Opening of the Pocahontas Theater

Welch Daily News
December 26, 1928

More Than Three Thousand Persons Visit the Pocahontas Theatre on the Opening Day

Newest, Finest Playhouse Opens

Dedicatory Ceremonies Held Christmas Afternoon - Much Praise Heard

With Simple but appropriate ceremonies, the beautiful Pocahontas theatre, southern West Virginia's newest and finest playhouse, was thrown open to the public Christmas day.

Dedicated to the entertainment and enlightenment of the community, a place of refinement and culture, as explained by one of the speakers, the handsome theatre was a mighty fine Christmas present to the Pocahontas coalfield.

Standing as the last word in theatrical architecture, and modern and complete in all its details, it is an institution of which any city anywhere might well be proud, and certainly no city the size of Welch in this section of the country can equal it.

3,000 Visit It

More than three thousand persons paid admission on the opening da. The large auditorium was comfortably crowded at the first performance and during the late afternoon, and again last evening.

The doors were first thrown open to the public at 1:30 o'clock, at which hour there was a crowd of persons waiting to gain admittance.

The first person to buy a ticket was John O. Summers, former mayor of Welch, who also bought them for his family. The second person at the ticket booth was Eugene H. Lopinsky, owner of the former Welch Theatre building.

Visitors were present at the opening performance from all points in the coalfield. It was as representative a gathering as has been in Welch for a long time.

Nothing but favorable comment on the beauty and elegance of the theatre was forth coming from those who saw it. Many declared they had never been in a finer one.

The Formal Dedication.

The attraction selected by Ellwood Davidson, manager of the theatre, as the premiere , was "Three Week Ends", Paramount's newest release, featuring the captivating little star Clara Bow. At this conclusion of the first run of the feature picture, and before the showing of the Hal Roach comedy, "Two Tars", a short dedication ceremony was held.

D. J. F. Strother, prominent local attorney and president of the First National Bank came upon the stars and in behalf of the builders and management of the theatre extended the season's greetings. It was appropriate, he said, that upon the greatest day in the year a gift should be made to the public of such a fine place for enjoyment, happiness and fun.

Referring to the development of the coalfield industrially, and advancement made along all lines, he spoke especially of the community spirit evidenced in Welch, and declared the new theatre stands as a monument to it. He took occasion to pay tribute to John W. Blakely who has leased the theatre, referring to him as "a fine young man, a product of this county, who has guided the destinies of our city for the past few years, and who has cleaned our streets and cleaned the city morally."

Accepts for the Public

Attorney Graham Sale on behalf of the community accepted the theatre. In the beginning, Mr. Sale facetiously referred to himself as one of the pioneers of Welch, mentioning the fact that 25 years ago was the first Christmas he spent in McDowell County. At that time, he recalled, there were but three brick buildings in this city, the largest and finest being the jail.

He said he was present at what probably was the first attempt at a theatrical performance in Welch. It was given in a tent on a vacant lot, and there were only six persons in the cast, but they had to do a lot of "doubling" because, he recalled, it was a wild west show and about thirty persons were killed before the villain was finally hanged and the hero and heroine were married and lived happily every after.

The community has grown, and its entertainment needs have been met until today a $130,000 establishment is dedicated to the public as a place of entertainment and culture.

Mr. Sale mentioned the fact that the theatre occurs a part of the site of the original home of C. Dl Brewster, president of the Brewster Realty company, owners of the building. He then called upon Mr. Brewster to come upon the stage, and introduced him to the audience as the man who provided the money for the theatre.

He next introduced M. A. Watkins, of this city, the supervising architect; then J. D. Green, as a representative of the firm of Green & Stowe, the builders. Then in turn he called upon the stage and introduced John. W. Blakely as the man who had nerve enough to leave the theatre: Elwood Davidson, manager of the playhouse; and W. C. Crookshanks, organist and in charge of the music.

Many Safety Features.

Before concluding, Mr. Sale mentioned a few interesting facts about the theatre, emphasizing its safety features. It is as nearly fireproof as possible in construction, all floors being concrete. There are sufficient exits to empty the house when crowded in about two minutes without confusion or unnecessary hurry. The large asbestos curtain which would shut off the auditorium from the stage in event of fire or in the dressing rooms, is another safety feature. Mr. Sale concluded by declaring that it is not a Welch theatre, but is for the entire county.

As an added feature of the program, Mr. CW. C. Crookshanks sang Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" the star-lit sky effect of the theatre ceiling being used to good advantage. As an encore she sang, "The Indian Love Call". She sang beautifully, and the audience was generous with happiness.

Mr. Crookshanks, who played the accompaniment for Mrs. Crookshanks, then gave "The Glow Worm" as a solo on the big organ. This brought another hearty round of Applause.

It was announced that the same scale of prices which prevailed at the old Welch Theatre will be charged for admissions to the new Pocahontas.

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