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Milo’s Chair

My photographic journey through the Rivoli in 1987 would not have been possible without the help and support of the Rivoli employees.

During the time I spent with them I learned a lot about the Rivoli, and also heard the name of Milo Snell many times over.

Milo was a projectionist and all-around handyman who worked at the Rivoli and other downtown movie houses. I’m not sure of the dates of his tenure, but he was well known by Dave Battas Sr. and his family.

Dave was acquainted with Milo for many years—at the beginning of his career, Dave worked for the operators of the Rivoli—the Y&W Management company—starting in the early 50’s, and he later purchased the theater and operated it in the 1970’s with his wife Wanda and two sons.

“Milo had a room in the basement with a lot of his equipment,” Dave said. “He had the room with parts down there, and if some theater needed it, why, he’d run off and help them fix it. Milo was a great guy. I can still picture him as an older gentleman with gray hair and glasses, and chewing on a cigar!”

Note the "Y and W" markings on two of the shelf parts. Basement workshop in the Rivoli Theater, 1987. Photo by John D. Disher, c1987.

During my tour of the Rivoli back in 1987, a couple of the employees mentioned to me that the ghost of Milo Snell might be inhabiting the theater.

Indeed, during my visit, lights in the basement workshop area would inexplicably turn themselves off and on.

Rivoli employees arranged the marquee letters in the basement storeroom to spell out "the once and future Milo". Photo by John D. Disher, c1987.

I entered a small room in the basement through a tiny door, which was actually a metal air handling chamber, and discovered two old chairs illuminated by a single light bulb and isolated from the rest of the world.

One was a high-backed stool, and the general consensus among the employees was that this was Milo’s projection booth chair, still reserved for use in his now ethereal form.

Metal air handling chamber in the Rivoli basement. Photo by John D. Disher, c1987.

I would return to the Rivoli a few days later and purchase that same chair during a public sale. I’ve had it for 25 years and thankfully it’s not exhibited any paranormal activity during that time!

Over the years I’ve often told the story of the chair’s history…so it was a disappointment when Dave Battas recently told me that it probably wasn’t Milo’s. He said none of the employees in 1987 would have had knowledge of what chair Milo would have used.

Nope, not Milo’s chair.

And Dave told me to forget the business about Milo haunting the theater, or at one time living in the basement as stated in the newspaper article the Final Curtain Falls. Milo had his own house and was a wonderful asset to the local community during his tenure with Y&W. Its extremely unlikely that he had returned to haunt the Rivoli.

Most likely, I’d probably been the victim of an overly enthusiastic imagination.

Darn. So much for the ghost story. Well, it is a great chair and I will continue to enjoy it.

Thanks, Milo.

Submitted by John D. Disher, April 2012

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4 responses

  1. Another GREAT story. The emotions come flowing back with each entry. Such a beloved theater, one that is still missed today. I am constantly telling people about this theater from my youth.

    Your words and descriptions are like bringing something back from the great beyond. Have you ever thought about making a documentary? I think it would be amazing!!

    May 19, 2012 at 12:16 am

    • Thanks Jennifer, your suggestions is a good one, perhaps at some point in the future I can consider it!

      May 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm

  2. Sal Miano

    John,
    While working at the Rivoli I hyped up the story of Milo haunting the theater as much as I could. I thought it was a great story. On a couple of occasions after letting out the last show, I had the fun of taking scared BSU coeds on a tour of the theater. While walking them into the basement I would tell them very embellished stories of Milo’s haunting of the theater. When the first of several heavy, counterweighted fire doors would slam closed behind us they would get very nervous. When I would show them the metal ventilation room with the one chair and bare bulb (i called it the torture chamber) their nervousness would change to fear. When the light went out (which it often did) or the blower for the ventilation system would suddenly come on with a deafening squeal they would be terrified and clinging to me like life itself……which was always the plan. That was so much fun.

    February 4, 2016 at 1:24 am

    • Sal, some great memories and your comments are very relevant to me as I so enjoyed touring the basement and other areas of the Rivoli. I enjoyed the ‘Milo hype’ at the time in 1987 but my Milo chair has yet to produce any ghostly effects! Thanks again for your comments and memories! -John

      February 14, 2016 at 4:39 am

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