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MEETING: JUNE 6, 2013
Starts at 7
p.m. Business meeting; Program "Member Share
Polk County Family Histories Book 2!
Submit your story today!
Deadline July 4!
Click Polk County
Family Histories Book 2 for more
If you OR your ancestors lived or still live in
Polk County, we WANT your STORY!
If you are a recent transplant to Polk County, we
WANT your STORY!
We have extended the deadline due to demand but
it is time to get the book published!
Deadline is July 4! We are collecting family,
military and century farm stories for inclusion
in our second Family History Book of Polk County.
The submission of a 500-word family
story and a photo are free. Yes, FREE!
Is someone in your family a Polk County veteran?
You can honor his or her service to this
great country by submitting a military photo and
a 200-word story for free. If you own a
century farm, you may contribute a photo and a
300-word story for free.
So, please, write a story for Book 2! If the
thought of writing a story intimidates you, then
just give us a call and one of the members of our
writing team will do the interview and
ghost write the story for you. It can't get any
easier than this. Your story in a beautiful,
hardcover book is a wonderful way to preserve the
history of your family.
on our website:
2012 Ornaments and Puzzles are NOW
The 2012 editions feature the Simon
Bolivar statue, located in mid-town Bolivar at
Neuhart Park (on Springfield Ave.)
ornament is $5.00. Shop Now!
48-piece puzzle is $8.00. Shop Now!
The microfiber cleaning cloth is $2.00 Shop Now!
BOOKS FOR SALE:
County Strays Book 1835-1848, $25.00 Shop Now!
Grove Cemetery, Polk County, Missouri, $15.00 Shop Now!
you see this icon, click on it to leave our site
and go to the online map.
Visit PCGS to pick up your free commemorative map
BOLIVAR THEATER HISTORY 1908-1999
working on a walking tour of downtown Bolivar,
(one of the many projects I plan on finishing
I Googled the Drake Theater in Bolivar, MO
looking for a photo for the booklet from the
opening in the 1940s.
I did not get many hits on my search but one
listing made me sit up and take notice. The
architectural plans for our theater at the State
Historical Society Research Center - Kansas City.
be so lucky? I called there and had a delightful
conversation with Nancy. She affirmed that, yes,
have them in a collection from a famous architect
Robert Boller. She sent me copies of the plans. I
had a file on theater history in Bolivar and this
seemed like the time to write it up and share it.
information on Robert and Carl Boller see the
book Windows to Wonderlands: Cinespace
the Boller Brothers, Architects, by Noelle
pictures found a permanent home in Bolivar in
1908 with the opening of the Bolivar Electric
on the east side of the square. The advertisement
said it was "the only first-class motion
illustrated songs ever given in the city."
Admission was 10 cents and the show changed every
Thursday and Saturday. Bolivars Electric
Theater was soon followed by other theaters in
town, such as
the Novelty Theater, owned by Mr. Watson and the
Cozy Theater, opened by Henry McCaslin on North
Main Ave. McCaslin also had picture shows at
Flemington and Weaubleau. By 1914, picture shows
becoming so popular in Bolivar that the city
council developed the Board of Censors of Moving
assigned Rev P. T. Harman, J. A. Lamun, T. H.
Douglas, Mrs. J. W. Nicolay and Miss Lois Roberts
board. At about this same time a local man named
Jerry Drake (who would later elevate our movie
enjoyment) was getting his start in the movie
business by working at an electric theater
located in Clinton, MO.
Mr. Howard Davis purchased the overall factory on
North Springfield (see previous story on the
pants factory) and planned to tear it down but
instead he renovated it and named the new theater
Ritz Theater. Mr. Davis leased the theater to a
man named T. F. Cole to manage. Mr. Cole had
Bonner Springs, KS, Grandview, MO and Marshfield,
MO. The renovations were extensive and included
seating, plumbing, a new organ to play along with
the movies and a stage large enough to
traveling road shows. The color scheme was done
in three shades of green with gold accents. The
were in a dark mahogany finish with gold colored
padded seats. A wonderful electric sign was hung
the canopy announcing the name of the theater.
for the new theater was "The Utmost in
Entertainment." He also made the promise
picture will be run that can possibly
offend." The first picture shown was
"Gang," followed by "Adam and
Evil," both comedies. The music for the
picture was played by Miss Jean Allen Gravely,
Robert Lindell, cornet and saxophone and Jack
Stewart, drums, all of Bolivar. The first live
show at the
theater was "White Pants Willie" which
also came with a seven-person troupe of
are always asking people to "Buy Local"
and the 1920s were no different. Mail order
were taking a lot of money away from our local
merchants, so much so that the Davis Ritz Theater
free admission to any child that would present
them with a mail order catalog of over 50 pages.
