Samuel B. Temple, 91, managed movie houses

February 17, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Samuel Brereton Temple, a retired theater owner who helped run the Durkee neighborhood movie house chain and managed its Annapolis and Anne Arundel County operations, died of heart disease Feb. 10 at the Brightwood Retirement Community in Lutherville. The former Guilford resident was 91.

He was born in New York City and moved to Baltimore with his family in 1926. He was a 1931 graduate of McDonogh School, where he earned letters in football and basketball and was captain of the baseball team. He earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

As a college student, Mr. Temple was a summer lifeguard -- one of eight members then of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. He was on duty in August 1933 when a hurricane struck the resort, and as part of his duties assisted elderly and disabled vacationers to safety. A year later, at a benefit dance at the old pier ballroom, he and fellow lifeguards were honored for saving 32 people that summer.

In 1935, Mr. Temple joined the old Fidelity and Guaranty Insurance Co. and later worked in the Baltimore and Salisbury offices of General Motors Acceptance Corp.

During World War II, Mr. Temple served with the Army Corps of Engineers in England, North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, in a combat engineering battalion. He attained the rank of major and was later recalled to serve in Korea.

Between the wars, Mr. Temple joined F.H. Durkee Enterprises of Baltimore, a neighborhood theater chain principally owned by the Durkee, Nolte and Pacy families, who jointly oversaw more than 20 city neighborhood, suburban and small-town film houses.

He had been introduced to the film business by his wife, the former Harriet Pacy, whom he married in 1939 and whose family owned the old McHenry and Garden theaters in South Baltimore.

"In its day, the 1950s, it was the largest movie circuit in Maryland," said theater historian Robert K. Headley, a retired Defense Department employee. "Until the very end, the theaters Mr. Temple helped manage were immaculate."

For more than three decades, Mr. Temple worked from a desk at the chain's headquarters in the old Arcade Theatre building in Hamilton.

"In a business that often can be vulgar and intense, Sam was always gracious, low-key and kind," said Thomas Kiefaber, a member of the Durkee family who owns the Senator Theatre on York Road. "For the movie business, he operated in a nontraditional manner."

Beginning in the 1950s, Mr. Temple assumed responsibility for Durkee's Anne Arundel film houses, including the Circle, on Annapolis' State Circle; the Capitol on West Street; Playhouse on Main Street; Eastport Cinema; and Parole Plaza, whose construction he supervised -- a building that is now an Outback Steakhouse. He retired in 1979.

"He never gossiped or cursed," said his brother-in-law, C. William Pacy. "He never discussed religion or politics. He never raised his voice or became angry. And he always steered the conversation toward you."

Mr. Temple was a communicant of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation.

His wife died in 1995. A son, Lee Brett Temple of Crestone, Colo., survives him.

Services were held Tuesday.

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