Footlighters, part 1 – T. Bayard Beatty

This week The Footlighters, Wayne’s own Little Theatre group, comes of age when they present “Jenny Kissed Me” in the opening of the twenty-first season of that organization. On February 18, 1930, “The Last of the Jones” was given as the initial performance of a newly formed dramatic group of which Mrs. Richard Howson was the president; W. N. Stilwell, secretary; Percy W. Clark, treasurer and T. Bayard Beatty, director. Minutes of that meeting state that “Mr. Clark, having by strenuous efforts caught up sufficiently with his work, announced that he had paid membership of 189, 26 not paid, and would have many more before the evening was over.” A perusal of that membership list shows that almost all were residents of Radnor Township. The 1948-49 membership totaled well over 500 with residents in almost every suburban community in the vicinity and even in Philadelphia itself!

Of the original small group who first met to discuss the possibility of a local Little Theatre, not one now remains on the membership list. Some have lost interest, some have moved from Wayne, while death has claimed others. Of the somewhat later and considerably larger working unit scarcely a half dozen have maintained continuous membership in the intervening years. (These include Mr. and Mrs. T. Bertram Genay, Mr. and Mrs. W. N. Stilwell and Mrs. T. Magill Patterson.) And yet the Footlighters have always had sufficient support to maintain an unbroken record of yearly plays, through times of prosperity and times of depression, through times of peace and times of war. Starting as a Saturday Club “study class” back in January, 1930, the organization, having long since severed its formal connection with the Club, now has promise of a play house of its very own in the not too distant future.

Few organizations of any kind have the wealth of past records that the Footlighters possess. The first “scrap book,” a heavy and cumbersome volume, starts with “A Foreword . . . in which the Footlighter historian attempts to trace the story of that organization from its beginning to the point at which newspaper clippings, pictures, programs and copies of the minutes of various meetings take up the story and carry it on.” That historian and her successors have filled scrap book after scrap book with play programs, pictures of many casts, yearly lists of members, and newspaper clippings until these books furnish an almost complete history of an amateur theatrical organization that has weathered many a storm through the twenty-one seasons of its existence.

“In tracing the idea of the Footlighters back to its beginning” so reads the Foreword, “its members may well feel that it originated with T. Bayard Beatty, whose interest in the Little Theatre Movement inspired the formation of this amateur dramatic organization of Wayne.

“Mr. Beatty became principal of Radnor High School in the Spring of 1925. Previous to that time he had been associated with Central High School in Pittsburgh, with Carnegie Institute of Technology in its Department of Dramatic Literature, and with Lebanon Valley College as head of the English Department. As a high school teacher, Mr. Beatty has some hundred and fifty dramatic productions to his credit. At Pittsburgh Central High School he put on the first play ever presented by a public school in that city. At Carnegie Tech he was associated with Thomas Wood Stevens, who is called “the father of pageantry in America,” with B. L. Payne, dramatic director for Frohman, and with William Poel, originator and founder of the Elizabethan Stage Society, in London.

“When Mr. Beatty came to Wayne, Mrs. Walter H. Dance was president of the Saturday Club. She knew of his interest in dramatics, and asked his help with some of the club plays. The handicap of having no men in these productions was discussed, and with it the possibility of some organization that should include both men and women.

“Nothing definite was done in regard to this, however, until February 8, 1929, when the Dramatic Section of the Club, under the leadership of its chairman, Mrs. Charles C. Rich, gave an exceedingly good presentation of that amusing comedy of Pennsylvania Dutch life “Erstwhile Susan.” Mr. Beatty had helped in the coaching of the play, and on the evening on which it was given he made a short between – the – acts speech setting forth his ideas in regard to a Little Theater in Wayne. He asked that all those present who were interested in an organization of this kind, sign slips indicating in what phases of the work he or she might like to engage, such as acting, making of scenery and costumes; advertising, publicity, etc. Later on, through the efforts of Mrs. Louis L. Calvert, an appeal was made to the members of the Junior Section of the Club. In all there were about one hundred names presented.

“When Mr. Beatty spoke at the performance of “Erstwhile Susan,” he planned to have a meeting two weeks later to form committees, and to select a play which should be given toward the end of March. However, it was sometime in the Spring before this meeting was held and the minutes of it (if any were taken, of which there seems some doubt), have apparently been lost. It took place at the home Mr. and Mrs. Henry Roever, and there were present, if Mr. Beatty recalls correctly: Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Rich, Mr. and Mrs. Willis T. Spivey, Mr. and Ms. Percy W. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence H. Rolf, Mr. and Mrs. M. Howard Tilghman, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Henry Roever and Mr. and Mrs. T. Bayard Beatty.

