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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Medford Opera Houses


    When will people learn that the style of stamping their feet on the floor to express appreciation at a concert, of some tableaux, act, speech or song would better become audiences attending exhibitions in a cockpit or a prize ring? How much more elegant it is to clap the hands or wave a clean pocket handkerchief on such occasions. This foot-stamping belongs exclusively to political conventions, and the lower circle of variety shows.
Ashland Tidings, April 21, 1877, page 3


    Mount Pitt is on canvas at last, Angle & Plymale having had the grand peak, with Fish Lake in the foreground, painted as the center scene on the fine drop curtain at their opera hall.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 26, 1890, page 3


    The ladies of the Episcopal Guild held a bazaar and ice cream festival at the opera house last evening, in which many ladies and gentlemen of Medford took a lively interest. It was a handsome affair and netted a neat sum.
    Your correspondent last week omitted to state that a female minstrel troupe performed at the opera house not long since. The audience was not as large as the quality of the show deserved. There was not a woman in the house, which would ordinarily seem surprising, as the performance was such as would not offend the most fastidious. Those evil-minded individuals who attended to witness something naughty were considerably disappointed.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 26, 1892, page 2


The Coming of Madeline Merli.
    Madeline Merli, the distinguished artist, now en route to San Francisco, will present her new European production at the opera house at Medford on next Thursday evening. "The Story of a Kiss" is a distinct acquisition to the literature of the stage. It is a departure from the rut which countless predecessors have worn deep. There is a refreshing sense of novelty about it; a directness and sincerity of purpose much to be commended. There is no precocious stage child, upon whose infantile prattling the climax of a scene depends, in this piece. No meretricious exaggeration is used to brighten a situation. Nor is there any dependence placed upon melodramatic incidents. On the contrary, the author has portrayed a phase of life as it is lived today, with which the majority of its auditors are very familiar. The company has many strong characters; is strictly American and forms one of the strongest casts seen here in a play of this kind for years. Special trains will be run between Medford and Jacksonville.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, December 8, 1893, page 3



    Hons. W. M. Colvig, J. H. Stewart and other candidates on the Democratic ticket will address the citizens of Jackson County at the opera house in Medford on Saturday afternoon, June 2d.
    Memorial exercises were held at the opera house in Medford by the members of the Chester A. Arthur post, G.A.R., and the W.R.C. All the ministers in the town were present and assisted in the ceremonies. A large audience from Medford and Jacksonville and vicinity were present.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, May 31, 1894, page 3


    If Medford parents could see and hear their children as others do, there would be less of boisterous conduct at public entertainments in the opera house. An encore or applause is all very right and proper when deserved, but prolonged whistling, shouting or stamping of feet is an act far beneath the conduct of a true gentleman. Boys can be little gentlemen if they will, and no better place is there to show this spirit of manliness than at a public entertainment. If parents do not take their wayward and boisterous children in hand at these public gatherings and see that they do not disturb those who go there to listen to the speakers, the marshal will be called upon to eject them from the hall.
"News of the City," Medford Mail, May 25, 1894, page 3


    Manager C.O. Damon, of the Medford opera house, has arranged for a series of attractions--six in number--for the coming winter season. The first of these will be The Artist Trio, comprising Miss Laura McManis, the world's greatest whistling soloist, Miss Cornelia May, reader and pantomimist and Miss Julia Phelps, harp soloist and pianist. These people will probably appear about November 1st. Following them--about a month later--will appear Captain Jack Crawford, the poet-scout, late chief of scouts of the United States army. It was Mr. Crawford who wrote "Private Brown," a story which a few months ago was published in these columns. After him will come Mr. Benjamin C. Chapin, impersonator and dramatic interpreter. Still later the Aramenti Concert Co., headed by the celebrated prima donna of New York, Mme. Julia Aramenti. And a month later than this "Brooks and Macy"--Fred Emerson Brooks, the California poet-humorist, J. Williams Macy, the New York buffo basso and humorist. Mr. Damon is entitled to a liberal patronage for the enterprise displayed in securing a visit from these able entertainers.
"News of the City," Medford Mail, September 27, 1895, page 5



    The opera house was in use for eight consecutive nights during the holidays. The festivities were conducted under the auspices of different societies of our town.
"Medford Squibs," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, January 6, 1898, page 3


    The Bates Comedy Company, an array of thespians such as seldom breaks in upon the quiet of our little city, dropped in one day last week, played a star engagement--and dropped out again. They must have dropped out, for they certainly didn't have enough in the way of box receipts to enable them to get out in any of the usual ways. The Nash Hotel, the management of the opera house and The Mail are "out" in a sum aggregating about $50. The aggregation was billed to play two nights here, and on the first evening had a fair house, but there was not the wild rush for tickets on the second evening which the manager had expected and the show was declared off. From here they went to Jacksonville and showed two nights--with results very like those realized in Medford. Sunday morning they went to Gold Hill by team and showed there Sunday night.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, April 27, 1900, page 7



    Considerable complaint is heard of late about the Medford opera house--not particularly about the house itself, but because of the fact that it is not being sufficiently lighted and heated. The management of the house should, we think, endeavor to make it as comfortable for the public as possible. Upon the public depends its support, and since Medford citizens are showing an inclination to encourage theaters and other forms of amusement, it is but natural that they would expect some consideration at the hands of those whose interests they advance by so doing.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, January 11, 1901, page 7


    Wm. Angle has had the Medford opera house wired, and not less than twenty electric lights, a portion of which will be thirty-two candlepower, will be put in at once.

"Purely Personal,"
Medford Mail, March 22, 1901, page 6


    The Fraternal Union of America celebrated the first anniversary of their organization in this city, last Saturday evening, with a big supper, music and dancing. The festivities were held in the opera house, their lodge room being too small to accommodate the large crowd in attendance. The ladies of the order served supper from six o'clock in the evening until nearly midnight, for which they charged a small sum, according to the extent of the order, by which method they defrayed their expenses, besides having a few dollars for their treasury. Booths of fir trees were arranged along the wall, from which ice cream and other refreshments were sold, and these, too, were well patronized. The music for the occasion was furnished by the high school band.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, June 14, 1901, page 7


    The opera house was well filled on Saturday evening to witness the athletic entertainment. There was some disappointment on account of changes in the program, but this was no fault of the management, as two local boxers who had agreed to appear failed, for some reason, to show up. L. C. Narregan made a short address defining the object of the entertainment, then H. W. and W. Jackson opened the performance with a five-round exhibition, and showed considerable cleverness. The wrestling match between Rumley and Bonar was won easily by the former, neither man showing any great proficiency. The barrel contest between Tobe Brouse and Arthur Robinson was productive of much merriment and resulted in a draw. "Kid" Gannon of Portland and Frank Freeman, of Spokane, sparred ten rounds to wind up the show. Neither man extended himself much, but there were occasional very clever bits of sparring. The contest was awarded to Freeman in the fifth round on a foul, but on mutual agreement the men went the balance of the ten rounds. The Medford band furnished excellent music for the occasion. The door receipts were over $90.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, December 6, 1901, page 9


    Dr. Payne has been giving hypnotic exhibitions three nights during the week at the opera house to good-sized audiences. The tests shown by the doctor are very interesting, and he displays a complete mastery of his profession. On Wednesday evening the subject, who had been sleeping in the window of the Medford Book Store, was awakened, having first been placed in a cataleptic state by Dr. Payne and then returned to a normal condition, the operator explaining each step as he proceeded. Afterward a large class was placed under the influence and they performed many laughable feats. The special features Thursday evening were "the murder trial and courtroom scene" and "the baseball match." The antics of the different subjects afford a good evening's entertainment, aside from scientific interest of the experiments. Dr. Payne expects to fill a return date here in the near future.

