On Monday May 12, 1941 a brass band leading at least three floats moved from Jackson Street south on Maynard Avenue into Chinatown with a parade that trumpeted the life of Dong On Long, the then recently deceased president of the Chinese Benevolent Association. Dong, who had lived and worked in the neighborhood for more than a half-century, was famed for his wisdom as an arbitrator in what the Times called “the Chinese colony.”
A May 1, 1941 S. Times clips describing the “Chinese Colony’s” plans for Dong’s funeral.
Here the first float in Dong’s parade, with the beloved citizen’s portrait framed by a memorial wreath and inscribed, “Father” in flowers, passes in front of the Atlas Theatre. Running inside are either “Men Without Souls,” a prison movie with a young Glenn Ford, or “Ebb Tide,” a south-seas adventure staring Seattle’s Francis Farmer. The welcoming marquee allows that smoking is permitted and that the Atlas never closes. When it first opened in 1918, Seisabura Mukai, advertised his Atlas as “the finest in the south district . . .Large Capacity, Clean and Cozy, catering a First-Class patronage.” By the year of Dong on Long’s parade it was as likely used as a dark retreat.
Early in 1942 S. Mukai learned that he would be interned with other Japanese Aliens, and so soon leased his Atlas to Burrell C. Johnson, who with second-run double features, kept the Atlas running and warm. That December Johnson was booked for operating a crowded fire hazard. On, we assume, a cold Jan 3, 1944, the police routed “scores” of sleepers from the Atlas at 5 in the morning. The Times reported, “twenty were held for investigation of their draft status.”
James Matsuoka, president of the neighborhood’s community council, advised the city in 1950 that the Atlas created as “atmosphere” that promoted crime, and that its license should not be renewed. The police described “trouble with pickpockets, some strong arm robberies . . . and prostitutes.” Johnson pleaded that “It’s a difficult theatre to run – perhaps the hardest in the whole city . . . I’ve been trying to do the best I can.” He then promptly remodeled the Atlas with new seats, lighting, and candy bar and painted it in mulberry and chartreuse. That summer the theatre continued its atonement during the International District’s Seafair Carnival. For the citywide celebration the Atlas showed films with all Filipino and Chinese casts.
Anything to add, Paul?
Some and not none – but not much. Sometimes – like this time – our weekend efforts will run out of time. We will plop in only a few additions, some clippings, and some photographs but neither, I think, supported with former features – merely with whatever captions we can string from them now. [It is almost one in the morning and we mean to be to bed by 3am.]
A FEW NEW OLD STREETSCAPES FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD
[The location and date are ordinarily typed and attached – with tape – along the bottom of the negative. CLICK TWICE to enlarge.]