“Chin Chin” at the Majestic Theatre – Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – Jan 7, 1920

Donna & “Chin Chin” Play the Majestic Theatre,” Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – Jan 7, 1920

Lethbridge Daily Herald
January 3, 1920, Page 5
Courtesy: Our Future Our Past

Once again, thanks to “Our Future Our Past” and their newspaper archive, we learn that “Chin Chin” played in Lethbridge, Alberta on January 7th, 1920.

The pre-show advertising hype was certainly in place by January 3rd when an article about “Chin Chin” appeared in the Lethbridge Daily Herald on the “Drame – Vaudeville – Photoplays” page.[1] The article mentions Ethey Lawrence as Violet Band but not our Donna. Ther is, of course, an ad for the show as well.

In the paper the day before the show we see an article that explains how the girls for the show were selected and how some of the girls who couldn’t make the auditions had their “voices recorded on disk records” at various agencies and had the recordings sent to Charles Dillingham for consideration.

The Majestic Theatre

Majestic Theater Stage abt 1912
Courtesy Glenbow Museum Archives.

Although fairly small the Majestic Theatre was large considering the size of Lethbridge. With a population of 8,050 the theatre’s capacity was 1,150, That means that the theatre could held over 14% of the population of the town. As I mentioned, the stage was small, only 26×26 with footlights to backwall only 29 feet. [2] The stage certainly looks small from the photo from high in the nose-bleed seats.

The building was built in 1908 as the Griffiths Theatre. It became the Majestic in 1910 and Palm Dairy in 1938. It remained Palm Dairy until 1978 when it was destroyed by fire.[3] Today a strip mall containing the “5th Avenue Dental Centre is at the location in a new building.[4]

Next stop for the “Chin Chin” cast: Calgary, 141 miles north by train.

[1] Our Future
Our Past
– Lethbridge Daily Herald, 3 January, 1920, Page 5.
[2] Julius
Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-14 – Lethbridge, Alberta
[3] The Galt Museum –
Archives re Majestic Theatre at 512 5 Avenue South in Lethbridge
 http://www.galtmuseum.com/permalinkA/11482/
[4] Google Maps for 516 5 Ave S, Lethbridge, Alberta

Donna & “Chin Chin” Play “The Grand Theatre,” Calgary, Jan 8-10, 1920

Donna & “Chin Chin” Play “The Grand Theatre,” Calgary, Alberta, Canada -Jan 8-10, 1920

Sometimes a little mention, a tidbit, can open the way into finding a lot of new information. When Donna played in Grand Rapids there was a mention in the paper about the company having played in Calgary, Canada. So, I thought I’d see if I could find any Canadian newspapers that might help in the quest. 

Kenneth R Marks
“A long time ago”
One of my favorite sources for newspaper information is The Ancestor Hunt (http://theancestorhunt.com).  I checked there and sure enough, Kenneth Marks had an entry for Alberta Canada and lots of papers listed. I checked the links he had there that mentioned Calgary and didn’t find anything for the month and year I was looking for — Bummer. Although his links didn’t help this time, they usually do. 
When I poked around I found a site, “Our Future, Our Past” that had early Alberta Newspapers. Following the Early Alberta Newspapers link brought me to a couple searches, one papers by year, another by place. I figured that 1920 is the year I’m looking for so away I went. Wow.  Over thirty newspapers listed.  The dates threw me off for a second as they are listed dd/mm/yyyy but I got past that and jumped into “The Calgary Daily Herald.  Hummm… It was the Daily Herald, however only 10 papers were there for January, 1920.  I later learned that those were the pointers and the other papers were also there.

I clicked on the Friday, January 9th newspaper and began to peruse.  Wa-La!  there on page 14 was the now familiar Tom Brown Saxophone Clown photo and an article, “ACTOR HAS GOOD WORD TO SAY FOR RAILWAY SERVICE – Roy Binder, of “Chin Chin” Company, Strong for Canadians.” The article talks mostly about Roy’s thinking that the Canadian Railroad is better than the US railroads. The article also mentions that they (the “Chin-Chin” company) played in Lethbridge for two nights preceding. (Apparently the 6th & 7th) and in Medicine Hat. 