"Additional Local," Medford Mail, December 20, 1901, page 6


    Councilman J. R. Wilson has placed an order for lumber to be used in the construction of a building on its vacant lots, opposite his blacksmith shop, corner South C and Eighth streets. The structure will be of wood and will be built along the west side of the lots, facing Eighth Street. It will be 40x100 feet in size, one story high and will in all probability be used for assembly purposes.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, March 7, 1902, page 7


    An "Uncle Tom's Cabin" company gave an entertainment at the opera house Friday night of last week. Those who attended were disappointed because of the fact that the show was cut short to enable the company to catch the 11:52 southbound passenger train. This is an imposition which several other shows have heaped upon the entertainment-attending people of Medford during the last two years. It is not a safe proposition to pay your money to any show aggregation which lays its plans to leave the city by this train. They almost always either cut the performance short or hurry through them in a manner which makes farcical an evening's entertainment which, if handled rightly and not hurriedly, would have afforded the ticket holders good value for their money.

    While Terry's Uncle Tom's Cabin Company was giving its performance in the opera house last Friday evening, Jack Loar became excited in an argument with some of the young men who occupy the back seats in the opera house, and used some rather expressive language. Policeman Fredenburg arrested him, and he gave bail for his appearance before Recorder York the next morning. He was fined $2.50. This is a habit that is practiced entirely too freely among the youths of this city, and a few more of these cases will no doubt break them of this obnoxious and disturbing habit.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, March 21, 1902, page 7


    The Frank Cooley Company concluded a very successful engagement of four nights at the opera house on Saturday evening last. The company has a repertoire of strong plays, which are presented in first-class shape by the interpreters. The company is a well-balanced one, and the support given Mr. Cooley in the leading roles had much to do with the favorable opinion it created. Every role from the star to the smallest in the cast was intelligently interpreted and pleasingly presented. It is safe to say that if Mr. Cooley should ever play a return date in Medford he will be heartily welcomed by our theater-going people. In this connection it might not be out of the way to say that much of the pleasure of theatrical performances in Medford is lost by the faulty acoustical construction of the opera house, so that many good shows give this city the go-by, and also many people stay away from entertainments because they cannot hear. It is rather more than a rumor that there is under contemplation the construction of a new opera house in the not far distant future.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, March 28, 1902, page 7


    J. R. Wilson is having rock hauled for the foundation to his new assembly hall, on Eighth Street.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, April 4, 1902, page 7


    Councilman J. R. Wilson has stone masons at work on the foundation for his new opera house, or assembly hall. The stage for this building will be 24x50 feet in size and the audience room 40x76 feet. There will be a gallery about 14x40 feet in size, and at a date later than this immediate construction he will continue the gallery on each side of the hall. The main audience room will be seated with chairs. The posts will be 16½ in height, and the ceiling will be arched. Mr. Wilson proposes that this building shall be a credit to the city in every particular and one in which the best shows that travel can find good accommodations.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, April 18, 1902, page 7


    The stone work for the foundation of J. R. Wilson new opera house is being pushed right along. The stage for this building will be 24x50 feet in size and the audience room 40x76 feet. There will be a gallery about 14x40 feet. Medford has for a long time needed a good opera house, and Mr. Wilson proposes to make his building up to date and one that will be a credit to the city.
Medford Enquirer, April 19, 1902, page 5



    Work began today on J. R. Wilson's new opera house, in this city. The structure is of wood. The main auditorium is 40x80 feet, with a 40x12-foot gallery, and a 50x35-foot stage. The work will be rushed rapidly, in order to have the building fully completed by June 1.

"Fine New Medford Building," Morning Oregonian, Portland, May 9, 1902, page 4



    The basketball fad has reached Southern Oregon, and Medford will have one of the first clubs. J. E. Enyart and Dr. Butler are promoting the organization, which will probably use Wilson's opera house.
"Local Notes,"
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, June 12, 1902, page 5


Medford's New Opera House.
    Work on the Wilson Opera House, as it is to be called, is being pushed by a large force of carpenters under the personal supervision of the owner of the building, J. R. Wilson. It is expected to have the carpenter work completed in another week, but before the painting and plastering is done a grand ball will be given in the opera hose under the auspices of the Medford Fire Department.
    It is a conceded fact that the Wilson Opera House will be the finest building, best furnished and equipped, and safest hall in case of fire, of any public hall in Oregon south of Salem. The main floor is 40x66 feet, affording ample space for dancing or other like amusements, and it will have chairs for 500 persons, and the galleries, which extend across the back end and halfway along each side of the room, will seat 200, giving a total seating capacity for the opera house of 700, but in case of necessity space can be had for at least 100 more chairs. The stage floor is 24x50 feet with the ceiling 17½ feet in the clear, allowing plenty of stage room for the actors and the scenery of any company that may appear in Medford. The entire space of 24x50 feet beneath the stage will be fitted up with dressing and toilet rooms with stairs to reach each of them at the end of the stage. No effort will be spared to make the dressing rooms' conveniences perfect and to fully meet the requirements of all who may use them.
    The building has a substantial stone foundation beneath it, so there will be no possibility of its ever settling and becoming dangerous from that cause. The ceiling and the walls down to the wainscoting are to be plastered and to have a hard finish. The ceiling of the auditorium is arched, thus giving the room a graceful and airy appearance, and it is thought that it will add to the acoustic properties of the hall, which are expected to be perfect. The building will be heated by a furnace and lighted by electricity, and special care has been taken to secure thorough ventilation. Over the main entrance on Eighth Street a balcony has been built where bands can give concerts before the regular performance begins. In addition to the main entrance on Eighth Street there is a double door on each side of the main floor and a small door at each end of the stage, the side and stage doors leading to sidewalks on each side of the building that extend to the street. These five doors preclude the possibility of there ever being a jam in case of emergency that makes the clearing of the house a matter of moments of time. There is a double door at each end of the stage so that property can be placed easily upon the stage direct from transfer wagons.
    While the carpenter work has been done by the day, the work has been under the supervision of G. L. Schermerhorn, and to his skill as a designer is due the graceful effect of the arched ceiling, as well as the unobtrusive appearance of the galleries and the general appearance and symmetry of the entire interior and exterior of the building.
    The Wilson Opera House is certainly a credit to Medford, for it is a splendid addition to the city's public buildings, and it will be no small factor in sustaining Medford in its prestige of being one of the most up-to-date, progressive towns in Oregon.
    Messrs. J. C. Howard and J. H. Atwell, of this city, are the gentlemen who have the painting contract on this building, both inside and outside.
Medford Mail, June 13, 1902, page 2


    Wilson's Opera House is rapidly assuming a finished appearance and will soon be ready for the grand opening event, which manager Wilson proposes to give to introduce his opera house to the Medford public. The plastering of the main hall, which is all that will be done for the present, is completed, and the carpenter work will be about finished this week. The painting of the outside of the building is finished, and next week that on the inside will be done. E. L. Gurnea, electrician for the city light station, with his assistant Frank Loder, has been at work this week wiring the building and installing the electric lights. There will be eighteen lights for the ceiling and ten beneath the gallery, all so distributed so that there is no glare in one part of the room and a gloom in another part. There will be twenty-four footlights and ample lights for the rear of the stage and for the dressing rooms, and there will also be two lights for the bandstand on the balcony. The lights for the auditorium will be so connected that every other one, or all of them, can be turned out from the switchboard on the stage, and the footlights can also be shaded down when required.

    H. G. Whiting, a sign writer and scenic painter, of Eugene, is at work this week painting scenery for the Wilson Opera House. He is an artist of the best class, as the work he is doing here will bear evidence. There is a clever smoothness about the touch of his brush which is rarely found in this class of artists. When he is through with a scene there is nothing which could be added which would improve its appearance.

