Memories of Clarick Theater Fire
By Phylis Badgley
Anderson's article March 9, 1995 regarding the Clarick fire evoked a
few memories of my own, about Baker's theaters.
Yes, the 1937 Clarick fire drew many students (including me) away from classes.
Townspeople and students crowded the street to watch the spectacular fire. The picture you printed showed a large number of men wearing felt hats, the "baseball cap" craze would become popular much later.
My Dad, C.H. "Red" May owned Red's Delivery on Resort Street directly across from the Clarick. One of his employees called in the alarm after observing smoke seeping from the building. General opinion thought the fire started in the upholstery loges, perhaps from a cigarette that smoldered there. I do not know the facts.
As the Clarick became engulfed, my Dad feared his wooden building might also burn. The heat was so intense that it popped the putty from the windows of Red's Delivery. Dad used a garden hose from Dr. Ragle's home next door-to spray water on the front of the building.
I recall during the fire when the east wall of the Clarick fell, with a giant crash! Bricks scattered onto Resort Street and flames shot high into the air when a transformer exploded.
An exceptional instrument was lost in the fire. That was a huge three keyboard organ that Mrs. Buckmiller played. It had been situated in the orchestra pit immediately in front of the stage. The Clarick stage was used for many events, including Baker High graduation ceremonies. When seating space overflowed on the ground floor, spectators found themselves directed to the second and third balconies. The third one was dubbed "nigger heaven," a term unacceptable in today's world.
The Orpheum was located mid-town in the 1800 block on Main Street (where BJ's Apparel is now.) Many people drank good cold water from a fountain in front of the Orpheum. Water flowed continuously from a rock fashioned pedestal. A similar fountain was mounted in front of the Geiser Grand Hotel, and another at the old post office square. The Orpheum sponsored a promotion call "Pal Night"; with one paid ticket, a second person got in free. "Bank Night" was also popular, each person in the crowd hoping to hold the winning ticket for cash giveaway.
Remember the Polka Dot? This snack bar squeezed compactly into a small portion of the Orpheum building. Commodities sold were Coca Cola and ice cream. Show house admission prices were .10 for kids under twelve, .35 for adults.
Harrison's Baker's Bakery, two doors north, offered a good selection of penny candy. A couple of jawbreakers were a .02 cent investment, and would last well past the newsreel.
It's documented that years ago underground tunnels were located in the downtown area. Sometime in the late 1930s, local law officers "routed out" some youthful gang members who had their headquarters beneath the Orpheum theater.
Remember the Shopping Guide? This was a complimentary four page paper printed every Friday telling of theater offerings, giving synopsis of coming shows, and carried merchants' ads. A special weekly column called "Farmer Brown Sez" was written by attorney Lott Brown. He spelled each word just as it sounds and give his opinion on numerous subjects. He gently needled some local city fathers who agreed to disagree with him on community issues.
The Empire theater in the 2000 Block on Main Street (Stockmen's) presented a quantity of cowboy shows. The serials led viewers to the most exciting portion of the episode, then a message flashed across the screen "Continued Next Week!"
I'm reminded of a business operated by "Pop" Givens, who had a portable popcorn wagon. He parked it at Main and Court streets-paralled to the Neuberger and Heilner building. This was a familiar sight at that location for years
Theater goers seem convinced that all movies are enhanced when munchable popcorn is available.