Herald warned the theater that since catalogs
came in by the truck load at the post office they
be ready for a lot of children seeing free
movies. In 1928 the theater also gave children
free tickets if they
participated in Bolivars annual "clean
Electric Theater tried to compete with the new
Davis Ritz by bringing in such acts as Prince
world famous seer. Karmi did a mentalist show and
also drove a car blindfolded around Bolivar. But
of 1929 Jerry L. Drake had bought the Davis Ritz
Theater and the Electric Theater. He immediately
the Electric Theater. He then moved his family
back to Bolivar from Warrensburg, MO where he had
working in a theater. Jerry had worked at and
studied theaters for years and as soon as he took
started a slew of movie specials. He had a
"Bargain Night" on Mondays where two
could get in for the price
of one 25-cent ticket. Wednesday nights were
"Family Night" where the whole family
got in for 35 cents.
Saturdays were devoted to western movies and
occasionally there were midnight movies. Jerry
a sound system so that a music track from the
phonograph that was sent with the movie could be
same year Jerry also hosted an indoor circus
called the Snyders animal circus which
goats and monkeys. It was billed as "the
best indoor trained animal circus on the stage
Martha, the wonder bear, direct from Ringling
Brothers Circus." He also hosted any event
that needed a
stage and would draw a crowd to his theater, such
as style shows, cooking demonstrations and beauty
pageants like the one in 1932 where Miss Helen
Kelly was crowned Miss Bolivar.
movies came out in 1923 but, at that time, the
equipment was very expensive, as was the rental
a talking movie reel. However, Jerry lost no time
in preparing the Ritz to accommodate a talking
and in 1930 he invested $13,000 for installation
and weekly service from the Western Electric
Sound Movies. He showed the first talking movie
in Bolivar on Monday, May 5, 1930. The first film
short from the Western Electric company
explaining the science behind the creation of
talking films with the
main feature being the movie called "Red Hot
Rhythm" starring Alan Hale. A clip from the
movie can be found
on YouTube using the title "Red Hot
Rhythm" (1929). Jerry also raised the price
of admission from 25 cents
per adult to 40 cents per adult during prime time
but he kept the matinee price at 25 cents per
adult. He also
kept the childs admission at 10 cents.
In 1938 the
Ritz became affiliated with the Dickinson Theater
company which allowed Jerry to bring in movies
right after they were shown in Springfield. The
Ritz also had another face lift with the old
reconditioned and 250 new upholstered seats in
blue and silver being added. These improvements,
with the air-conditioning added in 1937, made the
Ritz one of the best small town theaters in the
Jerry added a few new promotions to his roster.
One was the "Tin Can Matinee." Children
encouraged to collect a dozen tin cans of quart
size or larger from the streets of Bolivar and
trade them in for
a matinee ticket. However the promotion most
interesting to me was the addition of a
"Local News Reel."
Jerry Drake bought some news reel camera
equipment and proceeded to visit the local
happenings to create
a movie. He shot films of local events, scenic
beauty spots and projects in Polk County. The
first one was
shown before the main movie in September of 1940
and featured shots of Polk County folks at the
in Sedalia, the end of the swimming pool season,
the August Bolivar Pot Of Gold Day, the crowd at
picnic and the opening of the school here. At the
end of the year he picked the best footage and
made one long
movie of the year in review. I would love to get
my hands on some of these news reels that Jerry
shot. I even
went so far as to track down his son in Colorado
and ask what happened to the films. Jerrys
son told me he
had no idea where they went but that neither he
nor his family inherited them. I bet they are
hiding in a closet
or attic somewhere in Bolivar. If you find them,
please let me know so we can archive them and
with Polk County.
