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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Subscribers Edition, where 450 of 700 stories originate
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Dream Theatre, Abbott Motor Co.,
Dad Abbott family, Emma and Hugh Ridgway

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal ©2005

(Dream Theatre 1920s)
      This exterior shot of the Dream was taken sometime circa the early 1920s by Frank LaRoche, whose studio was in the Schneider Block, where the old bowling alley now stands. Photo compliments of Lorraine Rothenbuhler, a very active member of the Sedro-Woolley Museum.

      Edson G. Abbott Sr., known to all as Dad, left several legacies in Sedro-Woolley — namely his Chevrolet dealership and his Dream Theater, only one of which endures. According to a 1953 edition of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Chevrolet honored him in 1949 as their first dealer in Washington state. Dad started the Abbott Motor Co. dealership in 1916 in a small garage on State street where the Food Pavilion Grocery now stands, but we are not sure when he actually received the Chevrolet franchise.
      In 1919-20, Dad built a new garage at the corner of Murdock and Woodworth streets. Five years later, Emil Jech built the Universal Motors Ford garage across Murdock in the building that houses the Sedro-Woolley Museum today. For the next 25 years a classic competition developed between those Ford and Chevrolet garages, just as in a thousand other small towns across America. Abbott sold the dealership in 1938 to the Stan Nelson family from Ballard. Stan Nelson Jr. operated it for 20 years, followed by his brother Fred. It still exists as Countryside Chevrolet today. Sig Berglund closed Jech's old dealership in 1949, after buying it during World War II, and moved to the present Ford location on West Ferry street.
      Three years before Dad Abbott moved to Sedro-Woolley, his second-born son, Bennett P. "Ben" Abbott, built the Dream Theater [usually spelled theatre back then], which stood on the north side of Woodworth street where the US Bank stands today, across the street from where Dad would build his Chevrolet garage. The building was designed in the Spanish style with a faux balcony, all in the rage current in California at the time. The Abbotts bought two lots on the north side of Woodworth street in 1913 and built the theater, all for about $25,000. In those days, that side of the block was dominated by Theodore Bergman's Star Grocery on the northeast corner of Woodworth and Metcalf streets, in a building that was constructed new after the July 1911 fire that leveled most of two business blocks downtown. To the east on that block was the old Ewestern Reno bicycle shop, which was being taken over by Emil Runck, and the Q. Reno home on the corner of Murdock. The City Hall would be built there in 1930. The Dream was not the first theater in town but it would be the dominant one and it would be the last. After a 1913 Christmas Day pageant with a silent-movie feature, the theater opened in January 1914 as a combination vaudeville house and silent-movie theater. Ben died in the nationwide flu epidemic of 1918, a week after his mother, Ada, died of the same illness. Dozens died here as thousands died all over the U.S. in the worst flu epidemic ever and in 1918-19, local people wore masks in defense against the disease and quarantined houses where people fell ill.
      Dad took over the theater and made it one of the finest in the Northwest. Back on May 20, 1915, Ben bought out the Princess Theater in the Knights of Pythias building on Metcalf. Researcher Roger Peterson points out that the Princess then ran "C" and children's movies, while "A & B" films were featured at the Dream. Within a few years, the Princess location was leased to White's Variety store. The Hazel Theater on the south side of the 200 block of State street gave up competing back in 1916, the same year that Dad and Ada Abbott moved here from Port Angeles to join their son Ben. Dad explained that his son coined the name was by to evoke the image of dreams being played out in front of the audience. That image was especially important during the Great Depression of the 1930s when patrons could escape their troubles by paying just a dime for a double feature. By the way, the first theater in Sedro-Woolley was called the Globe, for obvious reasons, and was operated by Frank Hemingway from about 1904. It was a nickelodeon, operated in a small room at the back of Wallace B. Pigg's confectionery, which stood about where the Schooner Tavern is today on Metcalf street.

