Donna plays at the Lavering Theatre – Twin Falls, Idaho – Dec. 1st, 1919

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Donna plays at the Lavering Theatre – Twin Falls, Idaho – Dec. 1st, 1919

I was unable to find any evidence of Chin Chin playing between November 27th (Thanksgiving) and November 30th.  On December 1st, Donna and the Chin Chin cast played in Twin Falls, Idaho. 
Twin Falls News, Page 2
Source: Genealogy Bank

On November 25th, 1919, one of the oddest advertisements I have seen regarding the  show ran in the Twin Falls News. It was an announcement “TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC” regarding the show.  I did not see any “articles” (really press releases) regarding the show running.  

On November 29th there was a large display ad, which included a photo of Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the paper for the show. On the Nov. 30th and on Dec. 1st there were regular sized ads. The non-paid announcement the paper made was on December 1st under “Amusements” 

LAVERING–”Chin Chin”, Charles Dillingham’s musical comedy.

That’s it.  No hype, no review following the show.  Very odd, it almost seems that the paper didn’t care about either the show or the theatre. I think the theatre’s history sheds some light on the mystery.

Lavering Theatre, Twin Falls, ID

Stage – Lavering Theatre
Courtesy Blacker Furniture 

E. C. Lavering built a furniture store in Twin Falls in 1908. Six years later, in 1914, he built an “Opera House” next door to his store. The theater appears to have had a very small stage (see photo) and had little room. (Imagine a curtain call on that stage with a cast of 65.) I’m sure the size, the lack of newspaper hype for its shows, and, probably, the facility itself all contributed to the theatre’s downfall. In 1922, it switched to moving pictures only.  
1922 was still the era of silent films, short “talkies” didn’t begin until 1923 and the first feature film didn’t release until 1927 (The Jazz Singer).  
Lavering Theatre
Courtesy Blacker Furniture

The theater lasted for only three more years. When it was sold in 1925 the new owners intended to level the floor and remodel it.  In 1927 it reopened as a skating rink that was next door to “Danceland.” That business must not have done well either, because in 1928 it and the “Danceland” were remodeled to become a Packard dealership.  It remained a car dealership for over thirty years. In 1959 it was remodeled again to make Blacker Appliance and Furniture and Appliance store, which stands today.  Oddly enough, this is the only building I know of that Donna played in that is still standing. It has been joined to another building, has had an addition made to the side, and appears to have had the two-story stage area in the back removed, but the basic structure is still standing, 99 years later.

Twin Falls News (Twin Falls, ID)  November 25, 1919  –  Page 2 – via  Genealogy Bank
Twin Falls News (Twin Falls, ID)  November 29, 1919  –  Page 2 – via  Genealogy Bank
Twin Falls News (Twin Falls, ID) December 1, 1919  –  Pages 2 & 4 –  via  Genealogy Bank
Cinema Treasures – Lavering Theatre – Magic Valley

McAllister Murder – Bell Set Free – Jan 28, 1925

Savannah Press
28 January 1925




William R. Bell, charged in a warrant with the murder of Edward L. McAllister, was dismissed by Judge Schwarz following a preliminary hearing in police court this morning. The recorder held that the evidence presented against Mr. Bell was not sufficient to hold him on a charge of murder, and he was accordingly set free. Col. Shelby Myrick, attorney, was in charge of the defendant’s case.

Bell’s Statement.
Making his statement to the court. Bell said on December 10 he got paid off in the morning. “Mr, McAllister told me he expected me to pay $5 on the amount I owed him that, pay-day. I told him it was Christmas and I wanted to buy a few thing for my wife and child. I told him. I had an insurance policy and that I intended to borrow some money on it and pay all 1 owed him,” he said. To this, Bell said, McAllister replied: “Bell, when I loaned you boys money I did not intend to punish you, but I want you to pay up, because I may not be abound here long.” In reference to the alleged charge that he carried a weapon after McAllister’s death, Bell said: “I had a pistol, but it was in the pawnshop.”

Preliminary to discharging the prisoner, Judge Schwarz commended the county police for the zeal they had shown in trying to solve a very difficult case, and said there was no reflection on the officers because of his Judgment dismissing the case.

Found Dead

Mr. McAllister was found murdered in his home on Thirty-ninth street near Ash a fortnight ago. He had been brutally slain with a hatchet. County police investigated and several days after the discovery of the murder Mr. Bell was arrested on a warrant sworn out by Joseph McAllister, of Pittsburg [sic], a brother of the dead man.

