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In 1983, I was staying in a cheap hotel in Midtown Chicago. There I befriended an elderly gentlemen whose name was Angus MacDent. Long ago Angus had been a vaudevillian, and along with many show business adventures, once he told that before going on stage as a teenager, he had resided in Valliant, OK, and he talked about his youth in that small town.
It seems Valliant had a nickelodeon that opened around 1907 inside an old wooden, western style building that had formerly served as a saloon. Upstairs was the walk up Prince Hotel.
Swinging doors lead customers into a large lobby which doubled as a penny arcade. One could drop a penny down a slot and play games, watch stereopticons, and hear a player piano roll tinkle out popular tunes.
Admission price of a nickel admitted patrons into a dimly lit picture parlor in the rear of the building. One reel movies were projected onto a silver screen, and music was played on an upright spinet that sat on a platform left over from those saloon years.
When available a vaudeville act would be added to the bill. Angus said that in his mid teens his big show biz “break” came along on that little platform when a comic duo split up over salary disputes, and the first banana offered him a job as straight man. The team “clicked” and Angus began a long career touring the vuade circuit.
Angus heard through show biz sources that the old nickeldeon closed in the early 1920’s, probably heavy public use of the ancient structure caused it to crumble to dust.
Angus, thank you for sharing all these wonderful memories with me!
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