CASUAL COUNTRY 2020: From humble beginnings – Williams Lake Tribune

CASUAL COUNTRY 2020: From humble beginnings - Williams Lake Tribune

After beginning my job this July as a summer time pupil on the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, I made a decision to analysis the historical past of Williams Lake’s film theatres.

My connection to the theatre from working there since 2016 and my curiosity in native historical past made this an particularly fascinating venture, and I had a variety of enjoyable engaged on it. The data on this article is sourced from Williams Lake Tribune articles, different museum archives, and interviews with neighborhood members.

In 1921, Arthur Hiller constructed a automobile service storage on the nook of Oliver Avenue and Second Avenue. In 1924 he elevated the facility of his personal gentle plant to transform the storage right into a film theatre, naming it the Oliver Theatre.

It had a degree flooring, a participant piano on the again, and near 100 wood kitchen chairs for seating (sufficient for a few third of Williams Lake’s inhabitants on the time).

The participant piano offered the one sound that accompanied the films. Whereas the movie reels had been modified, Tissie Sutton would entertain visitors on the piano. Artwork owned the primary radio receiving set on the town, and would cost 25 cents for folks to return and pay attention.

In 1922, William Sydney Western moved to Williams Lake and have become supervisor of the T.A. Moore Basic Retailer.

In 1926, he married Cordelia “Dilly” Moore, and that very same 12 months purchased the Oliver Theatre as a result of he “simply thought it was a good suggestion.”

Syd had wished to run a film theatre for a while, however he had no earlier expertise within the enterprise. After simply two nights of assist from Artwork, he had realized tips on how to run the projectors and began off on his personal. Again then, the theatre was used for a lot of features together with beginner performs, the annual Married Males’s ball and Bachelors’ ball, Sunday college, and the Halloween Masquerade. Whist drives (card recreation tournaments) had been hosted there each two weeks by the Social Circle to lift cash for the Struggle Memorial Hospital.

The primary public assembly on Williams Lake’s incorporation was held there in 1929.

Syd modernized the theatre in 1931 by including a brand new entrance, a 20-foot extension on the again for a stage, and an “all-talkie film machine” which marked the top of the silent movie period. The theatre remained nearly unchanged for the following 20 years, with Syd as supervisor and projectionist and Dilly as cashier and bookkeeper.

The Westerns lived in a small home subsequent to the theatre with a well-kept entrance backyard and a weeping willow within the yard. In 1951 Sid constructed a brand new theatre on the opposite aspect of the home. It was “being known as the brand new Oliver Theatre for need of a greater identify.” Described by Syd in a 1951 Tribune interview, the brand new theatre’s foyer had wine-coloured chairs, wealthy inexperienced carpeting, rose colored partitions, and pure woodwork.

The auditorium had a turquoise, silk curtain, 320 wine-coloured upholstered seats, and a “crying room” on the again for the “howling kids.” Doug Mallette was the projectionist. Syd didn’t resolve on a reputation for his new theatre till 1956, when he settled on the Alston Theatre.

Whereas Syd was imprecise in interviews when speaking concerning the origin of the identify, usually referring to it as somebody who was “near the household,” I consider it was chosen after Syd and Dilly’s youngest son Alston Western who died in 1936. In 1958, the Alston theatre was offered to Ken Thibaudeau.

The outdated Oliver theatre was purchased from Syd by Joe Borkowski in 1966 and torn all the way down to construct the brand new Borkowski block. This constructing would first home Cunningham’s Drugstore, and is presently house to the Realm of Toys and BFF Fashions. Syd and Dilly moved to Kamloops in 1975, and some years later moved to Vancouver the place Sid died on Dec. 30, 1991 on the age of 94. In his obituary, former Tribune proprietor Irene Stangoe described Syd as “a slim, neat man, all the time well-dressed and unfailingly cheerful and courteous.”

Syd was an avid golfer, a member of the Masonic Order, and “a wonderful beginner photographer” who donated his picture assortment to the museum in 1983.

Kenneth Winston Thibaudeau was born in Alberta and met his spouse Daisy whereas working for the Financial institution of Montreal in Path. Ken transferred to the financial institution’s fundamental department in Vancouver, however for the reason that firm didn’t enable workers to marry till they earned a excessive sufficient wage, Ken give up his job and he and Daisy moved to Quesnel in 1939 to get married. Ken purchased the Alston in 1958 and moved to Williams Lake in 1959.

Ken and Daisy’s daughters labored on the theatre. Ken owned the Alston for 15 years, throughout which he was concerned with the Masonic Lodge, Alcoholics Nameless, and the Rotary Membership. The truth is, he grew to become the very first Constitution President of the Williams Lake Rotary Membership in 1964. In 1973, he offered the Alston to Ron Barkwell and Lyle Moorman. Ken was extremely concerned in Rotary and locally up till his demise in December of 1984.

