Camp Crowder Theater #2

Neosho, MO 64850

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CAMP CROWDER Theatre No. 2; Camp Crowder, Neosho, Missouri.

The large Camp Crowder Theatre #2 was of standard military design for World War II military bases. It was within Camp (also Fort) Crowder, a WWII U.S. Army post in southwest Missouri south of Neosho, named for Gen. Enoch Crowder of Missouri who was instrumental in developing the Selective Service System. There was also a small German prisoner of war detention facility who were able to patronize the theatre’s daily first-run films and live concerts, including a memorable performance by Benny Goodman.

(In the 1960’s, Camp Crowder was the setting for a flashback scene within ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ where characters Rob and Laura Petrie [Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore] first meet.)

Cartoonist Mort Walker was stationed there and took inspiration to create “Camp Swampy” for his Beetle Bailey comic strips. Monologuist Jean Shepherd told many stories of his time at Camp Crowder.

After the War, Camp Crowder Theatre #2 was disassembled, moved and reassembled on the campus of what is today the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Renamed the University Playhouse, it opened on December 6, 1948 with ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ by Maxwell Anderson, and served the university for years until its eventual demolition for a new theatre. However, a walled patio and fireplace with masks of Comedy and Tragedy were built near the theater, and still remain as landmarks on the university campus.

Contributed by Lou Rugani
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