SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Movie Wonderment: Soundless Flickers Come To Calhoun 1921


A giant advertising sign says a Harold Lloyd
silent flick is coming to Grantsville, posing
in front are residents (L to R) Dorothea Morgan,
Dr. Riddle and Juanita Haught, circa 1920s

By Bob Weaver

It was a wonderment, the coming of the silver screen and flickering movies to rural Calhoun County, with admission only 10 cents or less.

Silent movies came to Grantsville in 1919, compliments of Messrs. A. E. Weaver, W. J. Sharps and Oral C. Hathaway, although passing promoters likely projected a few flicks on a sheet inside schools and churches before that.

In 1919 they bought a "first class moving picture machine" and opera chairs, and started showing movies under a tent during the summer months.

A newspaper announcement said "They have arranged for some excellent pictures and we trust they will make this educational as well as entertaining."

Oral Hathaway was in charge, procuring a movie machine operator from the Camden Theatre in Parkersburg.

An account in August, 1919, says "The opening of Grantsville's first picture show, which was to take place Saturday night, was postponed because an operator from Parkersburg who left on the early morning train Saturday, got off at Palestine instead of Owensport."

"Mgr. Oral C. Hathaway and J. B. Huffman endeavored to get the machine to work but it was finally necessary to announce that the first show would be held Monday night."

"An operator came over from Spencer Monday and the machine was in good working order for the picture that night. The first picture was a five reel drama, set in a western town and proved very entertaining to the crowd."

"The management has secured the William Fox productions and there are no better pictures produced. The machine is as good as any to be found anywhere and electricity from a nearby garage adds much to the value. The opera seats will probably be here by next week and there is no reason why it should not be a very comfortable place."

Grantsville's first official movie picture house was opened to the public in 1921. The newspaper reported "Saturday night, the first picture shown being "The Way of a Man with a Maid" featuring Bryant Washburn. A fair sized crowd, considering the weather, was present."

The movie house was located on lower Court Street, a few doors down from the Rainbow Hotel. The building was later known as the American Legion Hall.

Bands, plays and minstrels entertained the community accompanied by movie fare in the building until the Kanawha movie house was erected in the 1930s.

A press release said "The home for the picture show is a fine one. While it is not yet entirely finished, is comfortable, and when completed will be one of the most modern and up to date buildings in the Little Kanawha valley. Nothing but the very best pictures will be shown, it being the intention of Manager Fred Hardman to bring the highest class productions that can be obtained."

There will be a show Saturday night, Lillian Gish in "True Love Susie," a fine production and one that the patrons of the show will be glad to see."

"There will be no shows after Saturday night until the close of the Baptist revival, when a regular program made up of the best in pictures will be started, with a show every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday nights."

To read about early movie picture shows in Calhoun, including the Orma Theater at Orma, Arnoldsburg, the silver screen at the longtime Kanawha Theater in Grantsville and the coming of the Mt. Zion Drive-In, one of America's oldest drive-in venues, read other Herald stories.