1/11/2004 MILLER TIME: Sidney
Miller chose hometown over Tinsel Town
Sidney Miller may have left the theater business for apartment ownership,
but he couldn't bear to leave Corsicana for California. Daily Sun
By MICAH CHAPLIN/Daily Sun Staff
Sidney Miller is deeply rooted in
Corsicana. So deep, in fact, that
he once turned down a terrific job offer in California because he couldn't stand
to leave his hometown.
"All my family was here," Miller said. "I just couldn't
Thus, Miller rejected the offer from Warner Brothers
and stayed in Corsicana to start his own picture show. Movies had peaked his
interest long before Warner Brothers, however.
After graduating from Corsicana High School in
Miller went to work at
Bank as an elevator operator.
"Those were the days when there was no heat and the
winters were brutal," Miller said. "I stayed sick all the time. Finally, my
doctor told me I couldn't work there anymore."
So Miller went to talk to the owner of the bank.
"He told me I should go work in picture shows," Miller
said. "I'd always been crazy about picture shows."
Miller's boss wrote letters of recommendation for
Miller and sent them to all of the theaters in town, but none would hire him.
"Just to get work, I had to work for free," Miller
said. "I worked at the
Palace for free for a long time. Once I finally got on the payroll, I made
$1.70 a week. That was in 1936, things weren't very good at that time."
He quickly became assistant manager, and ended up
working at the Palace for seven years. He remembers well the night the Palace
"They called me at midnight and told me. I didn't
believe it, I had to go down there and see for myself," he said. "I still
couldn't believe it. The balcony had fallen in. So much damage and all from one
At the time of the Palace's demise, Miller said they
were in the process of building another theater -- the Rio. The Rio was located
on Beaton Street, and because of it's location, they did tremendous business.
"There were many nights when we sold more than 2,000
sacks of popcorn for a nickel each," Miller said. "We would take the machine
outside on the street and sell it to not only the movie-goers, but to people on
Several more theaters would drift in and out of
Miller's life and career, including the Starlight, the Ideal and the Hillside
"I built the Starlight in 1946 for the black community.
That's when theaters were still segregated," he said. "It was called the
Starlight, because when it opened, we didn't have enough money for a roof. It
stayed open for 11 years."
Then, he bought the Ideal.
"It was so much more of a theater than the Palace. It
was simply magnificent," he said. "It had a big lobby and all the great stage
shows were there. Houdini, Will Rogers, Gene Autry. All the big shows came
The Ideal was located on Fifth Avenue, where an empty
lot stands today.
In 1950, Miller built the Hillside Drive-In between
Interstate 45 and 15th Street, where Carmack Watkins Construction resides today.
"I never thought drive-in theaters would go out of
style, but they did," he said.
In 1963, Miller sold out of the theater business and
went into owning apartments. He still holds onto fond memories and memorabilia
from his theater days, however. The theater was his first love, and his wife
Jane doesn't mind being his second.
"You can't imagine the wonderful life I've had being
married to him," she said. "And he didn't even want to go with me at first."
Jane first encountered Sidney when he was working at
the Rio with her brothers. At that time, Sidney was 21 and Jane was just 15.
"He didn't want to go with a kid," Jane said. "But I
thought he was so handsome."
Jane moved away and was married for five years. When
she divorced and returned, she told a friend that surely no one would want her
now. The friend knew otherwise, however, and re-introduced Sidney and Jane. And
on Feb. 1, 1954, they were married.
"He's a wonderful man," Jane said. "When my mother and
grandmother were still alive, he used to cook for my mother and grandmother just
to make sure they were eating right."
The Millers have one daughter, Melissa Krause, who
lives in Dallas, and a grandson Miller, 7.
"We told Miller he would inherit the apartments when we
were gone, and he looked around and said, 'it's going to need a lot of work. And
a new roof,'" Jane said. "We all just laughed. He's only 7 and saying all this."
But the Millers aren't gone yet, and they aren't done
seeing the world, even though they've already seen most of it. They travel every
chance they get and have visited almost every continent and dozens of countries.
For their Golden Wedding Anniversary, they are going to Easter Island for a
"You name it, we've been there," Sidney said.
No matter where they travel, however, the Millers only
call one place home -- Corsicana.
Micah Chaplin may be contacted via e-mail at
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