Tom Jeffers’ takes us to the beginning….

Tom JeffersCongratulations to the Picketwire Players for 46 years of outstanding productions and the continuation of what we, as founding members, always hoped and worked for.  No, we did NOT anticipate all that has followed over these years of fantastic community theater! It was my privilege to have been one of those who started this community theater. In February of 1968, Mickie Miller purposed an idea and then bribed, poked, twisted arms, harassed a number of people and we began meeting in the office of Rev. Will Bingham and fondly called ourselves “the stupid six”: Mickie Miller, Dodgie Calonge, Fr. W. Bingham, Betty Wiley, Don Sarlo, and myself, Tom Jeffers.

And, indeed, with the consent of these “founders”, I proposed the name as the “Picketwire Players”, and wrote the founding purpose and by-laws starting with:

“WHEREAS, there being a group of individuals desiring to produce, direct, act and otherwise participate in a theater group, we do hereby organize and establish ourselves as the Picketwire Players.”

With that, we set about to draft, drag people to help produce, direct, act, build sets, sew, beg and borrow costumes and props for our first production. The board members even guaranteed the money to pay for those original cash expenses we incurred.

We scheduled a three night production of a melodrama: “Laura of the Shadows” on La Junta High School stage in June 1968. It was a stunning success. Blood, sweat, and tears were totally worth it. Our next eleven productions (1968-1976) were summer-only, utilizing LaJunta high school and twisting the arm of Dr. Bill McDivitt, we used the junior college facilities. Then, we discovered we could acquire the abandoned former junior high auditorium. This was acquired from the La Junta school district in 1976 and refurbished as an official Centennial-Bicentennial Year project.

A wild and crazy auction supplemented and helped get the renovation off the ground- and a whole lot of volunteer work by a whole lot of people! We even re-installed the old original seats! Vera Shand (Dr. J.Alan Shand) took on the renovation of the grounds all by herself! Picketwire Players stuck to melodramas and comedies in the early years. First major musical was “Guys and Dolls” in the summer of 1971 (at Otero Junior College). “Sound of Music” in 1974 (at La Junta High School) still holds the record for largest company, launching an almost unbroken string of major summertime undertakings.

It was after the “Sound of Music” production that I then gave up the presidency to Don Coker. The amount of time, work, and effort that the Players required is indescribable. My family was involved as much as I at times: Kae sewed costumes; our kids were in several productions, including “Sound of Music”. I built sets, acted, produced, begged and borrowed with Mickie. You simply “wear out” after awhile.

The first production in our new home – The Picketwire Center for Performing Arts was “Amahl and the Night Visitor” December 28, 29, 30 – 1976.  Then followed an outpouring of community support and in 1977 new seats were sold and installed with a successful drive whereby name plates were then attached to those purchasing seats; and indeed, entire rows of seats were sold, as local radio man, Chuck Denney led the drive. My last effort for the center was to buy one of rows of the seats.

Forty Six years: it seems “impossible”, but yet, all is possible: “The Impossible Years” was one of our productions and our first road show. I am so very, very proud to have been a part of you.   Tom Jeffers



LAURA OF THE SHADOWS (MELODRAMA) (June 27, 28, 29 – 1968: LJHS Auditorium)

THE IMPOSSIBLE YEARS (August 8, 9, 10 – 1968: LJHS Auditorium, September 7 – 1968: Rocky Ford High School)

BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (August 29, 30, 31 – 1968: LJHS Auditorium)

RACE OF THE SIRENS (February 28, March 1 – 1969: LJHS Auditorium)

NEVER TOO LATE (June 27, 28 – 1969: LJHS Auditorium)

A THOUSAND CLOWNS (August 8, 9, 10 – 1969: LJHS Auditorium)

SEE HOW THEY RUN (July 3, 9, 10 – 1971: OJC Humanities Center)

GUYS AND DOLLS (August 13, 14, 15 – 1971: OJC Humanities Center)

A BIT OF FLOTSAM ON A SEA OF TROUBLE (May 25, 30, 31 – 1974: LJHS Auditorium)

SOUND OF MUSIC (July 18, 19, 20, 21 – 1974: LJHS Auditorium)