Christa Rice

Sandra Mathis picked a winner when she recently moved her Pickin’ Queen home décor store into downtown Claremore’s 418 West Will Rogers Boulevard building. This peaceful, century-old building conceals an extensive, eclectic past.

When urban developer JM Bayless completed his Sequoyah Hotel and Windsor Opera House (1902) on the western corners at Will Rogers Boulevard and Missouri Avenue, he purchased of G.W. Eaton the lot east of Eaton’s northeast corner building (now Sailor Antiques). Eaton’s corner brick housed Wilson Hardware and the Courthouse.

The Claremore Messenger enthusiastically printed, “JM Bayless has purchased the lot east of the courthouse and will begin at once the erection of a good stone building, with pressed brick front. It is to be 25x100 feet: two stories high in front and one in the rear.”(CM,3-24-1905). Plans were made to move the post office into the first floor of this Bayless building.

That September, Bayless “flipped” the enterprise selling the uncompleted project to T.S. Chambers (CM,8-11-1905). Soon after, “Official notice was received from the post office department... the bid of T.S. Chambers for the location of the post office next to the courthouse had been accepted by the post office department”(CP,9-23-1905). January 15, 1906, “After many delays and disappointments, the post office was finally moved into its new home”(CM,1-19-1906).

The Bayless-Chambers building has changed hands several times since 1906.

Long-time Claremore residents recall this building was once the Cadet Theater which took up residence shortly before 1942 (SWBT Directory, 1942).

Chester Baldwin reminisces, “I remember the Cadet Theater, …watching Saturday morning serials of which Andy Devine supposedly read from a ‘Buster Brown’ book, and narrated… the concession stand at the Cadet had a nickel glued to the glass counter top!”

A Claremore Museum of History document shared by Paula Davis adds, “On Saturdays the Cadet Theater showed a news reel, a cartoon, previews of coming attractions, the main feature, and a serial which was supposed to get the audience to come back the next Saturday. Once a month on Saturday morning, the Cadet Theater would host a talent show before the news reel. Whoever won the talent show would receive a free movie ticket for the following Saturday.”

When the theater closed, the Cadet Bowl bowling alley moved in. Randall Pickens, Sr. conjectures this happened sometime between 1955 and1958. He shared this 1958 advertisement. “Bowl at the Cadet Bowl. Bowling Alleys Open 1:00 P.M. Daily, 7 Days A Week. Four Alleys. Team Leagues. Private Parties.”

Chester Baldwin reminds us, “Don’t forget about the Merle Norman Cosmetic store that was in there for many years, run by Mrs. Bryant.” Lois Bryant’s Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio took up residence about 1971, remaining there for three decades.

Other businesses at this location were Out West Home Décor (circa 2004 - 2019), District Baby (2019 – 2021), and newest resident, Sandra Mathis’s The Pickin’ Queen (opened September 2021). Victor West, owns the 418 West Will Rogers building.

Mrs. Meeks, proprietress of Out West Décor described the interior of the Cadet Theater with its concession stand, ticket window, projector room, and tiled-floor bathroom spaces to the right and left of the entrance doors. These doorways still exist as entrances to the large display windows out front.

From post office, to movie theater, to bowling alley, to cosmetics studio, to baby clothes retail, and home décor, Claremore citizens cherish sweet memories of this Bayless-Chambers building’s entertaining and productive past. One can only imagine what the majestic future holds, now that the Pickin’ Queen has picked this building as the location of her royal domain.

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