The Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels have not been heard from the stage of the Radnor High School Auditorium for this many a day. But so lusty was their singing, so amusing their skits, so illustrious the names of their members that the memory of their performances still lingers on and on.
Organized in 1918, the Minstrels were the result of an idea on the part of Charles C. Shoemaker, one of Wayne’s most public spirited men of all time, that the then newly organized Men’s Club should initiate a definite form of entertainment for the community, especially for the more youthful element. He immediately enlisted the aid of three friends, A. M. Ware and Jarvis Wood – (What pleasant memories these names stir in the minds of all old time Wayneites!)
Benjamin F. James was made the secretary and with the aid of Dr. Arthur J. Standen soon had a noteworthy organization under way as part of a proud plan of a lively community club as envisioned by Mr. Shoemaker. It was a Club that was great in its day in that it sponsored and promoted so many activities, especially those in connection with Wayne’s part in World War I, such as those inaugurated by the Home Guard, Company B, the Red Cross, the Community Chest and Liberty Drives. Public gatherings and celebrations originated with the Men’s Club. In its building were pool, billiards and bowling facilities. It sponsored the local baseball team. It looked to the interests of children and young people. And what is of particular interest at this Yule-tide season is the fact that the Club saw that the big spruce tree on the Louella Court grounds was always ablaze with lights at Christmas time.
So many activities and yet of all of them, the Wayne Men’s Minstrels were in existence longer than any others of the Men’s Club! The first performances were given on April 12 and April 17, 1918. “Ed” Hunt was musical director; George Allen was stage manager, while “Pete” Allen, his son, and “Bill” Shuster were end men opposite “Ken” Dickson and “Doc” Standen. “Ben” James was interlocutor. On the business side were “Grif” Roberts and “Bill” Hollaway as managers and “Charlie” Mather as property man. Among the performers were also William P. Cochran, A. M. Ehart, John M. Rogan, William Plimpton, F. P. Radcliffe, Williamson Tate and Dr. Charles J. Muttart, all of whom appeared in a sketch entitled “Lake Perhaps, a Tragedy in One Foolish Act”, which depicted the futile efforts of a group of Wayne citizens to use the Radnor High School field for ice skating!
Still others on the stage were Frank T. Adams, William Beatty, Jr., Arlington W. Canizares, William B. Dowdell, Robert G. Hunt, William Holloway, Charles T. Mather, Edward W> Maxwell, William H. McCutcheon, Ridgeway F. Moon, Frederick P. Ristine, E. B. Stanley and George H. Wilson, then superintendent of schools.
In the first part of the show William Beatty and “Chal” Jacob, supported by the minstrel circle, sang a number of well-known ballads. Between the first and second parts of the show the audience was entertained by five “bang-up stunts” – to use the printed words of the program. These were Bert Ehart and his banjo in “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”; Bill Shuster and Frank Adams in a “One-act Scream”, entitled “Embalming Ebenezer”. And last and perhaps most amusing of all these was a parody on the Sextette from “Lucia” by Messrs. Stanley, Beatty, Roberts, Hunt, Ehart and Stillwell.
The musical efforts of the Minstrel Show were supported by an orchestra composed of: Violins, Miss Anna Jackson, James Kromer and Luke Shearer; clarinet, Francis Adelberger; cornet, J. H. Ford; ‘cello, M. Newmyer; flute, Dr. R. P. Elmer; bass, N. Budd; piano, Miss Alice Wilson and drums, Norman Coudert.
So well were these two shows of April 1918 received that other performances were given in 1919 and 1920. Then there was a lapse until 1926, when the minstrel men got together again to resume their activities. The 1926 show and others that followed will be described in subsequent articles in this series.
(To be continued)
For her information in regard to the Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels the writer is indebted to B. F. James, Harry Creutzberg and Albert War for articles they wrote for the Suburban some years ago.