Way Back When, March 17, 2014
In 1939, Mesa Junior College was preparing to move to its new campus at 12th Street and North Avenue. Before then, classes were held in the first Lowell School building at Fifth Street and Rood Avenue, where City Hall now stands. Cultural events such as plays, band and orchestra performances and dances were often held in other locations such as Grand Junction High School at Ninth Street and Chipeta Avenue, the Labor Temple at 535 Rood Ave., or the Mesa and Avalon Theatres. The new college auditorium in Houston Hall was estimated to hold an audience of 1,100.
In this photo, taken from the 1939 Mesa College Criterion, Volume I, Number 1, the Mesa College Symphony is seen on the stage of the Mesa Theatre. The photo is rare and I know of no other that shows the original hand-painted scenic backdrop.
This orchestra was directed by Mr. Lawrence Sardoni and the performance took place Feb. 23, 1939. The orchestra was made up of professional musicians, alumni, college students and the best talent from the high schools. Mr. Sardoni conducted his first such performance in 1935 with just 17 members. The ensemble had now grown to 60 and was applauded all over the Western Slope as it played concerts in Delta, Collbran and Glenwood Springs. One of the more noted members was Charles Steen, who had played with Harold Bachman in Chicago and at the Roxy in New York City. A plaque hanging in the lobby of the Grand Junction High auditorium tells us that in 1956 a grand piano was donated to the new high school and dedicated to the memory of Charles J. Steen for his “inspiration and leadership of civic and musical activities”.
This college orchestra would eventually become the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and, like many cultural organizations, is still using the Grand Junction High auditorium for performances.
This coming Friday and Saturday, March 21 and 22, the Grand Junction Senior Theatre troupe will be performing its annual show in the high school auditorium. If you would like to win a pair of tickets, bring in this article to The Daily Sentinel offices at 734 S. Seventh St. between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. with the answer to this trivia question: What was the original name of the Mesa Theatre? Two tickets, to be used at either the Friday night show at 7 p.m. or the Saturday shows at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. will be yours!