The Orpheum Theatre

Hammond, Indiana





  The Last Picture Show - 1952 Orpheum News Story on Closing


Yes, Virginia!! There really was an Orpheum Theatre in Hammond! This fine theatrical venue, located on East State Street in downtown Hammond, was the real site of Jean Shepherd's "Leopold Doppler and the Great Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot."

When I was a teenager, I happened to come across a story by Jean Shepherd, published in Playboy magazine, about the Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot. It struck me as being so funny that I had to share it with my mother one morning as we sat in the kitchen. Doing so was a confession that I had been reading the cultural smut publication of its day, but I thought that by my telling her about Jean Shepherd's great story, I would reveal that I was truly reading the literature and not just thumbing through the photographs of bare-breasted women.

I went through every detail of the story as to how the Orpheum manager, Leopold Doppler, enticed women during the Depression to attend movie matinees by handing out an inexpensive dinnerware. The entire promotion came to a halt, I explained, when Doppler handed out gravy boats after the dinner plates failed to arrive on schedule.  

This very rare picture is taken from the stage
of the Orpheum Theatre in Hammond, Indiana.

 He encouraged the ladies to return next week, bringing their gravy boats to exchange for the sought-after plates. After four weeks of the same story, however, the women could bear it no longer. As Doppler got up on stage during the intermission to explain yet another mix up in the shipment, Shepherd writes,


"Then it happened. A dark shadow sliced through the hot beam of the spotlight, turning over and over and casting upon the screen an enormous magnified outline of a great Gravy Boat. Spinning over and over, it crashed with a startling suddenness on the stage at Doppler's feet. Instantly a blizzard of Gravy Boats filled the air.

"Ladies! Please! We will exchange..."

A great crash of Gravy Boats like the breaking surf on an alien shore drowned out his words. And then, spreading to all corners of the house, shopping bags were emptied as the arms rose and fell in the darkness, maniacal female cackles and obscenities driving Doppler from the stage."


With that act of protest, the women unleashed a flurry of gravy boats that resulted in Leopold Doppler's downfall.

My mother sat calmly throughout my story and when I was finished, she got up, went over to the cupboard and brought out a plate that had been stored away. "Your Grandmother and I used to go every week!" she confessed.

The Orpheum Theatre was still there in the 1950's. As a paperboy for The Hammond Times, I used to collect my paper route money on Saturday morning and take the bus to downtown Hammond to pay my paper bill. For lunch I would treat myself to a 35-cent chocolate malt at Walgreen's (the big one, served in a tall metal container), check out the newest comic books at the Woolworth store before walking over to the Orpheum Theatre to watch their latest movie. I especially liked the WWII submarine movies which always seemed to end up at the Orpheum. I liked to think that the theatre manager and I had a common appreciation for the true classic movies.



For a complete account of this historical event, read "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash!", by Jean Shepherd