Rockford Area Historical Society News for 8-1-19

By Terry Konkle – President

In last week’s column I told readers that I was going to use some information from Rockford High School student newspapers from the 1960-61 and 1963-64 school years in columns. The paper was called “RAMPAGE” and consisted of four or five pages with printing  on both sides. A mimeograph machine was used to produce  the sheets which were stapled together with  the content  covering  different aspects of life at RHS. This week a section from the Spring  1964 paper will be used to show a part of Rockford school history which some may remember. The article entitled “The Youth Center” was written by Brent Jenkins, the school mayor at that time, and contained facts pertaining to the use of the “Star Theater” building as a Rockford High School Youth Center.

The “Star Theater” building was located on North Main Street behind what was then the “Sears-Coon” business (now Gliks). The theater had been a popular Rockford destination for years, but according to the newspaper account, the Rockford City Council purchased the building and was leasing it to the schools. The high school student council was to oversee the use of the location and sell memberships to those desiring to use it. The seats had been removed and the floor leveled, but there was a lot of painting and clean up that needed to be done. The movie screen was still in the building and movies could be shown.

Mayor Jenkins asked for student help with not only work, but also with furnishings like tables and chairs. There were plans for a Juke Box, a ping pong table and a pool table plus a snack bar. Dancing could be part of the activity because there was plenty of room. Plans were to open in the summer of 1964. At this point former students and others need to help me with what became of the idea. I remember the project and was in the building a few times, but can’t recall how long it was open or what happened to force a closing. Please contact me by email (tnjkonkle@hotmail.com) or phone at 616-866-0530 if you can supply additional information.

With the closing of the “Youth Center”,  the city still owned the building which, as readers know, was removed with the site becoming part of a downtown parking area. Over the years, I have discussed the history of the “Star Theater” in previous columns and still talk with John Oatley, whose family owned the business and who spent time working at the place. John has his views on the treatment of the building after it became a place for youth to frequent, and I will add them to what I may receive from readers.

In closing, I will again emphasize that the Rockford Area Museum (RAM) now has a new display on Grand Rapids South High School. It is up and ready for viewing. Please take the time to stop in and check it out!  Museum hours are 1-4 Tuesday, Wednesday,  Friday and Sunday: 10 A.M. to 4 on Thursday and 12-4 on Saturday. The RAM is closed on Monday. Also, please remember to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions, column ideas and corrections. HAVE A GREAT, POSITIVE WEEK!