The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Roxy Theater

June 24, 1932-January 19, 1947.

The Roxy on Main, just west of the Bear Creek bridge.

Medford Mail Tribune,
June 24, 1932

The Roxy Theater
By Verna Forncrook Wilson

    The Roxy Theater opened June 24, 1932. It was located on East Main Street in Medford, Oregon. It was the last building on the right-hand [south] side just before crossing the Bear Creek bridge.

Gene Childers, circa 1934
    The owners of the theater were Gene and Mae Childers. They were owners of the Isis Theater, which they closed and was located across the street. Mae Childers sold tickets, and Gene was the ticket taker and manager.
    The projectionists were Walt and Don Williams. They were Mae Childers' nephews. These two, along with their father, were the janitors.
    The prices of the theater tickets at this time were 20¢ for adults and 10¢ for children. On November 15, 1936 the prices raised to 25¢ adults and 10¢ kids.
    This was a small theater compared to the Holly and the Craterian. The seating capacity was about 500. The lobby was quite small. The floor was a red carpet, and there were red drapes at the aisle openings.
    The interior walls of the theater were paintings of early history scenes--Indian pictures and scenes of Crater Lake--just beautiful. The middle section seated about 20 in each row, with the seating of four on each side. This was a two-aisle theater. The back row four-seat section was equipped with earphones for those hard of hearing. The aisles were quite steep, which made it hard on the usherettes.
    I was an usherette along with Juanita Hjorton when the theater first opened. I remember well the uniforms we wore. They were blue jumpsuit style with a gold jacket and sash. For our winter uniforms we wore a green jumpsuit style with a large white collar and white cuffs. We girls took the collar and cuffs home to launder.
    The other usherettes during my time at the Roxy were Katherine and Maxine Robinson, Peggy Moran and Bernice Shellenbarger.

Verna Forncrook at the Roxy, 1934

    After a year of ushering in the theater I was given the job of ticket seller. The ticket booth was all glass and out away from the outside wall. Later the booth was moved back against the wall and entrance could be made from the lobby.
    As cashier at the Roxy, my wages were $9.00 a week. For this I worked in the afternoon for the matinees, evening shows and all day Saturday and Sunday, which were running continuously. There were three changes of pictures a week, with a Saturday-only showing. These Saturday pictures drew a lot of kids. They would be waiting at the box office for me, anxious to keep up with their Saturday cartoons and serials. At one time the price of a children's ticket was 5¢ if they sat in the first 10 rows of the theater. This made room for the adult attendance. Many kids were 12 years old for a long time. Those who were 12 or under got in for the 10¢ price.

    Bank Nights: In 1936 three theaters had a money promotion every Wednesday night in order to attract more movie attendance. Each ticket stub was put in a box and a number drawn out. The prize was $100 and was raised each week if no one won. This brought the Roxy Theater ticket sales over 500 each Wednesday.
    At first the owner, Gene Childers, forbade anyone eating popcorn in the Roxy, although the Craterian and the Rialto had popcorn machines and sold popcorn for 5¢ a bag. This brought in business at their theaters. Finally after a time popcorn was brought to the Roxy from the Craterian, kept hot with a machine. At last the patrons could eat popcorn there also.

