In his article about air conditioning, Robert Friedman pointed out that before conditioning, attendance at movie houses and concert halls would decline dramatically during the summer heat and particularly so in cities like Washington, D.C., a city officially classified by the British Foreign Office as “subtropical.” My native city of St. Louis was similarly classified, and British consular officers received special subtropical pay for service there.
St. Louis beat the summer heat theatrically by various expedients. She offered spectacular outdoor theater at Forest Park’s Municipal Opera, the “Muni” having begun in 1917. In the 1930s the city became the permanent home of one of the last of the showboats, Captain Bill Menke’s Goldenrod . The first-run downtown and midtown movie palaces were “refrigerated.” But a unique Depressionera operation was the outdoor movie house. Many a neighborhood house had an adjoining outdoor area to provide “theater under the stars.” Such spaces enjoyed various names, including skydomes, airdomes and even airdromes .