A Terrific Theatre


The Terrace Theatre opened on May 25th, 1951. The Mid-Century Modern building designed by the architectural firm of Liebenberg & Kaplan, for movie house owners, Sydney and William Volk, won national acclaim from newspapers, magazines, and industry publications. The August 4th, 1951 issue of Box Office Magazine featured the Terrace on the cover and contained a five page, illustrated article that praised the Terrace as “The Gem of the Lakes.” The Volk brothers spared no expense in the construction of their flagship theater. Inside the massive auditorium, 1299 soft cushioned seats faced a 26-foot screen. Soundproof rooms on either side of the projection booth could be used for parties or crying babies. Outside the auditorium, a split-level lobby gave way to a sunken den, fireplace, television lounge and enormous, slanted windows.

The Terrace opened just as televisions began appearing in the living rooms of America and the Volks’ new movie theater was met with some skepticism. In August of 1951, Business Week reported, “Last May, two Minneapolis movie owners pulled a stunt that made every other exhibitor in the area decide they had blown their lids sky high. In nearby Robbinsdale, Minn., William and Sidney Volk opened a movie theater that had cost them close to $1 million to build. Since television seemed to have put the movie business solidly on the skids, this looked like an elaborate way to commit suicide.” Sidney Volk brushed aside criticism and explained to local reporters, that most people had kitchens and refrigerators, but they still went out to eat. The Terrace proved to be a success. The theater attracted movie goers from every corner of the Twin Cities and remained an entertainment destination for almost 50 years.

Elim Lutheran congregation dedicated its new $135,000 church at 40th and West Broadway, only four feet away from the old church. The old church was purchased by Bmnswick Methodist and moved to 42nd and Brunswick Avenue. Both congregations used the old church for about a year while the new Elim was being built. Rev. C. Ward Nerothin was the pastor until the fall of 1982, when he retired. In September 1982, the congregation celebrated its 60th Anniversary in conjunction with Rev. Nerothin’s retirement.

Pastor C. Ward Nerothin, Elim Lutheran Church, circa 1956 (Courtesy of Sheldon Smith)

At Lee School, there were 1,625 students; 1,448 PTA members and 37 teachers. This was the largest school population Lee had ever had. By 1952, Adair School (later changed to Fair School) opened, but Lee still had 1,565 students and 1,497 PTA members. Under Robert Tharp, the new principal, and Mrs. Lorraine Dysart, the PTA president, a Fun Fest was held on November 8th, which included cake walks, pie walks, pet show, hobby show, musical chairs, basketball throw, ring toss, movies, etc. About 5,000 attended and the net proceeds were $1,597.

Lee School

Six of the employees of the Robbinsdale Post, including H. 0. Sonneyson, purchased the Post Publishing Company. Others were Wayne Nelson, Harold Johnson, Ed C. L’Herault, LeRoy Westerlund and Dick Germundson. Sonneyson, a beloved editor, lived in Robbinsdale and was very interested in all Robbinsdale “doings.” He worked up to the day he died, December 20, 1969, age 69. He is listed in Who Was Who in America, volume V, 1969-1973. The Sonneysons lived on Orchard Avenue.

In October, a new post office in Ruff’s building at 41st and West Broadway, was dedicated. Guests were treated to coffee and doughnuts. Minneapolis postal officials; Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Ruff, owners of the new building; and William Cavanagh, the contractor, were present. Byron McCullagh, president of the Robbinsdale Businessmen’s Association, lauded the postal officials and said that the erection of the post office was in line with the progress Robbinsdale had made in 1951.

In honor of Raleigh Parker,the grandson of Alfred Parker, A reunion for the sons and daughters of Robbinsdale’s pioneer families was held on Sunday September 16th, 1951. Seated in the first row are; Etta Roth Gates, Bertha Trump, Mrs. Bill Parker, Bill Parker, Mrs. George Johnson, Grace Goetze. Row 2: Mrs Horbie Morse, Ruth Trump, Frances Pollard, Maude Huston, Mrs. William Johnston, Emma Bratager, William Goetze, Jack Trump, George Christianson, Bill Johnston, Louis Bratager, Harriet Grenell Sessing (front), Jules Sessing (back), Lawrence Nasett, George Johnson,Hamlet Johnson.

This post is part of a series loosely based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodgett. The post card at the top of the post is part of Jeff Vick’s collection.