Comments from poroos

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poroos commented about Cine Latino on Apr 3, 2006 at 4:42 pm

With all the earthquake memories coming out this year; here’s another one: How the Wigwam Theater (later Rialto, Cine Latino, Crown) came to be…

My maternal Grandfather, Joe Bauer, tacked up the sign for the Hotel Burbank (sunk all his dough into it) on April 17th, 1906. On April 18th the earthquake didn’t get him but the fire did. He had four $5 gold pieces left.

With one $5 gold piece he bought, along with two partners, a teepee-shaped tent that they set up in GG Park and charged 5c a show for any entertainment they could bring in. They called it The Wigwam. GG Park had 10,000+ refugees from the quake/fire camped out there and they had nothing to divert them from their misery until the Wigwam came along.

This venture was successful and Joe Bauer bought out his partners and put up a bigger tent, another Wigwam “Theater”. This was even more successful and he then found land in the Mission and put up the first Wigwam Theater, built entirely of wood. Later, in about 1913, he put up the building that stands there now. He was a successful vaudeville theater operator and I have letters from the likes of Sid Grauman (Grauman’s Chinese in L.A.)and other west coast theater magnates asking JB to join their chain. He never did.

One of the vaudevillians he gave a break to was a young kid by the name of Asa Yolson who made something of a name for himself later by the name of Al Jolson. Jolson always played the Wigwam when he was in town. I have old registers with Jolson’s signature when he signed for his pay as all who played the Wigwam were required to do.

Joe Bauer sold the theater in 1925 and later built apartment houses on Nob Hill (wish we still had those!!) including Hillgate Manor on Taylor and Jackson that has the only private cable car turntable which is still used to turn cars in the parking garage.

I lived in the Mission all during the 90s and called the Crown theater owner several times to ask for a walkthrough. He always declined due to “insurance issues.” Would love to see the old Wigwam one day. You can still read the original sign from the back, looking from Capp St.