Showed No Apprehension.
As soon as he was set free Bell shook hands with his counsel, Colonel Myrick, and then went over to where his wife was sitting, just in front of the desk of J. F. Bernhardt, clerk of court. Mrs. Bell arose to greet her husband and the couple locked arms, in a loving embrace.

During the trial of the case Bell was alert, and at times prompted his counsel in an audible voice. When a telling point was made by Colonel Myrick in drawing out testimony favorable to him from a witness, Bell would smile and glance knowingly at Judge Schwarz. At times Belt seemed to enjoy the trial and at no time was any nervousness or apprehension apparent.

McCarthy Testifies.

Chief of Detectives McCarthy, the first witness in the case, told about finding McAllister’s body In the kitchen of his residence. The body was in a sitting posture, with the shoulders against the partition wall and the dead man’s head was leaning to one side. A bloody hatchet was on the kitchen table, A dish of rice and a bowl of coffee, without cream, but with the cream pitcher near, was on the table. McAllister had a fork or spoon in one hand, he said. After finding that McAllister’s house was outside the city limits, Chief McCarthy said he turned the case over to the county policy.

Brown Repeats Story

H. B. Brown told about the same story that he told before the coroner’s Jury. He said he and his wife went to McAllister’s home on the Tuesday the body was found. Looking through the window at the front of the house, he saw McAllister’s bed had been used. He then went around to the, rear of the housed and was then joined by a Mr. Carr, who asked them what they were looking for, and on being told, joined them in looking through the kitchen window. He saw McAllister’s legs. The window was not latched and they raised it up and saw that McAllister was dead, he said. He reiterated his evidence as to finding the hatchet and the position of the body.
Dr. George H. Johnson, the coroner  told about visiting the house and examining McAllister’s body. His other evidence was confined to the statement that he found the dead man’s watch was running, and that it continued to run until the next night at 8:45 p. m. Based on this evidence, be gave it as his opinion that McAllister was killed between 8 and 9 o’clock the morning prior to the finding of the body.

Alleged Threats.

M. H. Bagwell of 1911 Price street, who worked at the Atlantic Coast Line shops with Bell and the dead man, testified that Bell owed McAllister money and that on December 24, when the force was about to be paid off he (Bagwell) laughingly said: “Boys, you are not going to get any money today, I see McAllister here.” Bell replied, he said: “if the D — – – – ties up my money I’ll kill him.” The witness said that McAllister had loaned money to the men at the shops but had never garnisheed him, (Bagwell) and it was also admitted that he did not “tie up” the prisoner’s money.
Evidence intended to show that there may have been trouble between the dead man and Bell was limited to a remark. Bagwell said Bell made, to the effect that if McAllister broke up his home he would kill him.

Mr. McCain of 203 York street, east, testified that he was present when Bagwell made the remark about the boys not getting any money and heard the defendant make the remark that he’d kill McAllister if he tied up his money. He said McAllister loaned money to the men at the shops. Asked by the recorder if McAllister charged them interest, the witness said he did not charge him any.

Lived in Macon

Bell resided in Macon about four years ago. He was married to Miss Lillian Lucile McClain on June 19, 1918. Miss McClain resided at Cross Keys at Macon, Prior to her marriage she was employed as a stenographer in Macon. At the time of his marriage Bell was a soldier at Camp Wheeler. He and his wife both have relatives in Macon.

Savannah Press (Savannah, GA) January 28, 1925 – Pages 14 & 8 – microfilm via University of Georgia Libraries.

Donna has “Pleasing Voice,” at the Orpheum Theater – Ogden, Utah – Nov. 26th, 1919

After the two nights in Salt Lake City, the “Chin Chin” company packed up and headed to Ogden, UT, only 35 miles or so, to play at the Orpheum Theater.
The Ogden Standard 22 November 1919

Pre-show hype began on November 18th with a paragraph in the “Theaters” column which said, “Manager Goss announced today he has booked “Chin Chin.” the musical comedy event of the season, which with its company of 65 people, will be here on thanksgiving eve. Charles Goettier, business manager of the show, was in Ogden Sunday, completing arrangements for the company’s appearance.”

