We’ll mention peripherally that page 8 columns are historically written on either a Sunday or a Monday night for the following Saturday, a tradition that may change if the American League can’t figure out how to finish a baseball game in under five hours. [I think this was a long ball game, don’t know now in 2014 why I wrote that…]
That said, our attention shifts to a well-worn pamphlet offered by a friend, detailing the grand re-opening of the Majestic Theater, or Theatre for those of the cultured sort, a gala that took place on November 4th of 1925. It should be mentioned for the newer Homefinders to Reno that this fine edifice, on the southwest corner of East First and Center Streets was since its opening in 1910 so seismically unsound that it took three days, two D-8 Caterpillar dozers and thirty pounds of dynamite to get the proscenium arch to fall when the building was razed 60 years later.
The original theater was a dandy built by Nevada’s Senator George Nixon, housing primarily stage plays. Its first significant production was “The Merry Widow,” a show remembered principally for launching a style of ladies’ undergarments. It rocked along with similar stage and musical fare for another 15 years, operated by Nixon’s widow until it was sold to the nationwide T&D Enterprises, who also operated the nearby Grand and Rialto – later Granada – theaters downtown.
T & D’s boss M. Naify closed the house and loosed architect Frederick DeLongchamps on its carcass to transform it into a first-rate, 1925-modern edifice in the Moorish style that typified most theaters of the day. Note that most of the nation’s classic theaters embraced that theme, with many theater names evocative of the Naify family’s eastern Mediterranean heritage or the world’s then-current passion for the Moorish culture.
DeLongchamps embodied a grand staircase to a landing where twin staircases departed to either side. I’d like to think that someone rescued the ornate staircase handrails (and the massive chandelier) when the building was demolished in 1981. At the top of the stairs, a promenade divided the upper deck (whoops, too much baseball – make that mezzanine) and the loge. According to the souvenir program, DeLongchamps offered “…a most inviting rest-room for the ladies, beautifully appointed with comfortable chairs, lounges, dressing tables and mirrors.” As I recall there was a men’s room also, possibly not so commodious. There was a “modern, forced-air furnace,” (no mention of air-conditioning), and electric lights, inside and out, supplied by the Truckee River Power Company.
As in any of these old programs and brochures, the lifestyle and trends of 1925 advertisements were revealing: The Revada Sales Company, which we visited on a West Fourth Street walk column, offered the new Star Coupster. We’ll, if one can have a roadster, why not a coupster or a SUVster also? Phone 777 to reserve yours. The Overland Hotel was proud to be the home-away-from-home for the Naify family during construction, and the Piggly Wiggly Market, only a block away, was lining up for Majestic patrons’ holiday parties. At 42 West Second Street, H. E. Saviers & Son, even before my friend Sandy was born, promised that “One hearing of the marvelous Victrola will change your conception of Music in the Home. Phone 555.”
A block to the north on Center Street, visit the Nevada Velie Co. and test ride the modern Velie with the “aeroplane type motor,” that vehicle I believe to be a powered bicycle but I’m sure I’ll hear if it’s otherwise. [I didn’t] Shearer & Wagner on North Virginia next to Hilp’s Drug Store was renting Stewart Warner radios for three bucks a month, reserve yours by phoning 988-L. And if it’s wood or coal you need, Raphel & Henrichs, Felix and Rufe respectively, can bring you a load from their yard by the railroad tracks on Bell Street; call them at 1248 (a four-digit phone number? When will this town quit growing?)
Marta Howland Milliners, opposite the aforementioned Rialto Theater on West First Street, has new Satin Hats arriving daily, if yours is departing daily, a steal at seven to ten dollars, presumably depending on your lady’s head size. Purity French Bakery even in 1925 was at 357 North Virginia Street, next to the original Little Waldorf; the Reno Business College offered stenographic careers for young ladies, try advertising that today, and Nevada Transfer & Warehouse would “Never Scratch Your Furniture” and if you believe that you’d also believe that the Easter Bunny would sell you a Marmon with a 145-inch wheelbase, a veritable 1925 Hummer, at Nevada Marmon Company on Court Street at Granite. Now, Court Street at Sierra, soon the site of the Mills B. Lane Justice Center [now], and how ya’ doin’, Bubba?
In conclusion, we couldn’t mention the Majestic Theater without including the time-honored epilogue for any movie at the Majestic – apple pie and a milkshake next door at the Mapes. Don’t continue to mail me these old programs and catalogues; it only encourages me to write some more.
Have a good week; and God bless America!
© Reno Gazette Journal May 2004
Read new articles on Sundays in the “Nevada” section of the RGJ