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 theaters came from the research of the late Don Smith of Findlay.
By R.L. HEMINGER
The record for the longest active connection with Findlay’s entertainment business belongs to a triumvirate consisting of R.C. Stueve, Walter Stueve and Howard Wilson. Their association with the theater in Findlay started on Sept. 19, 1932, and continued for more than 40 years.
R.C. Stueve, who came to Findlay in 1932 in the midst of the Depression, had a life story that had a familiar pattern in the United States. He was born in Germany and came to this country as a youthful immigrant when he was only 21 or 22 years of age. He had to make his own way and toured the country as a fresco painter. This is the art or technique of painting upon lime plaster surfaces with colors ground in water or a limestone mixture. He performed his work in many new courthouses, churches and the like.
He then decided to go into business for himself and opened a theater in Akron, in 1906. It only had folding chairs. He then went to Canton and Barberton, and also obtained theaters there.
He decided to retire in 1927, but it was only for a temporary time. He heard through friends of an opportunity to return to the theatrical business in Findlay, and it was in 1932 that he decided to come to Findlay, bringing with him his son Walter and Howard Wilson, who was a close friend of the Stueves for some time before the Findlay venture.
The leases on Lyceum and Royal movie houses in Findlay were bought, and Walter Stueve took over the management of the Royal and Howard Wilson the Lyceum. The leases were purchased from the Leslie Theater Corp.
The Findlay Amusement Co. was organized to own the Royal-Lyceum enterprise. The Royal realty was eventually bought by the company, but the Lyceum property was leased from the Odd Fellows lodge. The Royal had originally been the Mystic, which was established in May 1907 as Findlay’s first exclusive movie house. The Lyceum opened in December 1910, and continued to operate until June 1956, when it was closed.
The theatrical interests of the triumvirate were expanded in 1937, when it obtained the lease on the new State Theater in the McKelvey block. The theater had just been erected by Marion, Ohio interests. The real estate was eventually acquired by the Findlay Amusement Co.
The death of the two Stueves terminated a long friendship for Mr. Wilson, who started to work for the elder Mr. Stueve in 1926 while still going to school. He first worked as a door man and operated a concession stand.
After the Stueves passed away, Mr. Wilson continued to manage and operate the company’s properties.
In the fall of 1971, the Findlay Amusement Co., of which Mr. Wilson was vice president and general manager, sold its Findlay interests to the Sterns Ohio Theaters Inc., which was managed by the Armstrong Circuit, headquartered in Bowling Green. The sale included the State and Royal theaters. The Armstrong Circuit thus added the two Findlay theaters to its properties in various Ohio cities, which already included the Harris and Millstream (drive-in theater) in Findlay.
Mr. Wilson was named city manager for the four Armstrong Circuit theaters, thus continuing his active association with the entertainment business locally.