(this reminiscence was written by Lucille McQuilty in 1978)
Seventy years ago, when Prescott was thriving with many businesses including groceries, drugstore, hardware, harness and show shop, and a bakery, there were three place on Main Street where people could gather for “socials”, or dances, but they lacked space. It was about this time, the early 20s, when a new mode of entertainment came into being. Mr. Byron Bradley became interested in this, and being sensitive to the needs of the community, he invested in the construction of a new building, which was named the Victor Theatre. It was located on the old Highway 69 between the present Commercial Pipeline Company and the Grigsby Café. This theatre would be the home of the new silent movies when they came to town. The building was equipped with a stage at the west end and a projectionist’s cubicle over head at the east end. There were rows of shiny, brown wooden chairs fastened together at the base. across t he front of the stage was a huge curtain with an outdoor scene painted on it. This curtain was on a heavy roller that moved up or down by pulling hard or relaxing hold of a rope. As the equipment aged, one could expect noise from both the chairs and the curtain if manipulated by an amateur.
A few vaudeville acts and shows by medicine men who sold remedies for just about everything was held here. Before the high school was built, school plays were here and seats were removed for basketball practice. Soon after the building was completed, the Merry Matrons presented plays at the Victor. During this time, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Charlie Smith, who lived in Fulton were busy booking movies for Prescott on Saturday nights, for Smith sold tickets at the window. The projectionists were Mr. Smith, Carl Sutherland and Leonard VanMeter of Fulton. Silent movies were great at the time, but they were greatly enhanced by the mood music provided by a good pianist. An “old pro” at the piano was Royce Grigsby. Music was in his family; his Uncle Roy played at the Fox and the Empress theatres in Fort Scott at the same time period. People usually came early to the movies so they could visit with neighbors and they did not want to miss the announcements at the beginning. Anyone who had a quarter in his pocket could attend. Children were admitted for a dime.
The great silent movies of the 1920s knew no language barrier. There was plenty of action even though it was stilted and jerky. Another group that added enjoyment to the silent movies was a second musical group that played while the “reels” were being changed. The group was composed of Rowe Grigsby at the piano, Perrin Terry and Charlie Smith, violins, James Wallace, saxophone, Gene Crawford, trombone, Eldon Bowers, trumpet and Claude Locke, drums. Thelma Lowe also played at the theatre.
These people and others like them worked hard to provide music, but they enjoyed doing it and they knew their friends enjoyed it.
(Taken from “From Pioneering to the Present, Volume II”)