It was in 1933 that the famous Men’s Club Minstrels changed their name to the “Merriemen of Wayne”. After a twenty year career the Wayne Men’s Club had gone out of existence, but its greatest activity, the Minstrel Show, continued on its way. However, without its founds, the former name seemed rather pointless. Therefore the new one was adopted. Ben James, who had sought to resign as president of the organization for several years, was now succeeded by Harry C. Creutzburg, who held the office until 1938, when he was succeeded by T. Griffiths Roberts.
All this, however, was after the 1933 show which took place in the Anthony Wayne Theatre in a combination of minstrelsy and moving pictures. The early days of 1933, with the Bank Holiday, the change in administration and the beginnings of the New Deal made the Minstrel Men, like everyone else, autious in formulating plans that involved any outlay of money. Therefore, the arrangement with the Anthony Wayne Theatre, whereby there was an hour of songs and wise-cracks between the first and second showings of the picture. Expenses were thus held to a minimum.
Linn Seiler, of Haverford College, was again the musical director, working this time under the difficulties of unfamiliar surroundings and inadequate acoustics. A new end man in the person of Ernie Davidson made a most successful debut. The program included many solos, among them a rousing rendition of “Give Me a Roll on a Drum”, by Bill Dowdell.
His answer came when the Wayne Junior Drum and Bugle Corps marched in from the wings and gave the proper flourish to this stirring tune! Although lacking all the pretentiousness of early shows, this was still quite a creditable performance.
In 1934 the Merriemen really put on two shows, the first a Winter Concert given in January and the second a regular MInstrel Show presented in the Spring. At the concert, which was given in the Saturday Club, they were assisted by the brilliant pianist, Jean Blackstone, a baritone. Charles W. Mintzer was the conductor and Paul D. Teel the accompanist. The affair was a great artistic success which was perhaps of more importance than the fact that it was not a financial one.
Although the end of the depression was definitely in sight, economy was still the watchword in both the 1934 and 1935 shows. The Radnor High School band, being adequately uniformed and equipped, proceeds of the latter show went to the High School Scholarship Fund.
The performances of both years were limited to the traditional circle with an intermission in the middle. Mr. Seiler was succeeded by Charles Mintzer as a very able musical director who had already demonstrated his abilities with the Radnor High School Glee Club.
As Ben James was in the midst of a political campaign his place as interlocutor was taken by Joe Forrest, of the High School faculty. In fact, it is said that “the hit of the show came when the debonair Joe strolled out with the charming Betty Ott in “The Easter Parade”, to be met at the other side of the stage by the Harlem Paraders, Bob Morrison and Doc Standen!” Outstanding among the chorus numbers were such songs as “Duna”, “To Arms”, “The Buccaneers”, “Old Man Noah” and “The Battle of Jericho”.
In the 1935 show there were six end men, an unprecedented number. The four veterans of the year before, Bill Shuster, Doc Standen, Ted Park and Hal Reese were joined at this time by Bub Park and Theo Morris. Ben James was again the interlocutor. The Merriemen were now attracting many of the younger generation, some still in High School, others not long graduated. Ray Kruse was assisting Paul Teel at the pianos, while among the songsters were Scudder Boles, Bob Crane, Tommy Casper, Ralph Colflesh, Horace Fraim and Dick Newbold, Jr.
In the musical numbers the chorus had the assistance of the Delaware Country L. W. D. Orchestra, which opened the show with “Plantation Melodies” and closed it with “Semper Fidelis” as the exit march. In the intermission they played a number of Victor Herbert favorites.
Among the chorus numbers which met with especial applause were “Lassie of Mine’” “Gypsy Melody and “Song of Songs”, in which Addis Jacobs had the solo part. The latter also sang “Kashmir Song,” while Hal Reese did “Dancing with My Shadow,” “Six Gentlemen of Color”, with Bob Morrison as the “Ebony Lady”, sang “Strolling Thru the Park”. And to highlight the whole evening’s performances, Jules Prevost and Bub Park brought back “Fond Memories” with their “Bubble Dance”, which by now had become a local classic and which once again “Laid them in the aisles!”
Then 1936 brought to Radnor High School Auditorium another of the “Gorgeous Era” shows! One glance at the format of the program is enough to indicate that! In addition to elaborate programs there was new scenery and once again the traditional “after piece” with its many specialty numbers! An innovation came with the addition of ‘the ladies’ in a dance number, when a group from the Bala – Cynwyd Junior Woman’s Club put on “High Yaller from the Gay Nineties”, which made a great hit with those on both sides of the footlights! Charlie Smith of the HIgh School faculty was the new interlocutor and the old reliables, Doc Standen, Hal Reese and Bub Park were joined by a new end man, Al Whetstone. An instrumental sextet from the High School band consisting of Ray Kruse, “Bud” and “Hap” Howell, William Tobin, Arnold Morrow and Franklin Kelton played “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and Honeysuckle Rose”.
Among the chorus numbers were “Kentucky Babe”, “Cap’n Mae”. “Liza Lady” and “Little David, Play on Yo’ Harp”. Opening Part II of the program was Rhodes Stabley and the chorus in an arrangement of “Moon Over Miami”, as made by Paul Teel and Charley Mintzer, while the entire company closed the show with a grand “Finale” the words of which had been written by Joe Flagler and Jules Prevost!
(to be concluded