When Holly Theatre management raised ticket prices in March 1946, protesting Medford students formed a picket line.

Movie dates and the teenage economy

It was Saturday afternoon and junior and senior high school boys rushed to the YMCA to quickly make their signs.

By 3:30, their picket line was blocking the ticket booth at the Holly Theatre on West Sixth Street in Medford.

The afternoon show already was under way, and the dozen or so boys weren't really hurting business. But when more and more teenagers began to arrive, Holly Theatre manager Eino Hemmila called police.

With the sidewalk cleared and patrons able to buy tickets for the evening performance of "The Harvey Girls" (note: this name has been corrected) — in Technicolor with Judy Garland — the boys, and now a few girls, were allowed to wave their signs and continue their protest.

It was unfair, they said. "We can't pay that much. What about movie dates?"

In March 1946, management had set the ticket price for students, 12 to 18 years old, at 65 cents.

Jim Collins and Dean Coverstone, student spokesmen for the protesters, said they wanted the price reduced to 35 cents, "a fair amount to charge."

Collins and Coverstone, along with protest organizers Fitz Brewer, Richard Riggs, Ted Rubenstein and Bill Perl, made sure the picketing was peaceful.

At about 8 o'clock in the evening, manager Hemmila agreed to meet with the students the following day.

Hemmila had been taken by surprise. He told the press that no one told him about a picket line and no one had approached him about the admission policy of the theater.

The next day, Hemmila said he had made an offer to the students and that another meeting would be held as soon as the students had talked it over with their peers.

While negotiations continued, the head of the YMCA began feeling heat from the public. He denied that the picket-line idea had originated at the YMCA, saying the boys had not made their signs at the club, as was claimed by the "ringleaders" of the protest.

By Wednesday the picket line was ready for another protest, but that afternoon the students sat down with Hemmila and Walter Leverette, owner of the Leverette Interstate Theaters chain, which included the Holly.

Leverette said that student vandalism in the theater was costing him a lot of money and that no matter what price the students paid, the theater would still have to pay 11 cents in federal tax, the same as an adult ticket. That said, he was willing to compromise.

He would lower the price to students who showed a valid student-body card — if they would also take responsibility for the actions of their friends. The students agreed.

"Tickets will be priced at 45 cents," Hemmila said. "In return, representatives of the Medford senior and junior high school agree that members of the student bodies will be responsible for the actions of the students while attending the shows.

"Vandalism and boisterous conduct, which have been a source of complaint recently, hereafter, will receive not only the attention of the management of the theater, but that of the students, as well."

The boycott was over, the big screen flickered, and movie dates were affordable once again.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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