Footlighters, part 6 – T. Bertram Genay, Tredyffrin Country Club, WWI

At the October 1932 business meeting of the Footlighters, T. Bertram Genay was re-elected to the presidency for the ‘32-’33 season. These were still the years of the depression. Nevertheless Wayne’s Little Theatre Group carried on with energy unabated. Ten one-act plays were given as well as two three act ones, notably “Children of the Moon”, with T. B. Beatty directing. This was one of the Footlighters’ most pretentious efforts to date. Christmas was marked by the presentation of “Maid of France”, followed by much whole-hearted carol singing on the part of the audience. In June came the fourth annual frolic “Happy Days,” when dinner was served at the Saturday Club, followed by skits and monologues.

At the annual meeting held in October, 1934, Herbert L. Badger was elected to succeed T. B. Genay as president. There were the usual quota of one act and of three act plays during that season. Milne’s well-known play “Michael and Mary” was given at the Saturday Club for four nights as a benefit for the Radnor High School Fund. Philip Barry’s “Holiday” presented in april was another noteworthy play. In June the fifth annual frolic, dinner followed by entertainment and dancing and “$1.50 for everything” was given with T. B. Genay as chairman.

In October, 1935, Mr. Badger was re-elected to the office of president. Dues were now three dollars a year and a big membership drive was under way with Mrs. Henry Ecroyd as chairman. As a result of the presentation of “Big Hearted Herbert” in the High School auditorium in February, a a check for $450 was presented to the Scholarship fund by the Footlighters. A “tragi-comedy” “Of Things Not Seen”, written by H. Morgan Ruth, was the April offering with W. N. Stilwell, Joan Hodson and Stuard Armour as the three central figures.

The sixth annual meeting held in October 1935 had the following “order of events”, snappy business meeting, conversation, refreshments, cards and dancing to a 7-piece orchestra. Mrs. Y. Parran Dawkins was elected president for the 1935-36 season. There were now 125 members interested in acting, 34 in directing, 40 in various forms of stage management and still others in publicity and membership, costumes and make-up. In January “The Monkey’s Paw” was broadcast over station WIP as the last in a series of amateur theatrical radio programs. Eventually the Footlighters were chosen as one of the three finalists in the contest, though they were not the final prize winners. The February play, “The Late Christopher Bean”, was the most pretentious offering of the season. Two original plays of Footlighter members closed the season “Mugs and Millions,” by John H. Hoag and “Make Mine Rare”, by Margaret Geis.

Wendell Warner succeeded Mrs. Dawkins in the presidency. The Neighborhood League benefited by about $500 from the January play “As Husbands GO”. April was noteworthy in Footlighter history with the presentation of three episodes from Victoria Regina”. It was at this time that the end of the fiscal year was changed from October to May. For the first time it became possible to plan in the summer for the winter program. More money was necessary, and again it became imperative to raise dues.

Thomas O. Haydock succeeded Mr. Warner as the president in a rather gala annual meeting held at St. Davids Golf Club in May, 1938. The new season opened with “Ghost Train” produced by Betty Powell and directed by Margaret Weinberg. In November, “The Nut Farm” was given as a benefit for the Neighborhood League. “Love From a Stranger”, a difficult play, not often attempted by amateurs was the March offering. “Accent on Youth” given in April, was a benefit for the Wayne Art Center.

Mr. Haydock succeeded himself as president in the May 1939 elections. The ‘39-’40 season opened with “The Patsy”, given for the Scholarship Fund, while “Dear Brutus”, given in February, benefited the Wayne Art Center, and “Holiday”, given in April, was for the Saturday Club. A demand for the once popular one act plays resulted in the presentation of three in March.

At the annual dinner, dance and bridge at the Tredyffrin Country Club held in May 1940, Horace B. Montgomery was named president. It was at this time that the Footlighters received “The Boulders”, a large residence on the corner of Conestoga and Audubon avenues as a gift from Mr. and Mrs. John A. Tillotson. An immediate campaign was launched to sell season tickets to augment Footlighter funds for the maintenance of this property, which the Little Theater group hoped to have as its future home. However, since the property was in a Class A residential district, there was considerable opposition to it as a site for a theater. Eventually it was sold, with the proceeds forming a nucleus for a building fund for the organization.

The 1940-’41 season saw the presentation of both one act and three act plays, notably “Outward Bound” and “Captain Applejack”. Mr. Montgomery succeeded himself in the presidency in May. November saw “the first Footlighter Benefit for the Footlighters” in the form of a large card party with Ida Belle Kistler in charge of the large committee working for its success.

December marked the beginning of World War II. Mr. Montgomery immediately announced that “all theatrical productions of the Wayne Footlighters during the remainder of the War will be held for the benefit of was relief and charity organizations”. Just as the Footlighers survived the depression, so it survived the War, in each instance helping to sustain the morale of its members and their friends. There were many difficulties to surmount, chief among them perhaps being the shortage of young men for roles in plays. But this, like every other obstacle was overcome, and the Footlighters “carried on”.