Cater Opera House

The Cater Opera House was built by Dr. W. A. Cater in 1902 and was formally opened in October.

In the early days, stock companies appeared here for one-week stands, with a change of program every night. The Mayhall Stock Company of Goren, Missouri, which played here many seasons, was one of the favorites. The Dubinsky Brothers Stock Company was another troop which made regular visits to the Cater Opera House. Marjorie Rambeau, who later became a well-known film actress, appeared here in stock companies.

Around 1910, the Opera House was changed into a picture show by Dr. Roy and Don Cater, and, with the addition of a balcony, seated about 600. Among the early managers of the theater were Jack Lovely, Ned Howe, and Carl Bon. That was in the days of 5 and 10 cent picture shows, and among the favorite stars were Maurice Costello, Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, John Bunny, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and Marie Dressier. A three-piece orchestra was used and it was Jimmie Julian, who as trap drummer, created all of the sound effects incidental to the picture. Edward Baxter was the violinist and Chelsea Parks Love was the accompanist. Others who played the piano were Beulah Reece Hunter, Ida Laird Taupert, Elizabeth Early Reed, and Ethelyn Howe.

The Opera House was also the scene of many hotly contested athletic events. There were many fights and wrestling matches held there. Walt Posey and Bood Ellis were the promoters. Some of the fighters were Ralph Faulkner, Frankie Dean, Edgar Myers, Jewell Wade. Fred Doyle, Glen Lancaster, and Newell Whitney were referees of many of the fights. Among the wrestlers were William Marts, Billy Brown, Lon Owens, S. R. Tippett, Dan Hunter, and Curtis Hicks.

The Opera House was also the scene of many important dances. The Firemen’s Ball and the B. of R. T. Ball were always held there, also both private and public dances. Toots Gates was official caller for the square dances.

Before there ‘was a school auditorium, the school plays and graduating exercises were held at the Opera House. When the Disneys were here in 1956, Roy Disney said that the Opera House was where he made his first attempt at acting in a high school play. Many musical comedies were given there, using home talent, with a coach from out of town. The Cater Opera House was the center of activity for all major entertainment.

After the Uptown Theater was built, the picture show closed in the Opera House. When the stage was torn down in order to enlarge the dance floor, two of the scenic curtains were sent to Knotts Berry Farm in Southern California where they were to be used in an old time Opera House that Mr. Knott expected to add to his already famous “Ghost Town.”

The last 25 years, the hall was used mainly for Saturday night dances with William Marts, Pete Riley, and Steve Chiolerio the main managers.

With the fire which occurred on a Saturday afternoon, January 26, 1957, the old Cater Opera House is now only a happy memory.

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