Page 16 had a fairly standard Chin Chin ad and that the show was playing at The GRAND. Then Page 26 had an article where Donna is called out.  
Calgary Daily Herald – Page 26
January 9, 1920
Courtesy: Our Future Our Past

Donna Montran, as the Goddess of the Lamp, has a splendid voice and sings sweetly, as does Ethyl Lawrence as Violet Bond.…

The article also mentions an “almost at capacity house.” Which got me to wonder what the capacity is.

The Grand Theatre, Calgary

Looking at the January 5th newspaper there was an ad that showed the show’s run for three days.

Calgary Daily Herald
January 5th, 1920, Page 10
Courtesy: Our Future Our Past

A Google search brought up the theater’s website and a Wikipedia entry. According to Wikipedia, The theater was built in 1912 with a capacity of 1300 seats and was the largest stage in Canada when it opened. It was very modern for its time, boasting 15 changing rooms below the stage with hot and cold running water and electric lights. In 1957 the Grand converted to a movie house. In 2005, the Grand was purchased and turned into a “culturehouse” for contemporary live arts. 

The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory for 1913-1914 indicates that the theater was much larger than the Wikipedia entry says, hosting 1590 seats — 913 on the lower floor, 280 balcony, 263 gallery, 68 loges, and 66 in boxes.  The stage was large, 36×36; the distance from the footlights to the back wall was 40 feet. The rigging loft was 75 feet up.  This was a very large theatre for a city with a population of only 30,000 (Drawing population of 60,000).  By comparison, the Lyric theatre only seated 980 and the Empire theatre only 700 people.

Theatre Junction Grand
Photo By Qyd [CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Today, Theatre Junction GRAND | Multidisciplinary Live Art is Western Canada’s oldest theatre and home to theatre, dance, music and film.
Chin Chin played the Grand Theater, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on January 8th, 9th, & 10th, 1920. 

Epilogue

Sadly, the “Our Future, Our Past” newspapers haven’t been OCRed, so the collection is not word searchable. However, it is an amazing collection and well worth looking at. Many thanks to the many folks at the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project for making the collection available.

Sources:

Calgary Daily Herald – January 5, 1920 via Our Future Our Past
Calgary Daily Herald – January 9, 1920 via Our Future Our Past
The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory, Volumes 16-17 (Google eBook), Page 694
Wikipedia: The Grand (Calgary) 

Donna in Decatur, IL, at the Lincoln Square Theatre – Oct 30, 1919

Donna in Decatur, IL, at the Lincoln Square Theatre – Oct 30, 1919

Ad – Chin Chin Tonight
at the Lincoln Square Theatre
Decatur Review 10/30/1919 – pg 5
Via Newspapers.Com 
When Donna joined the “Chin Chin” company, the company had been on the road since August, 1818, sixty-five weeks.  The show had played from San Diego to San Francisco. It came to Decatur, Illinois, in October, 1919, and was the starting place to again cross the country, this time on a northern route to Seattle, Portland, and other cities in the Northwest.
After the Decatur performance many of chorus girls left the company to go home for a vacation. New girls joined the company there and rehearsed between shows and were to go on with the principals for the trip west once more. There was one new principle with them, the woman who sang the part of the “Goddess of the Lamp.” That new principal was Donna Montran. 
The Decatur Review had an interesting note about the demands that the show put on its company.  It said

NO SIX HOUR DAY HERE.

“Coal miners who think that six hours a day, five days a week, constitute a week’s work should travel with one of these transcontinental companies, which make long jumps to make one and two night stands.

“The company, which played here played at Hannibal, Mo. Wednesday, left that place Thursday morning at 5 o’clock, reached Decatur between 11 and 12 o’clock, played a matinee from 3 until 5:30 and another full performance that evening.”