(Woodworth 1948)
      This is a photograph taken during the first Loggerodeo grand parade in 1948 by Burt Webber. You are looking west down Woodworth street from the Jech Ford Garage, now the Sedro-Woolley Museum. Dad Abbott's Chevrolet dealership is at the far left, then owned by Stan Nelson, and the Dream Theatre is at the mid-right on the north side of the street.

Dad honored by Hollywood in 1936-37
    Any time, any amount, please help build our travel and research fund for what promises to be a very busy 2011, traveling to mine resources from California to Washington and maybe beyond. Depth of research determined by the level of aid from readers. Because of our recent illness, our research fund is completely bare. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. And subscriptions to our optional Subscribers Online Magazine (launched 2000) by donation too. Thank you.

We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      In 2003, our faithful reader, Berniece Leaf, loaned us a newspaper that has illuminated more of Dad Abbott's life. Dated Dec. 10, 1936, the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times reviews how the town was climbing its way out of the nationwide Depression. On the front page is a small article headlined: "Abbott honored as theatre pioneer:"
      E. G. Abbott, owner of the Dream theatre of this city, is one of the ten pioneer motion picture theatre men in this state and Alaska who were in the film business 25 years ago and who played Adolph Zukor's first feature length production, Sarah Bernhardt in Queen Elizabeth at that time. Each of these men will receive silver medallions from Paramount Pictures commemorating the event during the coming month. Beginning January 7, Paramount will hold a world-wide silver jubilee celebration in tribute to Mr. Zukor, now chairman of the board, and active head of production at the Paramount studios in Hollywood, for his quarter century service to the industry.
      That week at the Dream, Dad Abbott featured one of the most popular movies of Depression years, Swing Time, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and a young actress named Betty Furness. The ad also promised that on Dec. 11-12, the Famous Radio Stars, the Oregon Loggers, would perform "On The Stage! . . . In Person! Singin', Dancin' Axe Throwin'" For the past year, we have researched that 1937 event and the results show that Dad Abbott flew at a high altitude that year. Just a year before, Zukor had been forced out as the big cheese at Paramount. Born in the Tokay district of Hungary in 1873, Zukor came to the U.S. in 1889 at the same time that Dad Abbott married Ada Packard. After gaining wealth as a furrier in Chicago, he teamed with Marcus Loew in 1903 to open the first of a series of penny arcades. In 1912 he reaped a windfall with Bernhardt's first U.S. film and plowed the profits into a company he called Favorite Players and signed Mary Pickford, "America's Sweetheart," in 1914. Zukor hired Samuel Goldwyn and Cecil B. DeMille to run the company for him and they soon had a string of hits, beginning with The Prisoner of Zenda, followed by such other successes as Count of Monte Cristo, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and The Sheik." Abbott recognized Zukor's power and Paramount's potential very early on and was rewarded at the silver jubilee party in 1937, where he shared drinks with Bing and Dixie Crosby and other movie lights of the time. The dinner celebration itself was broadcast on NBC Radio so that folks back home here could hear the jokes and tributes. Zukor was kicked upstairs to be chairman emeritus of Paramount's board and he died at age 103 in 1976, still showing up at his office every day.

Dad's pedigree one of the finest in Sedro-Woolley
      Dad's lineage is the most impressive of any local pioneer other than Mortimer Cook. He was born on Dec. 18, 1865, in Baltimore, where his father was a prominent grain merchant during the Civil War. His grandfather, Edwin Abbott, invented the first barrel-stave cutting-machine, in addition to the first band saw in the early 19th century. Edwin also wrote much of the constitution for the state of Maryland and was a U.S. shipping commissioner. In mid-century, his great uncle Horace Abbott built the largest rolling mill of its kind, which manufactured the armor plates for the Monitor ironclad and his other three iron mills produced material for other ironclad navy vessels. He also built three . The Abbott family apparently emigrated to the U.S. in 1795. His mother was born Adrianna Boerum, the daughter of Barnet Bloom and Amelia (Wheeler) Boerum. The Boerum family dated back to the Dutch New York days and a plot of land originally farmed by Simon Boerum is now known as Boerum Hill in Brooklyn. Simon was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 until he died in 1775.
      When Dad was seven, his parents moved to Marshalltown, Iowa. After graduating at age 19 from the Shattuck military academy in Fairbault, Minnesota, he returned to Iowa and started a business of shipping horses and chickens to the Northwest. That year of 1884 also marked one of the explosions of overland immigrants to the Skagit river and arrival of Mortimer Cook at future Sedro, so maybe that is when Dad first learned about his future home.

