First AMT Board

First AMT Board - Back Row (L to R): Gomerray Allen, Mike Julian, William Hughen, Don Fox, Ray Kissiah Front Row (L to R): Keith Thorson, Jeane Fox, Genevieve Kneisel, Edward White

Here is our saga, in the words of one of AMT’s own stars, Cliff Hall (with a little help from his wife, Susie, Ray and Billie Kissiah, Loren Jackson and Millicent Shyne).

With the solicitation of $10 donations from people and businesses, we raised the money to pay the rent and royalties on our first show, Guys and Dolls, in August 1958. Along with this effort, there were more excited people working with sets, costumes, music, etc. For the first production, arrangements were made with the Alamogordo Public Schools for the lease of a former WWII barracks building from Holloman AFB. Four of these barracks had been moved from Holloman to a site owned by the Schools, on North Florida approximately where the City Animal Shelter is now located. They had been used for several years by the schools but were obsolete by 1958. We leased one for $1.00 a year for 25 years. This was AMT’s first home. Sets were built here and materials started to accumulate along with costumes, records, etc.

During and shortly after Mame (fall of 1977), the schools asked us to vacate the building. We had not kept the weeds cut and the property had become “unsightly.” Actually, they wanted to clear all he buildings and swap the land with the city. This was our first move.
One of the ladies in Mame, Sally Autrey, had a barn in Tularosa, and a couple named Zabriski had a garage on Vermont Rd. The larger items (sets, lumber, ladder lights, etc.) went to the Tularosa barn. The costumes and props went to the Zabriski garage.

In 1978, marriage problems and relocation from Tularosa resulted in the loss of all materials stored in the barn. Soon after, the Zabriskis relocated and AMT moved again. We moved the costumes and props to the back of “Strings and Things” on Delaware St. Kirstin Ullstrom, active and on the AMT Board, offered the back of her store. We used this area for set construction, painting, and storage until Kirstin closed the store in January 1981.

An Air Force couple had purchased the small house at 810 New York with the intention of fixing it for rental or resale. They offered this house for our third move, and we gladly accepted. He was a doctor and got out of the service. He owned the Health Center that was on 9th St about a block from the former Post Office. This location was available to AMT until 1982.

In the meantime, the Squash Blossom, Susie and Cliff Hall’s business, relocated to the corner of Alamo Drug (owned by Tom Ollistreet) at 266 10th St (now the Billiard Parlor). Three small rooms in the back were used for props and costume items that were considered valuable enough to not leave in the Texas St house, which was vulnerable to theft.

The Squash Blossom relocated to 923 New York, the “onion dome building,” in 1981. This building had had an interesting history. The upstairs was originally apartment and hotel rooms, 21 in all. Its most recent use had been as furniture storerooms for the adjacent store. A doorway had been cut to connect the upstairs areas of the two buildings. The upstairs rooms of 923 New York were not in great condition, but Leonard Sheffield, the furniture store neighbor, had painted the ceilings black and carpeted the entire upstairs with remnants and discontinued styles. The main street door on New York was closed with cinder block. In 1976, Mr. Sheffield relocated to White Sands Blvd. The upstairs connection was sealed with cinder block, and no one set foot in it for over five years.

Mr. Ed Martin (Alamogordo Federal Savings and Loan) had a history with this building going back to his childhood. His parents lived in the upstairs apartment, and his father barbered in the shop next to the alley. (Note of interest – this spot has been a barbershop for the entire history of the building). Mr. Martin purchased the building from the 1st National Bank after a loan default by “Hoffman’s Music Store”. We approached Mr. Martin about letting us use the upstairs for storage. He agreed and had the cinder block removed, exposing the door and stairway on New York St. He searched through the building keys and found the proper one. With cinder blocks still piled outside the doorway, Mr. Martin, along with Cliff Hall and two other men, went upstairs for a “tour”. It was the first time since WW II that he had been upstairs. With no bathroom facilities, water, or second entry, the upstairs was not suitable for our use or rental. (Martha Keller rented three rooms for her art studio for a short time, the corner and two adjacent north rooms). However, with the Texas St house up for sale and AMT looking for storage space, he offered the upstairs to AMT rent-free. So, in 1982, move four took place. This was to be AMT’s home for 10 years. With the long narrow stairway the only way in and out, sets had to be made so that the pieces could be maneuvered around the corner and down the stairs. Racks for costumes were built and boxes stored in rooms designated for ladies short dresses, men’s suits, props, etc. It was roomy and great even with its problems.

The Squash Blossom closed its clothing store in the spring of 1989 and moved the Indian Shop across the street in May 1989. Else Gideon moved the Knife Shop into the first floor of 923 New York. Mr. Ed Martin had died about 1987, and the building was now the property of Ed’s boys (Fred, Paul and Mathew). They agreed to separate the lease for the upstairs from the Squash Blossom’s and let AMT stay. About 1992 Mathew needed money and the Martin boys decided they needed to collect rent for the upstairs. They wanted $200 a month. AMT was not financially able to spend $2400 a year on building rent, so a search was on for another storage site.

