Home » Coarsegold » History Mystery #102: Going to the Movies in North Fork
Image of the North Fork Movie Theater.
Do you know anything about the old Ponderosa Minarets movie theater in North Fork? Let us know!

History Mystery #102: Going to the Movies in North Fork


Submitted by Don Grove

The old Ponderosa Minarets movie theater on North Fork’s Main Street has been sitting idle for many years. This month’s History Mystery is about the memories of those who attended the theater. Please share your memories as comments here or as an email to NorthForkHistoryGroup@gmail.com.

We are also interested in knowing where you parked if you lived beyond walking distance to the theater. What was your favorite item from the snack bar? What was your favorite movie seen there? Do you remember any of the people who worked there? Is there anything else you remember as being interesting about the theater?

We have included some photos and a newspaper clipping that may help to bring those memories to mind.

The six organizations who prepare the History Mystery series each month enjoy the preparation and the new information we receive from you, our readers.  Occasionally we hear from someone who wants an answer to a local history question.  If you have a question you believe would make a good History Mystery, you are encouraged to send the question(s) with a pertinent photo or graphic to NorthForkHistoryGroup@gmail.com. If it is suitable for one of the six organizations, it could be used by them as one of their History Mysteries.









Follow-up to History Mystery 101
For our History Mystery #101 most of the comments were on the Sierra News online Facebook page. We had an email on our CHS@sti.net and they were correct, it is a wood and pierced tin foot warmer from the 19th Century.  You can find it online by using your search engine.

We had over a thousand views on the SNO website. Thank you to everyone for your guesses. Come and see us at the Coarsegold Museum about 3 miles south of Coarsegold on Highway 41 we have many more historical items on display as well as a new display on the Harlow Fire of 1961.

Submitted by Karen Morris, President CHS


  1. Comments from SNO Facebook page:

    Emily Kratzer
    Saw “Sounder” there – not a great experience – audio was sketchy. For a while, The North Fork Journal was located in offices there for a time.

    Rita Gaasch
    This was the place to go on Friday. Saw news reels during the 50s and 60s. Always a cartoon. Saw slot of John Wayne’s movies . And even Peyton Place(controversial at the time) Lots of good memories.

    Author Sierra News Online
    Rita Gaasch – thank you!

    Richard Sprouls
    Here is a poster I got at a yard sale in North Fork just doors down from the theater. In the nineties. Also I was one of the projectionist in 1969+70. My claim to fame was I glued the Dr Dolittle preview on backwards and ran it that way. I was famous for a couple of days.
    This image cannot be displayed here. To see it go to the SNO Facebook page.

    Sierra News Online
    Richard Sprouls thank for your contribution!

    Kim Anders Gould
    I worked there and Bass Lake Theater in ‘76-It was pretty creepy after everyone left and we cleaned up. Us teenagers did not appreciate young kids being dropped off by parents, and we had to supervise them. I loved it though. They had Easter egg hunts and Children’s movies then also. I always give it a wave when I’m in NF.❤️????

    Gena Coffman Fabris
    I loved going to the North Fork theater when I was growing up. ❤

  2. Comment from Bob McKee & NFHG reply:

    Paul Barnes was one of the several projector operators for the old theatre. Paul invited me to the old theater projection booth some 25 years ago up on the second floor when he heard that I was quite familiar with the ancient “Carbon Arc” projectors installed at the theater.

    During my Navy tour stationed in Kodiak, Alaska mid 1960’s, I was in charge of maintenance of the same exact type projectors for the Navy Radio and TV station. Basically there were two large carbon pointed cylinders of opposite electrical polarity mounted behind the optics. When drawn close together and not quite touching they drew a blinding arc of light used for illuminating the movie film. Effective, but really old school, one had to wear special glasses to avoid being blinded or look away.

    I do wonder where the magnificent aged projectors ended up, maybe at the Oakhurst Met Cinema museum, Smithsonian, maybe sadly off into the landfill.

    A few years earlier when visiting my parents Bob and Loretta Mckee from our home in San Diego, some 35 years ago. I remember attending a movie at the old theater, can’t remember the title. I do, however, remember the damp musty scent plus the freshly popped popcorn. The parking was a challenge on Main Street.

    Hopefully the new owner, Dan Gamel, will restore the old building and offer up the stage, curtains, and slanted sitting for our local civic organizations for plays, entertainment, etc as I heard him once suggest.

    Bob Mckee,

    dang I am almost qualified to be something that the History Group would refer to when describing North Fork history .
    Reply to Bob:

    Hi Bob,
    Thank you so much for the memories and history about the old theater. I’m passing the information on to Don Grove to add to the comments on History Mystery #102 and I will print a copy for our files.
    Yes, you definitely are qualified as a historian of North Fork. I encourage you to send us any other memories or history information on North Fork. It is all part of gathering, preserving and sharing our history.
    Connie Popelish
    Secretary/Treasurer of the North Fork History Group

  3. Alan Garton
    Sep 8, 2021, 5:05 PM

    to NorthForkHistoryGroup

    I remember seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey at the theater in North Fork, along with the Christmas movies as a student at North Fork Union School.

    My dad, Clyde Garton, ran the theater from around 1953 to around 1960, before the Ayers family reopened it in the 1970s.

    Several years ago, when I still lived in North Fork, I donated a set of handbills from the old theater, when my Dad ran it, to Phil Ellis, who was then with the North Fork History Group. I hope that those hand bills are still with the group, they were in a binder.

    I grew up 2 doors down from the theater, in the house that is now the Jackass Hostel. This was a very convenient place for my folks to live when they ran the theater. My dad, Clyde, met my mom, Vivian, when he hired her to take tickets at the theater.

    My dad ended up going out of business in the early 60’s with the theater, and had actually taken a job at North Fork School as the head cook in the cafeteria, which was then located in the Gym, the building that is now the town hall.

    When my brother and I were kids, we used to play by the theater building, run up and down the tall steps in the back, and ride our bikes on the paths in front.

    Our next door neighbor, in the house nearest the theater building, lived Sparky and Pearl Bryars. Sparky was a bus driver at the school, but he also had some Engineering training, and helped build the theater building. He also surveyed and helped engineer the road from the Mammoth Pool Trailer Park up to Saginaw Creek.

    These are some of my memories about the theater, anyway.

    As a side note, I read to Sierra News Online occasionally to see how the old home town is doing, and a while back, there was a history mystery about Camp Lisenby, a CCC camp during the 30s. I had never heard of this camy, although I had heard of the camp past the post office on Rd 222, so I did a bit of research, and discovered that Camp Lisenby was actually at the San Joaquin Experimental Range on Hwy. 41 just north of the 22 Mile house.

    Alan Garton

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