Dad marries into the carpetbagger Packard family
(Dad Abbott)
Dad Abbott

      Dad's wedding in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Aug. 7, 1889, was the social event of the season as he married Ada Packard, the daughter of Stephen Bennett Packard, who was briefly the Reconstruction governor of Louisiana and later the U.S. consul at Liverpool, England. Packard was born in Maine and was commissioned as an officer in the Union Army during the war, serving most of his time as a staff judge advocate in New Orleans. In 1867 he was appointed chairman of the Board of Registration that prepared for a new state government in 1868. President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him as the district U.S. Marshall in the next year. By the time of the 1976 national Republican convention, Packard jumped on the bandwagon for James G. Blaine of Maine and therein started his role in a much larger national drama where he was to be a pawn.
      This was a period when period when General Philip Sheridan and other U.S. Army generals manipulated state and local politics and blacks fought to gain rights to land and public office. Packard was considered a carpetbagger but he also received political support from the "White League" of New Orleans. He was nominated to run for governor in 1976 against the colorful one-armed, one-legged Confederate veteran and Democrat Francis T. Nicholls. Packard won the popular vote but that was no guarantee of taking office in that turbulent year, as any student of political science knows. On Jan. 8, both Nicholls and Packard claimed victory and both took an oath of office before dueling legislature factions. At the same time, the 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden was also being disputed. Back on Nov. 7, Tilden won the popular vote and 184 undisputed electoral college votes, one short of the necessary total. Oregon and three states in the old Confederacy produced disputed slates of electors; Louisiana was one of them. After the Republican-controlled Senate set up an electoral commission in January 1877, Louisiana's electoral votes became vital.
      Because Packard was a Blaine man, Hayes felt no special loyalty to him and Louisiana Republicans advised Hayes that the party must drop support of the old carpetbaggers. Some party leaders and national newspaper editors even warned that continued support of Governor Packard would cause an outbreak in Louisiana that would require an army of 100,000 to suppress. On the other hand, Hayes realized that both Packard and Gov. Daniel H. Chamberlain of South Carolina were risking their lives to keep their states Republican and to thus provide the electoral votes that Hayes needed. That latter fact was proven when, on February 15, an assassin attempted to shoot Packard. According to Harper's Weekly, the governor knocked down the gun aimed at his heart, and the bullet grazed his knee. The perpetrator was taken into custody but the writing was on the wall and within weeks, Packard relinquished his claim. Louisiana's electoral votes went to Hayes anyway, who won the presidency, the last time that the electoral college totals trumped the popular vote, until 2000. In a Feb. 22, 1922, obituary reprint, the Courier-Times noted that Packard was later rewarded for his loyalty and for falling on his sword. The Hayes administration offered Packard the governorship of the new territories of Washington, Idaho or Wyoming, but he chose instead to become consul to Liverpool in 1878. He moved his young family to England and served there until 1885, when he moved to Iowa and purchased a large farm near Marshalltown that became his permanent home.

