HEBRON OPERA HOUSE - 110 South 5th Street
1877 –HEBRON OPERA HOUSE - 110 South 5th Street
In 1877, while Hebron was still a colony, talk had begun regarding the need for a building to house a library and reading room. A committee was appointed, W. J. Thompson, N.B. Coffman and Adam Werner began the planning. Within a few years, the corner lot at 5th and Lincon Ave. was purchased and plans for the library grew to include an Opera House. Construction was completed in 1882, featuring the “Majestic” sign above the entrance. The building was owned by the Hebron Hall Company. Company shares were $10 each and were all owned by citizens of Hebron. Officers were president, J. J. Malowney; treasurer, W. J. Thompson; secretary, N. B. Coffman; treasurer, W. J. Thompson; directors: E. S. Past, A.D. Werner, and F. M. Wetherald; and other members M. Savage, Henry Drum, and H. W. Werner. The enterprise was an ambitious one that illustrated the energy and progressive spirit of the people. The building was named the Hebron Opera House.
The total cost was $4,875 which included the building; scenery and mountings; furniture and stoves; and chandelier and lamps. The building was made of cream magnesia limestone cut from quarries along the Little Blue River, was 40 feet wide by 70 foot long, had an auditorium with balcony that seated 700 people, stage and gallery, library reading room, ticket office, with a kitchen and reading room in the basement.
1883 – OPERA HOUSE and LIBRARY DEDICATION
The new opera house opened its doors for the first time on February 9th, 1883, to a large crowd. The evening started with dancing followed by the dedication ceremony which included: a short address, original poem, an overture by the new orchestra, an anthem written for the occasion, piano solo, a comic opera, and numerous other activities. The Opera House would be used for community and school concerts, traveling musicians, theatrical and vaudeville performances. Vitascope motion pictures (slides shown in rapid succession) were first presented at the Opera House on April 27, 1989.
1885 -LIBRARY ASSOCIATION’S READING ROOM
A disagreement between the Hebron Hall Company and the Hebron Library Association resulted in a two-year delay in the opening of the public library and reading room. The Hebron Hall Company leased the room to the Library Association for $1.00 per month. A membership fee of $1.00 would help with the expense of rent, lights, books, paper, magazines, and a librarian.
1907 – E. M. FETTERMAN MOVES ELITE THEATER TO THE OPERA HOUSE
The Crystal Theater, on North 4th St., opened in 1907 featuring live plays. Operator Judd Marsh began showing motion pictures in 1908, it was later named the Elite Theater. Earl Gray and Clarence (Chick) Boyes ran the operation with Boyes taking over the operation in 1915 and adding an Airdome (inflatable tent) to operate in the hot summer months. The Airdome and the Elite Theatre ran until 1918.
The Elite Theater was sold to E. M. Fetterman of Lincoln, Nebraska. He decided to move the operation to the Hebron Opera House beginning on April 12, 1918, since the Opera House did not have a full-time projection booth. Fetterman continued his Saturday shows and rented the stage for school and community entertainment. Public meetings were also held in the theater.
1918- 1921 MAJESTIC THEATER & MOTION PICTURES
In 1918, Fetterman moved the projection booth to the balcony, out of the way of the audience. Silent movies were shown every Saturday and live entertainment was featured. Admission to a movie was between 18 and 22 cents with lower costs for children plus war tax. (The war tax was added to assist with the cost of World War 1.) Live entertainment could cost as much as 50 cents plus war tax to attend. Chick Boyes Players were a regular vaudeville act, the group presented 4-act mystery and comedy dramas. Motion pictures became the predominate form of entertainment in the late 1910’s. The Opera House, under the new management of S.H. Blair was remodeled and renamed as the Majestic Theater.
1926-1928- MAJESTIC UPGRADES
In 1926, Abe H. Records, who had run the local theater in Deshler, took over the Majestic. Records would be responsible for modernizing the theater with new seats, screen, and new pipe organ. In June 1928, a new projection machine that would also work for talking films, a combined victrola and radio tubes for amplification of sound, as well as upgraded the lighting were added. Records brought in the talkies to Hebron with “The Donovan Affair” on July 15, 1929. In October, more big news occurred when Leo, the MGM Lion, made a personal appearance at the theater.
1938-MAJESTIC THEATER EXTERIOR UPGRADES
With the continued improvements of the movie business, ABE Records put a new front on the building. The new front included a triangular canopy, covered with neon lights and a large neon Majestic Theater sign.
In September, 1945 A.H. Record sold the theater to Clarence Wright. Mr. Wright pledged to continue to show the best pictures available. Sept. 6, 1948, Wright sold the Majestic to Ernie Kassebaum.