"Additional Local," Medford Mail, July 4, 1902, page 6


Grand Opening Ball.
    On the evening of July 31st [sic--it apparently took place the 22nd], J. R. Wilson's new opera house will be opened with a grand ball. H. M. Coss has the management of affairs, and everything is being done that is possible to make this the leading event of the season. The best of order will be maintained, and especial attention will be given strangers. Supper will be served on the opera house stage by F. M. Wilson, proprietor of the Model Restaurant, which is a guarantee that it will be good and in abundance.
    The assistant floor committee consists of J. A. Whitman, Medford; John Orth, Jacksonville; Hon. J. W. Olwell, Central Point; Dr. T. Burnette, Ashland; E. H. Lister, Grants Pass. Music by Boffa's Orchestra. Tickets including supper $2; spectators gallery tickets 25 cents. Grand march at nine o'clock sharp, led by Mayor W. S. Crowell.
Medford Mail, July 18, 1902, page 6


    Manager J. R. Wilson is all right. The new Wilson Opera House is a venture rather ahead of Medford at the present, but such a fine public building will be a leading factor in bringing the town up to what it can be made--the leading town of Southern Oregon--if all the citizens would do their part, and do it willingly and with a determination to win.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, July 18, 1902, page 7


    Something should be done to check the hoodlumism that was manifested at the entertainment Thursday evening at the Wilson Opera House. The stamping of feet and whistling that were indulged in was simply disgraceful and the height of ill manners. Whenever this occurs at a public meeting the parties who indulge in the practice should be promptly arrested and prosecuted for disturbing the peace.

Medford Enquirer, July 19, 1902, page 3



Wilson's Opera House Opening.
    Last Thursday evening the opening of J. R. Wilson's new opera house took place, and in honor of the event Medford turned out en masse, and the seats were all occupied as well as every foot of standing room, while scores of people who came, and finding the building crowded and very warm, did not enter but returned to their homes. There were many people there from the country, altogether there being about 800 present.
    A serious delay to the opening of the program was caused by the fuse plug in the electric lighting system burning out. On the lights being restored, H. M. Coss, under whose direction the program for the evening was gotten up, called the meeting to order and after a brief announcement introduced Hon. W. I. Vawter, who made a short address in which he expressed the appreciation the citizens of Medford have for manager Wilson in providing to the city an opera house that would meet its requirements for years to come as a place where large assemblages could be held, and which is a building that would be a credit to a city of greater pretensions than Medford. The remainder of the program consisted of vocal and instrumental selections, those taking part being Misses Venita and Enid Hamilton, Miss Florence DeBar, Miss Lutie Ulrich, Miss Aileen Webber, Mrs. E. E. Gore, Miss Beulah Warner, Mrs. W. S. Jones, Clarence Meeker, Ivan Humason, Mrs. Etta Bates, Miss Kendall and Mrs. W. I. Vawter. Each one rendered their part in a manner highly creditable to themselves and pleasing to the audience, for the applause was liberal and given with a will. The Medford school band was present and played several pieces from the balcony and one at the opening of the program.
Medford Mail, July 25, 1902, page 6


    Wm. Angle, owner of the Medford opera house, is planning to have his house rebuilt and enlarged this fall. The building will be extended back twenty feet, thus giving more room not only to the opera house but in the stores below, occupied by Chas. Strang and F. L. Cranfill. The stage is to be made larger and more complete in its appointments, and galleries will be put in so as to afford more seating space.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, July 25, 1902, page 7


    A Medford dramatic club is being organized by Robert Ransome, a well-known actor and stage director, of San Francisco. The club will open the new Wilson Opera House with the beautiful southern comedy drama "In Old Kentucky." The production will be staged with special scenery, three race horses and a pickaninny band. The best talent is being secured, and the play promises to be the social and theatrical event of the season.
"Additional Local," Medford Mail, August 1, 1902, page 6


A GRAND SHOW
At Wilson's Opera House, Friday, August 8.
    One of the most interesting entertainments ever given in Medford in the way of moving pictures, Beaty Bros., managers, have the only six moving picture machines on earth with diamond projecting lenses. They are Edison's up-to-date 1902 model, which has many, many improvements, one of which does away with that quiver entirely, and makes the pictures more realistic and relieves the eyes from that strain that other kinetoscopes subject them to. Theirs are the largest in the world. They also have Thomas A. Edison's Giant Polyphone Phonograph, which will render a program of music and song that cannot fail to please everybody. They have received the most flattering press notices everywhere.
    The thirty thousand moving pictures given [sic]. Among the scenes depicted will be the assassination of President McKinley; the electrocution of Czolgosz; Mrs. Nation and her followers smashing a Kansas City saloon, colored pictures. Capture of Biddle brothers, outlaws. President's funeral, Galveston cyclone complete; why Mr. Nation got a divorce, in colors. A rube's visit to a studio, funniest of all moving pictures. A tramp's dream, a fat and lean man's wrestling match, a mystic picture, the champion acrobatic Craig family of the world, Hooligan's visit to the city park, and many others, laughable and sad, humorous and pathetic, instructive and funny.
    Beaty Bros. have spared no expense in securing the best that the ingenuity of man affords. This is an opportunity to see a first-class performance at a reasonable price. Everybody who has had the pleasure of witnessing the show is enthusiastic in its praise. Beaty Bros. play all cities on a guarantee that they give entire satisfaction. If not satisfactory money will be refunded at the door by the management of the opera house. General admission 25 and 35 cents, reserved seats 50 cents.

Democratic Times, 
Jacksonville,
August 7, 1902, page 5


Medford Dramatic Club.
    The Medford Dramatic Club will present a beautiful southern comedy drama, "The Convict's Daughter," at Wilson's Opera House on Thursday evening, August 14th, in place of "In Old Kentucky," which will not be produced until the last of September. "The Convict's Daughter" is a beautiful story of people of today and will remain in your memory when many other plays have faded away into forgetfulness. Special scenery is being made for this production, and the club, under the direction of Mr. Ransome, will present one of the best plays ever seen on the local stage. Popular prices.
Medford Mail,
August 8, 1902, page 7


"The Convict's Daughter."
    Owing to the inability of the scene painters to complete the special scenery that is being arranged for the production of "The Convict's Daughter" by the Medford Dramatic Company, the date of this attraction has been changed to Saturday evening, August 16. This change also gives the cast, which has been slightly changed from the original, more time in which to prepare their parts, and now the company promises to give one of the best home talent entertainments ever presented to a Medford audience. "The Convict's Daughter" is a beautiful southern comedy-drama that is intermixed throughout with comedy and pathos and cannot fail to please the most fastidious critic and contains many excellent climaxes.
    You should not fail to witness the first dramatic production in Medford's new opera house.

Medford Mail,
August 15, 1902, page 7



WILSON'S OPERA HOUSE OPENING
By Sweeney & Alvido's Big White Minstrels.
    The citizens of Medford should show their appreciation of manager Wilson for building a ground-floor opera house by giving his first professional attraction a rousing big audience on Monday, Sept. 1st. The Sweeney Alvido Minstrels are now making their third annual tour. Nothing but success has crowned their former seasons, and since opening in the East this season the press has been very conservative, and pronounce the troupe an artistic as well as a financial success. A minstrel show in every sense of the word, excelling in its first part and olio, its band and orchestra is of the highest order. The stage settings and its novelties are strictly first-class in detail. There will be a noonday parade, headed by Maurer's celebrated band. Remember, this is a guaranteed attraction. The prices of admission are as follows: Children, general admission, 35 cents, no reserved seats; adults, general admission, 50 cents. Reserved seats, 75 cents, now on sale at Medford Drug Co.'s store.
Democratic Times, 
Jacksonville,
August 28, 1902, page 1