Ron Barkwell grew up in Northern Saskatchewan and moved to Williams Lake in 1970 when he was recruited by Lyle Moorman to play for the Williams Lake Stampeders. He received a job at Williams Lake Motors, and in 1973 he and Lyle purchased the Alston collectively.

They gave the Alston a brand new foyer, concession, seats, sound system, and display. Ron recalled how Lyle most well-liked to remain behind the scenes, telling me “I don’t even know if he ever went to a present.”

Ron’s fondest recollections of the Alston had been of his superb workers, which included Britta Titford, Doug Mallette, Dave Hothi, Clayton and Karen Myers, and Ron’s spouse Marilyn.

The workforce was “like a household,” a sentiment echoed by Dave and Jas Hothi. In 1977, Ron and Lyle offered the Alston to Dave, Dave’s mother and father, Clayton, and Karen. Dave was simply 26 years outdated. Ron and Marilyn went on to personal a number of totally different companies, together with the Jack of Golf equipment in Wells, the Langley Lodge, and the Squires 4 Pub in Vernon. He and Marilyn are actually retired, however they maintain busy working a small passion farm in Vernon. Lyle was concerned in enterprise in Williams Lake till his retirement and now lives in Armstrong.


Since 1984, the Paradise Cinemas has been below the only possession of Dave and Jas Hothi. Dave spent many childhood weekends on the Alston’s matinee showings. On the age of 13 he started displaying Punjabi movies to the general public within the Glendale auditorium with the help of principal Hazel Huckvale.

The cash raised went in direction of English language programs for Punjabi-speaking residents of Williams Lake. This was just the start of a lifelong profession within the film enterprise. After graduating from Columneetza, Dave went to UBC to acquire a level in actual property and concrete growth, whereas additionally displaying Punjabi movies in Vancouver.

After some time, his mother and father requested him to maneuver again house as a result of they had been apprehensive that he had, in his phrases, “gone astray.” He moved again to Williams Lake in 1974 and started working on the Alston Theatre for Ron Barkwell and was skilled by Doug Mallette to run the projectors.

After working the Alston for 3 years, the Hothis and the Myers started constructing a brand new film theatre on Third Avenue South. The Paradise Twin Theatres opened its doorways on June 25, 1981. The venture price over $1 million {dollars}, and with 28 per cent curiosity on funds paired with the discharge of VHS within the late 70s, Dave says the theatre was hit with a “double whammy.” For the primary eight years, the theatre made virtually no revenue.

Dave’s mom did the janitor work, and Dave and Jas each labored second jobs to offer for his or her three younger kids. They even opened a restaurant within the foyer and started serving alcohol on the concession. Dave recalled spending each night on the theatre simply to maintain it open, along with his kids usually sleeping within the field workplace whereas their mother and father each labored late into the evening.

Within the early Nineteen Eighties, they opened the primary video retailer in Williams Lake, Plus Video.

As soon as the brand new theatre was financially secure, Dave offered the Alston in 1996 to 2 brothers with plans for a billiard corridor, Tier’s Traditional Billiards. The constructing has modified palms many instances since, and is now known as The Limelight. Two years later, Dave and Jas started creating an enlargement of the Paradise Twin Theatres. The brand new Paradise Cinemas was extra trendy, and with 4 screens a better number of motion pictures might be proven.

The enlargement allowed for the theatre to accommodate for the rising inhabitants, additionally deterring any company theatre chains from coming to city. The theatre has had many upgrades since then, together with changing the seats, screens, and sound system, in addition to going solely digital in 2010, the primary unbiased theatre in Canada to take action.

Ever for the reason that Oliver Theatre was constructed virtually a century in the past, the film theatre has been an integral a part of our city’s leisure scene. It has offered Williams Lake with leisure for a number of generations, and every proprietor has introduced one thing new and worthwhile to the enterprise and to the neighborhood.

A few of my favorite recollections have been made on the theatre: lining up early with family and friends to see Star Wars, working the hectic opening evening of Avengers Endgame, going up onto the roof to look out on the plumes of wildfire smoke, and listening to numerous tales from Dave and Gord about how issues had been “again then.”

I all the time love listening to outdated tales about our city, and I’d wish to thank everybody who helped me by sharing theirs: Ron Barkwell, David Gosman, Dave Hothi, Shuster Johnston, Gord Moon, Lyle Moorman, Janet Prosser, and Sheila Wyse. I want to give a particular thanks to the late Irene Stangoe, whose column “Trying Again” gave me a substantial amount of assist and inspiration.

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Paradise Cinemas proprietor David Hothi and supervisor Gord Moon had been readily available for the particular screening of the documentary As a result of We Are Ladies. Hothi donated the screening charges and all ticket gross sales to Chiwid Transition Home in Williams Lake. (Greg Sabatino picture)

The location of downtown Williams Lake because it seems at present, which as soon as housed The Alston Theatre and the Oliver Theatre. The Alston Theatre, as soon as constructed, housed 320 wine-coloured upholstered seats. (Greg Sabatino picture)

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