San Antonio Theatres:
Now & Then
Past & Present
Mel Brown

Thanks for getting a blurb and cover foto up so quickly Gary. The book actually came out just before Christmas and is available from Borders at the Quarry and elsewhere like Barnes & Noble or On Main Off Main. It is also down at the Alamo Museum/Gift Shop.  Mel

Mel requested that if anyone would like an autographed copy then you may receive one by purchasing directly from him.

Contact Mel Brown

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Texas Custom Art by Mel Brown

2007 Book Award Winner

  As a native born, third generation San Antonian I will say right up 
front that this old town has always fascinated me. It has so far led 
to five books on various aspects of the Alamo City’s rich and 
colorful history with number six just now in the beginning stage. And 
ironically perhaps, I have not lived in SA since 1974 having returned 
that fall to Austin and UT so I could go back to school having earned 
a BA there in 1969. This followed an elopement and marriage to a 
wonderful young Chinese-American lady named Lorraine Lee. My return 
to UT lasted exactly one semester but then the kids began to come 
along and we stayed put here in the capital, eventually raising three 
bright and beautiful children, now all grown.
San Antonio; Then, Now & Always is the most recent of my versions in 
telling the SA, Tx. story. It is an exceptional book in being a 
compilation of 350 images taken between 1907 or so and 2007. The 
imagery is mostly in postcards old and new, plus a smattering of 
archival images along with a handful of personal photos shot by me or 
by my brother Bob. This book begins by showing the reader how the 
city came to develop its meandering namesake stream into the world 
renowned River Walk that millions of tourists have delighted in for 
the past 60 plus years.
Being primarily a postcard book, it offers views of the city thought 
by publishers to be the most photogenic, appealing or otherwise 
interesting to the masses of visitors that our city enjoys annually. 
What makes this book unique is that my editor allowed me the freedom 
to tell my stories in pictures my way and sometimes that way is 
personal. Several images show relatives of mine doing their thing in 
San Antonio in many different ways over many different years. Found 
within the 350 captions is a lot of what I call “hard history”, that 
being facts on people, places, and things captured by camera. Also 
found among those captions are many anecdotal bits and pieces of 
information gleaned from my first 20 years growing up in SA. This 
gives the book a personal flavor not usually found in books of this 
type so that the reader is both educated and perhaps entertained, I 
Following the river chapter are several others including one on San 
Antonio’s historic Chinese community, another on downtown after dark, 
and others covering postcards used for advertising, and those 
depicting many of the old city’s more colorful places and people plus 
special odds and ends. The last five chapters describe our town’s 
long and significant military history as seen at the army and air 
force installations dotting the map.
Most of my San Antonio theater memories center around the many nights 
spent sitting in one car or another watching movies at one of several 
drive-ins scattered about the East and South sides of town. With 
names like Town Twin, Park-Air, The Rigsby, Mission (singular) then 
later four screen, and of course The Trail next to Cap’n Jim’s 
Restaurant on Loop 13 and Hi-way 281. There were several others but 
those named here were most closest and most familiar. The Trail 
probably had the neatest neon with a close second the Mission with 
its lovely gas-in-glass tube-scene of the old church just down the 
road a little ways. But The Trail’s scene of a cowboy riding herd on 
a cattle drive was the most evocative, at least for us boys.


 San Antonio movie experiences really began for me about 1950 in such 
venues as the short lived Hi-Ho Theater out on S. Presa and the ill 
fated Highland on S. Hackberry. Both were a couple of the many 
neighborhood movie venues around town that entertained families and 
especially kids in the dark ages before TV. Saturday mornings meant a 
long line of kids in front of most of them and for me it was the 
Highland. We’d get there by 9:30 or 10 am to get a good seat for the 
newsreels, cartoons, and previews of coming attractions. Then we 
settled down to watch the two features, which tended to be western, 
war, monster or by the mid ‘50s those silly but scary sci-fi movies 
like “Invaders from Mars” or “When Worlds Collide” both now 
considered classics.
        A truly vivid recollection for me were those moments of 
primal impact in “Invaders From Mars” when the entire auditorium was 
bathed in a red light as the screen was filled with the molten rock-
melting beam from the alien’s weapon. For a six year or seven old 
kid, it don’t get any more visceral believe me. But a more tangible 
moment came a few years later on that Saturday when we saw a couple 
zombie type offerings and I was temporarily blinded by fear. Actually 
it was sugar that caused my momentary loss of vision and it was self-
induced. Now maybe this has happened to countless movie-goers over 
the decades but it was still a first for me.
        I arrived at the Highland with among other goodies, a large, 
round, saucer-size, peanut brittle patty meant to last at least thru 
half a movie. Nibbling along the outer edge of the patty while 
sitting knees-up on the cushioned chair eventually led to my 
temporary loss of vision about midway through the first zombie movie. 
It seems that whenever an especially gruesome moment filled the 
screen I ducked behind my big ol’ patty and slowly but surely coated 
my eye lashes with syrupy slobber. Eventually it reached a saturation 
point and sure enough glued my eyelids together, which naturally 
freaked me out because I knew not from whence this disablement came, 
for a trying moment anyway. That tasty but sticky patty had provided 
a perfect shield between the zombies and me and in such a way that my 
pals seated on either side of me did not detect thus saving me from 
names like baby, sissy, ‘fraidie-cat, etc. That may not seem like 
much of a deal now but then and there it was a big deal.


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