(To note: The exact dates operated are estimated. The Electric Theater was opened in late 1910 and was sold and renamed as the Liberty Theater in late 1917.)
The Electric Theater originally operated in the late 1910s-early 1911s as an operating house for electrical shows, a fad sweeping the nation which presented the latest technology to audiences across the USA.
The Electric Theater came to establish itself as a nickelodeon. However, the Hood River based theater played host to, outside of its regularly scheduled film screenings, seemingly whatever event was in town at the time. This consisted of vaudeville, music, plays, and even celebrity cameos, such as Paramount star Myrtle Stedman’s 1917 appearance.
Vern Whitcomb and Walter Shay were active and considerate owners, accepting criticism and using it to reform their theater. Prominent was the critique of a resurgent smell of dead air, which Whitcomb and Shay eliminated with an innovative air filtration system in November of 1915. Whitcomb and Shay renovated again in 1916, installing new light features to accommodate their theater’s rise in popularity. This rise can certainly be attributed to their eagerness to provide the Hood River population with a setting to watch the blockbusters of their time, going as far as to book high class pictures nearly a month in advance.
Whitcomb and Shay were on top of promotional avenues as well. Given the newspaper was a major medium for information on domestic affairs within the late 19th century/early 20th century United States, they utilized it. Whitcomb and Shay used the Hood River based Hood River Glacier to promote shows and events, as well as to provide information about changes or renovations made to the theater.
Following a common theme among US theaters at the time, the Electric was renamed to the Liberty Theater in late 1917 following a change of ownership to Judson Herbert Ferguson. A remodel accompanied this, with measures taken by local contractor H. Cramer’s crew to enhance fire safety. The lamp house was renovated with 5 dead air spaces, presumably to delay any fires should they occur, the wiring installed in iron conduit coinciding with local law, and the machinery revamped with automatic “fire shutters”. A new fireproof auditorium floor completed the fire safety renovations. New seating was installed, upping the seating count to 500 available. Continuing the revamp was work done by acclaimed decorator Pierre Taglio, who erected two copies of the Statue of Liberty to coincide with the name change.
Vern Whitcomb received a special feature in the Local Mention section of the Glacier in 1915. One of the owners of the Electric, Whitcomb suffered an injury to his limb presumably in 1915, which resulted in the amputation of a foot and ankle. Praise modern medicine!
Former Electric Theater front of house speller Lou Bradford was fined $3 over accusations of his threatening to kill L.A. Grant in 1910. A hefty sum which certainly would have made him think twice before such actions again!