At the ripe old age of 23, I was hired by Joe Patten to prepare to reopen the 285-room Atlanta Fox as a legit house. Joe passed away this past April (2016), and his sister Patti recently gave me a bunch of his Fox stuff, including my file from that first season. I had no idea such a file existed.
Besides repairing the machines and systems that made the Fox unique, a great deal of my job back then took the form of survey and inventory, because written records were few and far between.
Examples of surviving records included the original water valve schedule,
the public assembly permit for the Egyptian Ballroom, which had operated as a dance hall for decades,
Some of my sketches were written on the back of the original stationery of Atlanta Landmarks, before they had a building to save.
A major task was to decide, in consultation with master volunteer Charles Walker (and with Joe Patten's approval, of course) the proper type and wattage lamps for the hundreds of light fixtures, which had been lamped down in the Fox' declining years as a movie house. The Fox was so immense that there was a entire basement room designated for lamp storage.
Every single lighting circuit had to be verified and new panel schedules created. The E (for Emergency) panel, located inside the basement power room and remotely activated from a switch in the Third foyer office, controlled key ornamental lighting fixtures throughout the place, as well as aisle, exit, and exterior lights. Originally this panel was provided with a massive battery backup, in case of power failure.
The Edison screw fuse sockets in these panels contained a stiff paper insulator, but constant overloads caused these to crumble, so that the circuit could remain hot, even if a fuse had blown. I discovered this while on a ladder in the Main Foyer, working on a fixture which dead shorted, but the circuit didn't blow, it just made a terrifically scary vibrating noise up in the ceiling.
|Floyd Kile photo|
I rushed to kill the cutoff switch in Office 3 before the building blew up. E panel switch, far right with the red bullseye.
We reopened the Fox on October 29, 1975 with Linda Ronstadt (an Alex Cooley attraction), and in preparation a technical specification for promoters had to be created. This list is probably what General Manager Ted Stevens and I wanted to include.
The tech spec:
As former building engineer Mister Hodges observed, "all the Fox needed was a good general cleaning," which was pretty much true, with a few exceptions. One bugaboo was that the auditorium sky surround lighting coves (and the sunrise/sunset effect) were totally out of commission due to melted and shorted wiring in the attic above the rear decorative canopy. I traced the dead circuits, but it wasn't until a few years later that Joe and licensed electrician Bob Lance pulled new wiring and got the effect in working order.
This is a study of the sky surround cove dimmer bank.
Courtesy Mitch Deutsch, here's a 1974 shot of the chaotic condition of that equipment atop the canopy.
A survey of the apron (as opposed to cyclorama) double-row footlights, showing Hub's intricate and typical circuit scheme.
A study for the possible replacement of the four main borderlights with connector strips. This never happened, and the lovely borders as well as their feeder cables were trashed after my time.
Lists, lists, lists. Fire pulls and fire hoses.
I believe this is in Charles Walker's handwriting (with my comment at the lower left) of a portion of the central vacuum system.
Master Volunteer Charles Walker in the attic. The security desk in the Main Foyer held a number of big flashlights which one checked out.
|Courtesy Mitch Deutsch|
Naming and numbering the 285 rooms was necessary for many reasons, and my system served as the basis for fire alarm indication as these staff meeting minutes of twenty years later reveals.
This preliminary schedule included a list of the existing locks and keying.
A refined schedule was used to record the numbers of the new locks with Best removable cores, installed by Joe's buddy and expert locksmith Breck Camp. Money was so limited, only a small percentage of doors were initially keyed to the new system.
The Variety club of Atlanta had occupied the former Shrine practice room off of the Arcade, and door VC 18 led to "the gambling room." Such clubs were necessary before liquor by the drink was legalized in Fulton County. The space is now known as the Spanish Room, a name Joe Patten thought up.
Replacement of light switches with key switches was another task I took on.
So obscure was the wiring of four-way switches (of which we had several) that I kept a cheat sheet on hand.
Harris "Rags" Ragsdale was a Local 41 stagehand and one of the two full time hands employed by the Fox in its final days as a movie house. One day he came to visit, and I interviewed him as to the 1929 stage crew. He talks of Lucas and Jenkins, who owned and operated the place for decades. One had a secret apartment, the other a secret "blue" screening room. Both rooms were in the dressing room tower, the stage door becoming the secret entrance.
Ted Stevens and Joe Patten hired security guards from the outside, so I prepared this memo and tour for new inductees. Hey, you only have to check 285 rooms, what the big deal? But rooms had to be checked in a prescribed sequence, or entire sections would be forgotten or missed by a newcomer.
Marquee letters, we never had enough, and of course it was a big marquee.
My notation "For Eyes Only" in this memo to Ted must have been a Watergate-based gag, although God knows that both he and Joe Patten were secretive managers.
Ted Stevens always claimed that I was a dead ringer for Bobby Driscoll (far right) in this publicity still from "Song of the South" that I found in a press file, and he captioned the shot on his IBM Selectric typewriter. This confusing photograph shows two actual patrons viewing the oversize Fox lobby display for the world premiere of this film in 1946.
This was a completed bid document to install proper stage lighting circuits and patch panel in the Egyptian Ballroom, but I don't think it ever happened.
Wil-kin was the service arm of Lucas & Jenkins, and they kindly gave us back their Fox blueprints. Joe Patten had been given a full electrical set by Cliff Clower a stagehand who had opened and spent his life at the Fox, and for a long time, that was all we had to go by.
Finally, one of my greatest accomplishments was getting the electro-mechanical House Phone system back into shape. This roster dates from shortly after my departure, circa 1977.
And that wonderful machine which never failed. It could handle fifty telephones with four talk circuits. It would give one a "busy back" if a phone was in use or if all talk circuits were engaged.
|Hal Doby photo|