Melodrama--"In the Toils."
    The Medford Dramatic Co. will present their next attraction at Wilson's Opera House Friday evening Sept. 26, appearing in a realistic production of "In the Toils." Their scenery is now under construction, and they are rehearsing every night. A few slight changes have been made in the cast, but it does not affect the play in the least. Miss May Merriman and Ivan Humason in the comedy roles of Maggie Riley and Ben Brady, typical characters of the Bowery, will keep the audience in an uproar. Every character is a lead itself. Below is the cast of characters:
Ned Bennington . . . . . . . . . . . Lynn Purdin
Robt. Severn
. . . . . . . . . . . Carl Crystal
Bud Brady
. . . . . . . . . . . Ivan Humason
Richard Morton
. . . . . . . . . . . Merle Hake
Gideon Grins
. . . . . . . . . . . Ted E. Kelso
Jack Oakleigh
. . . . . . . . . . . Emmett Barkdull
Rob Hanlon
. . . . . . . . . . . Ed Van Dyke
Slugger Rafferty/Officer Slater
. . . . . . . . . . . Geo. Merriman
Miss Hellen Morton
. . . . . . . . . . . Fern Norris
Mrs. Nancy Brady
. . . . . . . . . . . Clara King
Maggie Riley
. . . . . . . . . . . May Merriman
    Seats will soon be placed on sale at the Medford Drug Co. at popular prices--15, 25 and 35 cents. Good music and good specialties between acts by Misses Enid and Venita Hamilton and Mabel Wilson.

Medford Mail, September 19, 1902, page 2


    Manager Wilson is making several improvements at his opera house which will add considerably to the comfort both of the people who may attend gatherings there and of those behind the scenes. The house is now fitted for steam heat throughout, the steam being conducted from A. A. Davis' mill, and pipes are arranged so that an even temperature can be maintained in all parts of the house. Also, Mr. Wilson is having the dressing rooms and the area behind the scenes ceiled so as to exclude all drafts, together with various other improvements which will be appreciated both by players and playgoers.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, October 31, 1902, page 7


    There are something like two hundred people in Medford and adjoining towns who are congratulating themselves upon the fact that they were participants in the firemen's ball at the Wilson Opera House on last Friday evening, and they are informing those who were not in attendance that never in the history of Medford was there ever such a good time. Music that just lifted you off your feet and carried you around the room, a floor so smooth and elastic that after the start had been made it required no exertion to keep up the exhilarating motion, made the occasion an ideal one for the full enjoyment of the delights of the terpsichorean art.
Excerpt, "The Firemen's Ball," Medford Mail, November 7, 1902, page 6


    The Allen Stock Co., which played at Ashland last week, is now in Jacksonville. It will fill an engagement in Medford at Wilson's Opera House next week. The troupe is highly spoken of.
    Rodgers Bros.' Comedy Co., which was billed to perform in Medford Saturday night, was not allowed the privilege of doing so. A report received from Ashland to the effect that the show was of a rather "warm" nature caused the proprietor of the opera house and the authorities to discourage the appearance of the aggregation. It gave performances at Jacksonville and Gold Hill, however, and those in attendance say it was not so bad.

"Brief Mention,"
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, April 29, 1903, page 1


    On Wednesday of this week cashier G. L. Davis purchased from J. R. Wilson, for $4600, the Wilson Opera House and the vacant lot to the east of the opera house.

"City Happenings," Medford Mail, January 12, 1906, page 5



    C. E. Smith, of Eugene, has arranged with G. L. Davis, manager of the Davis opera house, to open and maintain a roller skating rink in the opera house. They will have their grand opening on Saturday evening of this week, at 7 o'clock. On Saturday afternoon, from 2 o'clock until 5, the hall will be given up to ladies only. After Saturday evening the rink, or hall, will be opened every afternoon from 2 until 5, every evening from 7 until 10. Every Friday afternoon only ladies will be admitted. The management states that no person under the influence of liquor will be allowed in the house, and strict order will be maintained. Mr. Smith is a very honorable gentleman, and our people are assured that he will conduct the business in a creditable manner.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, March 16, 1906, page 5


    Geo. L. Davis has sold his opera house property, including the vacant lot adjoining, to J. F. Reddy and his associates for $6,000. He has sold his interests in Portland also and may return to Medford before long.
"Local Briefs," Southern Oregonian, Medford, May 18, 1907, page 5


Davis Opera House, 1906
Davis Opera House, 1906

Electric Theater.
    Mr. Williams began last Saturday afternoon and evening an Electric Theater for Medford. It is proposed to have the motion pictures in the opera house every Saturday afternoon and evening, when there is no other special attraction in the opera house. This will give the people from the country an opportunity to see the latest and best motion pictures in the afternoon, when they come to Medford to do their trading, and it will give the people of the city a chance to take in the pictures on their way downtown in the evening. Last Saturday's program was a great success and was given warm praise by a number who attended. Next Saturday the subjects chosen are: "Fun in a Photograph Gallery" and "Pals, or My Friend the Dummy." Both of these pictures are very funny and will keep you laughing from beginning to end.
Medford Mail, August 23, 1907, page 1


MEDFORD OPERA HOUSE IS BEING IMPROVED
    The opera house commonly known as the Davis opera house will henceforth be called the Medford Opera House. The new managers are superintending some extensive improvements in the house, which will make it more attractive and up to date. The entrance will be altered and enlarged, there will be new dressing rooms, and the reserved portion of the house will be fitted with new opera chairs. In addition to these improvements, the walls will be painted and kalsomined.
    The grand opening for the season of 1907-8 will be Friday, September 13, with Richard & Prindle's Minstrels. A number of unusually good attractions have been secured for this season, among them one of the best comic operas, entitled "The Vanderbilt Cup," which will be presented by a New York company November 7. For some time past the opera house management has been trying to secure a good comic opera, and has at last succeeded by guaranteeing a large sum of money to protect the company. Hanford will also be here this season with his first-class company.
Medford Daily Tribune, September 3, 1907, page 1


Good Shows Coming.
    Dr. J. H. Reddy, proprietor of the Davis Opera House, has arranged a deal whereby Mr. Chas. D. Hazelrigg will be associated in the management of the house with F. C. Williams. This will be good news to Medford theatergoers, for Mr. Hazelrigg's prominence in the theatrical world will enable him to secure attractions for Medford which might otherwise pass us up, and his knowledge of the road shows will prevent "fly-by-nights" getting bookings.
    Already Mr. H. has arranged with the great Sullivan and Considine vaudeville circuit, which consists of more than fifty theaters in all the big cities from New York to San Francisco, to book one show each week. This will consist of the show which goes from Portland to San Francisco after playing a week at the Grand Opera House in the former city. This show is booked in New York City and plays around the entire circuit--a different company each week--and is composed of the very cream of eastern vaudeville actors.
    The first performance will be given Tuesday, October 15, and it is up to Medford to encourage a good thing by giving Mr. Hazelrigg a big house for his first show. Full particulars in display ad and reading notices in this issue.
Medford Mail, October 11, 1907, page 1



        If the vaudeville show of Tuesday night is a fair sample of what manager Hazelrigg has in store for the theatergoers the coming season, he needn't worry about the patronage, for they will draw every time. This is the first time Medford has had an opportunity of seeing real, high-class vaudeville performers for a long time. The acts were all good and heartily applauded by the audience, and the show gave good satisfaction throughout. Next Wednesday night another vaudeville company now playing in Portland will show here. Besides these weekly entertainments, Mr. Hazelrigg has booked [a] number of first-class attractions, the names of which will be announced later.
"City Happenings," Medford Mail, October 18, 1907, page 5


New Medford Opera House.
    That Medford is to have a new opera house is one of the projects to reach a definite stage within a very short time. Plans have been drawn and estimates made for the erection of a commodious and well-appointed structure at the corner of 8th and C Street, embracing the quarter block, part of which is now occupied by the present opera house. The plans contemplate the giving up [of] almost the entire ground space occupied by the present house for stage and dressing rooms, and when carried out will give stage room sufficient to accommodate the scenery and people of any attraction on the road.
    The new house, as contemplated, will give this city one of the most commodious and convenient playhouses on the line between Portland and San Francisco, including all the appointments of a first-class theater.
    Work will be commenced soon, and the building will be rapidly pushed to completion.
Medford Mail, November 29, 1907, page 1


