An episode of dance history
The historic Cameo Theatre in Newberg was added recently to the National Register of Historic Places, an official list of buildings and structures that have been designated as something important for preservation.
And although the small, single-screen theater on First Street is known as a family business where movies are shown, Newberg resident Jerry Towers remembers when, briefly, it was used for something else.
"I was on the stage there, but I don't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 5," Towers said. "I was tap dancing."
Towers, 85, said he only remembers performing at the Cameo once in the 1930s, but also recalls dancing once at the former Francis Theater, razed in the 1990s after being damaged by the infamous Spring Break Quake. It's not that he didn't want to tap dance anymore. He said his teacher at the time got married after about a year of lessons and stopped teaching, so Towers never returned to the craft.
"It was just for a little bit," he said.
The Cameo, owned by Brian Francis, is open every night of the week. Francis also owns the 99W Drive-In, which was built by Francis's grandfather, Ted Francis. The Cameo was first opened under the name the Art Deco Cameo and was built by A. Combs. Ted Francis owned a competing theater, which he renamed the Francis Theater in the 1920s. Ted Francis later purchased the Cameo in 1939.
It took about a year for the theater to make its way onto the National Register of Historic Places, although Brian Francis had said many people just assumed it was already on the list.
Towers said he doesn't think the theater put on many shows, but he does remember a skate night event for students. He added that the theater gave away skates for the kids to use, although Towers never got a pair.
"I was there before they put the seats in," he said. "It was just the floor itself, just cement. That was probably 1936 or 1937."
Towers hasn't attended the Cameo "for a long time now," but remembers when it was built and Ted Francis buying it.
He still has memories of being in the theater, of the former small screen that Ted Francis replaced with a larger screen when he purchased the building.
"There was a big light right in the center of the seating, and when they started to turn the lights out it would go to three different colors," he said.
He also remembers rules being enforced.
"There was no smoking in there," he said, although some scoundrels attempted tried to smoke upstairs. Towers said when Ted Francis discovered one particular man smoking, "He told him to get out of there and don't come back."