“At this meeting Mr. Beatty was elected chairman, and a tentative committee was to have been appointed to discuss ways and means.

“And from then until January, 1930, for one reason of another, things were at a standstill with the proposed Little Theatre movement. At that time Mrs. Roever was president of the Saturday Club, and Mrs. Richard Howson was chairman of the Dramatic Section. After conferences with Mrs. Roever and with members of her committee, Mrs. Howson decided to call a meeting for Tuesday evening, January 7, at the Club house, to discuss the formation of some sort of a dramatic organization which should include both men and women in its membership.”

(To be continued)

Note: The first Footlighter season was a short one, beginning in January, 1930, and ending that spring. The second season began in the fall of 1930. This current season is, therefore, the twenty-first.

Early Main Line train commuter anecdotes – George Schultz

From time to time the author of this column receives, either by letter or by work of mouth, some interesting bit of history about Wayne and its residents of a by-gone generation. This type of contribution to the column is always welcome, aud will always be used as the proper opportunity presents itself. This week’s column is, for the most part, founded on “Anecdotes of an Old Commuter”, as given the writer by George Schultz, of Reading.

His commuting was done, of course, on our well-known Main Line, on that section now covered by the famous Paoli Local. From another source the writer learns that “the new Main Line, which later became the route of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was opened for traffic October 14, 1850.” Nearly on hundred years ago! According to Mr. Schultz, the suburbs of the Main Line began to develop importance around 1880. He writes “probably the beginning of the subsequent exodus of well-to-do families of Philadelphia was due to liberal immigration. The country was rapidly expanding and prosperity – of industry – created a demand for manual labor. So about this time, many Greeks arrived to open small restaurants, and there was a large influx of Negroes from the South who filled the lower city wards. Many Irish arrived, who became members of the police force, firemen, etc.”

And so it was that “the fashionable people South of Market Street and around Rittenhouse Square, finding their seclusion, peace and quiet invaded, gradually adopted the plan of closing their city houses all summer and betook themselves to the country with their horses and carriages.” Later on these same families in many instances sold their city homes and became all-year-round residents of the Main Line. The men of the family thus became daily commuters, since greatly improved Main Line service enabled them to reach their offices in short order. Most of the offices of that period were “down town”, that is, near the river front.

Mr. Schultz writes that Alexander Cassatt and other Pennsylvania Railroad officials were responsible for planning the attractive appearance of the Main Line stations, which were cottage-like structures surrounded by grass lawns and flower beds. Here the agents, who were ticket sellers and telegraph operators, lived with their families.

The names of the villages and stations were changed as the building of country houses increased in the Main Line section. Ardmore was originally known as “Athensvillie”; Radnor was “Morgan’s Corners”; St. Davids was “Fisher’s Hill”; Bryn Mawr was “Whitehall” (from an old plastered station house) and Devon was “Reeseville”. Old Lancaster Pike toll road, which was about parallel to the railroad, was a popular dive with old inns providing stopping places for rest and refreshment. Among these inns were the Red Lion at Ardmore and the Sorrel Horse at Radnor.

Two anecdotes of the commuters of the period are related by Mr. Schultz, who writes: “Occasionally the daily Main Line commuters would encounter or even participate in some amusing happenings on the train. One dark winter evening the gas light of a car gave out and the conductor came in and lit candles which were encased in bronze fixtures, fastened to the sides of the car. Francis Fenimore, of St. Davids, was sitting with John Galloway, of Bryn Mawr, (descendent of the Galloway who owned Durham Iron Furnace in Revolutionary days). Fenimore remarked that the candle was so short it would soon burn down, but Galloway proceeded to explain that it was pushed up by a spring in the lower cylinder. He got up from his seat and unscrewed it, saying: “See? It works like this.” As he turned a ferrule the candle shot out of its place and his squarely on the nose of a gentleman facing them in the far seat of the car! “Who threw that – who hit me?”, he angrily asked. Mr. Fenimore had a hard time preventing a fight. Imagine anything like that today disturbing the Main Line Local!

“On another occasion in summer, a prominent gentleman from Haverford, after carefully placing a paper bag in the rack over heard, seated himself beside his dignified elderly friend. As the train stopped at their destination, he reached for the bag, accidentally punching the bottom of it. The result was that both gentlemen were cascaded by a quart of two of huckleberries on their spotless Panama hats! Efforts to stop the flow only increased it, until finally the owner of the bag dashed it to the floor as he and his friend hurriedly left the train ‘midst the smiles and laughter of those who saw the fun.”

