The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Isis Theaters

There were actually two Isis Theaters in Medford: One open May 26, 1910-circa July 28, 1914, and another March 30, 1929-June 12, 1932.

The Isis Theater
By Verna Forncrook
    Not many people these days would remember this theater. I remember it well, for this is where I got my first job.

The Childers Building, at right, was built in 1928 on the site of the Isis Theater. This photo was taken on July 24-25, 1942, when“Parachute Battalion” and “Outlaw of Cherokee Trail”
were playing at the Roxy, far left.
    The Isis was built in the mid-1920s, the exact year I do not know. I do believe it was in the area that at one time was the Page Theater, which burned down several years before the Isis was built. [The Page Theater on the south side of Main--across the street from the Isis--burned December 30, 1923.]
    The theater was located on East Main Street, on the left-hand [north] side before crossing the Bear Creek bridge. It was built under the Dreamland Dance Hall, which was the last building before crossing the east side bridge.

Gene Childers, circa 1934
    The owners of the Isis were Mae and Gene Childers. I also believe that they built the dance hall.
    The ticket booth of the theater was street level. In order to get into the theater one went down an incline through two swinging doors. The lobby was on the left, the seating a little farther down. This was a one-aisle theater, seating about 200 people. There were other seats parallel to the main aisle on each side. Not many people used these seats, as there weren't that many who came to the movie.
    This was a silent picture movie house, and the music was furnished by records being played to accompany the action shown on the screen.
    My first job was as an usherette at this theater. I don't think I ushered very long. The girl who was the record changer was quitting, so I got the job.
    The dual record machine was at first located in the projection booth. It was soon moved to the orchestra pit. Two records were on the discs at the same time, and I could switch from one to the other. In these silent picture days, one saw the action and the words were put at the bottom of the screen. For a comedy or a cartoon I selected a peppy recording--for the Pathé News, usually marching music. For the main movie I chose a record I thought would fit the scene. I had a large selection of records, and it was fun choosing the right records. Looking at the movie at such close range was rather hard on the eyes.
    My wages for this job were $5 a week. I only worked in the evening shows, as I was going to school during the day. I don't remember the Isis having matinees.
    About 1927 or 1928 the "talkies" came to be. At first the talking for the movie was on a record, and the film was recorded to correspond to the film. Later the talking and the music were recorded on the film itself.
    The projectionists at this time were Walt Williams (Mrs. Childers' nephew) and Matt Strouse.
    The Isis ran second-run pictures, those which were not top-rate. Since these movies had been run many times at various places, the film was always breaking. This, of course, did not please the customers.
    Since [with the advent of talkies] I no longer had the record-changing job, I sold tickets from time to time. Mrs. Childers was the full-time ticket seller.
    The price of the theater tickets for the movie those days was 10¢ for kids and 15¢ for adults. All kids 12 or under were charged the kids' price. I know many kids were 12 for many years. At least they always said they were 12 until they got too tall and it was obvious they were older.
    During these years, the 1920s, there were no TVs, and no radios until the late 1920s. So going to the movies or to the Saturday night dances was one's entertainment.

Dreamland Ballroom, circa 1950
    With the Dreamland Dance Hall being right above the movie theater, it was rather annoying on Saturday nights when many people were dancing above. The music and noise one could hear especially during the second show that started at 9 o'clock.
    I have many fond memories of the Isis Theater. Being part of the movie industry was glamorous for me. If one could not go on to college one got a job. This theater job I did in the evenings as I was still in high school.

    I remember the slides (still pictures) being flashed on the screen. Several town merchants paid for these slides of advertisement of their place of business.
    Each night there was a comedy, sometimes two, the Pathé News and then the main picture. There were three changes of pictures a week. The same picture ran Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday a different picture. On Saturday there was a western movie shown. Also there was a thrilling continuing serial that always ended at the most interesting part. This made the customers come back again.
    With bigger and newer movie houses being built in Medford Mr. Childers thought it was time to close the Isis and build a bigger and better one across the street--called The Roxy.
See also Verna's autobiography.

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Isis Theater, 210 East Main, 1910-1914
The Isis Theater, 210 East Main

Remodeling of Angle Building Recalls Old Angle & Plymale
General Merchandise Store, Which Was Opened in 1883.

