The Case of the Ticket Taker “on the Take!” (and Other Cases from the Stanley-Warner Company)
By Patrick Seymour, Archives Director
Originally printed in Marquee™, VOL. 46 NO. 2
While sifting through and cataloging records during my first month on the job as the new Archives Director, I have come across a wealth of amazing records, photos, ephemera, and more in the THS archive. Every day I find something new to get excited about and the day I found a brown folder labeled “Stanley-Warner Reports” was no different.
Inside the folder I found a series of reports that gives the impression that the Stanley-Warner theatre chain was no stranger to theft, scams, and other wrongdoings. Sure these reports were spread out over a 6 or 7 year period but one wonders what was going on that was not included in this folder or not even reported in the first place.
The reports in the folder date back to 1957 with a report of an assistant manager stealing two deposit bags totaling over $250. The documents vary in severity of offense from the report and eventual confession of a 74 year old door man who pocketed two dollars to a janitor caught stealing a roll of 20,000 theatre tickets to a theatre manager caught embezzling $2,200, who was fired, rehired, and dismissed again!. My favorites however stitch together the following goings-ons at the Takoma Theatre in Washington DC.
In May of 1963 an anonymous note was written to inform the theatre president that one of the employees, who is described as “quite a drinker and has a number of women on the string and also goes in for expensive cars,” is selling seats to patrons on the sly. The letter is signed “Very Truly Yours, I prefer to remain anonymous” and the author recommends hiring a private detective. Whether this was someone with a personal grudge against said employee or was a genuine concern it is hard to tell.
In the summer of 1964 the theatre president S. H. Fabian did call on private detectives (maybe following up on the suggestion of the anonymous letter). The THS collection has reports from three different Pinkerton Detectives conducting investigations looking into ticket selling scams. The reports log the detectives’ observances throughout the entire day providing physical descriptions of workers as well as numbers of specific tickets purchased. The detectives were purchasing the first and last tickets (or as close to it as they could) of the day and conducting headcounts to make sure the ticket takers and sellers were on the up and up. Additional documentation shows there were some numbers that didn’t quite add up but unfortunately there are no records stating the outcome of the investigation.
It is great to see when a document or a series of documents begins to paint a narrative of what has happened in the past. A picture may be worth a thousand words but with several pictures we can start to piece together chapters or complete stories. Whether you are a first time researcher digging around or looking to turn your existing finds into a clearer picture of the past, the THS archive is a great resource to use. If you have any questions about what we have or how to get started please get in touch. Until next time. §
(If you’re a current member, make sure to check the members-only section for your free download coupon code!)