A real mystery
The Beverly is a real mystery. Detective novels or Agatha Christie-type books with made-up situations and characters aren't for me. I like a true puzzler.
This was a rather benign mystery that had implications but not tragic ones such as classics like: What happened to Amelia Earhart? Who killed Jon Benet Ramsey? And the fresh-as-I-type this: What was the fate of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501? 2
Happily it didn't involve disaster or death but small unknowns were central. How many seats did the Beverly have? Was there a balcony? What happened to it?
Scanning old Gazettes, looking for photographs of the Beverly, I discovered Janesville had quite a few theaters in the early years of the twentieth century, four that operated into the fifties, and that reminded me of the downtown I remember from my years living on Putnam Avenue just a few blocks east of the Chevrolet-Fisher Body factory that later was renamed General Motors Assembly Division.
My Finial article didn’t attract photographs of the theater, but it did put me in touch with a former president of Janesville’s Merchant and Savings bank, now in his 90s, who remembers seeing movies there as a boy, and two pharmacists who started their careers in the Beverly Building.
Theater manager Joseph Clyde HaneyRuth Anderson, archives manager of the Rock County Historical Society, told me about Richard Haney, son of Joseph Clyde Haney, who was a manager for Fox Entertainment Corporation of New York.
Joseph Clyde Haney was responsible for the Beverly and other Janesville theaters in the early forties. His son Richard became a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, but the elder Haney didn't live to see it; he was killed crossing the Rhine near the end of World War II.
It's a narrative about loss the son tells well in his 2004 book When Is Daddy Coming Home? 3
After his father's death, Haney's mother moved the family to Madison so he doesn't recall much about Janesville's theaters. He did provide excellent photographs his father had of the Jeffris and Myers from the opening years of the forties that I'll include later.
Early Janesville theaters
In addition to the Jeffris and Myers—survivors into the seventies—downtown Janesville was home to the Apollo, Lyric, Majestic, Princess, Royal, and others. All are referenced in Gerald M. Van Pool’s I Remember Janesville:
“I remember Janesville's first motion picture house located on South Main Street near Court Street and operated by a Mr. Brown. Placed in front of the building was a talking machine with a large morning glory horn spitting out music to attract attention. The films were one-reelers and mostly about cowboys and [Native Americans] or slapstick comedy.
"Admission was five cents. A lady played an upright piano just below the screen and kept time with the action. Movies became more and more popular and eventually many other movie houses were opened on Main and Milwaukee Streets...” 4
Joseph Clyde Haney 1940s.
Courtesy of Richard Haney
Morning Glory Horn
Courtesy of the Victrola Guy.