The Roxy, at left, on July 24-25, 1942, when“Parachute Battalion” and “Outlaw of Cherokee Trail” were playing.
The Isis Theater was directly across the street in the Childers Building.
    On March 31, 1935, George Hunt and Walter Leverette took over the Roxy Theater. Gene Childers sold out. Changes were being made by the new owners. At this time I was making $11.50 a week. For this extra pay I stayed in the lobby until the last show was out and did banking. On March 22, 1937 my wages were raised to $16.00 a week.
    Up until 1937 the Roxy was having matinees and good crowds in the evenings, 400 to 500 attendance. When the matinees didn't have many in attendance they were stopped. This gave me only evening work and all day Saturday and Sundays. Many a weekend I had an hour for supper. Since we lived two miles from the theater it was sometimes impossible for me to go home, so I ate uptown. I could get a bowl of chili for 10¢ or a hamburger for the same price. Chili was served with all the crackers one could eat. Many a holiday dinner was planned so that Dad could take me home to enjoy the meal with the family.
    In August of 1938 I left the good old Roxy to move to Astoria. Even after I moved back to Medford in 1943 I never went back to the theater, which at that time was renamed the "Esquire."
Roxy Memories
    Since I kept a diary during the year 1934 to 1938, I have many notations regarding this theater.
    I worked for the theater every day, no days off except for one week vacation a year. I can't remember ever taking a day off for being sick. One just didn't do that those days.

Wainscott's, July 1942

    Many a time Peggy Moran and I would walk to work early, stop in at Wainscott's Drug Store at the corner of Riverside and Main streets. We would have a coke for 5¢ at the soda fountain there. Then we would go to the theater and chat or listen to records being played by Walt Williams at our request. My favorite song then was "You're the One Rose That's Left in My Heart." Walt wrote the words down for me. I have them still. Phonograph records were played for the audience before the show started at 7:00 p.m.

Medford Mail Tribune, August 4, 1935

    I saw parts of many shows after I got through working in the evening, some at the Roxy and some at the "Crate," as we called the Craterian. We got in free. On Aug. 6, 1935 I saw "Curly Top," the Shirley Temple picture, at the Crate. The Studio at times had cute cartoons and a good show, which I enjoyed also after working at the Roxy. The Holly and Craterian had first-run movies at a higher price.

The 25-foot neon Roxy sign, at right, July 1942. Looking down East Main toward Bear Creek.

    Many a Sunday when I was working the 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. shift I watched the Sunday cars go by for their drive. Those days a Sunday drive or a movie was the only thing. There was little radio and no TV then. I could look out the ticket booth past the bridge and see nothing but vacant lots. [The I-5 viaduct didn't exist then, of course.] It is now filled with houses and a mall.
    If I wanted to go anywhere on a Sunday I had to go very early in the day and be ready for work by 1:00. I remember going to Crater Lake and Dead Indian Springs for a fun outing.
    I remember one time one of the Swift boys had been out skunk hunting. Evidently he had caught one, and it was on his clothes. He came to the theater, and even though he sat in the back row the smell was terrible, and he had to leave.
    One time a customer fell over a pair of crutches. This customer sued the theater, saying she was badly injured in her fall. I think she faked it a lot. Babe was ushering at the theater at that time for a short while.
    All in all, my theater days were happy ones. I'm glad I spent those years there. Today the theater has been torn down, and it is now a vacant lot. Many don't remember the Roxy.

See also Verna's autobiography.

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        Elmer Childers, local builder and brother of Gene Childers, owner of the Isis Theater, now in operation, has secured an option on the Page Theater property on East Main valued at $40,000 and owned by George Hunt, according to reports circulated in Medford yesterday. Amount paid for the option is unknown. It is understood Childers will rebuild on the property. It includes a block 83 by 100 feet, the 83-foot front on Main Street, and the old Page Theater, which stands on the property.
    Type of building considered by Childers is unknown. Rumors include theater, apartment house and hotel, at about $65,000.
    The Page Theater has been a problem to the city since it was gutted by fire in December 1923. Methods of disposing of the building and objections to letting it stand have been introduced to the city council at frequent intervals. The city dads have been assured  a deal was first considered which would transform the property from a liability to an asset.
    Yesterday's report indicated the deal had been consummated. Mr. Hunt, owner of the property, sold the Craterian and Rialto to Fox West Coast theaters a short time ago. He failed to relinquish hold on the Page property while operating the other two motion picture houses.
    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. The Page Theater, when in operation, was the leading playhouse of Medford. Nothing has been done to the building since the interior was destroyed by fire.
Medford News, October 30, 1929, page 1

