Glasscock began building the more than 65-year-old theater in February 1945.
The theater was one of Glasscock’s many theaters. He’d built similar ones in Blanco (Blanco Theater) in 1938 and Stockdale (Dale Theater), among others.
The George West theater – called the West Theater at the time – opened on New Year’s Eve in 1946, according to documents in the Live Oak County Tax-Assessor Collector Office.
But building the structure was difficult for Glasscock because he ran into cost increases, probably because of World War II, which had not ended until the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945.
Initially, the construction of the building was estimated to be $75,000, but by the time it was constructed, the cost had increased to $165,000, a huge sum for 1946.
Glasscock, who was born in Atascosa County, retired from the circus in 1919 and entered into the oil and ranching businesses, but he never lost his love of theater and performing.
The first movie shown in the air-conditioned building on Jan. 1, 1946, was “One More Tomorrow,” starring Peter Godfrey, Jane Wyman, Dennis Morgan and Ann Sheridan.
“I remember sitting in the balcony in 1947,” said Lamon Bennett, who worked closely with builders and volunteers to refurbish the building, which had closed as a movie theater in 1962.
“There were ushers to seat you, a powder room for the ladies, and probably it was the only air-conditioning in George West,” Bennett said.
Bennett commented that the building had been built with double-wall concrete tiles.
“I’m pretty sure they were made at Bartlett Machine Shop. I think they got 2 or 3 cents a tile,” he said.
Bennett also said Glasscock wanted to make sure his movie theaters were being managed correctly, so he had a person with a counter sit outside the theater and count people as they came in. He did this at all of his theaters, and of course if one had some terribly different numbers, he could tell something was wrong. And ticket sales had to match, as well.
After offices moved in with major modifications in the 1980s, the building ended up closed again.
Then Sammy Murphy bought it with the intention of housing a teen center. But the building posed too much of a problem for him, and he gave it to Storyfest Inc. in 2000.
However, Storyfest did not want to own the land or the building so a committee was formed to work on converting the old theater into a performing arts center.
Now, 10 years later, the work is done, but it took a communitywide effort to do it, and the Dobie West Performing Arts Theatre became a nonprofit (a 501c 3) in 2009.
Live Oak County Commissioners Jim Bassett said when the group first began on the building, it was in shambles.
“The roof was falling in. You wouldn’t believe what this place looked like,” he said.
“They have done an outstanding job,” he added.
“They” are the current Dobie West Theatre for the Performing Arts board: Bennett, Virginia Horton and Mary Ann Pawlik. The previous board included Bassett, Diana Self, Harvey Hardwick, Pam Wheeler, Bennett, Horton and Pawlik.
The upcoming board will include Sean McCall, Heather Roeske, Kristin Gerth, Patrick Burns and Mickey Mendez.
And numerous people from Live Oak County contributed time and materials over the past 10 years.
Pawlik said the completion of the theater could not have been done without the generous donations of money.
Donors contributed $5,000 a star for the George West Walk of Fame in front of the theater – the stars recognize avid contributors as well as memorialize family members who have passed on.
Also, special stars in a plaque just inside the lobby commemorate those who donated $1,000 or more.
And another plaque carries the names of donors who “purchased” chairs at $100 each.
Horton proudly said that the theater is debt free.
Beaming with happiness and satisfaction over the completion and grand opening in which more than 100 people attended, Pawlik now looks forward to the first production in the performing arts theater – “Our Town,” a play by Thornton Wilder that will premiere Aug. 3 and continue on Aug. 4. Pawlik is the director.
A special thanks was extended to Unify to Beautify for decorating the theater for the grand opening, as well as the George West Chamber of Commerce for underwriting the cost of refreshments and the George West Storyfest Inc. for serving.