After holding its first meeting in December, the Port Theatre Foundation has welcomed its latest member and the board is already solidifying plans for the future.
The founding members, who include Jimbo Collins, Dolores Windolf, Anna Duren and Phillip Croton, have welcomed Tom Goldsmith to the board of directors.
Goldsmith, Port St. Joe High School Class of 1987, will join the discussions that will ultimately lead to the historic Port Theatre building becoming a central location for movies, live theatre, weddings and graduation ceremonies.
Goldsmith worked at the St. Joe Paper Mill and Raffield Fisheries and spent seven years as a telecom technician in the U.S. military, serving in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and the Gulf War.
Upon returning to Port St. Joe, Goldsmith opened Beachy Keen custom framing and gallery on Reid Avenue next to the Port Theatre.
Also a photographer, Goldsmith will soon open a portrait studio.
"I couldn't think of a more beautiful and diverse location to live and be able to shoot my pictures," said Goldsmith. "We are thrilled to have something happening with the theatre and look forward to being involved with its community endeavors."
Collins, who is under contract to be the next owner of the theater, met with Rick Ott last week regarding the filming of live music performances at the venue.
Ott is owner of “From the Heart of Sopchoppy Music Hour”, a show televised on WFSU which is the equivalent of Austin City Limits and features artists from the North Florida area.
“I’ve looked at the Port Theatre for several years,” said Ott. “I love Port St. Joe and Gulf County.”
Once Ott heard Collins’ plans to open the venue back up to live performances, he got in touch to see how soon he could begin recording.
Ott has recorded many music performances in his career including shows at the Monticello Opera House in Jefferson County and a month’s worth of performances in Ireland. He’s previously recorded in Gulf County and said that he looks forward to returning.
Collins said he hopes that Ott would be able to record three shows a year to be broadcast on WFSU to bring additional awareness to the area.
“The goal is to (reeducate) the people in the community with this wonderful old historic asset,” said Collins.
He went on to say that a town hall meeting would soon take place so that the board of directors could better understand what the community wants the Port Theatre to be.
Collins is also focused on preserving the history of the building and will soon put out a call for anyone who frequented the theatre during its movie heyday from the 1940s and beyond.
“I want to preserve recollections that the citizens have,” said Collins. “Especially those who are in the autumn of their lives.
“If we don’t get them now, they may be lost forever.”
Port St. Joe native Tom Parker, considered by Collins to be the “unofficial historian” of the theatre, was an employee from 1943 until 1945 and has shared many memories and stories about the building.
“I think people will be interested in the theatre reopening,” said Parker. “People would reach out to any type of activity going on here.”
Parker said he was present in 1938 when the theatre opened its doors for its inaugural showing of the film “Gold Diggers in Paris” and began working as a projectionist at the age of 12 with his best friend Billy Howell.
Parker said that he left his job at a drugstore to work at the theatre, where he worked four hours a day, seven days a week. His take was $25 per week.
“That was big money at the time!” said Parker with a laugh. “I enjoyed it so much.”
He also recalled the kids who came to the theatre and said there was always lot of smooching going on.
Those who may have early memories of the theatre can share them by calling the Port Theatre Foundation at 227-8122.