Dad follows the argonauts to Alaska
      After his wedding, Dad Abbott continued as a grain and stock merchant in Iowa and California, and when the nationwide Depression lagged on during the late 1890s, he joined the gold rush to Alaska in 1898. Along with others, he helped form The Iowa Company, which transported dozens of prospectors overland to Seattle and then boarded steamboats to southeast Alaska. After assembling their boats there and loading their tons of supplies, they proceeded up through British Columbia and west across the mountains into Alaska. In this fine National Park Service website:, we find:
      Typical of this breed of gold seekers were the members of the Iowa Company, who would prospect and mine for small returns on a midcourse tributary of the Koyukuk during the 1898-99 rush. This large company hauled tons of machinery and supplies over White Pass. On the shore of Tagish Lake they built two boats, the 60-foot sternwheeler Iowa and the smaller, screw-driven Little Jim. At breakup in June, they, with thousands of others (Pierre Berton estimates 30,000 people and 7,000 boats), descended through the Yukon's canyons and rapids to Dawson. After visiting the mines of Bonanza and Eldorado creeks, where he saw a fortune in nuggets and fine gold, E.G. Abbott of the Iowa's declared: "This district is all taken and no chance to locate anything within sixty miles." With rumors of fraud and fakery abounding, he yet could say, "We hear nothing but good reports from the Koyukuk country [where we will go] to try and find the elephant ourselves ..." [Koyukuk is inland in the central part of Alaska, east of Nome, where the Koyukuk river empties into the Yukon river.]
      This optimism was ill-founded. The Koyukuk enterprise of the Iowa Company ended up "a dead failure," stuck on a fine-gold creek that could not pay with the crude mining techniques of that day. But the Iowa's had planned as well and persevered as strongly as they could. . . . This ephemeral quest produced different kinds of heroes. Some just hung on tight, then left as soon as they could. Others, weak and homesick at first, hardened up and kept trying. Many, who did no mining (most of the novices gave up after an empty prospect hole or two), kept busy with camp chores or saw the country while hunting and ice-fishing, with occasional holiday parties. Sprinkled thinly through the few hundreds who got to the upper rivers and creeks were some tough, competent cases who went about their prospecting and mining with high energy and spirits, taking the cold and darkness and difficulty in stride. All of these varied folks, including a number who wandered off and froze to death and others who hunkered down in far cabins and watched the black-leg scurvy rot their bodies away, were, if not individually heroic, at least participants in a heroic venture.

Dad wrote a letter home to wife in Iowa on June 10, 1898 and it was printed in the Alton, Iowa, Democrat newspaper:
      We have on board ten cords of wood, weighing 25,000 pounds; also about 5,000 feet of extra lumber; ten horses weighing 11,000 pounds . . . hay for ten horses; our heavy sawmill machinery, sleds and all provisions. Besides this we have six boats lashed to our sides, one of them a scow, so you see we are badly handicapped for speed.
      Catherine McIntyre McClintock wrote a 1935 biography column about Dad in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times supplied much of the basic information of this article. Catherine was the best friend of his daughter, Emma. They graduated from the high school here in 1920 and launched the first edition of the Kumtux annual in their senior year. Dad told McClintock that:
      he and a companion "built two steamers at Caribou Crossing [now called Carcross] at Lake Bennett [in British Columbia], and took them down the Yukon and up [Koyukuk], traveling 700 miles up into the Arctic Circle. Soon after they returned to the States and in Chicago built a sectional steel steamer, called the Iowa II, which they took up the [Koyukuk] again, to a point where they had left a small party of miners. The Iowa II later plied on Lake Washington for a number of years, bringing interesting Alaskan memories to Dad whenever he saw her there.

