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The Lyric Theatre--A Look Back at the Beginnings

Four Generations of Kelseys at the Lyric

Vane Kelsey was vice-president of the Commonwealth Theatre Corporation and acted in the capacity of general manager for the company. He had been involved in the theatre business for the ten years preceding the opening of the Lyric. He had direct charge of the Lyric Theatre and also interested in himself in making the Salem Theatre a real part of the recreational and business life of Salem. Kelsey and R. Floyd Plank became the owners of the Lyric in 1919. Kelsey was the former manager of the VPI Tailoring Shop.

Vane Kelsey's son, Donald Young Kelsey, worked at the Lyric from the time it opened in 1930. Even during the Great Depression, business at the Lyric was bustling. Donald Young Kelsey earned $11 a week as a projectionist, and his wife Lela earned $7 a week as cashier. Donald Kelsey later became owner and manager of the Lyric.

The Kelseys also owned the 200-seat Little Theater on Main Street where Crickets Restaurant now sits. The Little Theater was sold around 1974 because it was too difficult to get pictures for both movie houses.

Donald Kelsey, Sr. died in May 13, 1991 at the age of 81. He was a past member of the Blacksburg Town Council, a charter member of the Blacksburg Kiwanis Club, past president of the Blacksburg Chamber of Commerce, and he served on the Blacksburg Planning Commission. He was Deacon in the Blacksburg Presbyterian Chruch and a member of the Eastern Star. He also served with the Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Don Kelsey, Jr. managed the theater for his father until the Kelsey sold the theater in 1989 because of lack of business in the face of competition from televison and big chain theaters. Don Kelsey Jr. was principal of Blacksburg High School for three years and then principal of the Blacksbug Middle School. He served in the Montgomery County school system for nine years. He was later principal of Brookville High School in Lynchburg.

Don Kelsey, Jr.'s daughter Beth and her husband Bud Bennett helped to manage the theater marking the fourth generation of the family owned business.

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Last updated: March 18, 1996