Details for The Kay Theater (Atlas Number 5507017630)

Historical Marker — Atlas Number 5507017630

Data

Marker Number 17630
Atlas Number 5507017630
Marker Title The Kay Theater
Index Entry Kay Theater, The
Address 352 North Main Street
City Rockdale
County Milam
UTM Zone 14
UTM Easting 691427
UTM Northing 3393310
Subject Codes theater
Marker Year 2013
Designations Recorded Texas Historic Landmark
Marker Location
Marker Size 27" x 42" with post
Marker Text In 1947, E. L. Bryan and the Foy Arrington family bought a surplus Quonset Hut, one of thousands of the all-purpose metal buildings made during World War II. The hut was moved to Rockdale to become the core of the second movie theater in town. Local carpenter Jack Kyle, Sr. Directed several Rockdale high school students to build the sloping concrete floor and façade for the streamline moderne-style Kay Theater, named for the Arringtons’ daughter, Katherine. A half-cylinder of corrugated steel sheets forms the walls and roof. The entry includes a stepped plaster wall outlined in neon, an entry drum of plaster and glass blocks, paired double doors, a central sign and large letters spelling K-A-Y on each side of the rotunda. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Foy Arrington, said the Quonset Hut architecture “lends itself naturally to excellent acoustics and a pleasing interior appearance.” Construction of the Kay Theater was completed in time for a Thanksgiving 1947 opening. At a dedication ceremony the next night, postmaster Clyde Franklin was master of ceremonies and mayor J. B. Newton introduced “rolling home,” starring Russell Hayden, Jean Parker and Raymond Hatton. Large box fans made the theater one of few air conditioned locations in town. Mr. Arrington manned the ticket booth and was the projectionist, and his wife managed the concessions. As with similar facilities at the time, African American patrons walked upstairs to separate balcony seating. The kay theater closed in 1962 and was vacant for many years before restoration began in 2004 through the Kay Theater foundation. Today, the last remaining theater in Milam County recalls a time when going to the movies was a cultural event and central to the social life of many young people.