Category Archives: Amusements

Moonlight Garden

Moonlight Garden flourished as an open-air dance pavilion and then an indoor roller rink on Wabash Avenue for more than 35 years. Entrepreneur/showman Roy Dexheimer Sr. founded Moonlight Garden as the otherwise nameless “Open Air Dance Pavilion” in June 1927. … Continue reading

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Walkathon Derby, 1934

When Springfield’s Walkathon Derby shut down on May 18, 1934, it left a mountain of unpaid bills and eight groggy couples. The competition, held in a large tent at Second and Mason streets, started May 5 with several dozen pairs … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Spectacles, Sports and recreation, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Majestic theatre, 1907-35

“Springfield society assembled en masse on the evening of May 23, 1907, when the Majestic Theatre opened its doors for the first time”, the Illinois State Register reported in 1935. By then, the Majestic, 415-21 S. Fifth St., was no … Continue reading

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W.W. Watts, theater impresario

William Walter “W.W.” Watts flopped the first time he opened a theater in Springfield. But his stepson-in-law persuaded Watts to try again, saying there was “big money in 5-cent picture shows.” The younger man was right. Watts (1868-1937), an Ohio … Continue reading

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Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

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Roxy theater

“One of the city’s oldest, largest and most reliable babysitters, the Roxy Theater, will fall to the state of Illinois headache ball.” So wrote State-Journal Register critic Paul Povse in September 1978. Indeed, the demise of the Roxy was a … Continue reading

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The “divine healer” sensation, 1896

August Schrader, “the divine healer,” set up shop in Springfield for 10 days in 1896. Thousands of people, complaining of maladies ranging from arthritis to kidney disease to blindness, sought treatment. Crowds blocked downtown streets, and trains brought people to … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Journalism, Medicine, Spectacles | 2 Comments

Theater bombings, 1931-32

Unhappy theater workers were the immediate suspects in 1931, when bombs – both explosives and stink bombs – went off in three local cinemas. A few months later, another bomb wrecked the home of a theater manager. Members of Springfield … Continue reading

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New Year’s 1921

What was on the minds of Sangamon County residents for New Year’s 1921? Potholes. For its special New Year’s coverage on Sunday, Jan. 2, 1921, the Illinois State Journal asked 47 “prominent citizens” (not surprisingly for the time, all were … Continue reading

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Carl Vandagrift, baseball player/manager

Carl Vandagrift, the only Cantrall native to play major-league baseball, played for or managed at least 10 minor-league teams before he died at age 37. Vandagrift’s big-league career amounted to only 43 games in the short-lived Federal League, which challenged … Continue reading

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