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As It Was: Houston Opera House Brings Entertainment to Klamath Falls

When the Houston Opera House in Klamath Falls began showing “moving pictures” in 1909, it advertised, “Ten cents to everybody, ten cents for any seat in the house.  Go when you like and stay as long as you like.”  It featured a “new moving picture machine” called the Edison Projecting Kinetoscope.

The opera house had opened in 1897 when Klamath Falls had a population of 364 and Klamath County only 2,444.  People were starved for entertainment. The saloons offered men billiards, booze, bull sessions and poker, but women mostly stayed home.

The opera house owner, J.V. Houston, introduced the town to traveling performers and local talent, lecturers, humorists, authors, and provided space for basketball games, high school graduations, boxing matches and New Year’s balls.

One historian has written, “It was as if the people felt the Houston Opera House was their very own, much like a church, city hall or school is public property.” 

The building burned down on Sept. 6, 1920, in a fire that consumed an entire city block.

After the fire, the Pine Tree Theatre became the community’s entertainment center, followed by the Pelican Theatre in the 1930s.

Source: Burk, C W. The Houston Opera House. Klamath Falls, Ore., Klamath County Museum, 1972.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.