According to the Decatur Review on October 31st, Chin Chin taxed the capacity of the Lincoln Square Theater. They also say:

PLEASE 2,600 PERSONS

“Donna Montran, who only recently joined the company as the leading soprano as the Goddess of the Lamp, lacked volume but the performance as a whole please the 2,600 people who saw it.

“The dancing was unusually good, the chorus well trained and the fifty-five people in the company were exceedingly well costumed.” 

Lincoln Square Theater

Lincoln Center Theatre – circa 1952
Courtesy: Haunted Decatur
In 1860, the Priest Hotel was built on the site, which some say was an ancient burial ground. The hotel’s name changed to the New Deming in 1880.  It again changed name in 1892 to the “Decatur and Arcade Hotel.”  The hotel burned in 1904. The hotel was rebuilt, but in 1915 it burned again.  Two people were confirmed to have died in the second fire and several other people were missing, their bodies having never been found. 
After the 1915 fire, the site was rebuilt, this time into the Lincoln Square Theater. It was built with a fireproof intent using steel, cement, and fireproof brick. The theater hosted many celebrities of the time including Houdini and Ethel Barrymore.  Jack Dempsey appeared there in the September before Donna and the Chin Chin company was there in October.
Since the 1930s the theater has been considered haunted. 
The theater had a difficult time during the heyday of motion pictures and closed after December 1980, except for an occasional music show. It closed completely in 1990.  
However, also in 1990, Lincoln Square Theater, Inc., was established to determine the viability of saving the structure. Studies of the building found it to be sound and activities were undertaken to renovate and restore the facility. Several donations helped stabilize the building in the 1990s and in 2004, a $1.75M grant for restoration was received. Restoration began in 2005 and is currently ongoing.
Despite the renovation and restoration the Lincoln Square Theater is still considered to be one of the most haunted theaters in the country.  Troy Taylor has a regular tour of haunted places in Decatur which includes the Lincoln Square Theater. See http://www.haunteddecatur.com/ for details of his tours. 

Lincoln Theater Today

The Lincoln Theatre (Most Terrifying Places in America)

Sources:

Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) · Sun, Nov 2, 1919 · Page 16 – via Newspapers.com
Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) Thur, Oct 30, 1919, page 5 Via Newspapers.com
Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) · Fri, Oct 31, 1919 · Page 10 – via Newspapers.com
Where The Ghosts Live – America’s Most Haunted Theater – The Lincoln – Decatur, IL 
YouTube

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

More Findings about Donna though Newspapers.Com

More Findings about Donna 
In my search for Donna and her activities in show business, I went ahead and subscribed to Newspapers.Com.  They are one of the top newspaper subscription sites and well worth having a subscription.

A search on “Montran” found many new articles regarding Donna.  For example, I learned that Donna had joined the company of “Chin Chin” earlier than I had previously thought.  In an October 31th newspaper, Donna, “who only recently joined the company” was called out in an article about pleasing the audience of 2600 people at the Lincoln Square theater. They also mention she didn’t have enough volume but we’ll ignore that opinion.)

Interior of the Walker Theater, Winnipeg, Canada about 1990
Courtesy: Canada’s Historic Places

I was also able to find several other personal call-outs as well as several more showings of “Chin Chin” around the country, including a six-day showing in Winnipeg, Canada.

Other new findings that I still need to research and blog about include:

Jan 19-24, 1920 – Winnipeg, Canada – Walker Theatre
Feb 12, 1920 – Eau Claire, WI – The Nelson – Callout!
Feb 15, 1920 – Logansport, IN – Nelson Theater.
Feb 19, 1920 – Fort Wayne, Majestic Theater. 
Feb 23, 1920 – Muskegon, MI – Regent
Feb 25, 1920 – Bay City, MI – Washington Theater
Feb 26, 1920 – Saginaw, MI – Auditorium
Feb 28, 1920 – Ann Arbor, MI – Whitney Theater
Mar 1, 1920 – Baltimore – Auditorium

(I can’t wait to write about the Walker Theater.  It has been renovated and is currently a Performing Arts Theater of renown.)

