Manitowoc's Empire Theater held 'Aluminum Matinee'

 July 25, 1941 "Aluminum Matinee" at Empire Theater in Manitowoc.

July 25, 1941 "Aluminum Matinee" at Empire Theater in Manitowoc.

“Friday morning, July 25, a special ‘aluminum matinee’ will be held at the Empire Theater. All children bringing a contribution of the scrap metal will be admitted free of charge, and the donations will be added to the city total,” announced the Manitowoc Herald Times on July 19, 1941.

During World War II scrap drives were a popular way for everyone to contribute to the war effort. By recycling unused or unwanted metal, the government could build ships, airplanes, and other equipment needed to fight the war. The Empire Theater, located at South 18th and Marshall Streets in Manitowoc, held the “aluminum matinee” as part of a final city-wide scrap aluminum drive. A nation-wide defense metal drive was beginning and Manitowoc citizens wanted to do their part to contribute to the war effort.

The American Legion and a crew of 84 Boy Scouts visited Manitowoc neighborhoods throughout that week to encourage donations to the drive. On Saturday, July 26, the Boy Scouts made stops at each house to collect aluminum scrap and were followed by a fleet of 14 city trucks, picking up the metal from the Scouts. Cooking utensils, golf clubs, ash trays, vacuum cleaner parts, and more were collected.

“We are cautioning housewives to beware of any bogus pickups of aluminum,” warned George Hall, the American Legion Planning Committee Chairman, prior to the collection day. “A few cases have occurred already and in order to prevent repetition, housewives should give their contributions only to the Boy Scouts in city trucks on July 26…”

City of Manitowoc alderman served as captains for their wards. Area churches also took part to collect scrap metal. Rural townships and villages also took part in the drive, with county chairman George Kiel leading the effort. Two Rivers held a scrap aluminum collection on July 26 as well. A large collection bin was placed in Central Park. Members of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars contacted homes and worked to collect the items.

The Empire Theater had hundreds of Manitowoc youth bring old aluminum kettles, salt shakers, and “battered coffee pots” for free admission to the Friday matinee for the local defense metal drive. A city truck was needed to bring all the contributions to the city’s collection bin, located outside the Manitowoc County jail. The scrap aluminum bin was a 26 by 18 foot enclosure that would be filled by the end of the collection. The items were then trucked to the area’s central reception area in Green Bay for final disposition.

Manitowoc County ranked second in the Green Bay district’s scrap aluminum drive. Winnebago County received the most in the collection efforts with 17,820 pounds. Manitowoc had 8,560 pounds, followed by Brown County with 7,240 pounds. According to the State Council of Defense, Wisconsin contributed more than 482,000 pounds to the scrap drive.

Manitowoc’s Empire Theater was built around 1921 by Theodore Gorychka, a native of in Poland who came to Manitowoc at the age of nine in 1892. The theater was remodeled and redecorated with a gala re-opening in September, 1933. At that time, it was operated by Arthur and Rose (Jonas) Vogel, who formally ran the Rivoli Theater in Two Rivers. The theater closed in 1956 and the adjoining Empire Grocery closed the following year.