Bashaw’s Majestic Theatre held its 100th anniversary celebration Aug. 22. Cutting the cake, are from the left, Mary Kinsella, Diane Carl and Dell Thomas. ECA Review/L. Joy
Bashaw’s Majestic Theatre celebrated a milestone Sat. Aug. 22 – its 100th anniversary.
Step back a century to 1915 when the Majestic was built.
Alberta women were fighting for the right to vote and Albertans ratified the new liquor act – paving the way for prohibition.
Streets were dry, dusty dirt until it rained, or the snow melted, and then they turned into soupy messes. Horses and buggies crowded the streets with a few motorcars vying for space.
In 1915, the first coast-to-coast land line phone call was made and Canadians were mailing letters to each other en masse.
Agriculture was a top industry and threshing crews harvested crops. A loaf of bread cost six cents, a sirloin steak was 49 cents and eggs were 34 cents a dozen.
Pollyanna Grows Up was a best seller and the song “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” topped the charts.
Vaudeville and silent movies, starring America’s sweetheart Mary Pickford and baggy pants Charlie Chaplin with his over-sized shoes, were all the hype.
Movie tickets cost 10 to 15 cents.
And during this time, the Village of Bashaw with a population of 250, built the Majestic Theatre.
Now today – 100 years later – because of the foresight of a few, the restored Majestic Theatre is believed to be the last remaining theatre of its kind in Western Canada.
“Places like the Majestic are essential to preserving the stories, to capture our Alberta history,” said Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta on Aug. 22 at the Majestic’s Centennial Celebration in Bashaw.
Mitchell added that the measure of a vibrant cultural sector in any community isn’t the size or number of renowned professional companies, but rather the strength of amateur arts programs.
“Amateur companies have the ability to bring the arts directly into peoples’ lives in a profound way and places like the Majestic have the power to serve as true incubators of creativity in a community.”
Betty Clark, from Friends of the Majestic, said, “It’s truly remarkable,” the theatre is the last of the Boomtown style, which once dotted Alberta’s landscape in the 1900s and 1910s.
The Majestic was home to silent movies, magic lantern shows, local theatre productions and early films with sound.
For a while the theatre was converted into a Catholic Church before it was changed into a movie theatre in the 1940s and named the Dixy Theatre.
In 1998, the Friends of the Majestic Theatre Society formed to restore and preserve the structure. They also started the Majestic Players, an amateur theatre group to fundraise for the theatre.
In 2000, the Majestic was designated as an Alberta Registered Historical Resource. In 2004, the exterior of the Majestic was restored to its 1930 (circa) façade, and except for the white paint, the Majestic looks like it did in 1915.
Andrea Newton, the great granddaughter of the Town of Bashaw’s founder, Eugene Bashaw, presented the theatre group a $2,100 cheque from the Bashaw family.
“May your exterior siding remain solid and your great hall be forever filled with song, theatre and dancing feet,” she said.
Actors Fraser Beebe and Laura Graham entertain the packed Majestic Theatre for Monty Python’s “The Bookshop Skit” during the theatre’s 100th anniversary celebration Aug. 22 in Bashaw. ECA Review/L. Joy