Though Webster’s dictionary does not offer a definition of the word ‘Vaudette’, in 1970 the West Central Michigan Historical Society (now the Fallasburg Historical Society) offered a great description of the Vaudette in Lowell.
“Probably a very few will remember the Vaudette or moving picture show which was located in the corner building of what is now Beachum’s Furniture store (202 West Main St). The Newton Warner family owned it originally. A Gramaphone with a large bell like horn poured forth music to the street so that people would know the show was about to begin. Steps had to be climbed to enter the building. A ticket booth protruded in the middle of the small lobby, with a door on each side. One was labeled ‘In’, the other ‘Out.’ Tickets were 5 and 10 cents and for that price you saw 2 silent, short slap-slick comedies and a silent feature. There was also piano music and sometimes a soloist. The piano was placed on the floor to the left of the high screen so the pianist could see what the characters were doing and play an appropriate accompaniment, either fast, slow or funeral. During winter a large coal stove up in front heated the building. On real cold nights the audience was requested to move up close to it, during which time the projectionist would obligingly stop the film. Half way up the side walls, shaded lights the length of the room kept the interior from being pitch black. Between shows the pianist alone or with a soloist entertained. So many patrons spent the evening there, if a crowd came in for the second show and their seats were needed, they were kindly asked to leave. At the back of the long narrow room there was a small balcony on one side of the projectionist’s booth. It was reached by a ladder on the side wall and there was room for a couple of straight back chairs up there. That was where the owner often sat and explained the plot as it unfolded - sometimes getting ahead of the action. The Vaudette was not open every night, but it did offer a Saturday matinee.”
The known names of the Vaudette here were The Idle Hour Theater and The Ideal Vaudette. A trip to the Vaudette was described by a former employee as the ‘Mecca of village childhood.’
The following newspaper snippets tell a story of what the Vaudette once meant to Lowell young people.
1907 – “a complete surprise was given Miss Viola Morse last evening when fourteen of her school friends walked in and reminded her of her fifteenth birthday. Games were played and dainty refreshments served after which Viola took all the girls to the Vaudette.”
1909 – “The Ideal Vaudette was sold by Frank Hawk to Saunders & Edwards of St. Johns, who gave their opening show last Saturday to a good patronage.”
1913 – “a benefit picture show was given at the Idle Hour Vaudette to Monday evening, proceeds to go to the relief fund, receipts amounting to $46.30.”
1914 – “the pictures of Homer’s “Odessa” given at the Vaudette Thursday afternoon of last week, were educationally beneficial as well as being financially a success.”
1916 - Moseley – “Misses Helen Andrews and Louganis Church and Peter Peterson attended the Vaudette in Lowell Sunday evening.”
Though the Vaudette is long gone from Lowell, the memories remain, along with the longing for social affairs that are able to excite the young and old.
Photos: Idle Hour Movie Theater in Lowell, Michigan, was owned by Newton Warner who is on the left. Son Claude Warner in the center was the projector operator. Son Robert Royden Warner, on the right, was the piano player during the silent films. The theater went out of business during the depression. The interior of the theater. Robert Roydon Warner’s Ensemble 1925. Warner girls on the steps of the theater.