Fremont County, Iowa

Tabor Movie Theater
by Pat Claiborne

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of October 5, 2009

"Moving pictures brought much pleasure to many people."

A short item in the Tabor Beacon of February 27, 1930, states “Talking pictures will make their appearance, in Tabor, on Saturday of this week when manager C. M. Miller will show Grand Parade.”

A June 19, 1930 list of businesses shows Edward Awe as manager of The Tabor Theater.

A story dated August 31, 1932, has the following information – “Isis Theatre will be the name of the local theatre which will be opened on September 9, 1932, under lease by M. W. Shoemaker from Omaha. Mr. Shoemaker was here last week and completed arrangements for the opening of the theatre and will announce his programs as soon as his booking is completed.” Many of us remember Max Shoemaker, his wife and son, who lived in Tabor for many years.

The theatre was in a small building at the north end of the west side of the business area in Tabor. The movies were shown on a screen from a projector located in a tiny room above the entryway and ticket booth. A person was hired to run the projector, change the reels of film at the appropriate times, etc. This small room was hot in summer and cold in winter but served its purpose, as many local people filled the theatre seats night after night.

The Tabor theater, like most small town theaters, was a long narrow building among the other businesses in town. It ran deep enough to accommodate a screen and stage at the far end, several rows of seating on a sloping floor and a ticket booth and small concession stand at the front near the entrance. Popcorn and small candies were sold. The walls adjacent to the screen were covered with long, very heavy, velvet drapery, for the purpose of improving the acoustics in the building.

In the 1930s, we had no television and DVD exposure to the handsome heroes and beautiful leading ladies that were seen on the movie screen, so they quickly became our idols and each teenager did their personal swooning for their favorite. It was here we first met Clark Gable, Robert Taylor, Cary Grant, Van Johnson, Alan Ladd and other heroes, and the fellows met Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, Joan Fontaine, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and many more lovely ladies.

An advertisement for the Isis Theatre from 1945 lists “The Doughgirls” with Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith and Jane Wyman showing on May 13 and 14 and “The Big Noise” with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on May 15 and 16 (Sunday through Wednesday). The following week’s movies were “Marriage is a Private Affair” with Lana Turner, James Craig and John Hodiak and “Experiment Perilous” with Hedy Lamarr, George Brent and Paul Lukas.

A request came in recently from the Iowa Historical Society for information about the local movie theaters that used to be scattered across the state. Our Fremont County towns nearly all had theaters at one time or another. Some had earlier “Opera Houses.” (Tabor Opera House, built in 1893, was demolished in August of 1996.) We are trying to find information on them in as much detail as possible. Thanks to people like Pat Claiborne who are already sharing with us we have a start. If you have any knowledge on this subject would you please send it to the Fremont County Historical Society, Attention View from the Attic, Box 687 Sidney, Iowa 51652?

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Page updated on May 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau