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Blue Room Memories: MATT-RAY Theater Featured Movable Seats

Dosch, Mike. "Blue Room Memories: MATT-RAY Theater Featured Movable Seats." Emmons County Record, 5 September 2000, sec. 1B.


Mattern's Blue Room, or as I first remember it, "Matt-Ray Theater" in 1943, when I emigrated to Strasburg from Springfield, Mo. No air conditioning, poor lighting, hard seats, but it was the only show in town.

The cost was 12 cents, and this included a cowboy movie and at least one serial. I can recall Gene Autry, Tom Mix and other cowboy heroes, with Flash Gordon and others as the one or two segments of a 14-unit serial.

And there were the Three Stooges, plus other comedians (lesser known) on the (sort of) silver screen.

The seating was not too comfortable. Plywood seats with backs curved so they did not meet any part of a small boy's anatomy. The fold-up bottoms were dangerous as if one suddenly rose up, the seat bottom may have risen also, providing an interesting sound from the "sitter."

These seats were bolted onto two strips of wood, and each "section" was perhaps four to six seats long. Meaning that if one side of the seats moved, the other end swivelled in the opposite direction.

The reason for this "bolted seat" arrangement was that, after the movies, if there was a celebration in the hall, the seats were pushed back against the walls, for dances, weddings, etc.

The projectionist was, I recall, Tom Lipp (?) who was the maintainer (motor grader) operator for his "day" job. Advertisements were, I think, projected via lantern slides. Anyway, most ads were "still" pieces of print, advertising various businesses. I recall a number of film "burns," due to the projectors not being the latest style--I suspect the carbon electrodes were hand controlled--no automatic advancement.

After a fine evening of viewing the latest "shoot em up" western, and wondering how Flash Gordon would solve his latest death-defying problem, we would walk across the street to Joe Bauman's Bowling Alley, were we might partake of a coke and hamburger.

The "Drive In" Theater was built in Linton, and by that time I recall the Matt-Ray Theater was no longer in business. The "new" theater in Strasburg was the (now Knights of Columbus) building.

I also recall my father, accordionist Mike Dosch, playing for "pay" dances on Friday nights. There was an option offered to the musicians who played for dances--either be hired for a given sum (not much) or hired for a percentage of the ticket sales. In good years, musicians would "take a chance" on the ticket sales. During hard years, the firm sum was usually the way musicians would be hired.

And the wedding dances were a sight to behold. Yes, the accordionist would meet the wedding party at the east door and "play" them into the room. At this point, the wedding party only, (with a few guests) would enter the hall at about 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. The wedding party would observe the (very formal) dances (bride and groom--bride and brides's father--groom and groom's mother, switching partners), and then the full wedding party would join in, and finally, the invited guests would dance until noon "dinner" was served. And, of course, the famous "seat sections" would be occupied by the guests who "partook" in what was called "red eye." That is, a pitcher of red-colored liquid of grain alcohol and either burned sugar mixture or strawberry pop. A common shot glass was used--never rinsed--and the idea was to "down it" in one gulp. And no water to cool the throat afterwards.

Soup (home-made borscht), home-made bread, beef, chicken, potatoes, a wonderful Jello salad with either cabbage or fruit salad mixed with it, coffee and kool-aid (made from liquid mix--not powder), specialties from the oven, etc. Such a feast! And then dancing all afternoon (with red eye and beer). Supper meal was continuation of the noon meal, followed by more dancing--then open free to the public from nine until one or two in the morning. The only time anyone stopped the celebration was to milk the cows and feed the stock.

This picture shows The Blue Room stage before changes were made in the 1990s. The seats are from the old Matt-Ray Theater.
Anna (Bichler) Davis of Spokane, Wash., recalls when her dad, Ray Bichler, owned The Blue Room with Matt Fischer. "I remember selling tickets at the theatre for many Gene Autry films and also for "Gone With the Wind." I remember removing theatre seats to make room for roller skating or those wild polka dances." The above pamphlet was shared by Adam Baumstarck of Linton.
Champagne Music Maker Lawrence Welk, right, visits with noted Strasburg organist Mike Dosch during a gathering in The Blue Room in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Bob Schreiner.)
The Bubbling Quintet performed many times over the years in The Blue Room as well as throughout the Dakotas region. Left to right are Doug Weber on tuba, Bill Mastel on trumpet, Jimmy Schwab on trumpet, Eugene Weisbeck on the accordion, Clarence Schwab on drums and Larry Schwab on the piano. The picture is from the 1970s.
A wedding party enters The Blue Room in 1988. Note the wall murals.
This picture, taken July 1, 1961, at the wedding dance of Laverne Schwab and Jim Feist, shows the murals as well as the open ceiling. A lowered ceiling was installed in the 1980s.
The Blue Room was briefly called The Rose Room. Pictured with the featured rose is the Bubbling Quintet.
Performing in The Blue Room are Jimmy Schwab and Irene (Schwab) Lipp. The occasion was the wedding of Laura Schwab (daughter of Larry and Evelyn Schwab) and Ralph Towery on June 24, 1984.
The last wedding cake in The Blue Room was especially ornate. It was featured at the Goldade-Nieuwsma wedding on July 15, 2000.
Mary Alice Bosch and Frank Stoppler were married in the Rosenthal Catholic Church on July 19, 1955, and hd their wedding party at The Blue Room. At the right is Theresa (Stoppler) Bosch, Frank's sister.
The Blue Room was a busy place during the wedding party for Frank and Mary Stoppler in 1955. The concrete pillars along the wall stood strong during the fire that destroyed the historic ballroom.
At the Frank Stoppler and Mary Alice Bosch wedding party are, left to right, her mother, Elizabeth Bosch, Father Boniface from Rosenthal Church and Mary's aunt, Margaret Schmaltz.
Maggie Kramer was one of the waitresses at the Frank Stoppler and Mary Bosch wedding in 1955.
Alfred Bosch carries the collection plate at the Bosch-Stoppler wedding party in 1955. The tradition was that the collection went to the cooks.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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