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. 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.
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.  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. Today a strip mall containing the “5th Avenue Dental Centre is at the location in a new building.
Next stop for the “Chin Chin” cast: Calgary, 141 miles north by train.
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.
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.
Chin Chin played the Grand Theater, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on January 8th, 9th, & 10th, 1920.
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.