The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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November 17, 2012

Enid’s ‘grand old lady’


ENID, Okla. — Host to the stars

Frantz predicted the nation’s greatest stars would come to Enid to perform in Convention Hall. He was proven right. Ballerina Anna Pavlova, Madam Ernestine Schumann-Heink, diva of the operatic and concert stage, performed. Schumann-Heink also was the symbolic mother of all soldiers from both sides who fought in World War I. March King John Philip Sousa performed between three and five times at Convention Hall. Harpist Bernice Byrd, of Enid, performed, as did symphonies from Dallas and St. Louis.

Convention Hall was a place where children performed during Christmas, Paul Harvey spoke and hundreds of graduating seniors received diplomas, the Edson story said.

Convention Hall was used for city of Enid offices and by the Chamber of Commerce for many years. A radio station once broadcast from the first floor, the American Legion headquartered in Convention Hall for more than 20 years and the Tri-State Music Festival also headquartered there until the building was closed after 2009.

Edson’s story discussed the movie “Dillinger,” which used Convention Hall as background, the livestock shows were held there when dirt was spread over the floor, and how it was used as shelter for victims of natural disasters.

Leon Jewell, former Tri-State Music Festival director, remembers Convention Hall  both as a place for performing and as the office of Tri-State, when he was in charge of the event.

Jewell recalls big band concerts in Convention Hall, with 200-250 students in the band, 75-100 students in the orchestra and 200-300 in the choirs. Famous conductors came to direct the bands, and well-known musicians came to perform with them.

“I remember Doc Severinsen came twice,” he said of the trumpet player who led the “Tonight Show” band for many years.

When Jewell was teaching, he took the Emerson Junior High School band into Convention Hall to perform for Tri-State.

“Convention Hall was the center of it all back then, with the grand concert on Saturday afternoon. That’s where the awards were given out and the honor groups performed. It was a lively place back then,” Jewell said.

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