Grand Theater had short life on North Main

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. Information for the current series on Findlay “live” theaters came from the research of the late Don Smith of Findlay.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

Many Findlay people will remember the “Hurry. Hurry. You’ll have to Hurry” cry which rang out on downtown Main Street a number of years ago, urging attendance at a small vaudeville theater on North Main Street.

A “barker” with a large megaphone was calling out the message nightly, representing what was known as the Grand Theater, located in the French block opposite the old street car barns. Sometimes, a competing place of amusement had a “barker” out too, usually on an opposite street corner.

The Grand was in business for about two years in Findlay, starting in March 1906. It was located in space leased from John B. Shafer, owner of the French block.

John A. Wise, of Toledo, organizer of a circuit of vaudeville houses in northwestern Ohio and owner of the Market theater in Toledo, had been in operation for five years when he came to Findlay. The price of admission was a dime, with three shows daily, one in the afternoon and two nightly. The bill was changed weekly. There were seven numbers, consisting of singing and dancing, acrobatic work, sketch teams, illustrated songs and movies.

The interior of the French block’s first floor was remodeled to accommodate some 400 people. There were four sets of scenery to take care of that many types of background for the acts.

The Grand opened March 19, 1906 with the bill as follows: Charles E. and Bertha Taylor, in a comedy sketch entitled “Heinrich and Lena;” the girl with the changeable eyes, Ollie S. Mack, baritone singer; and two other acts.

A son-in-law of Mr. Wise, Harry Shockey, was manager of the Grand.

In July 1906, Mr. Wise leased the Grand to Lamount and Paulette, of Boston, Mass. H.H. Lamount later became the full owner.

“The Grand has been packed every night this past week. Manager Lamount is actually turning people away,” said the old Morning Republican Sept. 22, 1906. The Grand reduced its priced from a dime to a nickel in October. A late Saturday night performance was added.

On Nov. 14, Mr. Lamount sold his theater to C.L. Culver, who announced that a higher type of vaudeville acts would be booked. But the Culver-owned place of amusement was not destined to continue long. It closed its doors Dec. 10, 1906. John A. Wise, who opened the theater in March, returned to Findlay and reopened the theater a week later. On June 10, 1907, he leased the property to Turner and Lehman, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

The theater had a checkered career for the remainder of its existence, extending to around the first of 1908. It was closed and reopened several times.

The equipment, seats and furnishings were eventually sold to the Blanchard Amusement Co., a concern organized here to conduct Riverside Park entertainment. The Grand Theater seats were installed in “The House of Mirth,” a movie house at the park.

A paint sales firm moved into the old Grand Theater location.

But the memory of the Grand Theater was to continue to live. Leo S. Rosencrans, of Findlay, long interested in dramatic matters, developed a radio show out of his recollections of the Grand Theater in his home town, when he was in Chicago in the 1930s. The radio show, entitled “Nickelodeon,” went on the air every Tuesday night on the National Broadcasting Network.

“Once again,” said the Morning Republican, in telling of the new Rosencrans show, “will be heard the cry of the barker, who rode up and down Main Street in Findlay on a bicycle, shouting through a megaphone, ‘Hurry. Hurry. You’ll have to hurry.'”

The program was aired on radio station WENR in Chicago, among other stations.

Next week: More vaudeville houses in Findlay.

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