Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
Milam County Historical Commission - Milam County, TX
Statue of Ben Milam at Milam County, TX Courthouse
Old Junior High School Building, Rockdale, TX
Milam County Courthouse - Cameron, TX
Preserve America

Kay Theatre

Rockdale Reporter - Mike Brown
April 4, 2009
Page 2A

The downtown Kay Theatre, being restored as a cultural/performing arts center, now looks as it did in 1947 after its signs were restored by Jim Milholland. Gathering for a dedication Monday were: Front row (L-R) Geri Burnett, Karen Noack, Leon Noack, Billie Noack, Les Davenport, Dave Ogee, Sue Taylor; back row, Rev. Jan Campbell, Cindy Jerman, Toby Johnson, Dr. Lucile Estell, City Mgr. Randy Holly, County Judge Frank Summers, Milholland, Joy Graham, Melissa Tackett, Mayor John Shoemake, Becky Booker Marek, Chamber President Denice Doss.

Kay Theatre restoration, Rockdale, Milam, TX
300 Block North Main Street
Rockdale, TX  76567
Kay Theater to dedicate THL marker Saturday

The Milam County Historical Commission with The Kay Theater Foundation announce the dedication of the Recorded Texas Historic Landmark Marker for The Kay Theater at 10 a.m. Saturday.

On the program are Johnnielyn Brown (Milam Historical Commission Chair), Rockdale Boy Scout Troop 790, Communities in Concert Band, Adam Straznicky (pastor, of St. John’s United Methodist Church), Les Davenport (chair, Kay Theatre Foundation), Judy Slusher and Leanna Applegate.

The Leon Noack Family, who donated the structure to The Kay Theater Foundation, will unveil the marker.

A reception in the renovated theater will be held after the marker dedication.

“The public is cordially invited to attend,” Brown said.

Rockdale Reporter - 2014-03-12
Kay Theatre - Texs Historical Marker
The Kay Theatre

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 style Kay Theater, named for the Arringtons' daughter, Katherind.  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 an dlarge 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 facilites at the time, African American patrons walked upstairs to separate balcone 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.

Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2013

                             The Kay’s Biggest Day! (so far)
                             by Mike Brown - Reporter Editor
                           Rockdale Reporter - March 20, 2014

Memories and marker highlight dedication

When he was five years old, Les Davenport, chairman of the Kay Theater Foundation board, saw “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” in the historic theater.

For a while Saturday it looked like that aquatic creature was going to be needed to unveil The Kay’s Recorded Texas Historic Landmark marker.

Rain descended on the marker dedication ceremony just after pledges to the U. S. and Texas flags.

No problem. The ceremony was quickly moved indoors, giving volunteers a chance to showcase the extensive renovation of the 67-year-old venue.

As if on cue, the rain stopped and the crowd moved back outside to hear Geri Burnett, vice-chair of the Milam County Historical Association, read the marker.

MONEY BACK - Rockdale residents Davenport, Judy Lumpkins Slusher and Leanna Harris Applegate provided reminiscences of the old theater, which was constructed in 1947 and has been remodeled as a performing arts venue.

Davenport recalled picking up empty soft drink bottles and selling them “for enough to buy a ticket, popcorn and drink at the Kay.”

Slusher recalled movie tickets being sold for nine cents.

“My father, (the late George Lumpkins) and I would walk from our home on East Bell to the Kay,” she said. “I’ll always remember those times for the companionship with my father.”

She remembered something else, too, a classmate who had a pre-Internet age scam down pretty well.

“He would wait until almost the end of the movie and then go complain loudly about something to the (owners Mr. and Mrs. Foy) Arrington and get his money back,” Slusher said.

“Then he’d take that money and go watch the movie at the Dixie (Theater)!” she said.

ROXY - Applegate said she remembered going to movies at the Kay with childhood friend Jim Newton and wondering how much those trips influenced Newton toward his spectacularly successful career as a set designer in New York and Hollywood.

“I remember those serials with their cliffhanger endings,” she laughed. “You always had to go back the next week to find out what happened.”

Congressman Bill Flores (R-Bryan) attended the dedication and told the crowd the ceremony reminded him of his home town, Stratford in the Texas Panhandle.

“We had a theater called the Roxy,” he said.

“It was at the center of our community. These theaters were often the heartbeats of our little towns.”

PHASES - Davenport said the nine-year renovation process has been an “amazing journey” and referred to it as a “labor of love.”

He said the foundation’s idea was to restore the old theater for use by the Rockdale community, especially its youth.

The building was donated to the Foundation by the Leon Noack family, which unveiled the marker (see page 1A). Davenport said funding has come from seven 5K runs, grants and from local sources including the Municipal Development District and Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds administered through the City of Rockdale.

Most recent major accomplishments included heating/air-conditioning, storage areas and handicap access doors.

Next tasks will be ceiling insulation and light fixtures, he said.

PROGRAM - Johnnielynn Brown, Milam Historical Commission chair, gave the welcome, Rev. Adam Straznicky of St. John’s United Methodist Church gave the invocation and Boy Scout Troop 790 members posted the colors and led the pledges.
Reminscing about the Kay (L-R) Les Davenport, Judy Slusher, Leanna Applegate.

Far Right: City Manager Kelvin Knauf (L) and Congressman Bill Flores look over renovated theater at ceremony.
Members of the Leon Noack family (from left) Steven, Billie, Alan and Natalie Noack,unveil a Texas Historical Commission marker at Rockdale’s historic Kay Theater during a dedication ceremony Saturday. The Noack family donated the theater, and land, for restoration by the Kay Theatre Foundation.
photo by Mike Brown
Outside, inside, then outside again, crowd heard official reading of historical marker at conclusion of ceremony.
Photos by Mike Brown
From left, Congressman Bill Flores spoke, Rev. Adam Straznicky, Geri Burnett, Johnnielynn Brown during pledge to Texas flag. Burnett read marker to assembled crowd.
Rain chased crowd of 100 inside where most of Saturday’s ceremony unreeled.
Photos by Mike Brown