PORT LAVACA – Teenagers who work at the Twin Dolphins Theater don’t have a point-of-sale system that will tell them how much a customer who orders a large popcorn and Coke owes.

They learn to add in their head and to count back change.

Nancy Walraven likes how that’s one thing that hasn’t changed since she started there as a teenager in the ’70s.

“I’ve had kids say that they are better at math after working here because they’ve had to use their minds instead of their cellphones,” said Walraven, who now owns the theater with her husband, Harold.

Twin Dolphins is the latest recipient of the Port Lavaca Pride Incentive Grant.

Established three years ago and with a budget of $25,000, the grant encourages businesses that face SH 35, Main Street or SH 238 to make visually appealing improvements by giving them between $5,000 and $10,000, City Engineer Jody Weaver said.

Twin Dolphins received $10,000 to repair its marquee destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

Walraven was thankful because the quote she received to repair the sign from VMC Signs Inc. in Victoria was for $21,866.50, and the theater has never been a moneymaker.

“It’s more of a ‘we keep it going because the town needs it’ thing,” she said.

She owns Lavaca Bay Insurance, formerly known as Pfiel Insurance. It’s attached to the theater so she can accept deliveries and help theater employees during the day. Her husband, meanwhile, works as an asset manager for Orion Marine. Neither takes a salary from the theater.

They bought it from Harold Walraven’s parents in 1995. The elder Walravens owned it since 1975.

The theater, which was built in 1972, has two screens that each seat about 200 people, and over the years, the couple has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve it.

For example, the Walravens are still making payments on switching from film to digital in 2011.

So, they were hesitant to replace the sign.

They had noticed most new theaters don’t have signs. They had also replaced it several times already, once after Hurricane Claudette in 2003.

“We kept going back and forth,” Walraven said. “We thought about going digital and then about putting the sign on the top of the building to open up the parking lot and not have it so susceptible to the wind.”

In the end, they decided to give the people what they want.

The new sign will be like the old, with black letters illuminated from behind that spell out the movies currently showing.

“It’s kind of an icon thing out here in Port Lavaca,” she said.

But then another expense crept up.

The theater’s parking needed to be smoothed out after years of rainfall from SH 35 had passed over it and drained into Lynn’s Bayou.

The cost to do that was a whopping $32,500.

Now, with that behind them and with the money from the city, they can move forward with the sign.

Port Lavaca resident Steve Bales often sees movies at Twin Dolphins with his grandchildren, who range in age from 10 to 21. He most recently caught “Avengers: Endgame” there with his eldest grandchild and continued their tradition of taking a selfie before the curtains swung open, lights dimmed and previews rolled.

“That’s kind of our thing,” the former editor of the Port Lavaca Wave said.

Bales had several reasons why he preferred Twin Dolphins: It’s close, it’s family-owned and tickets and concessions are cheaper. He said he’ll be glad to see the sign again.

“I hope they can get it back to what it looked like originally,” he said.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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