The paper on Friday the 21st saw the first advertisement for the show coming to the Orpheum.  There was also a short advertising article about “Chin Chin Comes to Orpheum.” In the paper of the 22nd, there was a larger display ad for “Chin Chin”, an advertising article, and the now familiar photo of the “Four French Dancing Dolls.”   The Ogden Examiner also ran several articles regarding Chin Chin and included the 16 women photo we’ve seen elsewhere.
The Ogden Standard – November 24, 1919

On November 24th, the Ogden Standard ran a new (for us) photo, this time of “The Four Chinese Blossom Girls.”  Unfortunately, the quality of the photo is again insufficient to be sure if Donna is there or which one is Donna.  I believe that the two middle women are other people but Donna could be either end person.  Hopefully, we will find a better image of the four another time.

Apparently there was extremely bad weather the night of the show.  Depending upon which paper you read it was either a gale or a blizzard. In either event the Ogden audience wasn’t daunted by the weather.


Ogden Examiner – Nov. 27, 1919

“Chin Chin” an oriental fantasy, gorgeous in its investiture and colorful settings attracted a good house in the Orpheum theatre last night, dispute the gale that blew on the outside. There were lots of girls, some beautiful and some just girls, but ensemble they made a good impression as their voices blended harmoniously. The costuming showed discriminating taste — Charles Dillingham’s hand plain enough — and the __??__ went over with a bang, but—- And here’s the fly In the ointment– did you ever go up to a soda fountain and asks for a gin fizz or something like, and when you tasted it found that the dispenser forgot to put in the “fizz,” the drink was flat, you know. Well, that was just the matter with this production of “Chin Chin,” the dispenser forgot to put in the fizz –the seasoning was a little short.

However, on the whole, the show went by good after the f!r«t act, and picked up well just about the time the clown band got going strong.

There is  practically no plot to the variegated performance. In the first act there were Aladdin and Violet Bond, a charming young American girl who drops in Pekin in search of a magical lamp, and the action is centered about her adventurer.

Carlton Reiger, well known in Ogden since he first came here with “Mickey” last summer was Aladdin. He joined the show in Denver and despite the short time has been with the show gave a creditable performance.  He had a good lead voice and really was one of the shiny spots in the show.

Roy Binder and Walter Wills were the two dashing comedians who did extremely well in their specialities.

Others who carried their parts better than average were Donna Montran as “Goddess of the Lamp,” Neva Larry as “Sen Sen” and Irene McKay as “Fan Tan,” and Ethel Lawrence as the “American Girl.” Both Miss Montran and Miss Lawrence have pleasing voices.

The Teddy Bear dance was an Irish number and the clown saxophone band was the hit of the evening.

Popular song hits of the evening were: Violet,” “The Gray Moon,” “Love Moon,” “Go Gar Gig Gang Jur,” and “Good-bye Girl.”

Manager J. P. Goss announces Chaundey Oleoit in “Mascushla” on December 3, his first appearance here in ten years

The Ogden Standard also ran a short review. On Nov 28th they said:

“Chin Chin: Seen by Large Number At Orpheum

Despite a very bad blizzard a large attendance was registered at the Orpheum theatre Wednesday night to witness the performance of the musical melange “Chin Chin.”

Unfortunately, however the production was in now way one to call forth very hearty applause or admiration. Much of the music was very old without being at the same time good enough to be worthy of a long remembrance. The costumes and srake [?] settings were fairly attractive. The singing and acting, with one or two exceptions, were not on high grade.

Roy Binder and Walter Wills were the principal comedians and in most of their work did well.

Carlton Reiger, who appeared here as soloist at the first production of the moving picture, “Mickey” was not seen to advantage in his part. By far the most amusing and interesting items of the performance were contributed by the Saxophone Sextet, whose number would be a considerable headliner by itself on any vaudeville bill.

In extenuation of a poor performance it is to be borne in mind that the artists were most probably suffering greatly from cold on the stage.

The Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater – Photo courtesy Utah State Historical Society

The Grand Opera House in Ogden, Utah, was build in 1890.  It was a Romanesque style building with a seating capacity of 1,600 people. In 1909 its name was changed to the Orpheum Theatre after the Orpheum Theater Circuit which was a chain of vaudeville and theaters.  The chain ultimately became the RKO – Radio Keith Orpheum.

