up the wall.  There was never any serious trouble-just talking, giggling and lots of up and down the aisle. After the movie,  up to the Crown Drug for a coke and more standing around taking up space.  Then we would walk the girls home and the boys would meet back at the Crown before walking home–we could do that back then with no fear or danger. We continued to frequent the Circle and Doc’s magazine and model shop next door for the next 4-5 years. That is until we got into Rogers and Central and began to drive–

Even after that I was in and out of the Circle.  By then dad was Captain of the raiding squad.  One of his officer, Arthur Graves lived in one of the apartments above the theater  So we would come over to visit he and his wife from time to time. There are lots of good memories about the Circle.  I hated to see it become an Adult Show,  but understood.  I am so glad to hear that the Whittier Square neighborhood is being revitalized.  Good Luck !! – JimMcGuire.

In our Will Rogers Class of ’46 news letter, they mentioned that The Circle Theatre was being restored and that you were looking for stories about it from the past. In 1944 and 1945 we rented an apartment in Whittier Square and I have many fond memories of the great movies that I enjoyed at The old Circle cinema. Of course, I guess the most memorable evening was the time I won the Screeno game after the movie. There were 3 of us that had the winning numbers and we split the $200.00 prize. This probably made all of the movies I saw there free. Please let me know when the Theatre restoration is complete as the next time I am in Tulsa I would like to see a movie there one more time; but I’ll bet you charge me more than 25 cents to get in. – H.T. Kimball

The old Circle Theater holds wonderful memories dating back to the late 30s and early 40s. Do you remember the Screeno games on weekends when a spining dial was projected on the sceen and if you had a winng number,you won a piece of Depression Glass, only it probably wasn’t called that then? Another memory is when my young cousin and I went to the Circle to see Basil Rathbone play in “The Hound of Baskervilles”. It was such a frightening movie that when my young cousin was asked to go to his back yard to feed the family dog, he begged off. I remember when the Duncan Yo-Yo people would entertain us with their tricks while we waited in line to buy tickets. The thing I remember most of all is how hard it was to come up with the 10 cents for admission.  – Wm W. Mushrush

I was born and have lived in Tulsa virtually since 1948. The first movies I attended were at The Circle Theatre. We lived on Atlanta Place and my grandad worked at the Central Foundry. We lived and shopped near Whittier Square. On Saturday mornings, my mother and great-grandmother used to go shopping. Many times we would stop at the Silver Castle which I remember being across the street and eat a barbeque lunch which consisted of a barbecue sandwich, French fries and slaw for fifty cents. (The drink was a dime extra.) And I would hurry and eat my lunch and then my mother would help me across the street and into the Circle to watch part of the movie and the cartoons. Child’s admission was 25 cents.
- Ronnie D. McLaughlin

My cousin, Jimmy Dean Hoag, who died in Viet Nam, used to take me to the Circle, also. He lived near there on third street, and we walked. I saw Fess Parker in the Alamo, Old Yeller and many other Disney movies.

About 1958 my grandad, Walter Barney, took me to see Don’t Knock the Rock, a Rock-N- Roll movie that was loud at the Circle. My grandad, who was about 64, stayed for about 20 minutes. Probably longer than I would stay at a Rap Movie today.

As I got older and we moved farther away, I rode the bus – sometimes had to transfer-with my friend, Ronnie Hobbs. We would ride downtown and stop at the Coney Island for a couple of 15 cent Coneys. Then transfer busses and ride to the Circle for a matinee. Sometimes, we would stop at a variety store and get a pee [sic] shooter to provide extra entertainment during the show. I watched the Circle go down hill as did many.

In the late ’60′s friends of mine saw silly slasher movies. We laughed and made fun of these, but I remembered sadly when I had been much younger and seen the Classic Frankenstein and Dracula movies there and had truly been scared. Later, of course, there were Adult movies and finally, the Spanish films of which I had no interest. And then the Circle closed.

A few years ago, I took my middle son, Jason McLaughlin, age 28, and met the man who owned the building. We looked around inside and it was as if they had locked the doors one Saturday during a matinee. There was even stale popcorn scattered around. I had both sad and happy memories all mixed together. I even told the man I remembered sitting in the balcony and throwing popcorn down at people. He said he heard that all the time, but that there had never been a balcony at the Circle. I said that maybe I had it mixed up with the Delman, Majestic, Orpheum, Rogers, or some other of the movies I used to go to. And I walked out of the theatre with that same happy/sad feeling. I even thought of The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry.

My boyfriend, Gene, and I went on our first date to see “Young Frankenstein” at the Circle Theatre on Halloween, 1975. Cost was $1.00 each. We have been together ever since. We celebrate our Anniversary (27 years and counting) on Halloween!!! Thanks for keeping the Circle alive. – Gerry Goins and Gene

We all walked to the Circle, and Friday nights in the early ’40s was a must.  The kids from Cleveland sat on the right side, those from Wilson on the left.  One night some patriotic movie was playing and we all stood up every time the flag appeared or they played the Star Spangled Banner, and we finally got so rowdy that some adult complained.  The cops were called and scared us to death by pulling us outside the theater and threatening to take us to jail!  As good, church-going kids, Girl Scout/Boy Scout, etc., this would have been a disaster — so we never got so rambunctious again!