|The original Palace Theater, a silent movie house, was built at 206 Main
Street in Childress in 1926 by partners, F.M. Phipps and G.S. Layton.
The interior of that building was destroyed by fire in January 1934. It
was rebuilt for sound, with a seating capacity of 900, and reopened
two months later. The theater was completely destroyed by a second
fire in September 1935.
The current theater was built in the same location and opened in 1937.
Mabel Dunn Phipps, wife of F.M. Phipps, and G. Rufus Layton, the son
of G.S. Layton, oversaw the design and construction of the new state
of the art theater. The sleek Art Deco theater was designated to show
first run major films. Mr. Phipps died in 1936 before the reopening, and
Mr. Layton, who no longer lived in Childress, died March 1, 1937, three
days after the new theater opened.
Gene Autry was friends with the Phipps and Layton families, who had
strong ties with the film industry in Hollywood. In 1938, while in dispute
with Republic Studios, Autry chose to "hide out" in Childress,
according to The Childress Index, April 18, 1938.
Accompanied to town by his famous horse, Champion, he performed
on stage at The Palace, got his hair cut at the Palace Barber Shop, and
enjoyed playing a little baseball catch with members of the theater
crew in the alley behind The Monogram Theater. (A photo can be
viewed in the photo album on this site). Rumor has it that he lost a
movie role to Roy Rogers while "vacationing" in Childress.
Motion picture entertainment in Childress was enjoyed for over 75
years under the direction of the two original partners, Mr. Phipps and
Mr. Layton, Mr. Phipps' widow and Mr. Layton's son, and several
members of their extended families. The family sold the Palace in 1988.
Childress Theatre Company become involved with the neglected and
deteriorating Palace building in 1996 when the City of Childress
transferred ownership of the building to the non- profit entity,
Childress Community Development Foundation, under which
auspices the then Childress Community Theatre Guild operated. The
city had taken control of the Palace when the last owner defaulted on
taxes. First order of action by the theatre guild was to replace the roof.
Childress Community theatre Guild reorganized in January 2004 as
Childress Theatre Company in recognition of the original name of the
Phipps & Layton partnership of 1917. A board of directors was
established, a corporation was formed, and the State of Texas
approved Childress theatre Company as a 501(c)3 non-profit
corporation. The palace was designated a Texas Historical Landmark
by the Texas Historical Commission in 2005.
Childress Theatre Company and its Palace Restoration Committee are
dedicated specifically to the preservation and restoration of the
historic Palace Theater and to providing wholesome family
entertainment to the community of Childress and the surrounding area.
Fund-raising efforts have included many theater productions,
including the musical"Oliver!" in 2010: Tour d'Cotton bicycle ride the
first Saturday of October, annually since 2004: a drawing for a '57
Chevy 210 hardtop on New Years Eve 2008: USAO "ShowBand"
variety show in 2010: an authentic lakeside chuckwagon dinner and
concert in Childress Fair Park, also in 2010: and donations for copies
of a movie, The Kidnapper's Foil, made in Childress in 1937 & again in
1948. Local children starred in these movies.
Please check our calendar of events on this site for 2011 and future
events and plan on joining us for one or all.