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As It Was: Holly Theater’s Performance Provides Great Depression Relief

The Holly Theater opened as both a stage and movie theater in Medford, Ore., on Aug. 29, 1930.  The first performance was a local production that played to a sold-out audience of 1,200 at $1 a ticket.

The movie shown that night was "Hold Everything," featuring technicolor with Joe E. Brown and tap dancer Winnie Lightner.

The end of the movie was but the beginning of the show.  The house lights dimmed and a local orchestra under the direction of Wilson Wait played an overture.  Then the silver curtain parted dramatically to reveal a glittering cast in front of a white lattice background with pink paper roses.  The audience rose to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

The show included dignitaries, singers, tap dancers, and act after act of the Rogue Valley's best entertainers. Highlights were the tango, opera singers, and radio personalities Frankie and Al.  In the finale, the dancers, in flashing black oilcloth, surrounded each star who came to center stage to wild applause from the audience.

People left the Holly that night to resume their real lives in the Great Depression.

Source: "The Holly Theater Grand Opening." Table Rock Sentinel, Apr. 1982, pp. 11-18.

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Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.