Capitol Theatre

Fonds name: 
Capitol Theatre
Accession number: 
S-291 to S-328
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Summaries of interviews
Interviews conducted in 1980 under a contract of the Saskatchewan Archives Board. The historical value of a building rests not only with its physical presence but also in the memories and images held in the minds of those who know the building. Believing this, Michael Taft and Natalie Kishchuk began their oral history project shortly after the Capitol Theatre, Saskatoon had been demolished in 1979. Though they couldn't save the building, they were able to preserve invaluable memories and impressions of the theatre before these too had faded away. The project was twofold. As well as recording the reminiscences of people who had used the theatre and those who worked and performed in it, the collectors hoped to document the controversy surrounding its demolition. To this end, interviews with heritage campaigners reflect the co-ordinated efforts of the Saskatoon Special Committee on Historic Buildings, the Saskatoon Heritage Society and concerned citizens to save the theatre. Several city aldermen were interviewed explaining the position held by the city council and their own feelings on the issue. A member of the Legislative Assembly who sponsored the Heritage Property Act, 1980 was motivated by the demolition of the Capitol and speaks of the Act's usefulness in preserving historic buildings in the future. The president of Princeton Developments, the company which bought the theatre, recalls aspects of the campaign to save it and plans for the site's development. A mental picture of the theatre and of its importance in the lives of many Saskatoon residents can be obtained from listening to the interviews of several generations of theatre-goers. In subsequent years, as children, teenagers and adults, informants all thought of the theatre as a special place where they attended plays, concerts, musicals, lectures and graduations as well as movies. One individual, when describing the decorations and the feelings that the theatre evoked in her when she went to movies in the 1940s, called it a "fairyland place". Many people performed in the Capitol Theatre either as actors or musicians. Their recollections of university musicals, symphony concerts and dramatic productions are vivid and detailed, giving another perspective on the theatre's function in the community. Managers, ushers, doormen, candy counter workers, cashiers, cleaning staff and projectionists create another picture of the theatre which many patrons never saw. Their anecdotes and descriptions are often humourous as they recall some of the pranks that were pulled on fellow employees. Occasionally they are scary, as when one of the cleaning women describes how bats sometimes flew at them when they were working. One senses the pride which employees felt in working at a place such as the Capitol and the sadness they felt in seeing it go. These recorded memories of the Capitol Theatre can in no way replace the building that meant so much to people in Saskatoon but they are a precious supplement to the few pictures, posters and other memorabilia that have been salvaged.
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Language of Record: 
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