    The three exhibitions, with matinees, of the moving pictures of the "Passion Play" at the opera house, attracted good-sized audiences on each occasion, and the show was well worthy of patronage. The pictures were lifelike and distinct and depict the life of Christ from infancy to the crucifixion as it is depicted in the play at the village of Oberammergau, where the play is produced by the peasants, who are trained for the several characters throughout their lifetime.
"Additional Local," Medford Mail, February 28, 1908, page 2


TO REMODEL MILES BUILDING
Extensive Repairs to Be Made Including a New Front and Dance Hall
    Extensive alterations in the Miles Block, including a new modern front of pressed brick, are to be made during the next few months. The plans have already been drawn, and if no hitch occurs actual work will commence about the first of November. Besides the new front and a complete remodeling of the interior, which will make the block thoroughly modern in every particular, an addition will be built, doubling the present size of the block by extending it 30 feet further in the rear.
    A new feature of the building and one that will be eagerly welcomed will be large hall 50x140 feet, suitable for dances, parties and meetings of all kinds. This will be the largest hall in the valley.
Medford Daily Tribune, October 16, 1908, page 1



OPENING NEW OPERA HOUSE
Opening New Opera House To Take Place Monday, November 16.
    It will be good news to the show-loving people of Medford to learn that the date for the opening of the new opera house has been set, and on Monday, November 16, George Ade's new musical comedy, "Just Out from College," will be the attraction.
    Manager Hazelrigg claims that the new opera house will be the best one of the kind in Southern Oregon. It will seat altogether 800 people, and will have four boxes. The stage will be the same size as the one in the Grand Opera House at Seattle, and will be 50 feet wide, 30 feet deep. The opening will be 25 feet wide and 18 feet high. All the parquet and balcony will be supplied with opera chairs.
    The following is the list of attractions booked for the season by manager Hazelrigg:
    November 16, "Just Out of College"; November 20, "A Poor Relation"; November 27, "The Holy City"; December 8, Walker Whitesides in "We Are King"; December 11, Rose Melville in "Sis Hopkins"; December 17, "Paid in Full"; December 24, "Arizona"; December 30, "Fun on the Board Walk"; January 13, "Florence Roberts"; January 22, "In Wyoming"; January 29, "In Gay New York"; February 5, "The Girl and the Stampede"; February 13, Charles B. Hanford in "The Merchant of Venice"; February 22, "San Antonio"; March 4, "The Yankee Drummers"; March 22, "A Corner in Sweethearts"; March 31, "The Gingerbread Man"; April 14, San Francisco Opera Company in "Fantana"; April 22, "Dream City."
Medford Mail, November 5, 1908, page 1



BEST THEATER TOWN
    In one respect at least, Medford's claims to superiority are not questioned. As a "show town," in theatrical parlance, Medford is known as the best "one-night stand" west of the Rocky Mountains when population and seating capacity of its theater are considered.
    This is due in part to the marvelous development of the surrounding country, but most of the credit must go to the hustling local manager, Charles D. Hazelrigg. Himself an old showman, he is known to managers all over the country and, ever on the lookout to protect his patrons, cancels many a show that is not up to the standard. As a result, the poor shows (we have had no "bad" ones) that have played Medford in the past two seasons can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and being confident of good attractions, Medford theatergoers "pack the house" almost every time it opens.
    The Medford theater is a "syndicate" house--that is, it is booked by Klaw & Erlanger, the great New York managers, through their coast representative, John Cort of Seattle, and as a consequence when a few years ago we had to be content with "Two Little Waifs," "Over Niagara Falls," etc., during the past two seasons our theatrical bill of fare has included such shows and stars as: "Little Johnny Jones," "The Mayor of Tokio," "A Message from Mars," Maude Fealy, "The Alaskan," Florence Roberts, "The Burgomaster," Florence Gear [in] "Marrying Mary," "The Gingerbread Man," Norman Hackett, "The Girl from Rectors," "The Girl Question," "A Knight for a Day," "The Third Degree," "Three Twins," "The Land of Nod," "King Dodo," Lillian Russell and many others of like caliber.
    And that Medford is a profitable "stand" for such high-class companies can be readily understood when one glances at some of the receipts:
  Florence Roberts  . . . . . . . . . . . $605.00
  The Alaskan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 792.50
  The Gingerbread Man . . . . . . . . . 649.00
  The Girl from Rectors . . . . . . . .  515.00
  The Girl Question  . . . . . . . . . . .  608.50
  Lillian Russell  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  843.50
  A Knight for a Day . . . . . . . . . . .  580.25
  Three Twins  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  862.00
*Land of Nod . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  732.50
*King Dodo  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  675.00
*(Consecutive nights.)
    Medford receives much excellent advertising from these people and a number of them have bought property here. Lillian Russell was so taken with the beauty of Medford and its surroundings that she insisted on an auto trip, although arriving on a late train, and Rose Melville has already made arrangements to stop off for three days on her approaching engagement that she may make some investment.
    The one thing that has been lacking is a suitable theater building, for the present one is sadly lacking in size and accommodations for even the present Medford. While the stage is fairly large and the traveling companies are enabled to hang most of their scenery, yet at best it is but a makeshift. But better things are in store, and by the opening of next season there seems no doubt but that Mr. Hazelrigg will have a theater that will be a credit to him and his city--Medford--the best show town on the coast.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 2, 1910, page 9


MEDFORD TO HEAR OPERAS
$2000 Subscription Raised to Get Lambardis to Sing One Night.
    MEDFORD, Or., March. 20.--(Special.)--Through the efforts to C. Hazelrigg, manager of the Medford Opera House, the Lambardi Grand Opera Company has been induced to give one evening of grand opera here.
    It is not the usual thing for this company to make one-night stands, but, being guaranteed $2000 for doing so, they accepted the offer to appear here in "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "I Pagliacci" on April 5. Subscription sales for seats were made to see if the amount could be raised, and all were sold within a few days.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 21, 1910, page 9



    Reed Miller, the tenor who sang here last May with Walter Damrosch and his orchestra, has this to say, in an interview printed in a magazine, about the concert in which he took part at Medford, Or. "At Medford, Or., we thought for a time that we wouldn't have any place to sleep. We got in at 5 p.m., only to find every hotel filled, but after walking all over town we finally found a 'tent city' on the outskirts, and so we spent the night under canvas. You see, it was a growing town, and the 'boom' kept it ahead of the hotel facilities. We were nearly frozen, but the warmth of our welcome made up for that. The hall was very small and the solos were punctuated by the croaking of frogs in a marsh outside, but they evidently wanted good music; for, figuring on the capacity of the hall, it must have cost each listener about $5 a ticket." Observe the use and position of the word "they," after "frogs." Mr. Miller evidently does not mean that the Medford frogs paid $5 per ticket for admission--something else. Mr. Miller will likely retort that he was misquoted.

