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2017-06-22

The "Star Theater," Bandera's first movie theater

By Raymond V. Carter, Jr. BCHC Research Historian ©2017

I personally have a deep interest in movie theaters because I worked at the York Theater from 1967 to 1971 and the Playhouse Theater in 1973 while in college. I was a projectionists and in 1967, being 14 years old, I had to get my parents permission to work there, because of the "R" rated movies. It was a lot of fun, but work too. One interesting thing I remember was when the "Poseidon Adventure" showed for so long and I had seen it so many times that I memorized all the lines in the movie. I met a few movie actors in my life and the two that impressed me the most was Shirley Temple Black and Ken Curtis (Festus Haggen). I met them along with Roger Staubach in 1976.
This reminds me of a story about movie acting that my grandfather, Pete Coffman, told me about when I was in my twenties concerning his family's trip to California in 1917 and him being in a western movie. In the 1980s I visited cousin Dick Winters of McMullen County and he also told me about this trip. A bunch of the Aunts and Uncles also went to California with my great grandparents, Walter and Alma Whitley Coffman; it was a group thing. They caught a train in Beeville, Texas and went to Los Angeles, California. They did all kinds of work, which included picking fruit (peaches, etc.). They stayed around Los Angeles for a while, but eventually moved to Santa Barbara. They’re grandpa Pete got a job working for the American Film Company in 1918. The film company had him as an extra and paid him a five dollar gold piece each week. Grandpa told me that they had him dress up as and play the part of an Indian. Being a cowhand and excellent horse–man, he fit the part well, Grandpa said, "the director of the movie 1918. The film company had him as an extra and paid him a five dollar gold piece each week. Grandpa told me that they had him dress up as and play the part of an Indian. Being a cowhand and excellent horseman, he fit the part well. Grandpa said, ''the director of the movie was complaining about how dull their horse riding was, so he decided he would show the director what he could do." The director had the Indian actors riding their horses from the top of a small hill down toward the camera. Well, this time when the director shouted "Action," grandpa rode his horse as fast as he could straight at the camera and ran right over it. Well, the way grandpa told the story, the director just loved it, but I later learned from grandma that the director fired him. Oh well, pride.
Well, they all came back to south Texas in late 1918. I might add here that I have to thank an earthquake for me being here. As I was told by Dick Winters, that while they were in California the family experienced a couple of earthquakes and my great grandmother Alma Coffman said, "I will not live anywhere where the ground moves under my feet," so back to Texas they came and in Texas my grandpa met my grandma, etc.
Just like George Strait sings in his song "All My Ex's Live in Texas", I will leave "my transcendental meditation" and come back to the theme of my story and the Star Theater.
Bandera had its first movie theater sometime before October of 1916, according to the Articles of Co-Partnership made and entered into on October 5th, 1916 between Walter Tigner and B.A. Cox, both of Bandera. They purchased the interest in the Star Theater form W.F. Cox. The theater consisted of a "frame air–dome" and a "moving picture plant." An air–dome is a wooden framed structure with a canvas roof. The sides or walls are usually open, but some may have partially covered canvas walls. The audience was subject to Mother Nature, i.e.: rain, temperature, mosquitoes, etc. The Star Theater originally was located on Bandera town Lots Numbers 53 and 54 in Range XI, which is where the Bandera United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall stands at the northwest corner of Cedar and 11th Streets. Reading the December 9. 1915 issue of the "Bandera Enterprise," I found no mention or advertisement of them Star Theater in it. Also the March 17, 1916 issue of the "Bandera New Era" made no mention of it.
When Cox and TIgner purchased the Star Theater they moved it to Main Street, on Bandera town Lot Number 60 in Range XI. This would be the lot next to and southeast of where Busbee's Bar-B-Que is today, the southeast corner of Cedar and Main Streets.
The Articles of Co-Partnership states: "All expenses on the Star Theater are to are paid by the herein named partners jointly, each paying one-half of said expenses. All salaries which are to be paid, or dividends which may be declared, shall be paid or declared in equal amounts from the profits of the business of the Star Theater, each of the herein named partners receiving salary or dividend the same amount as the other." "No salary shall be paid, nor dividend declared from the proceeds of the business of the Star Theater, until the balance of the purchase money due W.F. Cox, to wit, $136.60 shall have first been paid." "Nor shall any salary be paid or dividend declared from said proceeds until the cost of moving said air–dome and plant from its present location...Together with all costs of installation and wiring, shall have first been paid." How long the Star Theater operated is not known.
James L. and Clara May Cox sold Bandera Town Lot no. 59 in Range 12 and all the improvements thereon to James Watts Cox and Ellen Marian Cox on January 7, 1926 for $5.000. J.W. and E.M. Cox sold the property to George Davis and Kate Vaughn Cox on August 28, 1934. G.D. Cox held the mortgage on the property and received title from J.W. Cox and E.M. Cox as payment for said note in 1934. Today, this is the property with the building $5,000. J.W. and E.M. Cox sold the property to George Davis and Kate Vaughn Cox on August 28. 1934. G.D. Cox held the mortgage on the property and received title from J.W. Cox and E.M. Cox as payment for said note in 1934. Today, this is the property with the building that houses the General Store and Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar.