Edward Osmund Briles
Tractor – Likely 1950s in Emporia, Kansas
Known as Mrs. E. O. Briles most of her adult life, Pauline Edith Mentzer was born in Woodson County, Kansas in 1896. Pauline and her twin brother, Paul, were the children of Charles Oliver and Nettie Adell (Wells) Mentzer. Pauline spent her youth in the northern part of Woodson County, Kansas where she attended school.
In 1913, Pauline completed the ‘Common School Course of Study’. Her required course of study included reading, orthography, writing, arithmetic, geography, US History, Physiology, civil government, Kansas History, classics and agriculture.
At the age of 19, Pauline married Edward Osmund Briles and became known as Mrs. E. O. Briles. Her first child, Walter, was born in 1917. A year later the couple welcomed a second son, Kenneth.
Mr. and Mrs. Osmund Briles who lives south of here took their eight months baby which had stomach and bowel trouble to Kansas City to consult a specialist, week before last and last Tuesday the baby died and was brot here Wednesday and buried in the Crandall cemetery. The funeral was held to the Christian church Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. conducted by Rev. Mr. Lowe of Burlington. Kenneth was a sweet child and will be greatly missed in the home and we extend our sympathy to the parents and relatives in their sorrow.
Pauline must have become an ‘expert’ at moving as the family seemed to have a new address every few years. When Kenneth was born in 1918, the family was living in Vernon (Woodson County) Kansas. During the early 1920’s the family was in Iola (Allen County) Kansas where her husband operated a garage. Her daughter, Letha, was born while the family lived in Iola. Around 1929, the family moved from Iola to Buffalo (Wilson County). It was in Buffalo that her husband Edward Osmund Briles began his career with motion pictures. It was also in Buffalo, that her daughter Roberta was born. Shortly, after that the family moved to Emporia, Kansas, where her daughter, Barbara was born. Even though Pauline would spend the rest of her life in Emporia, the family continued to move frequently. The family first lived outside of the city limits on the East side of town. Other Emporia addresses for the family include 416 Constitution (1938), 613 Lincoln (1940), 645 Lincoln (1952), 924 Constitution (1953), 138 W. 12th (1957), 1014 Market (1959), 821 W. 6th (1966).
Throughout her life, Pauline was socially active. In 1934, Pauline joined the First Christian Church in Emporia. She was an active member of that church until her death. In 1960, Pauline was a member of the ‘Harmony Builders Class’ in the church. Besides hosting or attending family events, Pauline was a member of the East Sixth Avenue Club and the Whittier Unit.
Although most would have viewed Pauline as a typical wife and mother during the 30s and 40s, she was not always ‘traditional.’ In an interview with a correspondent for the magazine, Motion Picture Herald, Pauline told the reporter that she was going for an airplane ride. This interview was published in Oct. 1932. Since the June 11, 1932 issue of the Emporia Gazette includes an advertisement for those airplane rides, it is possible that this young mother did partake of this adventure. Pauline also worked in her husband’s business — The Lyric Theater. The 1936 directory for Emporia indicates that Pauline was a cashier for The Lyric Theater.
Pauline’s husband, Edward O. Briles, died in 1956. After over 40 years of marriage, Pauline faced life as a widow — but continued to be known as Mrs. E. O. Briles.
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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