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Auburn’s Viola Wrigley pays homage to early employer with State Theater donation
By Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Ben Furtado/Auburn Journal
Viola Wrigley’s loan on $125,000 for State Theater signage has turned into a gift as work restoring the 80-year-old movie house and transforming it into a performing arts center continues.
The roots of Viola Wrigley’s gift of $125,000 to Auburn’s State Theater restoration fund lie in her own first experiences at a Central Valley movie theater.
Wrigley, 93, worked at the Tulare County city of Exeter’s movie house as a girl during the Depression era.
Jobs were hard to come by and Wrigley started out as a flashlight-wielding usherette before graduating to trusted cashier at the family owned enterprise.
The money she earned helped put her through college in Visalia and sent her on her way into a successful design and business career that continues to this day.
Wrigley recalled that the theater owners helped her in small ways, like teaching her how to drive.
“The people who did so much for me were theater people,” Wrigley said. “They took me in, gave me a job and watched over me.”