    The remodeling of the front of the Angle building marks the removal of one of the historic stores in Medford.
    It was in 1883 that Angle & Plymale opened a general merchandise store on this site. Later a brick building was erected and for many years William Angle and the late Francis Plymale engaged in general merchandise there. The other half was occupied by Charles Strang as a drug store.
    Later still, C. L. [sic] Cranfill occupied the room and for over 12 years sold goods there.
    The store front is unique from the fact that the old-fashioned iron doors, such as were in universal use a quarter century ago, are still in place, but are to be removed. Also the window shades still bear the insignia "Angle & Plymale, General Merchandise," a decade or more after the firm passed out of existence.
    The changes in the front of the old building will make some of the original customers of the store guess as to their probable location in Medford. The room is being fitted up for a moving picture theater, and Mr. Cranfill has transferred his stock of goods to his residence on South Central Avenue.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 12, 1910, page 8

Vaudeville and Motion Pictures with Splendid Music Will Be the Policy
of New Playhouse on Main Street Now Being Arranged.
    Saturday night will mark an epoch in Medford's advancement when the doors of the new Isis Theater on Main Street will be thrown open to the public.
    Vaudeville and advanced motion pictures, with splendid music and effects, will be the policy of the new Isis, and manager Williams, who is fitting up the place, is sparing no pains or expense in equipping the cozy playhouse with all the comforts and conveniences possible. It will be spacious and comfortable, especial attention being given to the installation of an electric system of ventilation that will ensure a cool temperature during the weather. The stage, while not as large as some, will be equipped with modern scenery and conveniences and, all in all, the Isis will be a creditable addition to growing Medford.
    Manager Williams has secured for his opening attraction the great Marshall Road Show, a company of classy vaudevillians who are spoken of in highest terms by the press of other cities where they have recently appeared. The company is headed by Edward C. Marshall, the well-known handcuff wizard, who has a variety of comedy mysteries that have created quite a furor between here and Portland within the last few weeks. Associated with Marshall are a number of vaudeville artists of exceptional quality.
    The Marshall company was especially engaged to open the elegant new Folly Theater in Eugene the first of the month, and the Eugene Guard gave them a great sendoff.
    In addition to the Marshall company, Miss Kennedy, recently of Pantage's, Portland, will sing illustrated songs, and the Stephens Orchestra will dispense music. Two thousand feet of selected moving pictures will be shown. Two performances will be given each night. The prices will be 15 and 25 cents.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 19, 1910, page 5

    Everything is in readiness for the formal opening of the new Isis Theater on Main Street.
    Tonight at 7 o'clock the doors will be thrown open, and the performance will start a half hour later.
    While the lobby is not finished, the interior is complete, and a pleasant surprise is in store for local theatergoers. The house is done in dark green trimmed with cream and white. The lights, of which there are many, are tastily arranged, and the new theater will be a splendid addition to Medford's amusements.
    The Great Marshall Show, which is to furnish the vaudeville portion of the program, comes to Medford with the highest recommendation, and it is doubtful if a more happy choice could have been made in the selection of the opening attraction.
    Manager Marshall of the company is a hustler and has spared no pains in advertising the Isis opening. For the past three days he has kept bill poster Cannon busy posting the enormous posters advertising the attraction, and it is safe to predict that two crowded houses will turn out for the grand opening.
    Marshall will be seen in a burlesque spiritual seance that is said to be a scream. Ethlynde Roberts is reported to have a clever act, while Eddie Van, the tramp cartoonist, is expected to create many laughs. Martette has been one of the most novel turns in vaudeville. The Isis orchestra will be handled by J. G. Stephens, who resigned his position at the Star in Portland to accept the local position. Miss Hazel Kennedy will sing a beautifully illustrated song. Quite a pretentious show. Good luck to the Isis.

