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The Clyde Theatre in Langley, Whidbey Island, opens on September 16, 1937.
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Norman (1901-1979) and Hazel (1906-2004) Clyde open the Clyde Theatre on September 16, 1937, with a showing of You Can’t Have Everything, starring Don Ameche and Alice Faye. They open the theater despite hard times during the Great Depression. The 250-seat theater at 217 First Street in Langley continues to operate, and in 2012 celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Newlyweds Norman and Hazel Clyde came to Langley
from Texas about 1925 to be with Norman’s father, William, following the death of William's wife
and sister. Norm and Hazel decided to
stay on the family farm in the Sandy Point area (on what eventually became
Clyde Road) to care for William. They did care for him until his death in 1948. The Clydes loved Whidbey Island and became
important town builders, owning Clyde Motors and the Clyde Garage.
During the difficult times of the 1930s Great Depression,
Langley residents had little cheap entertainment. The Clydes felt the town needed a good movie
house, so Norm hired an architect and builder, purchased the best projection equipment
available at the time, and opened the Clyde Theatre on September 16, 1937. You
Can’t Have Everything, starring Don Ameche and Alice Faye, was the movie
shown that night. The Clyde was the only movie theater on South
Changing Hands, New Productions
Vandalism caused closure
of the business for a short time in the 1960s but the theater was soon rented by
People’s Bank manager Dave Upham, who continued showing films on weekends for a
year or two. In February 1972, the
Clydes sold the business for $22,500 to Blake Willeford, a Peace Corps
volunteer returning from India. He began
changes to the theater, adding foreign and art movies and one winter, a
He also built a stage for live performances --
both music and local theater productions by Island Theatre, FOOLS (a theater troupe that
staged original mega-musicals) and
revues by Martha Murphy’s Whidbey Children’s Theatre. In 1978 Blake married Lynn Murray, his Sunday
movie ticket taker, and they also became business partners.
son, Brook, took his first steps in the theater.
Now an adult, Brook and his wife, Wendi, look forward to running the
theater for years to come.
A Community Landmark
held a 70th anniversary celebration in 2007 and will celebrate the 75th
on Sunday, September 16, 2012. Through the month leading up to the
celebration, The Clyde offered a film from each decade, 1930s to 2000s, charging
the original admission prices.
To date the
Willefords have operated the theater longer than the Clydes. They attribute The Clyde’s success partly to its
location, still being the only theater on South Whidbey Island. Prices have stayed low and Blake and Lynn know their local audience well. They
remodeled the theater in the late 1970s and seismically retrofitted it in 1992. Upgrades were made for sound and projection in 2002 but the biggest change came in December 2011 when the theater became an all-digital movie house. Over the years, the Clyde has served as an important community landmark in Langley.
“The History of the Clyde Theatre,” Clyde Theatre website
accessed September 8, 2012 (www.theclyde.net);
“Seventy-five Years Later, the Clyde is Still the Picture of Health,” South Whidbey Record, May 13,
2011 (www.southwhidbeyrecord.com); “Celebrating Digital and Diamonds at the Clyde Theater on Whidbey
Island,” Ibid., February 25, 2012; “The
Clyde Marks 70th Anniversary,” Ibid., update, June 25, 2008; Lorna
Cherry, Langley, the Village by the Sea
(Langley: South Whidbey Historical Society, 1983), 130-137.
Travel through time (chronological order):
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