GROVE - How did a small, rural town in Northeast Oklahoma, ever get to have a beautiful, ornate vaudeville style theater? Director of the Coleman Theatre Danny Dillon has a wealth of information about the history of how it got there and how much a community benefits from people who give back to it
The George Coleman family came from the Denver area and were looking for a place to get rich, and in the late 1800’s came to Indian Territory to dig water wells when they discovered lead and zinc near Picher.
The find was the second largest vein, if not the largest vein of lead and zinc in the world, Dillon said. With the onset of World War I, they were the largest provider in the world of lead. So, at the age 52, Coleman, a bachelor, earned a million dollars a month. Dillon said he wasn’t a bachelor for long after that.
Dillon said Coleman and his new wife loved to travel and they loved entertainment and music and opera houses. Coleman invested a lot of his money in entertainment and then Hollywood and sat on the board of MGM Studios. He also had a house in Hollywood where he became good friends with his neighbor Bing Crosby. Crosby sat on Colemans board of directors and frequently met in Miami which led Coleman to build the first 9-hole golf course in town to entertain his friends.
Dillon said that Coleman told Crosby he would love to bring entertainment to the people who worked for him the the now boom-town of Picher in the lead mines and other business, people he thought would never get the opportunity to travel. He wondered how he would get the traveling shows to stop in Miami. Crosby assured Coleman that Coleman had enough monehy to bring the best vaudeville shows to Miami so Coleman approached the best traveling troupe and assured them they would have a grand place to perform by the time they got there the next year. Just 330 days later, April 19, 1929, the Coleman Theater opened, , Dillon said. Last year, the Coleman celebrated their 90th birthday.
Dillon talked about the years of the Coleman and how eventually the theater came into disrepair and was in jeopardy of being demolished. That is when the “Friend of the Coleman’ group formed and through their efforts the theater was restored to its former beauty, including reacquiring the original Mighty Wurlitzer organ and the grand chandelier.
The Coleman Theater hosts shows, plays, musicals, Silent Movies with the Mighty Wurlitzer accompaniment, and has a beautiful ballroom for events such as wedding receptions, conferences, and more.
To see a schedule or plan a visit go to www.colemantheatre.org