Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hallock's Grand Theatre

Interior of the Hallock Grand Theatre, in its heyday...In 1919, William M. Krumholz built the Grand Theatre. It was constructed of brick with the south wall having to be rebuilt three times so it would stand securely.

The grand opening of this new theatre was in November 1920 with a Grand Ball in which over 200 couples were present from all parts of the county to enjoy this gala event. The opening movie picture was "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm". The piano was played by Irene Ross Murray during the entire movie as the films were silent films in those days.

Bill and his wife, Florence, sold and collected the tickets. Any child who didn't have the price of a theatre ticket was always admitted by Bill.

A balcony ran across the north side and one-fourth of the way on each of the west and east sides. The entrance to the Krumholz living quarters was upstairs off the balcony.

There were movable seats. Five seats were fastened to a strip of two boards. These lined the sides of the hall or were pushed under the stages for more floor room. The huge canvas curtain on the stage was painted by Mr. Wall from Greenbush. It was a Venetian scene with advertisements surrounding it. It was rolled up by hand. "Don't Smoke, Remember the Chicago Fire" and "Don't Spit, Remember the the Johnstown Flood" were shown each show night before the shorts, previews, or feature.

There were several exits; two on the south side behind the stage, two on the west side and the north entrance. Lines for ticket purchases often stretched to Taft's Cafe.

The popular movies with many showings were "Ben Hur", "The Covered Wagon", "Birth of a Nation", and "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Colleen Moore, and Rudolph Valentino were favorite actresses and actors. Matinees were held on Saturday afternoons. Serials were of much interest also.

Bill had his barber shop of two chairs in the building, with Buster Johnson using the second chair. Casey Jones* had his first shop in the rear of the barber shop where he worked on radios, etc. He also ran the movie projector whenever Axel Carlson wasn't there to operate it. Bill often took children off the streets and gave them free haircuts.

The Krumholz living quarters were located over the North end of the business and had a west side stairway entrance. Dr. Frost had his office upstairs also at one time.

The large main floor was used by the school for basketball games, tournaments, and other school activities. Firemen's balls, dances, basket socials**, style shows, minstrels, New Year's Eve parties, and wrestling matches were also held in this spacious theatre building.

The closing of banks in 1926 made Bill relinquish his interest in the theatre business and he purchased the Hotel Hallock in 1927.

Duffy and Geneva Larson and their two daughters Helen and Irene came from Cavalier, North Dakota to Hallock in 1927 to operate the Grand Theatre. It was an unsuccessful venture, partially due to the times, and when the vote came up for Sunday movies and was defeated, so were they. They closed the theatre and returned to Cavalier.

A year later Clifford Bouvette contacted Duffy and encouraged him to come back to Hallock believing that the Sunday night movie vote could now pass. Duffy and family returned to Hallock July 5th, 1929 and reopened the Grand. As Clifford had predicted, in the next city election Sunday movies were voted in and this made the difference between success and failure.

This was still the time of silent movies, but about this time "talkies" were being developed by the movie industry and this was an expensive invention Duffy could not afford. At this time Fred "Casey" Jones* was living in Hallock. Casey had a very inventive mind and he decided he could make as good a sound system as the movie industry. Casey was a determined and brilliant man and before long the Grand Theatre had one of the best sound systems in the area.

Axel Carlson was the projectionist at the threatre for many years. He was very faithful in showing up each night in spite of the moans and groans and boos from the audience when a film would break or catch fire, through no fault of his.

The first years The Larsons ran the theatre in Hallock the school did not have a gymnasium, so all the basketball games were played at the theatre. The seats were fastened onto long boards so they could be slid to the side on nights when there were gaves. This also was done for dances which were a big part of the theatre business. At first a record player and loud speaker system was used, so someone had to sit and keep the records running all evening, but as times got better, Duffy hired orchestras to come and play for the dances. It was an exciting night when a big band from one of the larger cities in the area came to town. It was also a worry until they showed up as sometimes bad weather and gumbo roads made it impossible for the orchestra to keep its engagement.

Geneva started a popcorn concession in the lobby of the theatre. This was her own little business and what money she made was hers to keep. Duffy was quite generous about this as he paid for the popcorn and the oil! Helen didn't think it was such a great idea as many an afternoon and evening was spend making and selling popcorn when it would rather had been spent with friends. Besides, everything worn reeked of popcorn.

Duffy sold the the theatre in 1939 to Mr. Clatsworthy, who hired Ray Walters to manage it.

January 1, 1947, the Joseph Carriere family purchased the Grand Theatre. The entire family worked at the theatre. Many improvements were made in the business. In 1952, 3-D pictures came into effect and in 1953 cinemascope was installed.

In 1954 Joe built the 75-Hi Drive-In theatre 1 1/2 miles south of Hallock which was operated in addition to the Grand Theatre. The Carriere family made their residence above the Grand Theatre.

In September of 1975, a fire destroyed the Grand Theatre which also housed the Carrieres' living quarters and the dentist office of Dr. Harry Hanson. It was a sad ending to a fine business which had provided entertainment to the community and neighboring areas for many years.

FROM: Hallock - A History of our First 100 Years

Taken from the November 13, 1920 edition of The People's Press:

On Wednesday evening the doors of the new Grand Theatre were thrown open to the public for the first time, the occasion being a Grand Ball. Over 200 couples were present from all parts of the county to attend the installation of this wonderful institution. The very latest of dance music was furnished by Dick's Orchestra, consisting of piano, violin, trombone, saxaphone, drums and traps. That a good time was had was evidence by the fact that after lunch at midnight, the entire crowd returned to dance and continued until 2:30a.m. The theatre is one of the most up-to-date places of educational amusement and enjoyment in the Northwest. It excels any in the northern part of the state by far. The decorations and scenery are most wonderful. The opening play last Friday evening entitled "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" provided a winner as are all the Art-Craft Paramount features which Mr. Krumholz has booked for his regular circuit. These pictures are too well known to need any special comment, but we can say that none are too good for exhibition in the new Grand Theatre. We feel that Mr. Krumholz is erecting this modern institution, and that, in reward, the people of Hallock and community should and will give him their support in the way of patronage.

*Frederick McKinley Jones

Jones grew up in Covington, Ky., with his Irish-American father. Jones attended school until age 11 at a monastery. At 11, Jones quit school, ran away from the monastery and lived on the streets. At 14, Jones began to learn all he could about mechanics through working in different car garages and on a steam ship. These experiences aided him when he moved to Hallock in 1912.

One of those jobs led Jones to the James J. Hill Farm, operated by Hill’s son Walter, in Northcote, Jones was a mechanical genius. He could fix anything from the farm equipment to Hill’s Packards. He was put in charge of maintaining all equipment at the 300,000-acre farm. He next went to work at a garage and farm implement shop, where he again began building and this time racing dirt track cars. Since he was living in the snow belt, he also experimented with early snowmobile design. After Hill sold the farm in 1916, Jones worked for Oscar Younggren in Hallock. Almost everyone came to Jones to have anything fixed. Jones made a wireless telegraph for his best friend Clifford Bouvette, a portable X-ray machine for his friend Dr. Arthur W. Shaleen, and made radios out of scraps cheaply for local residents. Most of his inventions were made from scraps.

During World War I, Jones served as a mechanic and electrician in France, returning to Hallock in 1919. Although he had only a few years of formal education, he had a broad range of interests and gained expertise by watching others, asking questions, reading books and magazines, and by practice.

It was motion pictures that led Jones to the next phase of his life, a 30-year business relationship and friendship with Joseph Numero. The Hallock movie house, like many other small theaters, had difficulty making the expensive switch over from silent films to "talkies." While working as a projectionist there, Jones volunteered to build a version of a sound-movie machine. Using such materials as disks from a plow and a leather machine belt to drive them, he pieced together a sound-on-record projection system for the Grand Theater. When the industry upgraded to sound-on-film, Jones again went to work and ground a glass towel rod into the lens needed to produce the sound. The system he created rivaled the quality of those that commercial manufacturers were leasing to movie houses. Word of the homemade sound system Jones fabricated reached Minneapolis, and when Joseph Numero heard how well it worked he sent a letter to the Hallock theater asking the maker to come to Minneapolis.

When Jones arrived at Ultraphone Sound Systems Inc. in 1930, he again encountered the racism so prevalent in the United States at the time, as he was immediately informed that there were no janitorial jobs available at the company. Nevertheless, Jones produced the letter Numero had sent to the Hallock theater, and was eventually introduced to the other engineers. Soon after going to work for Ultraphone, Jones was appointed chief engineer...

FROM: Thermal King History

** Basket socials, also called box socials, were a popular form of entertainment for many years, and in fact, are still enjoyed in some areas. Each lady would pack a lunch and wrap it appealingly. The decorated boxes were then auctioned off and the money used for some community project. The winner of a box would not only get to eat the lunch but also to enjoy the company of the lady who prepared it. The identity of the owner was supposed to be a secret, but of course, sometimes a young lady might let a certain young man know which box was hers. Equally entertaining was to watch several young men vying for the same box! 
FROM: Growing Up on the Prairies


  1. Hi Trish,

    I just had to take a moment to thank you for this informative post. Today is the birthday of "Casey Jones." You have added a depth of insight to Fred Jones, Hallock's Handyman not to mention a glimpse into your charming town. I hope you don't mind if I link to you on my Tasteful Inventions Blog.

    Thanks again...

  2. Yes it would be quite alright to link to this me. Glad to be of help!