The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Medford Theater People

An Appreciation of George Andrews
    Ten years is a long period to be ill at one's country home, separated, for much of that time, from active participation in the life of the community. In a commercial age, an industrial age, an age when the value of an idea is weighed with reference to the reaction of the commonwealth, the service rendered the cause of music and general culture by our beloved friend and neighbor, George Andrews, is outstanding.
    Born at Lake Washington, Minnesota in 1859, Mr. Andrews was one of a family of ten children, all of whom possessed musical talent of a high order. Eeducated in the public schools at the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan and under the best private teachers in America, he was for many years the head of the nationally known Andrews Opera Co. and toured the United States appearing in practically every state in the Union. While directing his own company he had many invitations to leave the road and join the great metropolitan organizations.
    Since coming to the Rogue river valley in 1910, Mr. Andrews was very closely identified wiht ht emusical and ulctural life of the community as well as with his business an dhorticultural interests. He and his wife opened studios in Medford for teaching thea rt of singing and associated with them were those also interested in that line of work, and it was from these studios that his greatest influence emanated. No sincere young musician ever left his presence wityhout a word of encouragement and inspiration. His rooms, both in the Sparta Building and in the St. Mark's Building, were a gathering place for friends and pupils where took place open discussions of books, literature, philosophy, economics and current events as well as music. Here daily were gathered leaders of thought, while visitors were often dropping in for a word of greeting and to say they had heard him in such a year in Texas, Florida or Montana singing the "Toreadore," "Mother o' Mine," "Nearer My God to Thee."
    Promptness in keeping all appointments, important or trivial, was to him on eof hte greatest virtues.
    The Medford Chorcal Society, successfully conducted for many years, was indeed a labor of love and all who wished to sing were welcome to participate in the study of the greatest choral music. No less important was his musical activity in various churches, where no music except the best was ever heard under his baton.
    Because of climatic and other attractive conditions, many musical people, former associates, were located in the valley, and by having an easily assembled local chorus of 50 or 100 voices it was possible to put on many light operas and to stage out-of-door pagenats. He could go out on our beautiful encircling foothill orchards and pick up "Martha," "Arline," "Devils Hoof" or "Excamillo" and by the time the


    Back in 1918, a slim young man by the name of George Arthur Hunt first became identified in the operation of a motion picture theater in Medford when, together with R. S. Antle, he purchased the old Page and Rialto theaters.
    Those were the closing days of World War I, and George Hunt was at Camp Lewis, Washington until shortly after the Armistice was signed. He then became actively engaged in the operation of the theaters with Mr. Antle, and the two men presented valley showgoers with not only the early "epics" of the screen but also brought to Medford many of the outstanding stars of the legitimate entertainment world. Among these, and always a favorite of Mr. Hunt, was May Robson, who appeared here several times in different productions. A few years ago, while on a trip to Southern California and the Hollywood studios, Mr. Hunt and Miss Robson enjoyed a reunion and compared notes of old times.
Page Destroyed
    At 8:00 a.m., December 30, 1923, disaster overtook the partners when the Page Theater was destroyed by fire. One fireman, Amos Willits, was killed and Fire Chief Roy Elliott was badly injured, necessitating his hospitalization for almost three months.
    In the spring of 1924, Porter J. Neff and J. H. Cooley organized the Medford Theater Company and built the building which houses the Craterian Theater. The theater was leased to the George Hunt Co., Mr. Antle's interest having been purchased by the late Julius Wolf.
    Early in 1930, the George Hunt Co. was sold to Fox West Coast Theaters, and the chain operated the Craterian and Rialto Theaters until May 1933, when Mr. Hunt returned to Medford and again assumed ownership under the name of Geo. A. Hunt Theaters, Inc.
    Mr. Hunt's colorful career was brought to an abrupt close on August 31st of last year in an automobile accident, and his death was a distinct shock to the community and to the motion picture industry.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1944, page 10

