On September 27-29 and October 4-5, 2013, the historic Imogene Theatre in downtown Milton will become the site of a variety show entitled "Star-Spangled Salute to our Troops - An Old-Fashioned Touring Variety Show Honoring Our Military." The show is a tribute to our area military set in the 1940s as well as the birthday celebration.
This USO-style show is a collaboration between Panhandle Community Theatre (PCT) and the Santa Rosa Historical Society (SRHS); the latter owns the Imogene. The final performance is the 100th Anniversary of the theater. Each performance will be similar to the USO Shows of the past with singers, dancers, comedy acts, magicians, kid acts and celebrity impersonators.
The Imogene Theatre was built between 1912-1913 by banker Stephen Harvey at a cost of $25,000. The architecture is categorized as "Renaissance-Revival Style." Stephen F. Fulghum & Son of Pensacola were chosen as the contractors.
Contrary to the times, Fulghum hired a work force of strictly black men. Mule trains were utilized to haul materials to the job site. The walls are constructed of brick to enable a 14-inch thickness while the rafters are steel trusses.
The theater's original intent was to serve as a community hall for opera, plays, balls and vaudeville; but also constructed a permanent projection booth to accommodate moving pictures. A post office resided in the lower floor along with a Five and Dime.
The theater, named "Milton Auditorium," opened in October 1913 with a formal ball complete with live orchestra. Soon, moving pictures, or "talkies," were shown three nights a week onto a projection screen hung from the stage.
The first movie offered was the 1903 black and white silent film "The Passion Play" complete with live piano accompaniment.
In 1916 and also in 1924, Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan presented speeches from the stage of the theater.
In 1921, Clyde Gooch bought the theater and renamed it the "Imogene Theatre" after his 11-year old daughter. Gooch died suddenly six months later in which his wife Chloe managed it. The theater was the first building in Milton to install air conditioning during 1938. First-run movies would later became the norm showing classics such as "Gone With the Wind," "Hopalong Cassidy" and "Casablanca."
In 1985, the Santa Rosa Historical Society purchased the aging building for $35,000. A year later, several grants enabled the SRHS to begin renovations with Theophalis May the chosen contractor. A catered dinner for 250 in April 1988 became the first event of the newly refurbished theater.
The Great Milton Fire in 2009 destroyed every building west of the Imogene, with the historic theater suffering extensive smoke and water damage. Grants coupled with insurance funds enabled the SRHS to bring the theater back to its full glory.
Show dates are September 27-29 and October 4-5 with the final show the birthday gala. Evening performances begin at 7 p.m. while the lone Sunday Matinee is at 2 p.m. The Imogene Theatre is located at 6866 Caroline St. (Hwy. 90), Milton.
Tickets are priced at $12 for Adults and Children under 12 are $7. Reservations call 221-7599 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Further info: panhandlecommunitytheatre.com.