I am 85-years old and a onetime resident of Edwardsville. I saw the Jazz Singer with my parents. I think the whole city of Edwardsville saw it. I was very young. I remember seeing Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette after their show. All the kids walked down Main Street with them. They stopped at Schwarz Drug where they looked over a set of golf clubs. This was on a Sunday.
One Sunday afternoon, I received a handout with a special number. I think it was the Mickey Mouse Club. After the show, all the kids would walk to Motter’s Drug to look in the window for the winning numbers. If your handout number matched a number in the window, you won a specific prize. I won a couple of times.
After the first remodeling, the Wildey had a blue-type mirror in the center of the entry to the seats. Almost everyone entering would walk into the mirror. All the kids would watch. It was more exciting than watching the picture.
They had a contest onstage. I won five dollars for being the first to whistle after eating a large amount of crackers. Five dollars in those Depression days was a lot of money.
On New Year’s Eve, all the kids from South Fillmore would go to the show and sit in one of the box seats. Two box seats were on either side. This became a tradition.
Something bad I remember was African-Americans had to enter the Wildey by walking up the fire escape. They were all seated in one area, the balcony. What a shame.
Jack Wesley Calve, Sr.
A man, who wished to remain anonymous, relayed this story. In the 1920’s, he and two other boys used to sit on the curb between the Wildey and Weber Funeral Home. They would wait until the organist, Ernest Herstwurm, would exit the side door for a smoke break. Mr. Herstwurm would ask them why they weren’t watching the movie. They would reply that they did not have any money. He would leave the door unlocked so that they could get in. They evidently did this repeatedly.
I was born in Edwardsville in 1918 and have some memories of the Wildey. I remember the 10 cent Friday night serials that most of the kids went to. My favorite place to sit was under the projection window. Professor Ernest Herstwurm was the organist. I later took piano lessons from him. My mother filled in as organist at times. I remember going to the amateur nights and style shows. The winners of the amateur nights were picked by the applause they received. My older sister was in the style shows and I believe the clothes came from the Edwardsville Cloak and Suit Company. My mother would go to the Wednesday afternoon cooking school at the Wildey. I would sometimes meet her there after school and walk home together. My mother always wanted to win the bag of groceries that was given away each week but she never won. I have many fond memories of Edwardsville.
Muriel Dippold Wellinghoff