— Steve Martin
American actor & comedian
(b. Aug. 14, 1945)
If ever I step into the front door of Cleveland’s newest event space — The Venue Creekside — no doubt I’ll be impressed with the building’s high-tech amenities and its vibrant facelift, one that has bridged the gap between past and present.
But in my heart, I’ll travel to a day gone by.
I’ll glance to my left at a modern countertop and I’ll remember the quiet, thin fellow who once manned the station selling popcorn, candy and Cokes. I never knew his name, but I talked with him regularly — each time I visited.
I’ll scan the surrounding walls, admiring the bright colors and professionally hung trim that define a time in motion, but I’ll recollect a former look when movie posters adorned the same perimeter. They told of current shows, coming attractions and each boasted the names of Hollywood’s hottest stars whose faces alone meant tickets sold.
I’ll peer across the bouncy surface of a bidding carpet with not a speck of dirt in sight, but I’ll recall a summer matinee or a cold winter’s eve when tired feet crunched a random kernel of white puffy corn, lost from the handheld bag of a moviegoer standing in wait for the start of the next show.
I’ll lift my nostrils into the air, breathing in the aromas of all things new — smells of wood, of flooring, of paint and of progress. But I’ll smile at a golden time now lost and a forgotten day blissfully reborn when the inviting scents of butter and popcorn and sweets and drinks that fizzled tickled my nose, teased my eager tastebuds and taunted my impatient crave.
I’ll look to the left and then to my right where nicely dressed workers will tend to their chores and smiles of greeting will serve as prelude to another reception, the next conference or perhaps they will signal the beginning of a heartfelt moment like a wedding, a shower or maybe a family reunion. But I’ll recall the one who once stood in their spot — a grey-haired man plump in the waist and short in stature, and one who always wore a shirt of cotton white and a simple necktie of black.
I’ll remember this gentle fellow. I’ll chuckle at his ways. And I’ll reflect on a pleasant memory from those days of grace when life was a little simpler and time was measured more by all that is good and not so much by that which is bad.
This kind community servant taught me much. He instilled in me an appreciation for what we have and not what we want. He taught me all things old aren’t necessarily all things forgotten. His actions spoke volumes. His words came softly. And his steps never veered from the path of doing what is right and never falling to the temptation of that which is wrong.
This good man was Calvin Harvey. This renovated building, now a promising new business called The Venue Creekside, was his second home. In his day, and in mine, it was the Village Theater.
In past editions, I have written of both. The most recent came Aug. 11, just days after Calvin’s passing. This longtime manager of the Village carved a niche in the tranquil history of Cleveland cinema. His wasn’t the only theater. In his day, he shared the stage with the Cinema Twin and the Star-Vue Drive-In, and later with the modern four-screen Carmike Cinema near the corner of Stuart Road and North Keith Street.
In time, all faded from use but never from memory.
The dying Star-Vue was bulldozed from Cleveland’s landscape and now the site breathes a fresher life with people and places and the commerce they bring.
The Cinema Twin lost its appeal but later tested its merit as a discount movie house. One day, it too closed and sat abandoned until a new kid on the block called Habitat for Humanity bought, rebuilt and now considers it home.
The Carmike Cinema, once a pride of Cleveland silver screeners, fell by the wayside as well and felt the wrath of the same powerful dozers that leveled the land, giving birth and rise to a giant new pharmacy.
Though time and age and competition sealed its fate, the cozy Village Theater never became one with the soil. Though its doors were locked, it later housed community playhouses and hosted the imaginations of creative performers of the arts. But in the end, fiscal reality spelled another shade of doom and the fine old building sat empty, save a growing collection of dust-covered boxes and discarded files from its neighbors next door.
Not too long ago, a new tenant arrived. With hammers and nails, saws and boards, paints and brushes, lighting of the moment and effects of a modern time — all weaved as one by dreams of a better day, construction crews repurposed this fine old marvel of hometown history.
Emerging from the protective cocoon of that we adored as the Village is now a breathtaking butterfly of modern electronics.
I hope The Venue Creekside makes it and serves as an integral new chapter in Cleveland’s annals of people and places, and the good times they create.
But I’ll never forget the Village, nor will most locals who entered its doors for two hours of soothing respite and quiet escape.
Calvin, I hope you’re watching from one of those cinematic clouds above.
Times are changing, my friend. But no matter how much they change, I’ll never surrender the magic your movie reels brought to the child at heart.
The Village Theater was an endearing place in the minds of those old enough to remember. It remains an age and a moment in the memories of those too young to forget.