Opera house stage curtains a real treasure

CLARKSON, Neb.- The stage curtains at the Clarkson Opera House have survived the test of time.

"I think most opera houses had curtains," Clarkson Mayor Chuck Hamernik said. "What's unique is these have stayed here. A lot of times curtains fall into disrepair and they get taken down, or moved to somebody's barn." There are eight curtains in total.

"Most of these curtains were hand painted canvas," Hamernik said. "The front curtain was done in Omaha in 1929, and some of these curtains are dated into the 30's. There's a tube that goes through them. Some of them are tin and some of them are cardboard tubes that they roll up on, and we've done some repair work to those and we've replaced some ropes. The ropes are probably original, too."

Each curtain on the stage has a different scene painted on it. "One was the original movie screen, and it's not a very big screen," Hamernik said. "It was from the old carbide projector. There's a cottage scene, a castle scene, a forest scene, a veranda, a patio scene, a city street scene, and they are all really neat." Over the years, people have signed their names on the main curtain, and on the other curtains, to leave their mark. "My name is here," Hamernik said. "My bands have played here and I was in the class plays and so yeah, my name is on the curtain."

There is even a meaningful story told about the illustration on the main curtain at the Clarkson Opera House. "The story is of Svatopluk, a Moravian King," Hamernik said. "He has three sons and as he is aging, his eldest son wants to rule the kingdom. But he has two other sons that want a piece of the action, and he sends his boys out into the woods to gather three twigs each, and he asks his sons to take a single twig and see if they can break it. They are easily broken as single twigs. So then, Svatopluk ties three twigs together and tells the boys to break those, and they can't. So the moral of the story is, if you each want a piece of the kingdom you will be easily defeated, but if you stay together, you will be strong."

The meaningful story resonates to residents and visitors to Clarkson. As you might imagine, folks here take plenty of pride in this building. "It's so original," Hamernik said. "Yes, we have central heating and air, but we try to minimize the impact of that. We are trying to take you back in time."