Cliff Hall believes it was Loren Jackson’s suggestion that AMT approach Stan Rounds, Alamogordo Schools Superintendent, about using a couple of empty classrooms in Wing B of the Mid High building which were designated for demolition. Mr. Rounds was most agreeable, and entry arrangements were made with the custodian who would need a fee on weekends to let us in or out. We had free access during the school hours. So move five was to Mid High where we stayed until 1995 when the School’s plans to demolish Wing B finally came true and AMT had to move again (move six).

Ed Brabson was working for Mr. Danley, and the restaurant area of the Rocket was empty. Paula Jackson worked with Ed Brabson to arrange our use of the southeast corner of the Rocket for costumes and props. The court area in back of the Rocket was used to store set material and platforms. We built pipe racks along the wall for costumes and used the bunks from Annie for boxes and stacked material and props in sections. Extension cords and work lights were needed for visibility. We were there for about 1.5 years. Mr. Danley asked us to move out so he could install a car door near the SE corner for a garage.

Move seven was a real problem since no one location could be found. Eventually things went to Dan King’s place, Tamara Hansen’s apartment, and Tracy Brown’s garage. At this point the AMT Board started searching for a permanent solution for storing over 40 years accumulation of costumes and props. In 19___ AMT purchased a 10×54 ft trailer and placed it on Susie and Cliff Hall’s property in Burro Flats. Move eight moved costumes and props out of people’s houses and into the trailer up in the mountains! They are still there as of this writing (9/9/99). In 1998, a second trailer was purchased for storage space and a lease arranged with the City of Alamogordo to place it in southeast corner of the City Yard on N. Florida. Unfortunately, with in 10 days, vandals threw rocks over the fence and broke all the windows. AMT decided not to move any property into the trailer until a more secure site could be found.

Meanwhile, the Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts had been created on New York St. AMT supported the foundation of the Flickinger Center and was one of the first organizations to perform there. The Lindley’s, Dr. Norm and Louise, let the Flickinger Center use the back portion of the building they owned next door (the “Magistrate Court Building”). This area was used by the Flickinger Center, AMT, the High School, and others for storage and set construction as shows and needs changed until June 1999 when it was sold. Jesus Christ Superstar was the last AMT show to construct sets in the Magistrate Court building.

Luckily, the AMT Board had concluded in 1994 that AMT had to purchase its own property to use for storage and rehearsals. Due to many economic factors, the institutions that historically had let AMT use their facilities for rehearsals were now charging rental fees. So the Board started a building fund, and over the years a number of facilities had been looked at, but nothing suitable had been found. However, in late 1998, the Valley Feed Store on north Highway 54/70 became available and AMT Board members started looking hard at its potential.

AMT became the proud owner of its own property! While in need of much repair, the facility has room for rehearsals, set construction, and once our trailers are moved, storage! Move nine (hopefully our last) moved years of set construction material from the Magistrate Court building on New York St. to our new home. The 1999 summer show, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, was the first show to be rehearsed and constructed in our new home.

Although it was great to have a building of our own, there was no denying that the building itself was in pretty sad shape. It was cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and despite heroic efforts to keep the roof patched, we would frequently find ourselves ankle deep in water after a heavy rain. In the summer of 2005, a gust of wind blew the roof off of the front porch. It became more and more apparent that something needed to be done. We were losing valuable costumes, set pieces, props, and lumber. In August, the Board voted to purchase a steel building from Cold Spring Steel. We agreed that our new building would be named “Cliff’s Hall” in honor of our good friend, Cliff Hall, who had died unexpectedly a few months before. The building was delivered at the end of October. By February of 2006 we had secured a loan from Alamogordo Federal Savings and Loan. Several Board members were on hand for the pouring of the foundation on May 5th, and some of Cliff’s ashes were sprinkled into all four corners of the concrete foundation. Cliff, who had been such an important part of AMT, was now – literally – a part of the building that bore his name. Roger Storms and Charlie Foree did most of the actual construction. By the end of June, Cliff’s Hall was finished! The Board agreed that the new building should be used for storage of costumes and props. (By now, the trailers where many of these items were stored were also in pretty bad shape. Like the main building, there were occasional leaks, and infestations of “critters.” The old building would be used primarily for set construction.) Tim McNichols designed an elaborate set of clothing racks and shelves that would help preserve, protect, and better organize our costumes and props. Construction of the racks turned out to be a bit more time-consuming than expected. Many Board members helped out whenever they could, but most of the work was done by Tim McNichols and JD Droddy. The project was finally completed in January, 2008 – just in time for AMT’s 50th anniversary. There is little doubt in my mind that these sturdy racks will be around for AMT’s 100th anniversary!

One thought on “History

  1. Pingback: FLASHBACK FRIDAY! | Alamogordo Music Theatre

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