“‘Cause I’m Havin’ So Much Fun With Honey-Bun”
Jack Mehaffey in his role as Seaman Luther Billis is dressed in a hula skirt to perform in the G.I. Follies. With Billis are the “nurses” dressed in their chorus line costumes, who sing and dance with him. This crowd pleasing scene is in the second act of “South Pacific” to be presented by the Mule Barn Opera Co. September 1, 2, and 3 at the Tarkio High School Auditorium. This picture and cutline ran in a 1967 edition of the Tarkio Avalanche.

It’s been 50 years since a large group of people, calling themselves the “Mule Barn Opera House Company,” produced the popular musical show “South Pacific” in Tarkio. The show was spectacular and began a many decades long tradition of bringing popular plays and musicals to the stages of Tarkio.
In the November 15, 2007, edition of the Tarkio Avalanche, a story written by the late Leland Crapson described the set up of the 1967 production,
“Tarkio College had recently purchased the historic Rankin Mule Barn, and the loosely formed Opera House Company thought it possible to make the barn into a year-round theatre serving the college theatre department and the community. Funds needed to be raised to get going. A leader of the group was Robert “Bob” McCoy. Bob was a 1965 graduate of Tarkio College with a large interest in Tarkio, in the college, and in community theatre.”
“According to reports in a 1967 issue of the Tarkio Avalanche, the play had a full house dress rehearsal for students and three full house public performances with an estimated crowd of 1,400 people who attended the play. Play tickets were priced at $1 for the student performance and $2 for the regular performances. There was a $5 fee for the Saturday performance, which included a gala party after the show at the new Schechter Gymnasium patio.”
Also in the 1967 issue of the Avalanche, the Editor’s Note said, “The success of the production by the Mule Barn Opera House Company of South Pacific was not a fluke. It took the talents of many fine singers, actors, and many behind the scene workers plus fine direction, but most important was the cooperation of the people of the community and others. We will need more of this fine display of community effort in the near future.”
Bob McCoy shares some of his memories:
“The board of directors of the Mule Barn Opera House Co. borrowed $300 from the Farmers & Valley Bank to get started. In the end, we presented a $1,600 check to Tarkio College to put towards the Mule Barn restoration. A production of “The Sound of Music” was done a year later at Tarkio High School Auditorium, as was “South Pacific”, and it was the proceeds from these two productions that helped get the barn ready for all future productions.
“Scripts and music were still shipped from New York via railway express, so there was still activity at the depot.”
“A fly line broke during the Saturday night performance and both cast and crew members pitched in for the remainder of the performance to hold up the drop by hand for the rest of the scene changes. Ivan Carter opened Curfman Hardware Sunday morning so we could get the necessary materials for repairs. All drops were flying again for the Sunday matinee.”
“The costume chairman, Maxine Borowicz’s father, became seriously ill and she had to leave town days before the first performance. Elsie Fae Rhoades stepped in to find costumes in shambles backstage after a dress rehearsal, especially those of the sailor’s chorus. After she gave her speech and made her expectations abundantly clear, Dean Farley and Loraine “Hoppie” Hopkins took great delight in mocking her in her new role as costume mistress.”
“All of us were very green when it came to putting together a musical, but dance had to be part of the production. Ila Boettner, long time dance instructor in the area and from Rock Port, signed on to be the choreographer. During one rehearsal when we were having some issues with dance steps and Mrs. Boettner was not available, a cast member asked the whereabouts of Miss Ographer. I said who? He repeated, Miss Ographer. I said you mean Mrs. Boettner and he went on to explain that after earlier references to the choreographer he simply thought her name was Corrie Ographer.”
“Talk of the town was the character Billis’ (played by Jack Mehaffey) belly dance in the Navy/Marine unit’s Thanksgiving show. This was greatly enhanced by the make up work of Evelyn Volker.”
“The crowning glory was the exceptional vocal talents of all the principals and choruses accompanied by an orchestra numbering nearly 30.”
In 2007, in celebration of the 40 year anniversary of the musical’s production in Tarkio, the Tarkio High School Musical Theatre Department also presented “South Pacific.” The Mule Barn Theatre Guild sponsored a 40th reunion of the 1967 cast members.