Eye on Kansas Magazine people link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine place link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine things link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine about us  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine contributors link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine author guidelines  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine audio link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine photography  link  Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Top Bar Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine contact us link  Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine NCRPC link  Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine send us a story link  Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to indexes Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to Rural Oasis Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to North Central  Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to Northwest Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to Southwest Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to south central Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to southeast Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to Northeast Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to indexes Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine link to other links of interest Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine previous issue link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine previous story link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine table of contents  link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine next story link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine nest issue link  Image

 

Star auditorium

Tribune's Star to Shine Again

By Michele Boy

Mention the Tribune Star Theatre to Greeley County resident Don B. Smith, and you will get a warm smile.  “I went to my first show in the seventh grade.  I took my wife there on a date, got married, and took my children there.  They now take their grandchildren to the show there as well. ”

The Tribune Star Theatre is nestled cozily on Broadway Avenue, the main street of Tribune, a small town just east of the Kansas - Colorado border.   Most of Greeley County's vast 778 square miles is largely devoted to agriculture.  Tribune and Horace, the county's two towns are situated within three miles of each other.  Tribune, the county seat, has a population of 765 persons. Horace, just 150.

Farmer and Hopkins
Jheri Farmer and Christy Hopkins

In the early 1940s, George and Dick Coupland noticed that the people of Greeley County really enjoyed movies.  During World War II, the citizens of Tribune and Horace would gather together at the county high school auditorium to watch news reels.   So the Coupland's purchased an old grocery store on Broadway and began renovating it into a 118-seat movie theatre named the Tribune Star Theatre, which opened in 1947.  Charles Farmer, Jr., Dan Farmer, and their father, ran the theatre.  In the early 1970s, Charles Jr. purchased the theatre.  Jheri Farmer Smith recalls helping as a young girl with her brother and cousins.  “My dad worked several jobs in addition to running the theatre, including the local postal carrier.”

People came from the surrounding area, namely Kiowa and Wallace counties and the city of Wichita to watch the picture shows.  Different motion pictures were shown every night but Thursday because that was church night in Tribune.  And weekend nights had double features.  Farmers were often able to attend the late show.

Smith remembers several nostalgic moments.  In 1956, when all the seats were filled, the audience stood in the aisles to see the Ten Commandments.  During harvests, crowds lined up around the corner to see the late shows like the 1961 musical, West Side Story.

In 1963, during the climax of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, when thousands of birds descend upon the main character, picking away at her flesh, a mystery person released pigeons into the audience.  Smith remembers, “Screams erupted.  Since my brother and I raised homing pigeons, my father thought we were to blame.  But no one ever confessed, and we spent the next day trying to get the birds out of the theatre.”

As times changed, nightly showings decreased to two movies weekly.  With the advent of televisions, VCRs, and other equipment, the local theatre was no longer a mainstay in Tribune.  Eventually, the theatre offered one movie Friday through Sunday.  And finally, it was open on Saturday and Sunday nights only.

“In the 1980s, the theatre was in such disrepair that you brought umbrellas and blankets to stay dry and warm,” said Smith.

Throughout the years, projection equipment and a new screen was added.  But with dwindling numbers in the audience and a lack of funds for necessary repair work, the theatre stood hopelessly waiting to become another piece of wistful remembrance in Tribune's history.  However, this tiny town would not let it go down without a fight.  Enter Christy Hopkins, Community Development Director.

In October 2007, a meeting was held to discuss a Community Action Team being formed.  53 people attended and 13 people signed up.  They applied for a Small Community Improvement (SCIP) grant.  Over 150 letters of support poured in.  A $55,250.00 grant was received on the condition they had to match it with in kind contributions - donations and volunteer work.

And the town responded.  Hopkins said, “The support has been so overwhelmingly generous.  During harvest, the local grain elevator manager would ask the farmers how much they were donating - 50 or 100 bushels of wheat?”

She added, “We posted wish lists for everything from a desk to toilet paper.  And we raised over $8,000.00 from fundraisers like Mittens for the Movies; buy a yard of carpet, etc.  It was warming to see how the people supported it.  All the work has been donated.  Saturdays, evenings, everyone pitched in.”

The lobby's floor was redone with black and white tile. Old wooden seating was replaced with newer used seating.   New ceiling tiles, lighting, electrical wiring, and plumbing were added.  Today, a sparkly new concession stand, handicap accessible bathrooms, sinks, and countertops, fresh paint, carpet, and energy efficient heating and air conditioning, and digital surround sound, modernize the old time locale.

The theatre does not boast art deco painting, or any other relics from its history save a few old movie posters.  Nor did they attempt to apply for the Historical Registry.  Yet, the community spirit on which the theatre was founded continues.  “We have volunteers from the community who rotate to help at all the movies, including children's movies and matinees for the rest home,” said Hopkins.  “A part time manager handles ordering and refilling concessions, advertising, and picking up the movies.”

To Hopkins, it is more than just a project.  “It is so close to my heart.  There is a sense of pride in what we all accomplished.  It took our will and our energy but we did it together.  And we very much appreciate the help from the state.”

And the town won't stop until all the work is finished.  Hopkins said, “Work continues on.  The marquis is being redone, and there are plans in the future for a portable stage to possibly hold style reviews, plays, and dinner theatre.”

 

Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Contact Us link  Image
Last Updated January 21, 2010
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image