Ervay Theater first opened its doors in 1946. It was the realization of a dream of an ex-GI, former Army Captain L. R. Robertson. With the help of the GI Bill, Robertson and a couple of fellow GIs created a real estate investment group with the aim of opening neighborhood theaters in the Dallas area. Ervay Theater operated as a successful first run movie theater for many years with a seating capacity of “about 600” including the balcony, which is still an integral part of the theater’s unique character and sight lines.
Ervay Theater: Since 1946, Glorious and Notorious
After WWII ended, Ervay Street was filled with optimism. A couple of years before construction began on The Ervay Theater, a building was commissioned at 1717 S. Ervay, next door to the NuGrape Bottling Company. A 34-year- old restaurateur from California leased the building before it was even finished so she could realize a dream of her own: Eva Grant’s Singapore Supper Club was a classy edition to a string of Ervay businesses designed to lure the hip late night set to the downtown fringe.
By 1946 Eva’s restaurant was such a success that she began petitioning her ex-GI brother to move from Chicago to Dallas to help her manage the supper club. Ervay Street was bustling, and she needed someone she could trust to make the best of the good times. So in 1947, around the time the newly built Ervay Theater was putting first run movies up on the big screen for the first time, an honorably-discharged Army private named Jack Rubenstein added his own substantial gravitas to his sister’s gamble and not only moved to Dallas, but moved into an apartment in the Singapore Supper Club building itself – right next door to Ervay Theater.
Soon after moving to Dallas, Eva’s brother shortened his name to Jack Ruby, telling authorities he was already well-known by that name. He quickly bought out his sister’s interest in the supper club and changed the name to the Silver Spur Club. He also transformed the business from a restaurant into a dance hall. Exactly how long he lived next door to Ervay Theater is unknown, but he maintained his affiliation with the business until 1955 when, under a new owner, the Silver Spur Clubclosed for good. During this time Ruby owned or managed several night clubs in the Dallas Area: The Vegas Club, The(former Bob Wills) Ranch House, The Sovereign Club, Hernando’s Hideaway, The Carousel Club. While some of these clubs were prominent striptease houses, the Silver Spur Club remained primarily a public dance hall throughout its life as an Ervay Street attraction.
Over the years much has been made over a shapely teen-ager who showed up on Ervay Street sometime in the late 1940’s. Born in 1935, Juanita Slusher was just 13 when she ran away from a broken home in Edna, Texas, to make her own way in the big city of Dallas. She was soon exploited and exposed to the dark ways of big city streets. By the time she was 15, she already had worked as a prostitute, appeared in a “blue film”, and had a husband in prison. Like many searching souls, her path through life was not a straight one.
Though no one was yet keeping exact records of this already notorious and soon-to-be famous teen’s movements, she worked as a waitress, an exotic dancer, and a prostitute interchangeably in the late 1940’s and early 50’s as she made her way in Dallas, and picked up the working name of Candy Barr. Ervay Street lore has it that Miss Barr danced next door at The Silver Spur, that she was perhaps even an attraction at Ervay Theater itself. But the truth is less sensational, a bit of sweetness in Candy Barr’s hard life.
Candy Barr often said that she became an exotic dancer not so much for the fame and money but because she loved to dance. When her waitress shift ended at an Ervay Street diner, she hit the nearby dance clubs to move with the music. The underage beauty from Edna was a frequent Silver Spur patron because “They stayed open until 4:00 in the morning, and they had rhythm and blues. I lived right around the corner and walked everywhere.” Candy Barr and Jack Ruby became friends because The Silver Spur was a good place to dance. In the coming years, he would certainly know what Candy Barr did for a living, but she was never employed by Jack Ruby. They were friends, and they maintained that friendship to the end.
By 1953 Jack Ruby had owned and sold a string of nightclubs. While he no longer lived above The Silver Spur, he was certainly an Ervay Street regular. The stress of owning and running more than one nightclub took its toll on Ruby. In 1952 he sold The Silver Spur and “hibernated” in a Dallas hotel room for several months, returning occasionally to Chicago. But by year’s end he owned the club again. In a twist, the details of which are lost in the past, he assumed management of Ervay Theater in 1953. No record can be found of how long he held the job, but one can imagine that The Ervay’s owner, ex-Army Captain Robertson, was happy to give his long time neighbor, an ex-GI himself, a job.
Speculation still abounds about who Ruby was and why he did what he did in 1963. But we can know this for certain: just a decade earlier, he was making a living showing cartoons and movies for Ervay Theater.