Babe Morgan said he remembers the Yam as the Saturday night hot spot in Portales about “50, 60 some odd years ago.”
But recently members of the Portales Mainstreet Organization gave him a reason to see a future for age-old theater, located in the 200 block of South Main Street.
“There wasn’t a show I missed when it (the Yam) was open,” said Morgan, who has worked most of his life at Herb’s barber shop directly across the street from the Yam. “It was the happening place on Saturday nights, with large crowds up and down Main Street for the midnight showing.”
Members of Mainstreet recently bought the building, and are seeking grants to refurbish the theater that once thrived from the late 30s to mid-50s.
The roughly $500,000 project could be complete in three to five years as long as funding is available, according to Greg Erf, a Mainstreet member spearheading the project.
“The goal of the Mainstreet organization is to try to liven up our downtown area,” Erf said. “One of the reasons we took on this project is because there is a high potential that we can get some money for that.”
One entity Mainstreet officials hope to receive money form is the National Preservation Organization.
“The National Preservation Organization has actually put theaters like this on sort of an endangered species list,” Erf said. “They have made a statement that structures like these are disappearing, mainly because rural towns are disappearing.”
If the proposed project comes to fruition, Erf said it would be a multi-purpose theater that could act as a place for weekend plays by local talent, and possibly even a dinner theater. The Yam could also be used for family reunions, theater camps, wedding receptions and reruns of older movies, he said.
The first phase of the project, Erf said, is to build front of the theater to its original style, a 1930s art-deco look amid blinking lights and a ticket counter.
Three months ago, Mainstreet members applied for a $600,000 grant for the project, but Erf isn’t expecting to receive the entire pot of money.
Erf said he will know how much, if any money, they receive in about three months.
Mainstreet is a non-profit, private organization. Money for projects does not come from taxpayer dollars, Erf said, and donations to the organization are tax-deductible.