There were also many other findings for other shows after her “Chin Chin” performances that I will also need to research further.  Add to that a list of other engagements I received from Uncle Russ (Donna’s son) so, I have lots more research to do about each of these engagements. I should remain busy with the life of Madonna for a long time to come.

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

Donna in Grand Rapids, MI, at the Powers Theatre – Feb 20-21, 1920

Donna in Grand Rapids, MI, at the Powers Theatre – Feb 20-21, 1920

Via Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/pin/154177987213550313/
Hotel Herkimer abt 1912
Via Pinterest from eBay

No great birthday celebration for Donna for her twenty-seventh birthday.  She was working as the Chin Chin cast were opening at the Powers Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cast, probably stayed at the Hotel Herkimer, a “refined home for professionals” a few blocks away.  The Herkimer was a regular accommodation place for vaudeville shows. This was a return engagement, so most of the cast knew where things were in town. “Chin Chin” spent two nights at the Powers Theatre. Articles, press releases and advertising were scant in the Grand Rapids [evening] “Press,” but this city of about 135,000 had three other newspapers, the morning “Herald,” the evening “News,” and a weekly, the “Chronicle.”  Pre-show newspaper articles in the “Press” indicated that they had new scenery and new costumes since the previous season’s showing in Grand Rapids.  Between the first and second nights, the paper called out Donna by name.

“Chin Chin” on Return Date at Powers
“Chin Chin” at Powers Saturday and Sunday is not the “Chin Chin” of yesterday, but many who viewed it were apparently satisied. Walter Wills and Roy Binder, as Chinese clowns, are the heart of the show. Tom Brown’s clown band under the leadership of Lew Gould, and radiant Donna Montran as the “goddess of the lamp,” are also shining lights of comedy.

————-
I hope she had a happy birthday celebration after the show.  

The Powers Theater


Construction of the original Powers’ Opera House began in 1873 and the theater opened on 12 May 1874.  The original theater had a seating capacity of about 1300. The main floor was above ground level. That building succumbed to a fire in 1892 that gutted the interior, The interior was rebuilt and new four-story with rounded bays was added to the east end of the building.  On September 13, 1901 the theater was again aflame. This time, the fire totaled the building which caused it to be rebuilt completely as the Powers’ Theater.  The rebuilt design put the main theater floor at ground level and increased capacity.
Powers Opera House
Courtesy: Grand Rapids Historical Commission 
In 1914, the old facade was replaced with a new brick and terra cotta facade. The Powers’ Theatre was the largest theatre in Grand Rapids when Donna and Chin Chin played there in 1920. Grand Rapids had a population of about 135,000 and the theater had a capacity of 1,619, which means that more than 1% of the city’s population could attend a show there.  The stage was very large, sixty-six feet wide and forty feet deep. Backstage was also spacious with sixty-five feet up to the rigging loft. The 1913 Theatrical Guide indicates that it used 110 volt direct current for its illumination. Don’t know when it’s DC system was replaced with alternating current (AC).
The theater underwent several additional renovations and another fire, and renovation, in 1942. In 1944, it opened up as “Foto News” and ran newsreals.  The theater was remodeled again in 1948 and converted to become the Midtown Theater which it stayed as until 1972 when it closed.  It was rented for a few concerts and other activities for a few years, but when renovation costs got to be too much it was torn down in January of 1979.
Today the location is a parking ramp.

Sources:

Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI), Feb 19, 1920 – Page 6,  via  Genealogy Bank
Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, MI), Feb 23, 1920 – Page 6,  via via  Genealogy Bank
Website: Powers behind Grand Rapids – Powers Theatre 
Website: History Grand Rapids Org. – Early Grand Rapids Halls and Theaters by Albert Baxter.
The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide – 1913-1914