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Marie C. Dosch: A Courageous Musician

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Marie C. Dosch (1893-1976) was the daughter of John Dosch and Charlotte (Faust) Dosch of Washington, Indiana. She lived most of her life at 200 W. Van Trees Street. She did not marry.

Ms. Dosch was an accomplished musician. One of her first jobs was playing the large pipe organ during “silent films” at the Grand Theatre, 413 E. Main Street in Washington. The term “silent” was a misnomer. Music was considered an essential part of the viewing experience. Theaters hired expert organists—such as Marie C. Dosch—to play from sheet music or by improvisation during the movies.

On January 10, 1926 Marie was playing at the Grand Theatre for a capacity Sunday evening audience. A fire started in the theatre’s projection booth when explosive nitrate film ignited. The fire spread to the attic. According to a newspaper account, the roof became a “seething mass of flame” and the crowded theater filled with thick, white smoke.

Grand Theatre and an adjacent building after the 1926 fire

After Alvin Spainhour, the Grand Theatre’s manager, told everyone to exit the building, Marie stayed at her post playing soothing music to calm the panicked crowd. She was one of the last to leave the burning building. Within minutes the roof collapsed, the theater disintegrated, and the front wall fell into Main Street.

Marie C. Dosch at the 1942 Washington High School recital

Fortunately, no one was injured in the spectacular fire. But three neighboring stores on Main Street were destroyed and the Hyatt Hotel was heavily damaged. John Kretz was retained to build a new theater on the same site. On October 6, 1926, the Indiana Theatre opened.

With the advent of “talkies,” Ms. Dosch’s services as an organist were no longer needed. Thereafter, she earned a living giving piano lessons to area children. She often staged recitals by her piano students at local auditoriums. The last time she advertised as a “music teacher” was in the 1969 Washington City Directory when she was 76 years old.

Ms. Dosch (seated, far left) and her students at the 1942 Washington High School recital

This article was compiled by Bruce A. Smith. He volunteers at the Daviess County Museum and is part of the Daviess County Historian Team.

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