1950-MAJESTIC THEATER UPDATED
Ernie Kassebaum, owner of the theater made major renovations which included replacing seating, new wiring, and interior redecorating. A new cycloramic screen was installed complete with new high intensity lighting and a new sound system. Total cost of the project was $8,000. Next on his list of upgrades was the installation of air conditioning.
1951 – HAROLD STRUVE PURCHASES MAJESTIC
On May 2, 1951, Harold Struve purchased the Majestic. Just two years later the former Opera House turned Majestic Theater and was destroyed by a tornado on May 9, 1953, along with many buildings in town. Struve constructed the Oregon Trail Drive-in Theater in Hebron, located near the current airport, which opened two months later so local residents didn’t have to drive to the Ritz Theater in Deshler to see movies.
Mr. Struve was determined to remodel the theater, kept the remodeling a secret until the grand opening in January 1954. The doors opened to a blaze of neon. The exterior was of red brick and Kansas limestone, with structural glass in the entryway. The interior was completely remodeled. Improvements were rest room facilities, ladies lounge, family room, drinking fountains, etc. The panoramic screen was 30 feet wide by 14 feet high. The theater is an example of Art Deco architecture. Harold and Lois Struve owned the Majestic until July 1996 when they sold it to Dennis and Carla Gebers.
2013 – THE ARTS COUNCIL OF THAYER COUNTY
In October, 2013 the theater was sold to The Arts Council of Thayer County. The Arts Council called on volunteers to assist with a total remodel. Many people came together to giving of their time and talents to make the theater what it is today. The theater now has two digital cinemas, a party room on the second floor, new seating, and a remodeled lobby. A mural painted by local artist Cindy Chinn is located in the lobby area. The theater current in operated by volunteers since purchased under the direction of the arts council.
The theater is an example of what can be accomplished when people come together for a common cause.
TWO WELL KNOWN HEBRON ENTERTAINERS
1922 – 1954 CLARENCE “CHICK” BOYCE TRAVELING SHOWS
Clarence “Chick” Boyes” was a popular showman and actor for more than 30 years. His start in show business came when he was in the 8th grade at Hebron and learned to play the trombone. A road show came to town and hired 12 young musicians, including Chick, to make noise for the show. The show manager offered them all jobs with the show, but only Chick was able to get permission from his parents to accept. His wages amounted to 15 cents a day for meals. So, the lad who left town with the nickname "Tubby" came back too thin to be recognized.
Chick continued school and after graduation in 1912 joined the Hillman Stock Company. He traveled with the show that summer and returned in the fall to teach at a rural school.
This, however, couldn't satisfy him and he went on the road again with the Ford North shows. It was at that time that he met and married his wife, Florence.
In 1922 he organized his own tent show, traveling in Nebraska and Kansas. He had a tent that could hold 1,000 people and played for a week in each town. One show earned the title of "The Rag Opera." His shows were widely known for being entertaining, clean, and popular for many years. His favorite expression before the shows was "The stage never disgraced anybody, but a lot of people have disgraced the stage." He played many shows at the Hebron Opera House & Majestic Theater. He also had a show that played at the old Strand and Lyric theaters in Lincoln. He later set up a big tent on West O, where for six years they performed such plays as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "The Bat."
In 1954 he folded his tent and went into semi-retirement with his wife in Hebron where he divided his time between cattle raising, handling his rental properties, and keeping up with the shows.
1947-MAXINE GATES APPEARED AT MAJESTIC IN “THE DARK HORSE”
Maxine Gates, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gates formerly from Hebron worked as an actress in Hollywood. While still attending high school in Hebron Miss Gates had her own dancing classes and show troupe which traveled thru the middle west. She was a protégé of the late Jean Harlow. Before becoming an actress on the screen, she had her own act, and played in hotels, night clubs and theaters from Vancouver, B.C. to Mexico City.
Gates was discovered by the comedy team Abbott and Costello during a nightclub performance at the Coconut Grove. They arranged for her to begin her career in the film industry, performing alongside them in “Here Come the Co-Eds” in 1945. From there she would go on to star in 45 feature films.
She appeared in films such as “The Dark Horse”, “The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” with Dick Haynes and Betty Grable, “Life’s for the Loving”, with Gene Kelly and Marie MacDonald, “My Girl Tisa”, “The Babe Ruth Story”, and more. With the advent of television, she became a familiar face appearing in numerous guest spots such as “The Gene Autry Show, “The Danny Thomas Show”, “Here’s Lucy”, “Rawhide” and others. On January 30, 1947, she appeared on the big screen at the Majestic Theater in “The Dark Horse.”
Gates was one of the founding members of the Canyon Theater Guild and was a celebrity spokeswoman for Shriners Hospital for Children.