Jewel Theatre

216 W. Broadway,
Okemah, OK 74859

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Dating back to at least 1930, the burgundy color brick building that housed the Jewel Theatre stood atop a hill at 216 West Broadway, and was later used as retail space.

Further information is still a bit sketchy. If you know more about the Jewel Theatre please include it here!

Contributed by Jeff Chapman

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

seymourcox
seymourcox on October 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

In this c1930 snapshot the Jewel Theatre can be seen up the hill -
http://www.tulsalibrary.org/JPG/B9048.jpg

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Here is an item from the Okemah News Leader on 1/1/56:

Anton (Pop) Slepka, 78, prominent pioneer Okemah and State resident and owner of the city’s two movie houses, died at his home at 11:14 a.m. Saturday following a recent serious illness of about two weeks. Mr. Slepka suffered a heart attack about eight years ago and had been seriously ill on a number of occasions since that time.

Mr. Slepka was born on October 28, 1877 in Iowa and came to Oklahoma in the run of 1889. He first settled near Hobart where he was married on July 19, 1904. The Slepkas lived near Gotebo on a farm and later moved to the Keifer-Mounds area. It was in July last year that Mr. And Mrs. Slepka observed their golden wedding anniversary. In September of the same year, the Okemah theaters celebrated their 35th anniversaries in the Slepka family. Both theaters were closed on Saturday and will remain closed at least through Monday.

Mr. Slepka purchased the Jewel theater here in 1919 and in 1931 expanded with the purchase of the Crystal. He still farmed after the purchase of the Jewel but due to the resignation of the manager, he was forced to move to Okemah and operate the movie house.

Mr. Slepka saw the great progress in the movie field from the silent film the most modern innovations. His operation here has kept Okemah abreast of the latest inventions and gave the city two of the best movie houses for this size of town or larger in Oklahoma. In recent years, management of the theaters was turned over to his son, Bill Slepka.

Before his semi-retirement, Mr. Slepka was active in civic and business affairs in Okemah. He was well known by all local residents and from many parts of Oklahoma. On many occasions when the Christmas basket program for the needy was sponsored here, Mr. Slepka contributed generously to the project yet with his work to remain anonymous.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 25, 2011 at 2:07 am

A Jewell Theater (with double “l”) in Okemah is listed in the 1912-1913 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide. The seating capacity was listed as only 460, though.

An October 9, 1954, Boxoffice item said that operator Bill Slepka had installed CinemaScope in both of his Okemah theaters, the Jewel and the Crystal.

seymourcox
seymourcox on April 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

Okemah was birthplace and childhood home to activist songwriter Woodey Guthrie (1912-1967).
Bet he would have gotten a big kick out of this old JibJab version,
View link

seymourcox
seymourcox on April 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Here is Arlo Gruthrie performing his father’s most popular tune,
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm

I’m unable to reconcile the address of 216 W. Broadway with the description of the Jewel Theatre as having been “atop a hill.” The top of the hill is about 5th Street, a block west of the location of the Crystal Theatre, which is at 401 W. Broadway. I’d expect the State to have had an address in the 400 or 500 block.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on July 10, 2012 at 7:40 am

Okemah is named after Chief Okemah. 100 years ago, July 12, 1912, famed folk-singer Woody Guthrie “THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND” was born in Okemah. His son is Arlo Guthrie “RIDING ON THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS”.

The Jewel was built 1912-1913. It had a balcony. In 1919 Anton (Pop) Slepka (1877-1956) bought the Jewel. Later Pop turned the management over to his son Bill Slepka. Bill who “brought Hollywood to Okemah” was once said to be the youngest playhouse executive in the United States. A CinemaScope Screen was added in 1954. Bill retired in the 1970’s.

It is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong, that in the Jim Crow days no African-Americans were allowed to live in Okemah. but had their own seperate town. They could shop in Okemah, but had to leave Okemah by dark.

From “OKEMAH STORIES OF JIM CROW RACISM” by Larry LeVieux

“I knew that Colored children attended Saturday cowboy movies at the Jewel Theater, as I did, but they entered through a back-alley entrance, and were invisibly seated in the balcony. Their money was welcome, but not their presence.”

CT can always use photos, both inside and out, and more info.

Chief Bob Jensen
Manteno, Illinois

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on July 7, 2014 at 6:53 am

There is a 1926 advertisement for Reproduco Organs which lists one of their “satisfied customers” as Anton Slepka of Okemah Oklahoma. It would seem Pop Slepka upgraded the musical accompaniment after buying the Jewell.

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