This week I got an opportunity to meet up with Hershel Wood, a former projectionist at the Eltrym. Hershel was here when the theater first opened and worked with Virgil “Bud” Wunder, the projectionist who many people around town remember so well. I’ve talked with Hershel before, and I always come away thinking that it is so neat that our original projectionist, from 70 years ago, is here to stop by and chat about the business. I love talking to former employees of the theater who worked here long ago. We often have people stop in to watch a show and tell us who things used to operate in the 1950’s & 60’s. When they walk out the door, I always wish there were a way to record their stories.
I am fascinated by the history of movie theaters in Baker City, particularly the Eltrym. Over the years I have spent a number of hours researching the Eltrym, and to my surprise there is not a whole lot of information out there. I can’t believe that there are no photographs in any of the historic photo collections in town that show construction of the theater. For a city that values its historic district so much, doesn’t that seem strange? I contacted the architecture firm that now owns all the drawings of projects by our architect, Day Walter Hilborn, and they sent me copies of all the original drawings of the Eltrym. I’ve pulled every photo of the Eltrym that I can find, from the internet, old newspapers and historic photo collections. This has resulted in about five or ten photos of the theater before the 1990’s. I’ve pieced together the history of the Eltrym through newspaper articles and articles from Boxoffice Magazine.
There is still so much I don’t know. I want to know more about Myrtle Buckmiller. What did she look like? What theater did she work for in Seattle before she moved to Baker City to purchase the Clarick? I wish I knew more about her husband, Frank, and her son, Freeman Geddes. I want to know exactly what the theater lobby looked like before they installed a concessions stand. I want to see the telegrams sent from famous movie stars on our opening night. Wouldn’t that be something?!
So, if you happen to be cleaning out Grandma’s old photo collection and come across photos of the Eltrym, or if someone you know has an interesting Eltrym story to tell, pass it along!
(To read more about the history of theaters in Baker City, go here).