The Abbotts move to Nome, Alaska
      Sometime in 1898-99, Dad wound up in Nome, where — he told McIntyre, he built the first bank building there, started a store and a café called "The Horseshoe." Across the street from the café was the Northern Hotel and Saloon owned by Tex Rickard, who would gain fame later in life as the boxing promoter who staged the Million Dollar Jack Dempsey match. When he arrived in town, it consisted of 64 tents pitched on shore of Norton sound, but Nome soon grew into a good size town during a rapid gold-rush boom. Miners first discovered gold on Anvil creek in 1898 and on the ocean beaches the next year. During part of the year 1900, nearly 20,000 miners and hangers-on lived and camped in the town, but as claims petered out and the census was taken that June, the population was 12, 488. By the time Dad left after three years, the winter population averaged about 3,500 and the summer population was about 7,000.
      In an Alaskan directory printed in 1901, we also found the name of his firstborn son, but not his wife, so we are not sure when she moved there to join Dad. Edson A. Abbott (named for his paternal grandfather) was the first child born to Dad and Ada, on June 16, 1890, in Charter Oak, Iowa. He is listed as working at the Horseshoe at the turn of the century when he was nine or ten. We do know, however, that their youngest and last child, Emma, was born on July 21, 1903, soon after the family moved to Seattle, so Ada must have joined Dad sometime in 1902.
      Rickard's saloon was known as one of the few honest establishments in the Klondike boom days. By the turn of the century there were 50 such saloons and that number doubled within a year. He and Dad owned a tin mine up the Seward peninsula at Tin City, which resulted from discoveries in the quartz-tourmaline veins in the margin of a granite stock, and in the surrounding limestone and shale. That mine never produced any profitable quantity of ore while Dad was there, but he lost it anyway on a wager at Rickard's saloon. Dad's grandson Hugh told me that Dad misread his cards in that incident, something he rarely ever did again, but he was a gentleman and did not whine about his misfortune.
      Another of Dad's friends in Nome was Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin, who was twice Dad's age. Baldwin was given his moniker because, unlike Dad, he had been lucky at every risk he took in his life — cards, stock market, real estate, and with horses, his first love. Back in 1967, Baldwin decided to try his luck at mining in the Comstock silver lode in Nevada. Before he left, he locked his certificates of seemingly worthless real estate stock in his safe and instructed his broker to sell if they should ever reach $800. But he forgot to leave the key to the safe, and after striking it rich in Virginia City he returned two years later from Nevada with a new bride and found a sweet surprise. Unable to open his client's safe without a key, Baldwin's broker helplessly watched the stock soar to $12,000; that story soon spread to the press and soon the legend was born. Over the years, Baldwin bought the 8,000 acre Rancho Santa Anita property that encompassed an area that included present-day Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Monrovia and Duarte, and he also bought an additional 54,000 acres in the San Gabriel Valley. After buying Thoroughbreds in Kentucky, Baldwin's first crop of Santa Anita homebreds was foaled in 1880 and he became the most successful racing man in the country, one of the few to show a profit. But by the time that the Depression hit in 1893, he had mortgaged all but his Santa Anita home and racetrack property, and then his Baldwin Hotel and Theater complex burned in San Francisco, mostly uninsured. After selling off his property in that city to James L. Flood, he sailed off for Nome in 1900 to try to recoup his fortune. He was ill and failed in his mission but he and Dad Abbott struck up a friendship in the year that he was there. Seven years later, Baldwin finally parlayed his Santa Anita property into a racetrack and it operated for two years until he died in 1909 and the national anti-gambling wave finally hit California, closing down the racetracks. Santa Anita remained closed until Christmas Day, 1934, but we wonder if Dad paid a visit to the track and laid down a wager when he attended the Paramount silver jubilee in 1937.

The Abbots move to Washington state
(Saloon backbar)
This is a model of the Brunswick-Balke back bar that Dad Abbott sold for the company. The next time you are in downtown Sedro-Woolley, stop in at the Schooner Lounge across the street from Hammer Square on Metcalf street. You will see the near equal to this backbar inside. We have been looking for the source of that bar for years and now we may now its source and how Dad Abbott might have originally found the town of Woolley. Stay tuned.