    Among those who have watched the growth of entertainment in Medford with more than passing interest is R. S. Antle, prominent Medford business man, for Mr. Antle was at one time associated with George Hunt in the operation of the old Page and Rialto theaters, which they purchased from Moran and Percy.
    It was on September 1, 1918, that Hunt and Antle first joined forces, and the partners were in business together until 1924, when Mr. Antle sold his interests to the late Julius Wolf. Since that time has watched the fortunes of the local theaters ebb and flow through good times and bad with much interest and can always be counted upon to recall some amusing anecdotes of the problems he and Mr. Hunt faced in the years they were business associates.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1944, page 11

Richard F. Antle Passes Suddenly at Family Home
    Richard F. (Dick) Antle, a resident of Medford for 42 years, passed away at the family home, 127 North Ivy Street, this morning. Mr. and Mrs. Antle had returned only yesterday noon from a several-weeks tour of the Middle West during which they visited relatives, and he had seemed in fine health.
    Mr. Antle was born at Atchison, Kas., on December 16, 1868. He moved to Medford in 1908 and was active in business and civic affairs here until his retirement some years ago. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge of Medford, Knights Templar and Hillah Temple of the Shrine.
    He is survived by his wife, Annette; two daughters, Mrs. Henry Pringle and Mrs. Milton Schuchard, both of Medford; two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral Wednesday
    Funeral services will be held at Perl funeral home Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. with the Rev. George P. Bolster, rector of St. Marks Episcopal Church, officiating. Medford Lodge 103 AF&AM will participate in the services, and interment will take place in Siskiyou Memorial Park.
    It is the request of the family that flowers be omitted at the services.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 15, 1950, page 1


    In conjunction with the Craterian Theater's 20th Anniversary Week, Eino Hemmila, general manager of the Geo. A. Hunt Theaters, is also celebrating his 20th year in show business, having started in 1924 at the old Star Theater in Portland while attending high school.
    In 1926, Hemmila went to San Francisco and became an usher at the California Theater there, transferring in 1927 to the Granada Theater, now known as the Paramount, as chief usher. The following year, he became treasurer and assistant manager of the Broadway Theater, Portland, and in 1931 assistant manager of the Portland Paramount Theater. In the fall of the same year, he returned to San Francisco as assistant manager of the California Theater and in July of 1932 came to Medford as manager of the Rialto Theater for Fox.
    In May of 1933, George Hunt resumed operation of the Craterian and Rialto theaters and Hemmila resigned from Fox Theaters and became Mr. Hunt's assistant and advertising manager. Last year he was named general manager of the local theaters, as well as the Grants Pass and Roseburg theaters. In April of this year, Hemmila, with Donn Radabaugh of Roseburg and A. Orin Schenck, well-known Medford accountant, purchased the Roseburg theaters from the Hunt estate, and the partners are now readying a third theater which will soon be opened there.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1944, page 11


    Of all the employees of the Craterian Theater in 1924, when the theater was first opened, the only one left of the original staff still at the theater is "Bill" Prouty, chief projectionist of the local theaters.
    Bill's career in theaters goes back 33 years, to 1911, when as a youngster he started working at the Woodlawn Theater in Portland, using the old Edison hand-operated machines. In 1914, Bill went to Klamath Falls to work for J. V. Huston at the Star and Temple theaters, and in 1919 for Harry Poole at the Liberty Theater.
    It was in 1921 that Bill came to Medford, having been employed by George Hunt to work for him at the Page Theater. It is doubtful if anyone knows the Craterian better than Bill Prouty--he watched its rise from the very beginning, and the Craterian has always been watched over by Bill with jealous eyes.
    Not only has he followed the transition of motion pictures from the crude, silent product in its early stages to the modern, streamlined product of today, but Bill has also keen remembrances of many "greats" of the legitimate stage who have appeared in Medford, at the Page and at the Craterian. Among these are the famous musical shows--Schubert's Marcus, and the Passing Shows--as well as Harry Lauder, Al Jolson, May Robson, Ethel Barrymore, Eddie Cantor, George Arliss and Kolb and Dill among others.
    And, although Bill looks back on those early days and likes to reminisce about them, he is also looking forward with much expectancy to the developments that are sure to come soon after the war is over--television, 3rd Dimensional film, and their like.
Medford Mail Tribune, October 22, 1944, page 10

Last revised May 15, 2010