Wayne Estate era Churches – Presbyterian, St. Mary’s Memorial Church

At a later date the writer of this column wants to devote an entire week’s space to each of the churches in the Township, giving in some detail their history and development. For the moment, however, it is interesting to note just what churches were here at the time when the Wayne Estate houses were built, giving their history up to about 1890. For this information the column is mostly indebted to the two Wayne Estate booklets from which so much of its material for this period has been drawn.

One of these booklets states, “Protestant, Episcopal, Baptist and Presbyterian churches in the town and Roman Catholic churches at Villanova and Berwyn, not far off”. Although the oldest church now standing in Wayne is the Presbyterian on Lancaster avenue, the Baptists had had a meeting house at the corner of Wayne avenue and Conestoga road since 1841. The present building as we now see it, although in disuse as a church for some years past, was erected upon the site of the old building in 1889.. The pastor, the Rev. John Miller, was called to the church January 7, 1889, and entered upon the work “the first Sabbath in March of the same year”.

These services must have been held elsewhere for a few months as the church which is described as a “neat and attractive structure” was not opened for service until the 3rd of January, 1890. Most interesting of all is the fact that it was dedicated, free of debt, November 30, 1892, the 50th anniversary of the church under charter.

The original Presbyterian Church, of which the cornerstone was laid May 12, 1870, by the Rev. John Chambers of Philadelphia, stands to the right of the present building, and is known as “the Chapel”. This church building, without encumbrance and with a small endowment was presented to the Presbyterian congregation by J. Henry Askin as a memorial to his father and mother. At this juncture it is interesting to quote from the recent brochure issued by the church in connection with its building fund.

“Right from the beginning, those Charter members of the Wayne Presbyterian Church saw clearly the broad scope of their responsibility. In the building of this new community it would not be enough simply to maintain services of public worship. There would be need to be a teaching ministry for the children and youth and a friendly outreach to foster community fellowship.

“It was on June 12, 1870, that the Sunday School was first connected. From that humble beginning, with only five children, the Wayne Presbyterian Sunday School grew rapidly. As early as 1889, its enrollment of 87 (a figure substantially larger than the Church membership of that year) necessitated the building of a chapel to accommodate the steadily increasing Sunday School.”

By 1890 “the parallel growth of the Congregation and Sunday School required the making of — plans for the development of new facilities”. On May 12, 1892, the corner-stone of the new church was laid, “a stately and costly structure of the early English Gothic style of architecture,” to quote again from the Wayne Estate booklet, which also describes the location as “desirably situated on Lancaster avenue, and its center position makes it easy of access from all parts of the village.” This building is the Presbyterian Church as we now know it except for the Church School building, which was added to it in 1922.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, according to the pictures in the real estate brochure, looked in the early nineties just as it does today, even to the H. L. Badger house directly to the South of it, and with the stone pillars of Dr. Elmer’s driveway just showing across the street. The church is described as “beautifully situated at the corner of Audubon and Runnymede avenues – the dates of the principal events in its history may serve as illustrating the growth of Wayne itself. The first service was held in April, 1890, The corner-stone of the church was laid in September, 1890, and the edifice was dedicated June 28, 1891. On the first anniversary of dedication, June, 1892, the new and beautiful pipe organ was dedicated.”

Interior and exterior pictures of St. Mary’s Memorial Church built in 1889-90 “on a lot of ground at the intersection of Lancaster and Louella avenues, presented by the Wayne Estate” show the church little changed in the sixty years that have passed. “The total length of the building, exclusive of the porch”, so reads the description, “is 113 feet, and its width across the trancept is 82 feet. In style it is an English Village Church, with a massive tower at the corner of the north trancept, rising to the height of about 80 feet, and containing an exceptionally fine chime of ten bells, varying in weight from 230 to 2100 pounds. The material of the Church is Avondale stone with cut work of Indiana limestone. The nave occupies the entire length of the building, the roof being supported by heavy Gothic braces. The base of the Tower forms a spacious Baptistry, floored with mosaic, and there are clergy and choir vestries on the South of the chancel. The chancel itself has a depth of 33 feet, and is separated from the nave by a richly carved oaken Rood-screen.”

Opened for service on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1890, the building is a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Conrad of Philadelphia. Its memorial character has been “accentuated by various gifts, such as windows, brass work, paintings, etc., in memory of others. A parish house, connected with the church by a porte-cochere and corridor, is 56 by 54 feet, and contains Sunday and Infant School rooms, class rooms, a library, kitchen, etc.”