Medford Mail Tribune,
May 22, 1910, page 2
Isis Theater ad, 1910-6-12MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, June 12, 1910

    The management has secured an extra strong attraction in Mr. Solinda, the HUMAN ARC LIGHT, whose performance is without a doubt a great novelty. His act alone is well worth the price of admission. In addition, we have Bessie Louise King, the Irish prima donna, who keeps the audience in an uproar with her witticisms and high-class singing. Also Mr. Perez is clever in his impersonation of marble statuary. The management wishes to spare no expense in securing the best of talent in order to please the public of Medford, always introducing the latest moving pictures.
    The Isis Theater is one of Medford's principal places of amusement, where ladies and gentlemen can spend an hour of enjoyment. The management makes a specialty of securing only the best high-class vaudeville.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 3, 1910, page 2

Isis Theater ad, August 6, 1910 Medford Saturday Review
August 6, 1910 Medford Saturday Review
Isis Theater, winter 1910-1911
The Isis Theater, winter 1910-1911

    Harry Williams, one of the proprietors of the Isis Theater, became a Benedict while on a visit to Portland last Thursday. Accompanied by Mrs. Williams, he returned to Medford Saturday. The couple, who will shortly establish a home here, were the recipients of many congratulatory messages yesterday.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 1, 1911, page 2

    For a treat in the amusement line, go to the "Isis." You will witness to cleverest vaudeville and the clearest pictures. The only radium screen in the city. See the long, lank, lean, skinny fellows in their skinny dance and hear their skinning, skinny, skin song tonight and Saturday night.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, March 24, 1911, page 5

Made Initial Appearance at Isis Theatre Sunday Night with Credit
    Kurth and Lane, local vaudeville artists, made their initial appearance Sunday night at the Isis. The mechanical part of the act is very good. The young men make their entrance upon the stage in an automobile that breaks down when it reaches the center. Being thus interrupted, they give the audience the benefit of good music. The music is well chosen, and the duet on the cornet and trombone is good.
    Barring the fact that they had an overappreciative audience that disconcerted the musicians a little, they did exceptionally well. No doubt the absence of familiar faces will make the work easier, and the boy should have a great success.
    The Isis had another strong act by Scott and Forslund, equilibrists. The act is the best that has been in the city for some time.
Medford Sun, September 12, 1911, page 5

The first Isis, left of center, circa 1913.

    R. E. Gordon, who has conducted the Isis Theater on East Main Street for the past 26 months without missing a single night, has sold the theater to I. L. Whipple, who will conduct it in the future. This is the first time this theater has changed hands, Mr. Gordon establishing it.
    Through Mr. Gordon's efforts the theater has held a high place in the esteem of the local picture show patrons, who are sorry to see "Bob," as he is known to most of them, quit the business. Mr. Whipple, however, is no novice at the business, and the plans to retain the high plane upon which the business has been conducted in the past.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 12, 1912, page 6


    The Isis Theater was broken into sometime during the night last night and $25 in nickels and dimes secured from the cash register. A hundred pieces of sheet music and a Brownie camera were also taken. Entrance was effected by breaking into the front window, and the escape made through the back door.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 24, 1912, page 2

    The Isis Theater was entered and ransacked Sunday night, the thief escaping without leaving a clue. Several rolls of music, a camera, and about $25 in money was taken.
    All of the second-hand stores in the city are being closely watched in hope that the thief will endeavor to dispose of his loot. Entrance was gained through a rear window.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 25, 1912, page 6

Tracy Wellman, Star Theater, Astoria, Oregon 1912
 Star Theater projection booth, Astoria, Oregon 1912

    Bob Gordon, who "won a home" with local theatre patrons during the two years he conducted the Isis Theatre in this city, has purchased a half interest in the lease of the new Page Theatre now being erected, and will be associated with T. J. Fuson in the management of the same.
    Mr. Gordon has had much experience, as has Mr. Fuson, in catering to the public, and their teamwork should result in success for themselves and satisfaction to the public.
Medford Mail Tribune, November 29, 1912, page 5

    The Mail Tribune's leased wire operator will copy the [Bud] Anderson-Mandot fight returns at the Isis Theatre tonight over the only direct ringside wire out of the Vernon arena on this occasion. The service at the Isis will be the speediest description of a fight ever sent over a telegraph wire, and on no other occasion has any person had the temerity to lease a direct wire for such a distance, 1121 miles, to handle the news of a prizefight. The wire will carry the results of the Jack Britton-Eddie Murphy fight at Kenosha, Wis., the Jess Willard-Gunboat Smith fight at San Francisco and the Cal Delany-Monte Attell semi-windup at Vernon, in addition to the main event and other preliminaries. Moving pictures will also be given, and no long waits will mar the evening's entertainment, which will be suitable for ladies as well as gentlemen. Doors open at 7:30.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 20, 1913, page 1