In 1928 the theater was renovated with new ventilation and sound; the “Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie” played there in June of 1928.
Seating in the theater continued to get smaller and smaller with each renovation; the Film Daily Yearbook said the theatre’s seating was 1,037 in 1950.

It became exclusively a cinema in the 1940s and operated until 1982.  In 1983 it was torn down to provide additional parking for the Ben Lomond Hotel.


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Donna in Salt Lake City, November 24th & 25th, 1919 at the Salt Lake Theater.

After the one night show in Rock Springs, WY, the “Chin Chin” company packed up and headed to Salt Lake City for two nights at the Salt Lake Theater.
Salt Lake Telegram
November 15, 1919 – Page 7

Pre-show hype began on November 15th with an article, “Melody and Artistry Aid ‘Chin Chin’ to Big Success” in the Salt Lake Telegram.  The article mentions some of the songs by name and, of course, Walter Wills and Roy Binder. An ad, also in that day’s paper, let us know that the prices range from 50 cents to $2.50 (to $2.00 for the matinee).  Most important for us a display article with a photo of “the four leading ladies” was printed.  At this point, Donna was certainly one of the leading ladies of the show (see below), however, neither photos at either Genealogy Bank or the Utah Digital Newspapers site provide enough detail to be certain that Donna is portrayed.  This was a real find as I have never seen this photo anywhere before. I believe Donna is the person on the right.

The 16th brought more advertisements but also a photo of Walter Wills and Roy Binder in their roles. I had not seen that photo anywhere before either. There were a couple ads in the paper on the 20th.
On the 21st, an article, “Mock Love Leads to Real Thing by Stage Stars” The article lets readers know that Walter Wills and Nora Seiler were married the week before.  Mr. Wills takes the part of “Chin Hop Hi” and Miss Seiler [Mrs.Wills] the part of “Moon Blossom.”
Salt Lake City Tribune November 16, 1919

The November 22nd paper (Salt Lake Telegram) has a lovely article, “Chin Chin, Gotham Musical Hit, Coming to Salt Lake,” which describes the sets, costumes, and sounds of the production.  There is also a photo of sixteen of the women who are in the show. I am sure that Donna is included in the photos, but the quality isn’t quite good enough to be certain.

The November 23rd paper has an article in the “At the Theaters” section which calls Donna out by name.

DO YOU remember when you would read the “Thousand and One Nights,” or the wonderful adventures of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and “Sinbad, the Sailor,” and all the rest of those fascinating characters, and how from out of them all emerged “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” as the prime adventure of them all?
And now Aladdin—a very modern Aladdin—very much in love with an American girl appears in Charles Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” which comes to the Salt Lake theatre tomorrow night with matinee Tuesday. In this musical concoction everything comes Aladdin’s way upon wishing and rubbing the wonderful lamp, thereby causing many strange and wonderful situations.

Walter Wills and Roy Binder as the two slaves of the lamp keep the audience in constant laughter through seven scenes and the three acts that cover 150 minutes of the most enjoyable fun.

Among the many features in this gigantic show are also the Teddy Bear dance, Tom Brown’s Clown Saxophone band, a real circus tent with an ‘honest-to-goodness’ big white circus horse circling around the ring, while Mlle. Falloffski performs the most daring and screamingly funny bareback stunts.

Other principals with this, the only production of’ “Chin Chin” are: Donna Montran, Edna Peekham, Jessie Walsh, Violet Tree, Nora Seiler, Ethel Lawrence, Marie Cavanaugh, Helen McDonald, Margaret Sharps, Joseph Robinson, Carlton Reager, Richard Bosch, English Cody and George Phelps, also Joseph Boyle and Thomas Bell as “Frisco” horse, and a largo singing chorus of pretty girls.

The 24th brings several ads, notes regarding the schedule at the theater and an article, “‘Chin Chin’ to Open Tonight at Salt Lake. A review on the 25th mentions, in an article, “Chinesy Musical Comedy Pleases At Salt Lake,” that “there isn’t a New York cast, but that is nothing to scoff about. To the contrary, there are a bunch of people in the cast who do not appear worn to tatters by a season on Broadway. The chorus appears fresh; the girls are pretty and their costumes are new and pleasing.”


The article goes on to to mention Walter Wills, Roy Binder, Carlton Reiger and Ethel Lawrence by name.