    The old Page Theater ruins will soon be but a memory, as within a week's time Elmer Childers, who has obtained the contract from the owners to tear down the structure and who has a deal on to erect a building on the site, must begin the razing at that time.
    The council granted Mr. Childers a week's delay last night, in order that he can study over the problem of whether he can salvage a part of the structure by incorporating it in the building he is thinking of erecting. Whether or not he decides to build he has promised to begin the tearing down of the old ruins at the end of a week.
    In case he decides to build he will begin the work of construction in 30 days. It is understood that this plan provides for cutting down the walls to the height of the first floor and completely finishing that floor.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 6, 1930, page 1

    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

Medford News, June 24, 1932New Theatre To Be Opened in Medford Friday
    Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers announce the opening of their new theatre, the Roxy, on East Main Street, Medford, on Friday, June 24.
    The new theatre is in the building just rebuilt on the site of the old Page Theatre and is modern in every particular. Everything possible has been done to make this one of the best and most comfortable theatres in Southern Oregon.
    Mr. and Mrs. Childers have been operating the Isis Theatre for some time, but closed it a short time ago and sold the seats and fixtures. The Christian Church of Central Point purchased 200 of the seats for their church.
    The new theatre will open with "Shanghai Express," featuring Marlene Dietrich, Friday evening, and the same show will be given continuously from 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Central Point American, June 23, 1932, page 1

Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers' New Roxy Theatre Opens Tonight
New House Will Seat 450--Attractive Lighting and Decoration Add Touch--
Program Changes Often
    Stippled in gold, silver and black, with two double silver-colored doors accented by black futuristic designs, and the box office also decorated in silver and black, the entrance to the new Roxy Theater on East Main Street next to Bear Creek bridge will present an imposing view for the initial opening this evening at seven o'clock, with the showing of "Shanghai Express," starring Marlene Dietrich.
    Work on the theater has been in progress for the past few weeks, under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers, owners and operators of the new show house. They formerly operated the Isis Theater, across the street, for three years.
    The new building, with 450 comfortable overstuffed chairs, has carpets to blend in with the color scheme. Attractive light shades of parchment were designed in buff and blue by Leslie Van Doren of the Frank C. Clark architect office. A drinking fountain stands in a little alcove of buff and blue, the same color as the decorations in the foyer. Heavy velvet portieres and hangings of tapestry add much to the lobby of Medford's newest movie theater.
    To the left of the main entrance is located the office of Mr. and Mrs. Childers, and upstairs is the generator and outlet fan in the room adjoining the projection space.
    The morning plane from Los Angeles today brought in important parts of the RCA photophone sound equipment, which was installed by a crew of workers. The sound screen installed at the Roxy is one of the newest and best being used at the present time, according to sound authorities.
    Atop the building is a 25-foot neon sign in red and blue, which directs Medford's movie fans to Roxy Theater. The marquee is also illuminated with neon tubing, where the title of the feature attraction is shown.
    Moderate low prices prevail at the theater, Mrs. Childers said today, and four changes of features will be made each week. In addition to the main attraction, short subjects will be included on each day's program.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 24, 1932, page 8

