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Heated Drama

In the early days of the burgeoning film industry, Americans flocked to movie houses to enjoy a wide variety of silent film offerings. Fairbanks was no exception to this wonderful new form of entertainment. Here in our fair city, Dick Thorne’s theater was a popular respite from the dark winter days. On one particularly cold January evening of 1916, the movie house had an extra feature of old-time Fairbanks entertainment that won the full attention of the audience.

Fairbanks Daily Times- January 25, 1916

Colonel Heeza Liar Heads the Bill

Both Sunday evening and last evening it was so warm in Thorne’s that it became necessary to open the ventilators and start the electric fans in order that the people might not notice the heat. And this, with the thermometer every bit of fifty below. It is cheaper to go to Thorne’s than it is to buy wood. The show tonight will be a good one.

The article goes on to list all the films that would be shown that night which consisted of news reels, two comedies, and two dramas one of which was an Edison film, and a Pathe Co. Heeza Liar cartoon. (You can see those on YouTube.)

The next day, the following article was published in the Juneau paper indicating that things were very heated inside Thorne’s theater that night.

Daily Alaska Dispatch – January 26, 1916

Postmaster is Slugged by Caskey

J. Harmon Caskey, editor and publisher of the Fairbanks Citizen, and Postmaster Deal came to blows in Thorne’s moving picture theater last night. The Citizen editorially “bawled out” the postmaster in its last issue regarding the letting of a mail contract to the Tolovana mining camp. (Today we call it Livengood.)

The pair met last evening in Thorne’s theater and fierce words followed. The spectators forgot all about the moving pictures on the screen and became instantly absorbed in the “live action” picture furnished by the two men.

Caskey up and called Deal the short ugly word with four letters: L-i-a-r. Deal promptly responded with a smashing right to Caskey’s jaw. Caskey went down, but not to take the count.

He immediately arose, and probably having a high regard for the postmaster’s right, grabbed the latter in a catch-as-catch-can wrestling match.

Caskey varied the wrestling program by taking advantage of an opening to punch Deal in the mouth.

About this time spectators decided to take a hand in the game. They grabbed the combatants and separated them. It was the universal decision that honors were even between the two men.

Note: One has to wonder if Caskey was inspired by the featured cartoon entitled “Heeza Liar” to call Deal a liar. We all know what a bad influence cartoons can be! Both J. Harmon Caskey and T. Henry Deal were members of Men’s Igloo No. 4. This heated History Nugget is proudly brought to you by Fairbanks Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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