      Whenever Ada finally joined him, we know that the Abbotts made their home in Seattle on 9th street, starting in 1903. Son Edson was 13 by then and son Ben was 11 — born in Iowa in 1892. Dad was soon hired by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. out of Chicago to market billiards tables to saloons and hotels, along with fine wooden front bars and back bars and decorative items. John Moses Brunswick emigrated from Switzerland to the U.S. and in 1845 expanded his carriage manufacturing company to build billiards tables. Over the years he gobbled up competitive companies and by the time that Dad was hired, the company had a West Coast office in San Francisco.
      McIntyre noted that sometime after 1903, Dad went into the hotel business in Port Angeles; we know that he was there before 1908. According to the article we cited above, Dad became a distributor of silent movies sometime in 1912 and he set up his second son, Ben, in the theater business in Sedro-Woolley in 1913. Researcher Roger Peterson notes that Edson graduated from Port Angeles High School in 1908 and then attended the University of Washington from 1911-13. After that he worked as an engineering foreman for the Govan Contracting Co. in Port Angeles until 1915. Edson married Flora May Stakemiller in Port Angeles in 1915 and Dad apparently bought or leased both theaters in Anacortes that year and Edson managed them. A 1939 Courier-Times article noted that only John Hamrick & Jim Clemmer of the Evergreen circuit in Seattle had more seniority in the theater business.

Abbott Motors garages in four locations
      Dad obviously knew how to diversify his portfolio of investments. After his son Ben and his wife, Ada, died in 1918, Dad plunged into his businesses and built them both into strong competitors. On April 2, 1919, the Courier-Times announced that Abbott bought five lots, extending west from the corner southwest corner of Murdock and Woodworth streets, for an auto garage. Those lots were once the front yard for the mansion of P.A. Woolley, who died here in 1912, and Dad bought them from a family corporation set up by Woolley's widow and his three children who lived in Sedro-Woolley. Two lots between Abbott's property and the alley were retained by Woolley's son-in-law, Dr. Charles C. Harbaugh, who built his own residence and office there nearly ten years later, following the fire that leveled the Woolley mansion in 1926.
      Back in a Courier-Times advertisement that we found from Sept. 28, 1916, the Abbott Motor Co. owned garages in three locations, including the State Street Garage in Sedro-Woolley, the Pacific Garage in Mount Vernon and the Central Garage at 3rd and Commercial in Anacortes, which was in Edson's name, and an unknown location in Stanwood. That ad featured a new Hupmobile, Model B, for sale at the Sedro-Woolley garage. Old timers also recall that Dad sold Dodges there. Edson took over the Anacortes garage sometime in 1916 and had a franchise there for Dodge and Maxwell, which was later replaced by Plymouth. We do not know how long Edson had that agency but Roger Peterson found a news story that told about Edson contracting polio in 1928 and took several years to recover from it.
      An ad from July 29, 1919, advertised the Chevrolet 490 model for $865 at the Sedro-Woolley Abbott dealership. Another story from November 1920 reported that Dad's Chevrolet touring car that he called "Old Betsy" was stolen from his garage. For the next 18 years, Dad sold Chevrolets to customers all the way from Puget sound to the Cascades, his market expanding as roads improved throughout the county in the late 1920s and '30s. A fire in 1926 nearly destroyed his building, but it was soon rebuilt. In April 1951, the building was completely leveled by a fire. But by then, the dealership was owned by Stan Nelson Jr., whose family bought it from Dad in December 1938. Many car salesmen in town started in that business with Dad. Avery Stiles sold there early on before selling used Model-Ts out of the lot where the Stave Bros. service station once stood on State street. Dick Walley started selling in Anacortes in 1918, but moved to Sedro-Woolley in 1933 to sell for Dad. He left the dealership after Dad sold it, to sell the new Davis automobile out of his shop across from the post office.