"Music," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, July 17, 1910, page 37


SNAKES MAROON AUTOIST
Car Breaks Down and Owner Dare Not Get Out to Fix It.
    JACKSONVILLE, Or., July 22.--(Special.)--Walter McCallum, of Medford, while returning home across the "desert" in his auto yesterday, was held captive by a bunch of rattlesnakes. About 12 miles north of here, the steering gear went out of commission, and when Mr. McCallum climbed out to investigate, a chorus of rattles made him climb hastily back in the car.
    For four hours he perched on the topmost part of the back seat, wondering how he was going to get home. The snakes finally retired, and Mr. McCallum pursued his way, after ascertaining that there were no more rattlers under the car and fixing the steering gear.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, July 23, 1910, page 1



BEST THEATER TOWN.
    In one respect at least, Medford claims to superiority are not questioned. As a "show town," in theatrical parlance, Medford is known as the best "one-night stand" west of the Rocky Mountains, when population and seating capacity of its theater are considered.
    This is due in part to the marvelous development of the surrounding country, but most of the credit must go to the hustling local manager, Charles D. Hazelrigg. Himself an old showman, he is known to managers all over the country and, ever on the lookout to protect his patrons, cancels many a show that is not up to the standard. As a result the poor shows (we have had no "bad" ones) that have played Medford in the past two seasons can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and being confident of good attractions, Medford theatergoers "pack the house" almost every time it opens.
    Medford receives much excellent advertising from these people, and a number of them have bought property here.
    The one thing that has been lacking is a suitable theater building, for the present one is sadly lacking in size and accommodations for even the present Medford. While the stage is fairly large, and the traveling companies are enabled to hang most of their scenery, yet at best it is but a makeshift. But better things are in store, and by the opening of next season there seems no doubt but that Mr. Hazelrigg will have a theater that will be a credit to him and his city--Medford--the best show town on the coast.

Medford Mail Tribune, January 1, 1911, page B5



NEW THEATER NEEDED
    One of Medford's greatest needs is an adequate opera house or theater. The present structure has been outgrown--it is a survival of the village era.
    Because people have not been comfortable during performances, because the house has not been sufficiently heated at winter attractions, many people have stayed away who would otherwise have been glad to attend.
    Medford is a pleasure-loving city. First-class attractions receive first-class patronage, and the place ranks as the best
[i.e., most profitable] one-night stand on the coast. This ought to be justification sufficient to warrant the investment of capital in the construction of an up-to-date playhouse.
    If an adequate theater is not provided for another season, Medford cannot hope to secure the class of plays it has had in the past. Large companies will no longer appear amid such conveniences.
    There ought to be unity of action enough and civic pride and patriotism sufficient among the citizens to secure a modern theater for Medford. It is not necessary to erect a costly structure, such as has been heretofore contemplated, but a unique and attractive bungalow theater can be erected at moderate cost that will fill the bill and prove a remunerative investment.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 2, 1911, page 4



OPERA HOUSE IS BEING REPAIRED
Manager McCallum Making Many Changes
Which Will Add to the Appearance and Comfort of the Building.
    Walter McCallum, manager of the Medford opera house, has a force of [omission] making many changes in the interior of the playhouse which has served Medford for many years. The interior has been treated to a fresh coat of kalsomine and paint, while a row of seats has been taken out on each side of the orchestra circle making aisles along each side, making it possible to clear the building rapidly in case of fire. Improvements have also been made in the heating plant, and a new exit has been cut in on the west side. The platform on the east side has also been widened and strengthened so that there is no longer any danger of a stampede. The improvements were needed and give Medford the best house in its history, which will have to serve until a new opera house, on modern lines, is erected. The 1911-12 season will open September 1 with Henry Miller in "The Havoc."
Medford Mail Tribune, August 31, 1911, page 3


'OPRY HOUSE' TO PASS
CALVIN HEILIG WILL BUILD NEW THEATER AT MEDFORD.
Show Shop at Cost of $4 0,000 Promised Novel Features to Be in Building.
    MEDFORD, Or., Sept 27.--(Special.)--Medford is to have a new $40,000 theater, and Calvin Heilig, of Portland, is to build it. After a conference with local business men, H. S. Malloy, representing the Heilig interests, left for Portland tonight, and a prospective plan of the new structure is on exhibition at the new Medford Hotel.
    It is planned to have a two-story structure in the mission style, the lower floor being used for office rooms and a restaurant. The upper floor will overlap the first, providing space for smoking-rooms, roof-garden and special vaudeville features. Practically the only question at present is in regard to the site, and five offers from property owners are being considered. The plans are in the hands of Seattle architects, and certain changes are contemplated which will be mailed to Portland in the next few weeks for approval.
    Mr. Heilig has been considering the building of the theater for some time and came here in August to arrange matters, but at that time there was not sufficient local support in his opinion to justify construction.
    It is believed that this support has now been secured, however, and the building will be completed to make possible the early spring bookings. Medford is rejoicing over the prospect of a new playhouse, as the old "opry house" has become a byword in theatrical circles for everything that is out of date and inadequate.

Morning Oregonian, Portland, September 28, 1911, page 21


January 29, 1912 Oregonian

MAY ROBSON HURT IN FALL
Actress Plunges Ten Feet Down Stairs, Rendered Unconscious.
    MEDFORD, Or., April 17.--(Special.)--Tripping on a stage brace at the head of the stairs leading to her dressing room, Miss May Robson fell headlong to the floor, ten feet below, tonight, and sustained injuries which have compelled the canceling of all performances of "A Night Out" for the present and may lead to the abandonment of the present tour.
    Miss Robson is resting quietly at her apartments in the Hotel Medford now, and the doctors in attendance will make no prediction as to when she will be able to appear again, although Miss Robson is determined to fill her engagement in Portland Sunday night. Her manager has already canceled by wire all dates prior to that time.
    The accident occurred about 7:30 o'clock, when Miss Robson, with satchel in hand, was making her way to her dressing room [in the Medford opera house]. The passageway was dark, and she did not see the brace near the head of the stairs. Her feet struck it and she fell headlong, striking on her head and right arm. When attendants reached her she was unconscious. Doctors were hastily called and it was found that she had sustained severe bruises about the head and body, broken one finger of her left hand and received a severe nervous shock. It is the latter which the doctors fear may result seriously.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, April 18, 1912, page 1



WILL MEDFORD EVER HAVE A NEW THEATER?
    The opening of the theater season again calls attention to the need of a new opera house in Medford.
    Manager McCallum, through his personal acquaintance and friendship with prominent theatrical people, still manages to secure the best attractions on the coast, but booking theatrical attractions is a business and there is a point where friendly favors cease.
    The present opera house is a reflection upon Medford and has come to be a byword among theatrical folk. Actors and actresses are great advertisers. They travel far and they talk much. They judge a place by its theater. Unless a new opera house is soon built it will be impossible to secure any attraction in Medford of higher grade than "Over Niagara Falls" or the "Jolly Roger Widow Burlesquers."
    Medford has good hotels, an almost metropolitan citizenship, enjoys a reputation throughout the country of being a wide-awake, progressive and highly civilized community, but when it comes to an evening entertainment, Medford has to apologize.
    It is a mystery why a creditable opera house has not been built before. There is no question but that a modern and comfortable play house on the main street could be made to return a good income on the investment. Incidentally the builder, or builders, would have the satisfaction of having helped the town and added to the enjoyment of the people.
    Medford should not wait for some outsider to do the job. A local company should be formed and an opera house constructed.
Medford Sun, August 3, 1912, page 2

The Hazard of Wooden Buildings.
    The Association is indebted for the above interesting photograph to member Frederick H. Cowles, of Medford, Ore. The Opera House caught fire at 5:05 p.m. The stage fell in at 5:15 p.m., and the building was destroyed at 5:25 p.m. Its rapid burning was due to its construction, shown in the cut. The ignition of the shingle roof of the adjoining building is well illustrated. [The "adjoining building" is the seating area of the opera house. The tall structure in the photo is the stage and flies section.]
    For the benefit of members interested in fire insurance, Mr. Cowles states that the sign on the building with the shingle roof, "Bought and Paid For," does not refer to the building, but is the name of the play.
The Quarterly of the National Fire Protection Association, April 1913, page 396


