Crabtown Observed #11: Remembering the Deluxe Theatre

By Bill Hughes

I grew up during World War II in Locust Point, a peninsula that juts out into Baltimore harbor.

At its cutting edge lies Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The road that leads you to all of that splendid history is Fort Avenue. It runs east and west and literally splits Locust Point in half.

The current incarnation of the Deluxe Theater. Photo: Bill Hughes
On the farthest sides were the piers and terminals, then owned and maintained by either the B&O or Western Maryland railroads.

In my day, Locust Point had a fire house; two bakeries, a fish store; a funeral parlor; two dry goods outlets; [one of them then owned by the parents of the now-Fifth District Councilwoman, Rikki Spector]; four International Longshoremen’s Association union halls; public school No. 76; a Catholic grade school — Our Lady of Good Counsel — two dozen bars; a Coca-Cola bottling plant; the Procter & Gamble soap factory; three mainstream Christian churches, plus one for the “Holy Rollers;” a mini-market; an abandoned and haunted library, a similarly spooky warehouse; a drug store; assorted Mom & Pop shops, including my favorite, “Sticky Buns”; Bauman’s grocery and fresh meat store; a blacksmith and one movie theatre . . .

The Deluxe!

The Deluxe was at 1318 East Fort Avenue where it intersects with Lowman Street.

Robert K. Headley’s book, “Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore: An Illustrated History and Directory of Theatres,” supposedly has some details on the year it was built, its owner and other trivia.

When I was growing up at 1237 Haubert Street, during the 1940s and early ’50s, the Deluxe was the place to be, especially on Saturday.

I’m not sure when it was abandoned as a theatre but I recall going regularly to the Deluxe before television made its appearance and began dominating the culture.

The Deluxe was only four blocks from our home. There was usually a full feast of cowboy movies with big stars, such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or William Boyd (better known as Hopalong Cassidy.) galloping to the rescue.

Then, there were the war flicks with John Wayne; and also the gangster movies. James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart stood out in that genre. Robinson mostly talked with a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth. The actors all smoked in the gangster films. It fit their tough guy images.

In the realm of comedy, Abbott and Costello received the top billing. For jungle films, Johnny Weissmuller as “Tarzan” was my favorite.

The special treat at the Deluxe wasn’t the feature movies, but the “Serials.” These were short subjects shown after the main presentations.

They would run for ten weeks in a row and then end with a cliffhanger episode. Buster Crabbe as “Flash Gordon,” was huge. It had sci-fi effects. For me, however, the best was Clayton Moore, as “The Lone Ranger.” It had a catchy tune and this refrain: “Hi Ho Silver, away! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

The Deluxe theatre is long gone, but not the many fond memories that its name evokes.