    R. G. Patch, the operator at the Isis Theatre of this city, believes he has solved the problem of taking the flicker out of motion pictures by a recently patented machine he has invented, but not as yet perfected. However, it is very likely to be fully developed in the Edison laboratories. The machine is to be known as the multiple compound, and each individual little picture will be compounded. The intermittent movement will be four times faster than those in use, but yet the machine will not use up or "feed" the film any faster than those now used, and the lenses are to be the same, and no more in number than at present.
    The shutter will be known as the outside multiple disk type with intermittent movement, and when the machine is highly perfected by expert mechanics the public can enjoy the long-sought flickerless "movie," no doubt.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 20, 1914, page 3

Found Dead in Room
    Carl Harrill, a vaudeville actor age 65 years, who appeared at the Isis Theater Saturday, was found dead in his room on North Bartlett Street Monday afternoon by the landlady. Death was presumably caused by heart failure. Deputy Coroner Perl is making an effort to locate relatives. An inquest will be held Thursday.--Sun
Jacksonville Post, February 21, 1914, page 1

Isis Theater, March 1-2, 1914
 The Isis on March 1-2, 1914, when "The Hour and the Man" was playing.

    The building occupied by the Isis Theater has been leased to Jonas Wold, who will occupy the room with his drug store, jointly with Martin Reddy the jeweler. Manager Whipple of the Isis Theater will give up his occupancy Saturday, August 1st, and is undecided on his future location or plans. The work of remodeling the front of the building will begin next week.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, July 28, 1914, page 2

    Carpenters have begun the work of remodeling the building formerly occupied by the Isis Theater, for occupancy by Jonas Wold and Martin Reddy.

"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, August 4, 1914, page 2

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    The Playhouse Theater in the Childers Building on East Main Street, now undergoing reconstruction, will open and present its first moving picture on March 30, according to Gene Childers, owner, who is supervising the work.
    The little theater is developing into a real work of art, with colorful walls of green, stippled in gold and blending tones. A large lounging room and inner lobby has been designed, where soft carpets, upholstered chairs and davenports will provide a comfortable resting place for some of the audience during intermissions. Ladies' restrooms and gentlemen's smoking rooms also open off of this, as an additional attraction.
    The remodeled theater will also enjoy six exits, which is unusual in a theater so small, and a definite effort on the part of the local builder to guarantee the best in fire protection. An improved ventilation system has also been installed.
    Runways stretch the entire length of the theater on either side, and seats will also be placed behind a railing, giving the house a semi-Elizabethan aspect.
    The theater is also suitable for legitimate productions, one of the first booked to be the little theater play directed by Tom Swem and scheduled for early in April.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 21, 1929, page 5

    The new Isis Theater, the remodeled result of the former Playhouse Theater in the Childers Building, will be open to the public tomorrow with the first picture, "Reilly of the Rainbow Division," shown continuously from 2 o'clock on.
    Gene Childers, owner of Medford's newest movie house, is to be congratulated upon the effect he has secured in the new theater, both from a standpoint of artistry and comfort.
    With a seating capacity of 450, the house has an intimate, cozy atmosphere that makes it deal for both pictures and home talent productions. The stage is equipped for the latter, and Mr. Childers is booking a few of these shows along with his picture schedule. The first legitimate production in the Isis Theater will be "The Dover Road," to be presented by the Studio Players, April 18 and 19, under the direction of Tom Swem.
    A large and attractive neon sign in colors, with moving electrical effects announcing the name of the new theater, extends out from the theater entrance on East Main Street, and will assist considerably in enticing the crowds to that section of the city.
    The theater itself has a comfortable slope, with the seats arranged to provide plenty of room between rows. Long loges extend the entire length of the house, and seats in this section provide an excellent view of the stage, a fact which will also prove attractive in the case of legitimate productions as well as movies.
    New ventilation and heating systems have also been installed, as well as additional exits (six in all) which afford facility of egress from the theater.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 29, 1929, page 7

The first Isis ad, Medford Mail Tribune, March 31, 1929.