THINK FIREBUG STARTED BLAZE AT OPERA HOUSE
Building Was Set on Fire on Night of October 3 but Blaze Was Extinguished--
Fire Starts Inside and Interior is in Flames When Seen.
Fire Boys Do Splendid Work and Have Five Lines of Hose Out Six Minutes After Alarm.
    That a firebug started the blaze which destroyed the Medford theatre Friday afternoon and endangered the entire business section of the city for a time is the belief of Walter McCallum, manager of the house, and the authorities who have been making a quiet investigation of the affair. The fact that the theatre was fired from the outside on the night of October 3 and was saved after a short fight lends color to the report. In no other way can Friday's blaze be explained unless tramps were sleeping under the stage and started the fire. It has been suggested that Ashland's firebug, who started six blazes in that city within a month, starting with the opera house there, has taken up his residence in this city.
    The destruction of the opera house Friday afternoon by fire was the biggest blaze experienced in many years in this city. When the alarm was turned in the entire interior of the place was a mass of flames, and the frame building and dry lumber proved all that a dangerous blaze could want. The fire boys replied in short order, and after the most difficult fight ever made by the Medford department saved all surrounding buildings, even Frank Wilson's home, directly under the blazing building.
    It required just six minutes from the time the alarm tapped for the boys to have five lines of hose laid out and playing on the flames. The Medford water system proved its worth, the pressure being so great that the blazing walls when they fell were turned back into the fire. This saved adjoining buildings.
    An absence of wind saved the business section. As it was, huge coals fell as far north as the Southern Pacific passenger depot, while men were forced to patrol the roofs of adjacent blocks. The heat was intense.
    The alarm was turned in shortly after five o'clock. In a few moments the downtown section was crowded with eager sightseers. The entire police force patrolled the block surrounding the fire and kept the crowds at bay and from under the high power electric wires. The current was shut off immediately, however, by the power company.
    The loss will total about $5000. Only $1500 insurance was carried.
    Immediately after the fire Walter McCallum canceled all contracts for engagements.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 12, 1912, page 1


MEDFORD THEATER, OLD LANDMARK,
WIPED OUT BY FIRE FRIDAY;
LOSS $5000; INSURANCE $1500
CONJECTURE BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN SET BY TRAMPS OR BOYS IN BASEMENT
SCENERY TOWER COLLAPSES--BUILDING BURNS RAPIDLY--FIREMEN WORK FAST
Water Pressure and Absence of Wind Save Business District--
Hundreds Watch the Playhouse Crumble
    The burning of the Medford opera house calls attention to the need of a proper building code which will make impossible the construction of another such fire trap. Here is a suggestion for the city attorney and the city council.
   
Fire Friday afternoon destroyed the Medford theater, causing a loss of between $5000 and $6000, covered by $1500 insurance. Tramps [sleeping] in the basement and leaving [illegible] a carelessly dropped match, or mischievous boys, are believed to have started the fire. The principal owners are Dr. J. F. Reddy, who owns the building, and Walter McCallum, owner of the equipment and [illegible], valued at $1000. Manager McCallum also lost valuable papers and records [illegible]. There is an air of mystery about the fire that may lead to an investigation. About ten days ago, a pile of rubbish in the alley alongside the building was set afire, but extinguished before it had gained any headway. Friday the job was more complete. When it was discovered flames were shooting from the tall scenery shaft and had spread to the [illegible] roof of the theater. No one was supposed to be in the building, and no fire had been built there for some months. For some time the basement has been the rendezvous of [tramps.]
    [Six] minutes after the alarm was called in five streams of water were [playing] on the burning structure. Without this service and the excellent water pressure Medford would have no business district this morning. The absence of any wind was also a favorable condition, for the flames and smoke rose straight up in the [illegible] sky, and though charred embers alighted on nearby roofs, there was no immediate danger.
    When the scenery tower collapsed [it did so] inward on its own base, and when the blaze began to die, the [illegible] play of water drowning out the flames. The scenery burned [illegible] and threw off a heavy heat. Only the black shell of the lower [illegible] was left. The building is a total loss. The foundation adjoining, owned by Dr. Reddy, was also damaged by the heat and water. The roof of Wilson's second-hand store caught afire several times, but was [illegible] put out.
    The building was one of the oldest in Medford and a landmark. [The 1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows a small, 30-foot-square structure on the site.] According to Dr. Reddy, it has been a [illegible] in which several small-sized fortunes have been dropped. In the early stages of its existence it was a dance hall, with a raised platform at one end. As the town grew, improvements were made to meet the new requirements, until of late it was a theater in the manner [of] speaking.
    But however tawdry its front and however ridiculed by chorus girls on their first road trip, it gave many an hour of amusement and enjoyment to a couple of generations of local people, and while it was burning some regrets were heard.
    The fire attracted a couple of thousand people. The one general sentiment was [gratitude] that there was no one within its tinder-like walls. The speed with which the structure burned brought home to many the realization of the danger. It also brought home the wisdom of the council in supplying a high-power pressure, despite the protests of citizens at the time.
    Before the ashes had cooled manager McCallum telegraphed John Cort of the Northwest Theatrical Association, canceling all engagements for this year in this city. What future plans [are] for providing a suitable building for theatrical purposes were not known last night. About a year ago a project was launched to convert the Natatorium into a theater. Plans for the change were drawn, but that was the last. At different times rumors have been circulated regarding the building of a theater by the Cort interests, but they all came to nothing.
------
Notes on the Fire
    A large blaze was never more warmly welcomed than yesterday's conflagration. Everyone was saying "Let her burn; now we will have a new opera house." At least one real estate man said he would get busy today and have a theater in three months.
------
    It's the first time the opera house was ever overheated.
------
    The fire boys did a lot of hustling, and F. H. Cowles was one of the first on the scene. Chief Cowles secured fire escapes on the Medford Hotel, and is doing good work in improving conditions in the city.
Medford Sun, October 12, 1912, page 1   The edge of the column is lost in shadow on the microfilm--and the original newspaper is apparently lost. Words in brackets have been inferred, when possible.


THEATER FIRE BRINGS JOY
Medford Is Glad When "Worst Show House in Existence" Burns.
    MEDFORD, Or., Oct. 11.--(Special.)--The Medford opera house, an old landmark, burned to the ground this afternoon at a loss of $5000, with $150 insurance. The cause of the fire was a mystery, although it is supposed that it was set on fire by tramps. No one was in the building, and there was no wind.
    The building was owned by ex-Mayor Dr. J. F. Reddy, and had long been the object of complaint by the theatrical profession and the theater-going public. Not long ago the New York Telegraphic [sic] printed a cut of the building and dubbed it the worst show-house in existence.
    The fire was welcomed by everyone in Medford, and plans were set on foot tonight to convert the natatorium into a temporary theater.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, October 12, 1912, page 1



NEW THEATER TO RISE IF PLANS DO NOT GO ASTRAY
    That the burning of the Medford theater Friday afternoon will prove a blessing in disguise, in spite of the fact that it will temporarily prevent any attractions from visiting Medford, is seen today in the announcement of Walter McCallum that a new fireproof theater will be under construction by the first of the year if present plans do not miscarry. With the burning of the theater Friday afternoon Mr. McCallum took up plans for a new theater, which he has had under consideration for several months, with renewed energy and stated today that he anticipated no hitch to hinder the erection of a modern playhouse.
    It is understood that Mr. McCallum has already interested capital in the venture, and the only decision remaining is the choice of a suitable site and a decision regarding plans. Further than declaring that the new house will be modern in every particular and absolutely fireproof, Mr. McCallum declines to make a statement.