The Salt Lake Theater

Salt Lake Theatre – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Brigham Young announced the project and pursued its completion in 1861, eight years before the transcontinental Railroad was complete, which linked Salt Lake City with both the east and the west. The Salt Lake Theater was large for its day, with an estimated capacity of 1,500.  Amazingly large to support a city of only 12,000 people at the time.

That original theater was renovated in 1873, a renovation which gave the interior an elegance similar to the opera houses of Europe while maintaining the simple lines of the exterior.

The last performance at the theater was 20 October 1928.  A battle ensued with many people wanting to preserve the theater.

Eventually, the theater was razed to make way for a gas station.  The gas station was replaced in 1963 with six story building, which today houses an AT&T office, a Century Link office, and several other businesses.  There is an historical plaque remembering the theater, at its original location which is now 70 South State Street.

Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 15, 1919, Pages 7 & ?  via Genealogy Bank and Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 16, 1919, Pages  ?  via Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 20, 1919, Pages  ?  via Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 21, 1919, Pages 21 & ?  via Genealogy Bank and Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 22, 1919, Pages 18, 7 & ?  via Genealogy Bank and Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 23, 1919, Page ?  via and Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 24, 1919, Pages 15 & ?  via Genealogy Bank and Utah Digital Newspapers
Salt Lake Telegram (Salt Lake City, UT) Nov 25, 1919, Pages 10 & ?  via Genealogy Bank and Utah Digital Newspapers
History to Go –  Salt Lake Theater

Historical Marker Database – The Salt Lake Theater


Donna at Rock Springs, Wyoming on November 23, 1919 at the Grand Theater

Donna at Rock Springs, Wyoming on November 23, 1919 at the Grand Theater.

Rock Springs Miner
21 November 1919
Thanks to the
Wyoming Newspaper Project
I almost missed that Chin Chin played at the Grand Theater in Rock Springs Wyoming. But thanks to the Wyoming Newspaper Project’s indexing of the Rock Springs Miner, I was able to learn about that venue. 
The Rock Springs Miner apparently was a weekly paper, so information about the show was limited to only two editions. The newspaper on November 14th, included an ad for the show, a brief article about the shows coming, and another photo of “The Four French Dancing Dolls.”  The quality of this photo’s image is much better than the one which was in the Colorado Springs Gazette. Uncle Russell, Donna’s son, and I are fairly sure that the woman on the left is Donna. 
It appears that Donna is on the left.
Rock Springs Miner – 14 November 1919
Thanks to the Wyoming Newspaper Project
The newspaper on November 21st also included the photo of “The Four French Dancing Dolls” along with an ad and a short write up article.  The article also mentions, “There is no leading lady in this organization.  Although a number of beautiful women, principals and otherwise, who is to enjoy the place of honor as first favorite is left to the choice of the public.”
The article goes on to say that, “It is estimated that 250,000 people from all points more than one hundred miles from New York have already seen ‘Chin Chin” while it was presented at the Globe Theatre in New York, and now Mr. Dillingham is actually bringing this his only company in its entirety to the Grand Thearte [sic].”

The Grand Theater

The Grand Theater Today
Larger View

When I first saw the Google Maps photo of the Grand Theater today I was astounded.  I couldn’t imagine what the company thought when they came to the Grand Theater.  It appeared small, very small.  By a quick Google Map view of the theater it appeared to be about 60 feet by 80 feet.  It was difficult to imagine that such a small theater could host a cast of over 60 people and still have room for customers.

Then I contacted the good folks at the Rock Springs Historical Society on Facebook and asked them about the Grand Theater. They were kind enough to send a photo they had.  Their photo clearly showed additional space in the rear, which probably housed the stage, changing rooms, etc.

What a relief. Back in the day, it held over 300 people. The photo also show a roof element that indicates the building was built in 1914 as a Labor Temple.

The Grand Theater, Rock Springs, WY
Courtesy of Rock Springs Historical Museum

Today it hosts an “Adult store” and some vacant frontages.

Rock Springs Miner (Rock Springs, WY) Nov 14, 1919, Pages 3, 5, & 6 via the Wyoming Newspaper Project 
Rock Springs Miner (Rock Springs, WY) Nov 21, 1919, Pages 2, 3, 5, & 6 via the Wyoming Newspaper Project Wyoming Theater Tour Rock Springs and the Grand Theater 
Google Maps 463 North Front Street, Rock Springs, WY, 82901

Rock Springs Historical Museum via Facebook