E. O. Briles, the son of Edward Grant and Frances Artlissa ‘Artie’ (Ricketts) Briles was born in Coffey County, Kansas in 1891. His full name was Edward Osmund Briles, but he was rarely called Edward or Eddie. Perhaps that is because his father was Edward and often referred to as ‘Eddie’ Briles. Souvenir books from schools, list him as Osmund Briles thru 1908.
E. O. Briles married Pauline Edith Mentzer in Yates Center in 1915. Pauline often referred to her husband as Osmund.
By the early 20’s E. O. Briles had ventured into the automobile business, owning Briles Garage on North Jefferson in Iola (Allen County) Kansas. Briles Motor Company sold the Chandler Motor Car, the Cleveland and Oldsmobile automobiles. Silverton tires were also sold by the business. Since houses in the early 1920s didn’t come with the ability to protect a car by parking it in a garage, Briles Garage provided the ability to ‘store’ one’s car in the garage.
By 1930, the family had moved to Buffalo, Kansas. The 1930 census indicates that E. O. Briles had left the car business and was beginning to work in the motion picture industry as his occupation is stated as a ‘picture show machine operator’. According to his obituary, the family moved to Emporia, Kansas in November of 1931. In 1932, he purchased the Lyric Theater on Commercial Street in Emporia.
In the fall of 1933, E. O. Briles began his challenge of the Sunday ‘Blue’ laws that prohibited the showing of a ‘picture show’ on Sundays. For several weeks, he would open his theater to the public on Sunday just to be arrested. He would appear in police court and post bond. This sequence of having a Sunday show, getting arrested and posting bond continued for several weeks. The September 11, 1933 issue of the Emporia Gazette provides details for this first arrest.
“E. O. Briles, proprietor of the Lyric theater was arrested twice Sunday by city police for violating the Sunday labor law as contained in a city ordinance.”
E. O. Briles was arrested twice that day: once for the afternoon show and once for the evening show. In total, he posted $300 in bond to be released until the following Tuesday when he would appear before Judge J. H. J. Rice. According to the article, ‘Theater Owner Fined’ in the 20 Sep 1933 edition of the Emporia Gazette, E. O. Briles was found guilty. The case was appealed to the district court with a bond of $450 required. According to the 30 Oct 1933 issue of the Emporia Gazette, E. O. Briles had been arrested 12 times as he and the police were apparently in an endurance contest. The police were concerned that if they didn’t arrest him each time a show was shown on Sunday, it would weaken their case when it reached the district court. The November 14th issue of the Emporia Gazette reports that the district court jury found E. O. Briles guilty of violating the city ordinances prohibiting the showing of Sunday movies and the requiring of employees to labor on Sunday with the sale of goods.
His weekly court appearances must not have caused a decrease in the number of people going to the ‘picture show’ since the Lyric Theater moved into 407 Commercial in January of 1934. According to the article, “New Lyric to Open Saturday” in the 26 Jan 1934 issue of the Emporia Gazette, this new location would seat 400 persons. In 1935, the theater was upgraded by installing a new RCA Victor Photophone sound system. In November of 1935, the Lyric Theater had two free shows for the unemployed on Thanksgiving morning. Tickets for these shows were distributed at the Allied Workers’ lodge room at 517 1/2 Merchant in Emporia. In 1936, E. O. Briles purchased his third motion picture theater in Excelsior Springs Missouri. The Missouri theater was to be run by his niece, Mrs. Cleo Smalling.
Besides running the Lyric Theater, Osmund Briles also could be found on a tractor. Family stories claim that he farmed the ground that later became the Emporia Country Club just south of Interstate 35.
In the spring of 1956, E. O. Briles developed kidney disease. He succumbed to the disease at Newman Memorial Hospital in Emporia on May 28, 1956. Edward Osmund Briles is buried in the Emporia cemetery.
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