Medford Mail Tribune weekly, October 17, 1912, page 2


    WALTER McCALLUM AND ROGER BENNETT, of Medford, Ore., have purchased the South American rights for Beverly R. Dobbs "Atop the World in Motion" pictures. They will leave for South America on Feb. 22, stopping at Colon en route. Mr. McCallum was formerly manager of the opera house at Medford, and also was associated with Harry Hayward in the management of the Spokane Theater. Mr. Bennett has been in the motion picture business on the Pacific coast for a number of years.
New York Clipper, New York City, February 22, 1913, page 6


COMMUNICATION.
That Drop Curtain.
    To the Editor: Is it possible that the op'ry house drop curtain with ads for Cutem the butcher, Pills the druggist, the Imperial Hash House, etc., etc. still exists, and that we are to have a specimen in our midst? And when Cutem, Pills and others have died, or failed, their monuments will remain.
    What could be more appropriate than a picture of one of our orchards in bloom? What more typical of town, valley and state? Why not a curtain to add to the attractiveness of our theater?                                                READER.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 24, 1913, page 4



    Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Hazelrigg are home from a two years' tour on the leading vaudeville circuit of the country and will live on their ranch near Medford. Mr. Hazelrigg says while coming through the Willamette Valley the passengers on the train were objecting to the fog and rain, and he told them to wait until they struck the Rogue River Valley and there would be nothing but sunshine and flowers. As they approached the valley Mr. Hazelrigg began to weaken because the fog was so dense and everything so gloomy, but when they came into the valley of the Rogue sure enough the same sun was shining that was here over two years ago when the former resident left, and you can imagine how "chesty" he became as he remarked truly this is the Garden of Eden and his fellow passengers agreed with him.
"Local and Personal," Medford Sun, November 16, 1913, page 8


    "Charles Hazelrigg is in town today, but he doesn't register from Medford," says the Oregonian. "For years Mr. Hazelrigg was one of the most enthusiastic of Medford boosters. He was interested in the horticultural pursuits of the Rogue River Valley, and he was also manager of the op'ry house. Mr. Hazelrigg first saw Medford when he was with an opera company. The show stranded, and Mr. Hazelrigg and other members of the organization cast their lot with Medford. Leasing the opera house, he began booking attractions, and although the show people used to poke fun at the Medford opera house, until it was known in theatrical circles on Broadway, New York, as well as any theater in the country, the shows always made money. Eventually the old opera house was destroyed by fire and a new theatre was built, which was offered to Mr. Hazelrigg, but he declined to assume the responsibility. Mr. Hazelrigg comes today as musical director for a traveling company."
"Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, October 11, 1920, page 3


    The men now at work [on Hotel Jackson] are cleaning the already constructed excavation, remaining from the old opera house that stood there once, of weeds and bushes that have grown high during the years past.
"Proposed New Local Hotel," Medford Mail Tribune, March 4, 1926, page 3


    Fletcher Fish, Phoenix, who has considerable knowledge of history, wrote:
    My introduction to theater in Medford occurred when I played the small part of the "scribe" in a local talent production of the biblical operetta "Queen Esther," presented in 1907 at the Wilson Opera house. This building, a large wooden structure with a full-size stage, stood on the south side of Eighth St. between Front St. and Central Ave.
    In these days Medford's population was between four and five thousand, and theatrical troupes were few and far between. The Wilson Opera House served principally for local entertainment and dances.
Book Starts Migration
    [In 1904] a Dr. Streeter wrote a book called "The Fat of the Land," which swept like a fire through the eastern half of the United States. It touched off an unbelievable migration of doctors, lawyers, wealthy businessmen and retired capitalists in a wild stampede back to the land. A whole book could be devoted to this phenomenon. However, that is how the rush started from eastern metropolitan areas to Idaho, Washington and southern Oregon.
    Medford apples and pears were familiar to easterners, and the production records of some of the orchards lured a huge influx of prospective settlers into the Rogue Valley, intent on planting orchards and sharing the prosperity.
Had Money to Invest
    These people were not penniless immigrants. They had money to invest and capital to live on--consequently Medford became a lively and sophisticated town.
    This was the era when successful Broadway shows, having completed their New York runs, took to the road for their cross-country tours. The Pacific coast route played Los Angeles, San Francisco, and then a two-day jump to Portland and on to Seattle.
    Completing their final San Francisco performance, the players' special train would pull out about midnight, passing through Medford the next day between 5 and 7 p.m., thus losing one day's show en route to Portland.
    Someone, perhaps an advance man, discovered that by showing in Medford to a good house the troupe could pick up enough to cover the transportation expense for the entire trip north by utilizing an otherwise lost day.
First Venture
    The first venture was a sellout. People from Ashland to Grants Pass flocked in to jam the opera house--at San Francisco and Portland prices--and the golden era of Medford's theatrical history was born.
    During its heyday the opera house hosted one bill after another straight from Broadway with the original cast. Among them were Max Figman in "The Man on the Box," "Alias Jimmy Valentine," Mitzi Hajos in "The Spring Maid," "A Knight for a Day," Edna Wallace Hopper, Lillian Russell in "Wildfire," Victor Moore in "The Three Twins," with Bessie McCoy the Yama Yama Girl, "The Chocolate Soldier," "The Alaskan," May Robson in "The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary," Kolb and Dill, Ferris Hartman and the Tivoli company from San Francisco in "The Toymaker." During this period Charles Hazelrigg had taken a lease on the building and changed the name to Medford Opera House.
Light Opera Group
    Hazelrigg formerly was musical director of the Andrews Opera Company, many of whose principals, having been bitten by the orchard bug, had settled in the valley. Naturally, with the theater facilities at hand and a nucleus of professional principals available, Hazelrigg proceeded to organize a combination of local amateurs and experienced troupers into a light opera group. This group for a number of years added to the fame of Medford as the theatrical center of southern Oregon and northern California--interspersing their operettas between the schedules of the professionals' dates.
    Their repertoire included "The Mascot," "Chimes of Normandy," "Bohemian Girl," "Girofle-Girofla," "HMS Pinafore," "Pirates of Penzance," "The Mikado," "Iolanthe," and "Robin Hood."
    With the building of the Page Theater around 1913 the Medford Opera House was abandoned. The "big shows" still came through. Al Jolson, Belasco's Lenore Ulric in "Bird of Paradise" (which introduced the ukulele, the steel guitar and Hawaiian music to the United States) and McIntyre and Heath in "The Ham Tree," were some of the travelers, but the movies were crowding the expensive cross-country tours out of existence, and when talkies came in it was all over.
*      *      *
    In 1911 Fish was assistant manager at the "Nat." Steers and Coman, a Portland booking agency, had contracted the Russian Symphony Orchestra for their Oregon appearance and made arrangements for them to break the jump from San Francisco to Portland with a concert in Medford at the Natatorium.
    Whoever it was that they delegated to conduct the local advertising and ticket sales, the job really was fouled up. As a consequence when Wynne Coman arrived about three days before the show there was an advance sale of around $150. It developed that the gentlemen had quit without notice and left town for another job. With the help of a couple of girls all prospects in the telephone directory were personally contacted. It worked, and the audience was up from nothing to a pretty fair showing--enough to take Steers and Coman off the hook.
    "So in 1912 when they planned to bring Mme. E. Schumann-Heink to Oregon they asked me if I would take on a Medford recital. I jumped at it, and Medford turned out the largest crowd in its history up to that time. Later I booked Mme. Johanna Gadski of Metropolitan fame and concluded my career as an impresario with a very successful concert by Mme. Lillian Nordica, the preeminent Wagnerian soprano of the era."
    The Angle Opera House, which was upstairs above what is now Walt Young's store, jointly shared its entrance with the Adkins Building. Both were eventually incorporated into the Fluhrer Building. The Angle was used only occasionally for social gatherings, and had no theater background. [The Angle Opera House did host traveling theatrical companies, though of course not of the caliber that visited the Wilson/Hazelrigg Opera House.]
"Theatrical History of Rogue Valley Recalled," Medford Mail Tribune, November 11, 1962, page B2


    Madame Schumann-Heink (a great opera star who was afforded a military funeral when she died) sang "Trees" to a weeping audience at the [Medford] Opera House where it once stood on the present location of the Jackson House.
J.W.S., "On Stage," Medford Mail Tribune, April 7, 1963, page 4





Last revised August 19, 2017