James Stewart, Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda are movie star names many readers remember. These three had long careers, but in the late 1930’s they were just becoming headliners and had films showing at the Millinocket Opera House. A scrapbook in the museum’s collection revealed seven of the small coming attractions handouts from July-August 1938-1939. Stewart was starring in “Shopworn Angel” while Fonda was the headliner in “Blockade.” Hepburn, with co-star Cary Grant, was the star of “Bringing Up Baby.” Along with the daily feature films, most nights there was a cartoon, a short feature and Metro or Movietown News. During this run in July and August, each viewing contained a chapter in a serial story “Lone Ranger.”
The Opera House had a long history. Originally built by Charles Rush in 1908, the building was used by the Modern Woodmen of America as a lodge room and had a large auditorium for public use. In 1912, it was destroyed by fire and Rush immediately constructed a new building, the Opera House, for community use. This theater opened with 692 seats. Many variety shows, concerts by famous names, town meetings, graduations and dances took place there before silent movies became available. In 1929, the first talking movie was shown. In the early 30’s, another fire caused damage. The beautiful front entrance was gone (early museum photos show it was used for many photo ops). The owner, a man named Kurson, had repairs done including a new entrance situated at the corner of the building.
By 1939, Millinocket had three operating theaters (Opera House, Millinocket Theater, Four-Star), but only the Opera House was allowed to show major films like those mentioned above. In 1971, the Opera House was sold and the new owners closed it. It was torn down in 1977. (Note: much of this information on the Opera House is from local newspaper interviews with Glen Wheaton, long time manager of the Millinocket Theater and member of MHS before his death.)
A recent mention on Facebook of Dorothy Bowler Laverty’s second book So You Live in Millinocket brought questions whether it was a follow-up to her original history of Millinocket. It is not a history, but it does discuss the different styles of architecture found in Millinocket. She tells of the houses with the stained glass windows, the two-story hip roof houses and the boarding houses. She spends several pages on the house at 4 Hill Street where she lived with her family growing up. She tells of the Eastland Ave. area, the “new” development expansion and the “amazing” mobile home. This book is at the museum store (Hardcover $15.00 and softcover $10.00, some signed, new).
***Available at the museum store………
1. “Within Katahdin’s Realm, Log Drives and Sporting Camps” by Bill Geller – $30.00 ($5.00 each SH);
2. “Tales of Little Italy” DVD, $15.00 ($2.50 each SH)
3. “A Little Taste of History” cookbooks – $15.00 ($5.00 each SH on mail orders);
4. “Spirits of Katahdin” DVD – $10.00 ($2.50 each SH);
5. 2019 MHS Calendars, “Sports for All Ages”- $10.00 ($5.00 each SH);
6. Engraved pavers, $100.00 each, contact MHS for details and form;
*** Museum open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon – 3PM weather permitting.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or email@example.com. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.