Friday, August 5, 2011

Virginia Theatre Wedding

Massanutten Regional Library patrons pose a variety of research related questions to the reference department librarians. Some of those questions are easier to answer than others. Earlier this year a former Harrisonburg resident asked the reference department to help her locate information about the marriage of her parents which took place on the stage at the Virginia Theatre. The patron provided her parents’ names, the location and year of the wedding, and the name of the business which sponsored the wedding contest. In the age of the Internet this sounds like a lot of information to use in a search, but when one is searching through old newspapers on microfilm searching an entire years worth of newspapers is quite daunting.

At this point we enlisted the help of our wonderful reference volunteers. Two volunteers took up the task of looking through the 1929 Daily News-Record newspapers on microfilm. The first volunteer began searching the January 1929 newspaper in case the contest had been held in conjunction with New Year’s or Valentine’s Day. Two hours later having perused two months of newspapers this volunteer was ready to give up the search. Having a year, but no month, for the wedding ceremony the second volunteer decided to start the search in May as he figured that month begins the most popular season for weddings. Four hours later after having searched three months worth of newspapers this volunteer was looking for a new angle for the search.

So, his next stop was the courthouse. There our volunteer was able to look at the marriage record for the couple in question. The record revealed an important detail that our patron had incorrectly communicated to us. Her parents’ marriage took place in 1930 rather than 1929. Now with a corrected year and an exact month we began our search again. This time the microfilm of the Daily News-Record newspapers proved to be extremely helpful.

The Virginia Theatre formerly located on Main Street in downtown Harrisonburg was a Warner Bros. theater. In 1930 Warner Bros. was celebrating its 25th anniversary of participation in the motion picture industry. Celebratory events were taking place in various Warner Bros. Theatres across the country. Here in Harrisonburg those events included special movie showings and a wedding contest. [1] The July 21, 1930, Daily News-Record included an entry blank for the contest, which asked interested parties to submit the names of the bride and groom along with the groom’s address and telephone number in order to obtain further details about the contest. [2]
Looking north along Main Street in the 1920's. Image from Harrisonburg volume of the Images of America Series by Scott Hamilton Suter and Cheryl Lyon.
An advertisement in the Daily News-Record on July 29, 1930 listed the numerous gifts that would be given to the bride and groom by various local businesses.

Franklin Furniture Co. – Table Lamp
Friddle’s – Wedding Supper
Kavanaugh Garage – Transportation
McCrory’s – Dishes
Merit Shoe Co. – Shoes
Murphy’s – Helen Rubenstsin Cosmetics
Jos. Ney & Sons Co. – Suit for Groom
J.E. Plcker & Co. – Corsage
Ralph’s – Wedding Gown
Schewels – Lane Cedar Chest
Taliaferro’s – Wedding Ring
Ye Valley Beauty Shoppe – Beauty Treatment
Friddle’s Bakery – Wedding Anniversary Cake [3]

On August 5, 1930 an advertisement appeared in the Daily News-Record inviting readers to attend a wedding to be held on the stage of the VirginiaTheatre at nine o’clock the following evening. The advertisement promised that the wedding service would be “conducted in a most impressive manner.” [4]

The Virginia Theatre was packed on the evening of August 6, 1930. First the crowd saw a showing of the movie “Son of the Gods” starring Richard Barthelmess and Constance Bennett. After the movie the theatre goers witnessed the wedding of Miss Elsie Charleton and Mr. Albert Hockman who were united in matrimony on the stage of the Virginia Theatre as part of the Warner Bros. silver anniversary celebration.

After the movie ended the stage curtains were pulled back to reveal a stage decorated with ferns and cut flowers. As the wedding march played the bride and groom entered the theatre, the bride marched down the left center aisle and the groom used the right center aisle. The bridal couple was accompanied by their witnesses Mrs. Charles Charleton, maid in waiting, and Charles Charleton, best man. The Reverend B. J. Earp officiated and Miss Virginia Harlin, organist, provided the music. [5]

Entrance of the Virginia Theatre and the Arcade, 1926-1927. Image from the Harrisonburg volume of the Image of America Series, by Scott Hamilton Suter and Cheryl Lyon.
The Reference department truly enjoys assisting patrons with their research. And though this search had a successful ending, unfortunately we can not always find the information for which a patron is searching. Had our diligent reference volunteer not gone the extra mile in conducting research at the courthouse we most likely would not have found any answers. For more information and fees for having the Reference Department conduct this kind of research please consult our Website at or call the Reference desk at 540-434-4475 x 122.

[1] “Warner Bros. Silver Anniversary Will Open Here Thursday Night.” Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 29 July 1930: 1.
[2] Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 21 July 1930: 3.
[3] Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg,VA] 29 July 1930: 2.
[4] Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 5 August 1930:2.
[5] “Couple Married on Theatre Stage.” Daily News-Record [Harrisonburg, VA] 7 August 1930: 6.

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