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

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

Part II

As reported in the previous article, the Star Theater, Bandera’s first known silent movie theater, was operated by Walter Tigner and B.A. Cox. Music or sound was provided by one or more musicians. W.F. Cox and O.A. White, both of Center Point, Texas, changed the name of the Star Theater to the Bandera Theatre on July 8, 1922, and later located it across the street.
James L. Cox bought Lot No. 59 Range No. 12 on Aug. 12, 1922, from Charles and John Fee for $500.00. The theater occupied the street level of the Cox building, which was built ca. 1923. Today, the Cox building is owned by Arkey Blue (Arkey Charles Juenke, Sr.). The building houses the Bandera General Store (owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Glen McComb) and Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon (basement level).
“The Bandera New Era” issue of January 18, 1923, advertised the Bandera Theatre as “The Home of Clean Amusement.” Admission was 10 cents and 30 cents. In 1928 and 1929, “The Bandera New Era” had advertisements for both the Bandera Theatre, which showed movies on Friday night and the Medina Theater, which showed movies on Saturday night. In the mid 1930s, the “Arcadia” Theater opened in Kerrville and advertised itself as a “Talking Picture Theater” that was “Cool as a Cave.” Competition from the new Arcadia overwhelmed the silent movie theaters. his had an effect on the silent movie theaters.
The Bandera Theatre and the Medina Theater stopped newspaper advertising in late 1930. For a short time the Bandera Theatre was advertised as sponsored by the PTA (admission was 25 cents and 30 cents.) In October of 1931 the building was advertised as Cox Hall where dances were then being held. Other halls were Kutzer Amusement Hall, managed by A.D. Kutzer and Schott’s Hall. Both showed movie pictures every now and then. There was no movie theater in Bandera from late 1930 to 1935.
The Depression and new technology
Today's General Store, on the street level of the Cox Building, was the location of the first Bantex Theater. It was announced in "The Bandera New Era" on Nov. 7, 1935: “Bandera To Have Picture Show,” and that “A.E. Beadle of Pleasanton, is here this week making arrangements to open a talking picture show in the Cox Building in Bandera. Mr. Beadle is installing up–to–date equipment and has two projectile (projector) machines, which will be used here. He informs us that the show will be opened here about November 15th, and that the very latest pictures will be shown here.”
The first Bantex Theater opened on Nov. 15, 1935, and presented George Raft and Ben Bernie and his Orchestra in the black and white movie, “Stolen Harmony.” This was played on Friday and Saturday. The movie “Wonders of the Wasteland” with Dean Jagger and Buster Crabbe was shown on Monday, Nov. 19. Theater manager Jack Vanderville filed for the assumed name Bontex Theater, July 20, 1936.
H. Alfred Anderwald (who celebrated his 90th birthday this week) said, "It opened when I was 8 or 10 years old (he was 8 years old when it opened) and was owned and operated by Jake Webb. He said, "Webb also owned and operated the Plestex in Pleasanton, Texas and the Medtex in Medina, Texas."
Herbert ‘Pete’ Evans (according to his son, Judge Richard A. Evans) "helped put up the movie screen," which was located in the back of the building, the Judge added. "That was before his parents married in 1938."
When you walk into the building from Main Street, just inside and to the right of the front door was a balcony and the projectors. The first Bantex Theater operated until a projector fire "burned it out” and shut it down sometime between March 15 and March 24, 1945.
The last movie advertisement in the "Bandera New Era" was in March 15, 1945. No advertisements were found between March 15, 1945 and August of 1945, when the Bantex Theater reopened. Today there is evidence of the projector fire (both on the inside ceiling and outside tin roof), which apparently started in the Southeast corner of the General Store. J.C. Webb took over the Bantex Theater on October 13, 1938.
Jake C. Webb and wife, Miriam Webb made a contract with L.A. Thrailkill and Emmett T. Jackson, partners in the firm of Thrailkill & Jackson of San Antonio, Texas, on March 24, 1945, to construct a new building to house the second Bantex Theater. It was to be built on Bandera Town Lots numbers 49 and 50 in Range No. 11, which is where the Western Trail Heritage Park, etc. is today (SE corner of Main and Hackberry Streets). According to “The Bandera New Era" issue of June 7, 1945, construction was started in April of 1945 and by June, the concrete foundation, pillars and floors had been poured and ''this week the first tile blocks will be laid.” Continuing, “The Bandera News Era” stated, "All equipment for the operation of the new theatre, including the projectors, screen, sound equipment and seats are in a warehouse nearby, according to Mrs. Jake Webb. When completed this new edifice will be completely fireproof and one of the most modern theatres in south Texas." The building cost $24,500 and was scheduled to open on August 1, 1945. (J.C. and Miriam McDonald Webb sold the second Bantex Theater to Charles W. and Rosa Knauf on August 3, 1948.)
The second Bantex Theater had its Grand Opening on Aug. 31, 1945 with a lot of excitement from the residents of Bandera and community. The main feature shown was ''Thunderhead, Son of Flicka," starring Roddy McDowell, Preston Foster and Rita Johnson in glorious Technicolor. Also shown were selected short subjects and Chapter One of the "Man Hunt on Mystery Island." According to the Aug. 10, 1945 issue of the "Bandera Bulletin" the "following force will be on duty: Mrs. Miriam Webb, owner and manager; Mrs. Norma George, cashier; Warren Padgett, projectionist; Miss Doodlebug (Doodle Bug) Teich, popcorn girl." The popcorn girl was Mary Louise Teich Holloway. According to Vince Teich: “She got her nickname from her father, because when she was an infant, she would not crawl forward, she would always crawl backwards, hence the nickname.” Mr. Webb was away on overseas duty in the Armed Forces at the time of the grand opening.
The second Bantex Theater served Bandera and the Bandera community very well for over two decades until it was closed because of a devastating fire.
Judge Richard Evans worked at the theater for the Knaufs as a projectionist in 1962, when he was a freshman in High School. Tough as his job was as a projectionist, he also was required to do "everything," including the taking out of the trash. Judge Evans imitating Mr. Knauf with a German accent, "trash goes out on Thursday."
What we remember about folks we worked for, even 55 years later. When Judge Evans worked there they remodeled the theater and put in "green seats with pads." The last featured shown was on Saturday night, Sept. 27, 1969, and it was "The Valley of Gwangi." This was a feature about cowboys battling monsters (dinosaurs) and James Franciscus and Gila Golan where among the stars performing in it.
A fire started in the ceiling of the second Bantex Theater in the early morning hours (about 3 am) of Sunday, Sept. 28, 1969, which totally destroyed the interior. The roof collapsed and only the outside brick walls were left standing. On Sunday, Oct. 17, 1969, a benefit dance was sponsored by Arkey Blue at the Cabaret for the rebuilding of the Bantex. Performing at the fundraiser were Arkey Blue, Ace Reid, and fiddler Phil Trimble. Rope tricks, were performed by Hondo. Even though the community was behind rebuilding the theater, that rebuilding never occurred. The Knaufs eventually moved to Arizona. Okay, for the record, I know there was a drive-in-movie theater, but that will be another story for another time.
Anyone with photos of any of the Bandera Movie Theaters, please contact Ray Carter at 361-564-6795.