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Cyrus in a pickle: a question of Paramount importance


Cyrus is tirelessly in search of more information about the history of the Paramount Theatre, which entertained Adair Countians in the early 1900s.

I've been anxiously casting about the better of the day, rather like a old hound sniffing around for a nonexistent trail, trying to find the answer to a burning question. However, the works of both Waggener and Watson are silent on this point, and I fear all is lost.

Does anyone know when the Paramount Theatre opened in Columbia and where it was located?

It was in operation as early as January 1918, and served as venue both for movies and live performances, with at least some of the performances being a part of "the Lyceum course."

An example of latter form of entertainment is a musical variety show presented in early 1918. Readers of the Adair County News were urged to "Be at the Paramount Theatre Wednesday evening Jan. 23, and hear the American Girls." A copy of the evening's program appeared in the same issue and indicated there would be skits, music (much of it "novelty"), dancing, and readings. The individuals comprising the American Girls were identified as Virgie Hyatt, Vera Miller and Grace Hyatt.

In the April 3, 1918 edition of the news, readers of the News were informed "Miss Evelyn Bargelt, the noted cartoonist and sand painter, will appear at the Paramount Theatre, April 9, at 8 o'clock."

In June, there was another change of fare at the theatre. An article in the June 19 News read thus:
Chief Red Fox, who is a full blooded Indian, entertained here last Friday night at the Paramount theatre. He was born in Rosebud, South Dakota in 1870. His father, who is dead, was Black Eagle. Red Fox speaks English fluently, having been educated in a government school. He has done much work for the Red Cross in the Blue Grass section of the State, showing that he is loyal to the Stars and Stripes. His entertainment here consisted of four reels of pictures, exhibiting the customs of the Indians in the far West. He also delivered a lecture and gave the Indian wardances.
That movies were shown there too is beyond doubt, and we have no less a personage than Barksdale Hamlett, Editor of the News, so saying. An ad in the Feb. 20 edition of the News listed the movies (often called picture plays or photoplays) for that week, to wit:

Thursday night: Shorty Hamilton in "Shorty Unearth's A Tarter."
Friday night: Margueritte Clark in a Picturization of Her Greatest Stage Success, "Snow White."
Saturday night: Kathlyn Williams and Thos. Holding in "The Redeeming Love."
The following week, Feb. 27th, an unattributed article/op-ed piece--but definitely of the Hamlett style-- appeared in the News and gave two or three wispy hints about the theatre. Wrote the Editor, in his usual cut-to-the-chase style:
Our Movie Theatre

We wouldn't live in a world where there were no fairies and no children, and we couldn't live in a town where there was no picture show. The children of Columbia should be grateful to Guy Nell and the management of the Paramount Theatre for the program last week, and should tell him about it so as to encourage the presentation of more pictures like Marguerite Clark in that incomparable, pure and beautiful child story, "Snow White." We would gladly pay double the price to have our children see such pictures, and we hope that the bringing of these excellent pictures to Columbia will soon justify the management to move into some more commodious quarters on a ground floor, or into a new theatre built for this and other purposes. such as the enterprise and civic pride of Columbia should call for and support.
At the time, Barksdale, Sr. and wife Daisy had two small children, Barksdale, Jr., better known in later years as General Barksdale, and Margaret, who would have been three and a half at the time. Their oldest child, Edward, who later edited the News for many years, was 16 or thereabouts and probably a little long in the pants to fully appreciate "Snow White."

By the end of May, the Paramount had started showing patriotic movies--such classics as "The Slacker," starring Emily Stevens "in one of her greatest pictures."

This was during World War One, patriotism was running high, and getting tagged with the sobriquet "slacker" or "piker" was tantamount to being called Kaiser Bill himself. The movie was billed as "a Picture that thrills the spine of the nation, and will put the brakes on poisonous Germans over there."

Editor Barksdale liked this movie too. In a straight op-ed piece in the June 5th paper, he waxed most eloquent:
"The Slacker"

No greater service has been done to inspire the patriotism of our people and to bring hone to us the noblest lesson of the war than the bringing of this greatest of picture plays to Columbia...It is the kind of picture that should be shown wherever a slacker exists that dormant patriotism may be awakened, and courage be inspired in the bosom of the coward.

The large crowds that thronged from all parts of this and other counties to attend the presentation of this masterpiece encourages Messrs. Nell and Son to assure us that Slacker No. 2, will be secured sometime during this month, and...the public will be given frequent opportunities to see the best of screen productions during this season in this popular play house.
In late August, another patriotic movie had a matinee and evening screening. The ad for this movie stated, "Historic truths are shown in 'Draft 258.' Metro's patriotic picture exposes 'soap box orators' and profiteers. 'Soap box oratory' is brought to prominently into the story of 'Draft 258'...The activities of Soap-Box Orators in attempting to embarrass the Government in time of war is only one of the phases of America's great struggle shown in 'Draft 258.'"

During World War One, outspoken critics of the war--and the government--often were jailed, as mentioned in this terse entry in the April 10 News: "Disloyal talk is opening the doors of jails in Kentucky to German sympathizers. In the cities of the state it is a daily occurrence."

It seems I have utterly derailed the train of my original question; that is, does anyone know when the Paramount Theatre opened in Columbia and where it was located?

If you know, tell me, and don't forget to "Come to the PARAMOUNT THEATRE this week, Laugh, Love, Dream, but be happy by coming to the PARAMOUNT THEATRE."
CYRUS
Chief, Central Ohio Bureau
Editor's note: Clearly, this is a question for Alta Barbee Garnett.
Related articles:
Click here to access the MOVIES edition of Coumbia Magazine, Issue 8, December 27, 1997, which contains a lot of information about Adair County Movie Houses.
ShowMe Page for Historic Columbian Theatre
Click here to see our list of Adair County movie palaces, in order of appearance. And no, it doesn't include the Paramount

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This story was posted on 2006-02-23 07:09:56
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