Once upon a time, my friends..
A French marquis came round. " A scheme in mind, I have," he said, "I'll build myself a town!" This is how the Theodore Roosevelt Drama, better known as "Old Four Eyes," began, with a balladeer standing on a butte strumming his guitar, singing this song. I still remember most of the words because I worked there in the concession stand and even had a very small role in the show one summer.
The Burning Hills Amphitheater was built in 1958 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Theodore Roosevelt. I was just 10 years old then, but I remember the local excitement of this happening in our little town. WD (Bill) Schulz from Beach had a little round Dairy Queen located where Norma Myers' house is now and also provided the concessions at the show. The concession stand was at the top of the hill and he hired kids to carry pop and popcorn down the hill to the audience. I was one of those kids, probably starting when I was about twelve. The steps then were just scoria paths with wood risers every six feet or so, and the seating consisted of benches with scoria alongside and underneath.
I would make many trips up and down that hill carrying wooden cases of bottle of pop. I could carry one full one down and two empty ones up the hill. I did not need to do any other exercises those summers and was probably in the best shape of my life. I loved it! The excitement of seeing all the visitors and getting to watch the show for "free" was great for someone like me, We would also get to know the cast members really well and would also entertain ourselves by watching their actions around Medora during the daytime hours. Every spring was exciting to see who would be back and who the new players would be.
One summer, when I was about 16, I was even given a small role as Medora, which was simply a walk on part with, I think, only one line or two. So, I got to don a long dress and participate in the nightly drama. During the daytime, I waited tables in the cafe that was on the east side of the now Pizza Place. The following year, the rebuilt Rough Riders Hotel opened, and I began waiting table there. Consequently, I even knew what the cast members liked to eat and whether they tipped or not. Probably not so much as most were college students.
When the Medora Musical began in 1965, the cast members were recruited from further away and by a production company out of Minneapolis, so the excitement every year of finding out who the new members were and who the special acts were, continued. I remember David Soul, who went on to star in Starsky and Hutch in the 1970's, as well as Tom Netherton, who had performed on Lawrence Welk.
I was remembering all this because this past Sunday I attended the Medora Musical with some of my grandkids and it is fun to think back on how much things have changed and or stayed the same. The show is great this year with wonderful talent, great music and the usual beautiful scenery, not to mention the amenities such as bathrooms, more comfortable seats and an escalator!
If you enjoy reading my memories, I would love to hear back and would have fun sharing more with you over time. TTFN