Around 50 people gathered in Astoria Monday afternoon to celebrate the Liberty Theater's 85th anniversary with the dedication of newly restored ticket kiosk. When the kiosk was unveiled, everyone admired its shiny bright copper dome.
It might not have turned out so lovely, had community members not aligned like stars in the proverbial heavens.
Liberty Theater Executive Director Rosemary Baker-Monaghan explained at the unveiling ceremony that the dome's recovery had been a 60-year adventure.
Sixty years ago, the copper dome, painted, chipped and dented from bullets, was saved from being dumped by the theater owners when Glenn Beelar intervened and took the dome to his dairy barn, where it rested until the 1990s.
During the Liberty Theater's restoration, Nora Beelar Morkert mentioned to Skip Hauke that the dome was in their barn. Hauke secured storage until 2007, then asked Paul Radu and partner Dale Johnson of P & L Johnson if they'd be interested in restoring the dome. They jumped at the chance, donating time and materials. Employees Keith Landwehr, Bruce Spencer and Cory Hughes spent countless hours over the course of a year sandblasting and replacing some of the copper.
The wooden kiosk, restored by Hal and Jeanyse Snow and the Snow Family Foundation, was dedicated Monday to Hal Snow's mother and aunt. Helen A. Nordquist Snow and Hazel Nordquist Riswick were identical twins who found their ticket to high school at the Liberty Theater.
Inside the Liberty Theater Monday, Hal Snow read an account his mother wrote from the current issue of "Cumtux," the Clatsop County Historical Society quarterly.
After graduating eighth grade, Helen and Hazel wanted to get part-time jobs and go on to high school. Their stepfather said, "Now that the girls have finished grammar school, they should get full-time jobs." But the girls, with the backing of their mother, went to high school.
"In 1924," the "Cumtux" article states, "Hazel heard that there was an opening at the Liberty Theater, and she decided to apply. She and mother went to the theater. Hazel went inside, mother waited outside. The manager hired Hazel and asked her if she had a sister who would like to be an usher. Hazel was pleased to tell him that she had a twin sister who would also like a job. Some theater patrons were surprised to find the 'same' person selling tickets at the outside window and ushering inside the theater."
When the twins graduated from high school, the manager of the theater gave free passes to the entire graduating class to see "Casey at the Bat."
Helen Snow saved that invitation from 1927. A plaque reading: "Helen Nordquist Snow and her twin sister Hazel Nordquist Riswick worked in this ticket booth and as ushers until graduation from Astoria High School in 1927," along with a replica of the invitation, is posted in the window of the kiosk.
Hal Snow said the Liberty Theater was the most posh in town, offering elegance and quality with its Italianate theme. The idea was to transport patrons to Venice. He said there was no concession stand and fresh flowers filled the lobby.
"The theater was a gathering place for all ethnicities," Snow said. "Everyone had their lodges, their own neighborhoods, but at the Liberty everyone came together.
"Hopefully that's still the way it is and the way it will continue for this community for another 85 years."