The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 111

THE MASONIC THEATRE
FULL CIRCLE

From facing page, clockwise:
Masonic Theatre opening
night (Sway Katz), WestRock
Ballroom, Stage from
Balcony, Crowd during a
Hank Williams concert,
Seldom Scene band, Balcony
and Box seats, The Annex,
"Underground" Lounge

terman, the 545-seat Neoclassical theatre had three spacious floors and a warehouse basement beneath street
level. The elegant theatre auditorium had box seats rising
on either side of the stage and perfect acoustics. Upstairs,
the chandeliered, brass-railed balcony housed AfricanAmerican theatre patrons prior to 1965, when segregation officially ended. The third-floor Masonic Meeting Hall afforded stunning views of Clifton Forge and
the mountains that cradle it. Despite defaulting on the
$42,000 loan in 1910, the Masons continued to meet
there until 1921.
In its elegant heyday, the Masonic Theatre hosted
vaudeville acts, operas and operettas, magicians and musicals, plays and politicians-William Jennings Bryan took
the Masonic stage in 1908 during his ill-fated presidential
run. Silent films were added, followed by talkies in 1929.
In the day, you could buy your ticket and see just
about anything at the Masonic. Lash LaRue. Hopalong
Cassidy. Roy Rogers and Trigger. The Lone Ranger and
Silver. Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Cowboy Bob Steele. Shirley Temple, John Wayne, and Elvis movies. Musical
icons like the Count Basie Orchestra and the Drifters.
Fast forward to 1987. The Historic Masonic-by
then the longest continuously operating theatre in Virginia-closed its doors. Despite reopening in 1991 as a
production theatre for the service group Appalfolks of
America, the Masonic Theatre was returned to the town
THEROANOKER.COM

of Clifton Forge in 2003. And the west end of Main
Street went dark.
The night John Hillert saw the Masonic Theatre in
2007, he emailed his wife Gayle, working in Switzerland
for Bernina USA. "The Theatre needs to be restored. It
needs to be taken care of."
I can't help but wonder what it was that caught Hillert's eye that night in that dark, neglected place-what
set him to dreaming of a new day for the crumbling
Masonic Theatre? What made him think that spending
ten years of his retired life was the right thing to do, in
a town he was fond of from the start, but in which he
had no deep roots?
Those are questions without answers. Young dreams
rarely make sense to anyone other than the dreamer.
Maybe the best answer is the one Gayle Hillert
provides. "What John saw was a glimpse of what had
been-and what could be. From the start, he saw the
potential of the theatre as a gathering place for the
Alleghany Highlands. He's always been able to see
possibilities."
JOHN AND GAYLE MET IN GRADUATE SCHOOL
at Auburn University, where they were in a guidance
counseling class together. "At our first class meeting,
he pulled out two books: 'The Giving Tree' and 'The
Velveteen Rabbit.' I knew then he was a special man.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | 111


http://www.THEROANOKER.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - November/December 2017

The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - Intro
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - Cover1
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - Cover2
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 3
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 4
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 5
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 6
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 7
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 8
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 9
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 10
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 11
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 12
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 13
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 14
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 15
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 16
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 17
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 18
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 19
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 20
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 21
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 22
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 23
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 24
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 25
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 26
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 27
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 28
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 29
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 30
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 31
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 32
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 33
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 34
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 35
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 36
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 37
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 38
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 39
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 40
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 41
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 42
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 43
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 44
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 45
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 46
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 47
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 48
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 49
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 50
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 51
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 52
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 53
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 54
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 55
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 56
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 57
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 58
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 59
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 60
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 61
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 62
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 63
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 64
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 65
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 66
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 67
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 68
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 69
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 70
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 71
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 72
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 73
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 74
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 75
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 76
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 77
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 78
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 79
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 80
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 81
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 82
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 83
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 84
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 85
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 86
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 87
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 88
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 89
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 90
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 91
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 92
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 93
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 94
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 95
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 96
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 97
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 98
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 99
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 100
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 101
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 102
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 103
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 104
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 105
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 106
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 107
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 108
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 109
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 110
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 111
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 112
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 113
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 114
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - Cover3
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - Cover4
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 118
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 119
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 120
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 121
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 122
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 123
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 124
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 125
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 126
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 127
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 128
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 129
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 130
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 131
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 132
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 133
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 134
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 135
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 136
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 137
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 138
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 139
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 140
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 141
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 142
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 143
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 144
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 145
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 146
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 147
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 148
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 149
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 150
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 151
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 152
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 153
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 154
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 155
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 156
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 157
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 158
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 159
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 160
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 161
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 162
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 163
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 164
The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 165
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20190910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20190708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20190506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20190304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20190102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20181112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20180910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20180708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20180506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20180304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20180102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20171112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20170910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/TheRoanoker_JulyAugust2017
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/TheRoanoker_MayJune2017
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20170304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20170102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20161112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20160910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20160708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20160506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20160304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20160102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20151112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20150910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20150708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20150506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20150304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20150102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20141112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20140910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20140708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_20140506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_201403
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/leisure/roanoker_201402
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com