Q. I discovered this photo of Shirley Temple when we took the back off of a framed picture we bought at a Tri-Cities yard sale recently. The image we could see was an ad for baby food. On the back of the Shirley Temple photo is information about the film Dimples, which was scheduled to play at the Liberty Theater. Did we find a treasure? — Vonnie in Kennewick
A. In its way, this certainly is a treasure. Anything connected with Pasco’s old Liberty Theater is of interest to local historians and a Shirley Temple photo has collector value in and of itself.
Before we get to market valuation, here’s a bit of background on the now-destroyed Pasco theater and the 1936 film Dimples.
The Franklin County Historical Society — which was of tremendous assistance in researching the theater — says the Liberty (originally called The Cord) opened about the time of World War I. It operated for many years as a multipurpose facility. The Liberty later spent time as a porn movie house and many years as an abandoned building downtown. It was destroyed by fire as a remodeling project neared completion in 2013.
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In its time, the Liberty was a combination movie theater, vaudeville house, dance hall and community center.
Until World War II and the Hanford Project, Pasco was the largest, most vibrant and unarguably the key urban center of what would come to be called the Tri-Cites. In 1940, Pasco’s population was almost 4,000. Kennewick had 1,900 residents and Richland was little more than a wide spot in the road, with 247 townsfolk.
In a comprehensive 1985 article in the newsletter of the Franklin County Historical Society, author Sarah LeCompte (the society’s first museum director) noted that the Liberty was “a center of social life for Pasco citizens.”
From its earliest days, the Liberty featured movies that changed daily, along with a variety of entertainers, school plays, recitals, graduation ceremonies and benefit shows.
The Liberty had an unfinished basement when it opened, but it only a few years later — in fall 1925 — the basement space was transformed into The Bungalow — a combination dance hall and auditorium.
The Bungalow featured its own separate entrance and was advertised as having “the finest dance floor in eastern Washington.” Bands like The Kings of Syncopation and the Idaho Strollers kept folks flocking to the hall — which featured a maple floor with a “springy” quality — to dance the then-popular Charleston and Black Bottom.
You can read LeCompte’s complete article on the museum’s website: http://franklincountyhistorical society.org
And throughout its heyday, the Liberty certainly screened first-run movies like Dimples.
The dates on this poster’s back promote the film’s local screening in 1936, and its Pasco debut was just nine days after the movie had its national release.
Dimples, starring Shirley and Frank Morgan (the Wizard of Oz’s wizard), also featured the black star Stephin Fetchit and a young John Carradine.
Shirley was a mega-star by the time Dimples came out. She had won the Oscar as a juvenile actor the previous year, and this film was the 20th of her career. She was 8 years old.
The signature is a reproduction, so this isn’t a Shirley Temple-signed item. She was often photographed for promotional purposes with dogs and puppies, which she adored. We have not seen this particular image, so it may be unusual and that would add some to the value.
As an 8-by-10-inch color photograph, it would be fairly priced in the $15 to $30 range. The added information on the back makes it an item of local interest and ties it to a specific film. Those connections probably add another 50 percent to the value.
Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.