The entire group of buildings, including the Rector’s house, stood originally on an undivided lot of nearly four acres. The Township Building was the original Rector’s house, the present Rectory having been built at a later date.

Victorian advertising descriptions of Wayne – “Souvenir Booklet”

We are more than glad to welcome back the writer of this column, Emma C. Patterson, after a serious illness. Mrs. Patterson will continue her review of Wayne and Radnor Township’s past, gleanings which have revived and refreshed memories and have given to newer residents a glimpse into local history.

Previous articles in this series have described in detail the exterior appearance of the Wayne Estate houses as well as their architectural plans. The “souvenir booklet” which has given me much of my information has a few pictures of furnished rooms which are typical of those of some sixty years ago. Styles in furnishings change from period to period, but fortunately for the household budget, these changes are not so frequent as in clothes. Nevertheless, they occur. What to us of the middle of the twentieth century seems an ornate, over-crowded room was a satisfying one to the housewife of the last half of the nineteenth century. It was one she had planned and in a general way it was like her neighbors. It belonged to that period.

A combination bookcase and desk in one picture is heavy and carved in much detail. Chairs vary from the very fragile slender legged type to an overstuffed nail studded leather chair. There is even one platform rocker. Tables of various sizes occupy much space, most of them with lace trimmed covers reaching almost to the floor. Though the main lighting is from center-of-the-room electric chandeliers, there is also an oil lamp in the center of most of these tables. Portieres are heavy and fringed, pictures in ornate frames cover much of the wall space. One fireplace has a spinning wheel as its chief ornament. Every mantle and table has its knick-knacks in profuse abundance, even an open fan held upright in small stand in one instance.

And yet as one looks at these rooms of a by-gone era one feels the truth of a quotation in the booklet, “our dwellings to be pleasant to us must not only express creature comforts, but be a part of our lives – the better part. Home to be home should have comfort throughout and individuality in detail.”

Another quotation, this time from Cowper, gives a very cheery picture of what these interiors might mean, “Now stir the fire and close the shutters fast, let fall the curtains, whirl the sofa round, and, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn throws up a steamy column, and the cups that cheer, but not inebriate, wait on each, so let us welcome peaceful evening in.”

The booklet closes with the following paragraph written especially for it by Whittier Wendell, of Philadelphia, a cousin of Mrs. Margaret Wendell Hess, of Wayne, and the late Herman Wendell. It was written for the booklet at the especial request of Mr. Wendell:

“Wayne is a picturesque little town, nestled amid ideal hills, each one of which is an historic mile-stone to patriotic Americans, where the home-life is felt, seen and enjoyed in actuality. It seems hardly creditable that a half-hour’s ride from Broad Street will suffice to place us in the midst of so refreshing a contrast as it presents to city life. As the evening hours bring home the business men, the sombre walks become gay with moving bits of color; solitary pedestrians are quickly attached to merry groups; lingering partings take place at the hedge-bordered gate-ways, and childish trebles mingle harmoniously with the soft hour, while on every face is that unmistakable writing, ‘Home again.’ And such homes! To enter them has been my privilege, but to faithfully describe the ingenious combination of art and practicality therein, is beyond me.

“A prosy enumeration of the hundred and one things dear to housewifely eyes were possible, ‘tis true; I might tell of pantries, ample closets in unlooked-for spots, cunningly devised dust excluders, artistic windows, perfect blending in paper, tiles and plaster, unique surprises everywhere, but then the half is left untold, for the genie of the home is absent. It will not answer this enumerative call; one must approach more subtly, would be feel the blessing it sheds so markedly over Wayne’s dwellings. Whenever I think of this most delightful Philadelphia suburb, I feel Payne’s song piping to my pen, and it must dance.

“It was Confucius who said, ‘If I am building a mountain and stop before the last basketful is placed upon the summit, I have failed in my work; but if I have placed one basketful on the plain and go on, I am really building a mountain.’ The significance of this expression comes to me every time I set foot in Wayne, there is such an air of thoughtful determination to establish amid the natural surroundings so munificently provided, a Lilliputian city of Homes, worthy of the name. The water that the Wayneites drink is right from the hills, the air they breathe redolent and invigorating with mountain odors, and the recreation they enjoy innocent, healthful, and in touch with the times. Everything that the forethought and inspiration of artistic craftsmen can design is there, and the happy, healthful moral tone of the citizens shows with what appreciation the work is received.”