Meet me at the Dream
      After Dad sold his garage when he was 73, he did not slow down very much. His Dream theater continued as the prime entertainment center in town throughout the Depression of the 1930s and the World War II years. The only competition during the Depression was the old Opera House on State street at the north dead end of Third street. That building became the Moose Hall in the Teen years [does anyone have information about that Lodge?] and it was used as both a skating rink and a dance hall called Danceland, but it was finally sold to Bill Byham in 1943, who converted it to a cabinet shop. When City Hall was built in 1930, a small theater was included on the top floor and that room featured plays and shows; it is still sometimes used by the SCAT Theater group for their plays. Back in the Teen years and the 1920s, the Dream hosted both vaudeville shows and silent movies. Back in 1916, newspaper ads featured first-run silent movies, such as the Keystone features like "Fatty [Arbuckle] & Mable Adrift" in September that year. Admission was 10 cents for children and 20 cents for adults on weekends , or 5 and 15 cents on weekdays.
      When "Talkies" became the vogue in the late 1920s, some theater owners drug their feet about upgrading their movie houses, but Dad dove right in and tried to remain on the cutting edge. Earlier in the '20s, Dad installed a $10,000 Wurlitzer pipe organ, which was played in an orchestra pit under the screen during each feature. As notes, on March 18, 1927, Dad's old Evergreen Circuit competitor John Hamrick introduced a sound process at his Blue Mouse theater on 1421 5th avenue, using a 16-inch disc rotating at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute and moving-coil loudspeakers for a musical score and sound effects, but no dialogue. That was a stop-gap measure that he used at all his Blue Mouse locations, including Portland, Tacoma, and Spokane. Hamrick replaced that system on December 2, that year, by introducing "sound-on-film" motion picture technology to debut the Fox Movietone News short that showed the departure of Col. Charles Lindbergh on his solo flight across the Atlantic. A year later, Dad installed a Vitaphone system, developed by Western Electric, in January 1929 that he bought for $12,000. The speakers were produced by Dad's old employer, the Baldwin-Balke Co.
      Old timers will tell you about the Egyptian motif with camels lounging around the walls, women will tell you about the comfy rest room with couches and a place to nurse their babies, and those who were once teenagers will tell you about necking upstairs. The only theaters north of Seattle that were larger and had more expensive equipment were the Mount Baker in Bellingham and the Lincoln in Mount Vernon. During the World War II years, Dad hosted war bond drives at the theater on a weekly basis and he offered special weeknight showings for local lodges so that those who could not afford admission could see special features. Dad was always known for his cosmopolitan nature and his love of fine cuisine and wines. He was also a very active Rotarian, Mason and Democrat in local politics, in addition to being a tireless town booster in the best sense of the term. For 44 years until his death, he opened his home at the northeast corner of Ferry and Central for a Christmas tradition, a hot buttered rum party in honor of his great-grandmother from Brooklyn, Amelia Boerum.

(Dream Remodel 1950)
(Dream Marquee)
(Back of Dream Theatre)
Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
Left: Mrs. Emma Abbott Ridgway remodeled the front of the Dream in 1950. Photo compliments of Lorraine Rothenbuhler.
Center: The marquee of the remodeled Dream was one of the most familiar landmarks in town. Photo compliments of Lorraine Rothenbuhler.
Right: This view of the back of the Dream was taken in 1946. The view is looking south from Ferry street. The large open lot is the location of the old Hoehn Livery Stable, which burned in the great Woolley fire of July 1911. That space has been empty ever since. Photo compliments of the late Howard Miller.