    Following a week of frenzied effort, during which time most of the fixtures have been installed, the new Roxy Theatre, under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers, will open tonight for its first showing. Marlene Dietrich in "Shanghai Express" will be featured, and is considered one of Dietrich's best shows.
    Childers has been busy for several months preparing for the opening of his new playhouse, and the move will represent a change not only into a new and completely modern auditorium, but a better location.
    Merchants conducting businesses near the Pacific Highway and near the new Roxy Theatre are all pleased to see the new theatre opening. Not only does the theatre add to the attraction of that end of Main Street, but it represents a trend of building towards East Main, they say. The sign on the theatre, which can be plainly seen for the full length of the street, was finished late last week.
    The new auditorium will seat about 500 patrons, and Tom Shearer of Seattle has been in the city for several days installing the projection equipment, screen, seats and upholstery.
    Shearer said that the Super Vocalite sound screen would be the most modern accomplishment in moving picture screens in the city, and was so constructed that the sound and pictures would appear exactly the same whether the patron was in the front row or in the back. The newest Simplex projector and sound machine has been installed, Shearer said, which will insure the best results from the pictures that are shown. The screen will be 14 by 19 feet, amply large for any picture.
    Seats, which were also installed by Shearer, have box spring cushions and bow backs, making for the utmost in comfort. The carpet, which will cover the floor and aisles, will be a gold figure on a red background, and padded by a three-quarter hair mat. Each seat is afforded a clear vision of the screen, as no posts will interfere, and the seats are on a sufficient slope to raise the eyes of each patron over the heads of the persons in front.
Medford News, June 24, 1932, page 11

    Crowds from all sections of the Rogue River Valley thronged the streets Friday night for the opening of the Roxy Theater, Medford's new playhouse, located on East Main Street, and the standing line extended halfway down the block as the eager audiences awaited entrance.
    For the first and second showing of "Shanghai Express," feature picture, starring Marlene Dietrich, all seats in the theater were taken and guests turned away because of lack of space.
    The crowds were received by Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers, owners and operators of the theater, who were the recipients of hearty congratulations from many sections of the state and an abundance of flowers, which decorated the stage.
    Among the donors were Jimmy Valentine, Mr. and Mrs. Herb Strang of this city, Julius P. Wolfe of Ashland, Strathouse Neon Sign Company, Ben Shearer Company, Mrs. S. Childers, Mrs. Kate Collins and Mr. and Mrs. Clem Childers of Medford.
    Comfortable seats, attractive decorations, efficient and pleasing lighting fixtures and splendid screen and sound equipment greeted the guests following entrance through the decorative foyer of the theater. An advantageous view of the screen is offered from each chair in the house, which seats 450.
    In connection with the showing of "Shanghai Express" the public was entertained with several short features, and a vote of praise was voiced for Mr. and Mrs. Childers on every side in appreciation of the first night's offering.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 26, 1932, page 1

New Price Policy for Childers' Roxy Theater
    Mr. and Mrs. Gene Childers, owners of the Roxy Theater, announced today that their new winter prices, starting Saturday will be adults 10 cents and children 5 cents any time. Mrs. Childers says they will continue to show the same high-class pictures from M.G.M., Paramount, Universal and United Artists studios.
    Tomorrow the Roxy will show a first-run picture, "Night Beat," with Jack Mulhall and Patsy Ruth Miller. The following pictures will be shown at the Roxy during the next few weeks: "Merrily We Go to Hell," "Tarzan, the Ape Man," "Horse Feathers," "Hell Divers," "Devil of the Deep," "Street Scene," "Love Me Tonight," "Vanishing Frontier" and "Emma."
Central Point American, October 27, 1932, page 1

    Gene Childers, of the Roxy Theatre, has arranged for a higher type of pictures to meet the demands of the time and their patrons and has increased the price of admission to 10 cents for children and 15 cents for adults--a five-cent raise only.
    They have four pictures for next week featuring such stars as Helen Hayes, Ramon Novarro, Ben Lyon, Slim Summerville, Zasu Pitts and Tim McCoy.
The Tattler, Medford, June 16, 1933, page 4

Roxy Theatre in Medford Revamped and Renamed
    MEDFORD, ORE.--Closed January 19 for remodeling, the 450-seat Roxy Theatre here, one of those recently acquired by the Robert Lippert circuit from Walter Leverette, was scheduled to reopen this week under the name of Esquire. Matt Freed, district manager, said the small house would become a "little jewel box" type which would play only pictures of particular interest to adults.
Boxoffice, February 8, 1947, page 58

Last revised April 28, 2021