    The new Isis Theater on East Main Street opened with its first movie, "Reilly of the Rainbow Division," yesterday at 2 p.m., played continuously through the afternoon and evening to capacity audiences.
    The little theater, with its artistic, homey atmosphere, won the immediate approval of those who saw it for the first time, and will undoubtedly prove one of the most popular places of amusement in the city.
    The entrance is colorful and inviting with its large electric neon sign of moving lights, and its marquee with a golden dragon embossed on a green ceiling background. The interior lobby with soft-shaded lamps, ferns, comfortable chairs and deep rugs is also an attractive and appealing feature of the new movie house.
    Although the seating capacity is small, every seat in the the house provides a splendid view of the stage, a feature which should please those who plan on presenting legitimate productions in the theater.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 31, 1929, page 6

    The Isis Theater, owned by Gene Childers, is the only silent motion picture house in Medford. Various rumors have gone about stating he was contemplating expanding his theater business and seeking a new location. 
"Big Building on Page Lot Planned As Option Is Let," Medford News, October 30, 1929, page 1

    L. Niedermeyer, who is building the new movie theater and office building at the corner of Sixth Street and North Holly, declared today the report that the theater had been leased by Warner Brothers and First National, Inc., was in error.
    "The building has been leased by Walter Leverette of Medford," said Mr. Niedermeyer, "and other pictures will be shown besides the Warner and First National films."
    Work on the building is proceeding rapidly, and according to terms of the lease must be finished and ready for opening in April.
Medford Mail Tribune, December 24, 1929, page 2

    Gene Childers, manager of the Isis Theater, announced today that he had concluded negotiations with RCA Photophone Inc., New York City, for the installation of its sound reproducing equipment in his theater. In making the announcement, Mr. Childers said that installation engineers would arrive within a short time.
    Announcement of the opening date and the first sound picture will be made within the next week or ten days.
    RCA Photophone sound reproducing equipment is installed in many of the largest motion picture theaters in the United States. Among them are the theaters operated by the Radio-Keith-Orpheum circuit and several hundred so-called independent theaters. Recent noteworthy installations include the Little Carnegie Playhouse on West 57th Street, New York City; the Pier Theater on the Million-Dollar Pier at Miami, Florida, and the beautiful new Casino Theater of Catalina, California. One of the new Type "G" models was chosen by the Matson Steamship Line for installation on the S.S. Malola, largest and fastest passenger vessel plying the Pacific Ocean.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 2, 1930, page 3

    The Isis Theater will show its first talking picture Friday night, October 10, presenting Jack Oakie in "Fast Company," manager Gene Childers announced today. The theater will be closed today, Wednesday and Thursday in order to complete arrangements for the opening night.
    With the installation of RCA Photophone sound reproducing equipment at the Isis every theater in Medford will now feature talkies. Beginning next week the Isis will have matinee shows.
    RCA Photophone Inc. is one of the subsidiary corporations of the Radio Corporation of America and allied with it in the development of sound recording and reproduction equipment are the General Electric Co., the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. and the RCA Victor Corporation.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 7, 1930, page 9

    Medford, Ore. — E. L. Childers, operating the Isis here, will shortly open the Lithia in Ashland.
"News of the Day," The Film Daily, December 23, 1931, page 4

Isis Theater Announces Cut for All Shows
    Not to be outdone, the Isis Theater announced yesterday a cut in prices which admits an adult to their shows for 10 cents and children for five cents. These prices are now in effect.
    Of the second-run pictures that were headliners but a few months ago, and are still as entertaining as ever, that will be shown in the near future, "Touchdown" with Richard Arlen and Jack Oakie, the "Great Lover," with Adolphe Menjou and "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" are perhaps the outstanding.
    The Isis Theater has been enjoying large crowds at all pictures.
Medford Daily News, February 2, 1932, page 2

    The Isis Theatre will be closed Monday, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers announced yesterday, and the new Roxy Theatre, its successor, will open on June 24.
    The new theatre is located across the street from the Isis and will be modernly equipped in every respect to serve the Southern Oregon public. Within a few days workmen will start installing the large neon sign, equipment and new seats.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 12, 1932, page 4

Last revised June 23, 2023