One of the
local news films even ended up in Santa Paula,
California. This happened because of Ted Bridges,
who while visiting family in Bolivar in 1942, saw
a horse belonging to Bert Mahaffey in the film
and took the
movie to California to show a potential horse
purchaser. The Palomino horses featured in the
purchased by Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Converse of Santa
Jerry had met and formed a friendship with a
gentleman named Robert Boller, a well-known
architect, who had recently purchased a small
farm property near Pittsburg. This friendship was
play when Jerry decided it was time to build a
brand new theater in Bolivar in 1945. Jerry hired
draw the plans for the new theater. The new
theater had many difficulties in its construction
phase due to the
newly completed war. One of these was because of
the Civilian Production Administration (CPA)
rules and in
July of 1946 construction was halted on the
theater. The CPA ordered all construction in the
United States put
on hold after March of that year to allow the
country to recover from WWII. Jerry stated
"We had all our
materials bought before the deadline. But we had
to blast before we could put in the
footings." Walter Russell,
a local contractor, led the construction team and
they used as many local firms and laborers as
these shortages and government rules delaying the
theater, Jerry issued the following statement:
and a Promise
In view of
the fact that the seating company can not furnish
seats on a schedule we will be unable to open
our new Drake Theater as soon as planned. We do
hope to open as soon as it is possible to do so
be worth the wait. In the mean time we will give
you the best of entertainment at the Ritz and
holiday offering will please.
Mrs. Jerry L. Drake
did not give up and despite many delays they
opened in March 1948. The opening night had a
temperature reading in the four-below-zero range
but, despite the weather, huge crowds arrived to
opening night. The theater had a seating capacity
of 700. The seats were upholstered in red
was an ultra-modern lounge, ladies powder room,
the best in sound, projection and lights,
modern deluxe refrigerated fountain, year round
air-conditioning, new Da lite green exquisite
carpet and drapes.
The first movie shown in the new theater was
"You Were Meant For Me." Ticket prices
were Adults, 45 cents,
Children, 10 cents.
As soon as
the Drake Theater opened Jerry closed the Ritz
Theater and converted it into a studio where he
edited and produced his news shorts of local
happenings. He also sold Bell & Howell film
equipped the old Ritz with three soundproof
booths for voice recording.
Jerry L. and Edith Drake transferred ownership of
the Drake Theater property to their son Jerry S.
Drake and his wife Virginia who now reside in
Colorado. Jerry S. sold the workshop (on the west
Offset Printing) to the Cooper Family in 1986.
Jerry sold the theater property to James Cox,
Kevin Cox and
Luann Bean in 1987. The theater was renamed the
Esquire. One of these owners leased the theater
(Bills and Bagby) who were and continue today to
be a large theater holding company. In 1998
B&B built a
new four-cineplex theater on the south side of
town and closed the Drake.
Luann quit-claimed (deeded) their share to James
Cox and in 1999 he sold the property to the First
Baptist Church of Bolivar, located to the north
of the theater. The church converted the space
into a place for a
casual worship service that is held on Wednesday
night each week, featuring country and
music, live drama, video clips and an
inspirational message. On Sundays the theater is
used for Bible Study and
a contemporary worship service, held in
conjunction with the service held in the main
church building. Happily, the
theater still shows movies occasionally as it is
used by both FBC and the Bolivar schools for
kid-friendly movie showings.
has retained a lot of her beauty, thanks to the
Drake Family, the B&B Theater Company and the
First Baptist Church and it is my hope that this
trend will continue.
For more stories on Polk County's
history, please click here
If Bolivar schools are closed because of weather,
the library will also be closed.
There will be no night meeting, either, if school
is closed on a Thursday.
If bad weather develops on a Thursday afternoon
before the regular monthly meeting,
members can call 417-777-2820 to find out the
status of the meeting.
Click here for school
closings list at ky3.com
DATES FOR 2013:
Monday, September 2, for Labor Day
Thursday, November 27 through Sunday, November
30, for Thanksgiving Break
Wednesday, December 25 through Thursday,
January 2, 2014, for Christmas Break
PCGS will re-open at 10 a.m. on Friday,
January 3, 2014.