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Items go up for auction at 2 famous Branson theatres

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:51 PM CDT
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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - For the crowd that turned out on Monday for an auction at the Jim Stafford theater, it was the opportunity to purchase a piece of history.

“Jim Stafford was a staple of Branson,” said Christie Hatman, who came to Branson from Thayer. “He was here at the height of the popularity of the theaters.”

With Stafford in retirement in Florida, his old theater is about to be demolished in the next 60 days as are two buildings next door.  Those are the Caravelle Theater, once the home of the Liverpool Legends, and the Gateway Inn hotel. On Monday it was time for one last hurrah as a couple of hundred came to an auction where pretty much everything not tied down was up for bidding right down to the costumes that Stafford wore on stage, which were going for as little as $10 and as much as $250. Memorabilia lovers could get Stafford’s taped guitar from one of his most well-known routines for just over a thousand dollars, one of his puppets sold for $225, and a parrot costume from a Jimmy Buffet tribute held at the same theater for $240. Beautiful glass doors that once welcomed visitors to the popular theater sold for $375 while a giant guitar that rose above the outside marquee sold for $1,300.

The top-dollar sellers were more functional items like the theater’s generator that went for $55,000. You could get things like professional-quality theater audio speakers for just $150. Buyers had to only get them home.

“There’s a neon sign in the auditorium that says, ‘Jim’s Stuff’ that people are interested in,” said Rick Inmon. “But my gosh, it’s bigger than I thought!”

Inmon attended the auction because he used to work in Stafford’s band during the 1990′s and wanted a memory of those fond times.

“There’s a hat and a jacket that still has my name in it from when we were a marching band,” he said of the many personas the band would assume as they accompanied Stafford. “So I thought I would come here and bid on that. There are a lot of heartfelt memories here.”

Fra Patten from Cape Fair got several costumes and a poster of Stafford because it took her back to the good times she had as a child attending Stafford’s shows with her grandpa and grandma.

“I don’t really remember the shows that well,” she said. “But what I do remember is the feeling of being with my grandparents all the time.”

Hatman came from Thayer dressed in a jacket that said, ‘Talk to Me Goose’ on the back.

“I haven’t lost that lovin’ feeling,” Hatman said. “I love the movie Top Gun and I love auctions.”

But she was here for a more practical reason than pure nostalgia.

“We just bought an old schoolhouse in Thayer and we needed a stage curtain,” she said. “And you can’t get them at Walgreens.”

For many at the auction, it was a day of mixed feelings as the chance to reminisce also brought a sense of melancholy.

“It’s sad to see it go,” Inmon said.

“It feels like part of Branson is going away,” Patten added.

But it was also an opportunity to buy a memory of something you loved.

“That’s the wonderful thing about auctions,” Hatman explained. “You can transfer things from somebody who loved them and used them to other people who love them and use them.”

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