Dad died in 1950
      When Dad died at Memorial Hospital in Sedro-Woolley on April 22, 1950, at age 84, some people felt like it was the end of an era. That was five years before television really threatened movies nationally and ten years before that threat was really felt here. Youngsters such as the author flooded into the Dream for Saturday matinees where they could see the latest serials — cowboy opera from Republic Pictures and later the space versions. During the same time, he instituted Dad's Night on Wednesday evenings, an otherwise loser-night for attendance. When the author was young, he thought the title was to honor dads, but actually, Dad's daughter, Emma Abbott Ridgway, continued her father's plan, which provided discount prices so that dads and moms could dump the kids at the Dream while they attended American Legion and club meetings or just went out for a drink and dancing mid-week.
      Emma Abbott was very much her dad's daughter. After marrying dentist Ralph Ridgway, she went on to become the local face of the Democrat party, inheriting the mantle from Charles Wicker and Paul Rhodius. In 1939, she was elected as the vice president of the state Democratic central committee and acted as hostess of the Washington building at the New York World's Fair. A few months later, in January 1940, she attended a lunch at the White House as a personal guest of Eleanor Roosevelt. She also proved to be a capable businesswoman. A July 27, 1950, Courier-Times story noted that she had begun a facelift to modernize the Dream theater. Some bemoaned the stucco she applied to the front to cover the old wooden façade, but she felt that modernization was important to keep the theater vibrant in the second half of the century.
      Emma spent $15-20,000 on a complete remodel of the lobby and the front of the building, including installation of a state-of-the-art neon sign whose light could be seen for a mile away in the evening. She also installed reader board sections on the outside of the lobby so that passersby could see huge posters of coming attractions. Inside, she laid new carpet, added new leather-covered doors and removed a section of loge seats in the back so that a new concession booth with a popcorn warmer could be built in. She announced that the remodeling "expresses my belief in the future of Sedro-Woolley," and that she would keep the current schedule of evening shows daily and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A follow-up article in 1953 noted that when the remodel was completed, the improvements also included more comfortable seats, a modern heating plant and the latest projectors and sound equipment.
      Alas, the one-eyed monster was invited into most homes over the next decade or so, Republic Pictures went out of the business of producing cowboy B-Movies and attendance at the Dream started slipping by the mid-1950s. By 1957, Emma decided to get out of the movie business and, while retaining the building, she leased the movie operation to Nick Klaus. And by the time that the author left at Christmastime 1963 to serve in the U.S. Army in Europe, rumors of the Dream's eminent demise were rampant in town. Locals were saddened on May 28, 1964, to pick up their Courier-Times and read the bad news in print. The National Bank of Commerce, then located in the Gateway Hotel, bought the 152 feet of frontage on Woodworth, 100 feet deep, and announced plans to raze the theater. Part of the purchase was the wooden two-story building to the east that was formerly the site of the late Emil Runck's bicycle shop and home. There was no editorial about the demise and barely a mention about the Dream in the actual story, except to note that the theater "has not been in operation recently." In that same week, Joe Hamel announced that he was building a new car lot on the Burlington Highway for the Pontiac dealership that was started nearly 20 years before by Jake Cully in a building on State street that was falling apart. But within a year, the Carnegie Library on Third street — which was built in 1915 to last a century, was also razed, just months before its 50th birthday. All in the name of progress.
      Emma died in 1981, a widow after her husband committed suicide. Her son Hugh was what locals called a "people's attorney." He had a knack for sizing up a client and would go to bat for you, no matter what your station was. He died in 1996 after serving as municipal judge almost until the end. We historians especially admire him because he saved the famous gazebo bandstand that once stood near the Great Northern tracks, just north of what is now the bowling alley. Around the turn of the century, bands played from the open top of the gazebo during holiday and patriotic celebrations while James Renfro dispensed candy and ices from the bottom. When it was crumbling in the 1960s, he had it moved to the backyard of his home on Ferry street and remodeled it as a family room and later an office for his wife Kathleen, a noted local counselor who retired in 2003. But the flip side is that we chided him for carting off almost all of the memorabilia in the back of a pickup truck to the town dump, which was coincidentally located on top of Mortimer Cook's original Sedro townsite.

452 640
(Dream Pageant)
The Dream Theater stage was quite a magical place for us grade-schoolers in the 1950s. Wednesday night was Dad's night, also a big meeting night for clubs and lodges, so Dad started the concept of kids night at the theater, so parents could dump them off for a cartoon, serial and feature. We boys competed to see who would be called up to rotate the big drum with theater ticket stubs. The winner received whatever googah was promoted that week, and if you spun the drum really well, you got a prize too. This scene above is of a pageant on the stage, circa 1930s, with the beautiful mural on the curtain and the famous organ that Dad's theater was known for.

Many thanks go to local researchers Roger Peterson, Berniece Leaf and Lorraine Rothenbuhler for their contributions to this article and photos.

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Story posted on May 1, 2001, updated on April 20, 2004, moved to this domain April 29, 2011
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