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home : columns : rahn larson August 18, 2017

3/28/2013 2:36:00 PM
Saving a Windom tradition
Movie theaters and downtown Windom have gone hand-in-hand for more than 100 years.
Based on the news we've received lately, it appears folks from Windom and beyond would love to keep a theater here for at least another century. A page 1 story offers details about the theater's challenges and also the recent developments that give hope to a group of local theater boosters led by Jean Fast and Buckwheat Johnson.
The county came through with a low-interest loan of $25,000. We've seen the area donation fund hit the $8,500 mark and there are rumblings that a few local businesses are getting ready to kick in more.
And then there are the contributions that have arrived from beyond the county lines. On Monday night, I received a call from Fast. She was so excited and talking so fast, I had to ask her to slow down.
"I checked my mail today and there were two envelopes," Fast said. "One contained a check for $5,000 and the other had a check for $10,000.
"It makes me want to cry."
Fast said the checks were prompted by the same thing that has attracted a number of other checks, newspaper stories about the theater's plight. Fast said the two envelopes that arrived Monday were from Twin Cities area residents who read about the theater in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"They were just happy we are taking the initiative to do something and save a theater in a small town," Fast said.
Last week, Jean showed me another letter that came from a Stillwater resident who recalled working for the State Theater as an 8-year-old. His job was to deliver theater advertising to residents of Windom.
"Our adult leader would drop us off at the city end of an avenue, load us down with paper and send us off," the man recalled. "He would meet us at the end of the avenue and then reload us and send us back up the next avenue.
"Slept well those nights. The pay was free tickets, usually spent watching Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, or Gene Autry at the Saturday afternoon matinee."
A little history
Windom's theater roots date back to 1908, when Phil Redding and John Stroud opened The Wonderland Theater at the Windom Oil Co. The theater consisted of an exhibition model Edison Projector, 120 kitchen chairs and a canvas screen.
Space quickly became a problem and contracts were subsequently let for a new theater at the present site in 1914. The building had a pipe organ, ventilating system and new projection equipment.
Imagine the excitement folks must have felt, back in the day, to have the silver screen right here in Windom.
Over time, the theater added more bells and whistles, such as the stylish neon marquee. It was a key piece of the Square, an exciting gathering spot and a place many people obviously still hold dear to their hearts.
To donate to the theater send checks to: Windom Theater Inc., Box 113, Windom, MN, 56101.

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