Emma C. Patterson wrote "Your Town and My Town" for the Suburban & Wayne Times from 1949 to 1958. It was written during a time when Wayne's founders were still around to reminisce about the area's development. The articles are a wealth of information, with many names and places referenced.

The same way historic photographs of Radnor can tell us a great deal about their subjects, Ms. Patterson's writing draws a vivid picture of Radnor's history as seen from the lens of the mid-20th Century. At that point venerable institutions that no longer function were still alive in full swing, longtime residents who could remember back to Wayne's agrarian past could still share their memories, and there was enough community interest that the Suburban was willing to print such extensive and descriptive columns week after week for nearly a decade.

Locked in fading newsprint, tucked away inside crumbling scrapbooks for fifty years, each article by Emma C. Patterson is reproduced here in full, in an easy to navigate searchable blog format.

Browse an index of all articles

Vintage train fares, S. Wayne houses

The Wayne Estate booklets from which the writer of this column has been quoting so freely, abound in glowing descriptions of this entire neighborhood in which these houses were being located in the late eighties and early nineties.

George W. Childs and the firm of Wendell and Smith were obviously proud of what they were doing. “The handsomest suburb, perhaps, in the country is Wayne,” they announce in what might be termed a rather sweeping statement since “this country” obviously means the entire United States. The description continues by stating that Wayne is “on the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a pleasant twenty-five-minute ride from Broad Street Station, through a district of unexceptional rural beauty, and reached by sixty-four daily trains at convenient hours (Time Table in back of book).” The territory of this charming town embraces an area of about six hundred acres of plateau (four hundred feet above the level of Philadelphia) environed by woodlands; its population, 1500. Wayne is a town far superior to the usual unestablished places in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It has every general improvement in perfect working order.”

The train schedule in the back of the book shows the following fares to Philadelphia. Two-day excursion ticket was seventy-three cents, while a monthly ticket was $7.05 and a monthly school ticket was $4.70. Fifty-trip book for family use was $14.70 and a three months ticket was $19.00, which figured out to ten and a quarter cents per ride. An interesting note was attached to the schedule indicating that “Market baskets, bicycles and baby coaches are entitled to free transportation!”

The writer, note-book in hand, took a leisurely walk through St. Davids recently, in an effort to identify one or two houses of each of the types not already described in last week’s column. A phrase from one of the booklets came into her mind immediately since its truth was so evident. “There is no crowding; we have left a vacant lot between each house, and sell it on easy terms, should more ground be needed.” Some of the early owners evidently took advantage of this opportunity to enlarge their real estate holdings. But in many instances “this vacant lot between each house” is now occupied by a house of a later date to break the sometimes monotonous effect of block after block of Wayne Estate architecture. The 200 block of Windermere avenue on the south side is solid with these houses. They abound also in the 300 and 400 blocks of Midland avenue as they do along the same section of Lancaster pike, especially on the South side.

Houses like those at 210 and again at 226 Windermere avenue were very popular apparently. They were priced at $8,250 “and upwards” and had “a very picturesque exterior. Large porch across the front of the house. First floor – vestibule, spacious hallway, dining room, reception room, library with open grate, mantel and tile work, pantry, kitchen, out-kitchen and back staircase. Hall and stairways connected by archways for curtains. Second floor – Five chambers of good size, three of them across the front, en suite. Bath room and nine closets. Third floor – two servants rooms, a large hall and store room. Special features, open grate in lower hall, dining room, removed from kitchen odors, library has a private entrance to front staircase.”

All of the houses built in South Wayne and St. Davids at this particular time were of about the same size, particularly in the matter of the “five chambers” on the second floor. More of them will be described in next week’s column.

Period Descriptions of S. Wayne houses

The next South Wayne and St. Davids house to be described in the real estate pamphlet is of the type best known to the writer of all of those listed, since she lived with her family in one of them for more than twenty years. This was at 431 Midland avenue, St. Davids. these houses had, according to our real estate scribe “a design of very substantial and roomy interior. Cut stone gable on he front, in which a stone archway forms the entrance, has a slate roof” (By the time of our residing in the Midland avenue house these slates had become very loose, and fell of at most inopportune moments, mostly during a rain storm!)

The first floor had “a large reception room and library, with open fireplace, same built of stone. Wide hallway to the stairs, dining room with corner cupboards for china; pantry, kitchen and out kitchen, rear stairs and a porch at the back door.” The usual “five spacious chambers” were on the second floor. Three of them communicated. All were well lighted and every one opening to the hallway. Bathroom and closets on this floor, while on the third floor were “two large bedrooms, two closets and a store room.” This house sold for $9,000 “and upwards.”

Large as some of these houses were, not one boasted more than one bathroom! A modern house of similar size has three or four with a powder room to boot! Sixty years ago powder rooms were an unknown quantity.

Houses such as those at 206 Windermere avenue and at 317 Midland avenue were of “a very old and tasty bit of rural architecture. Quite roomy and comfortable. A wide porch at the front entrance extending along the side of the house. Special features are stairs in a turret, open grates in library and parlor and the general compactness.” And while it had but the usual one bathroom this is especially described as “large.” The price on this home was $8,500 “and upwards.”

The next home on the list is exteriorly so like the one described in last week’s column that it is probably often considered the same by the casual observer. One of these is at 214 Windermere avenue, but it is but one of many! It sold originally for $8,000 “and upwards.” The description is very brief “This is an improvement on the ‘Round End’ house shown on page 9. made larger in some ways, and with a different class of finish, this plan seems to have met a need, and gained popularity with those requiring a spacious house in the country. This house recommends itself,” and the author of the booklet let it go at that!

Still another style of architecture is exemplified by such houses as the one at 401 Midland avenue. Again this id by one example of many from which the writer had to choose. Selling at “$8,000” and the usual “and upwards,” this plan “is a unique model of cosiness. The rooms are fair sized an well arranged for light and comfort. A shady porch all along one side with a return to the front entrance. Interior, about the same number of rooms as the other plans of this classification. This house will suit any ordinary family.”

And then comes an illustration of a house which is seen as frequently as any house in the vicinity and more frequently than many. Examples of this are 420 Midland avenue and 314 Midland avenue. For some reason it sold for only $7,000 though with the usual qualifying phrase “and upwards.” “This class of house,” reads our description, “is an improvement over the ‘Pillar Houses’ built last season. The parlor has been enlarged, and some 15 houses just like it have been sold, and those who live in them are highly pleased with their investments. In one St. Davids area a house of this plan sold before finished.”

If by chance any Wayne Estate owner has not yet found his house described as yet in this column, the answer may possibly be found in next week’s issue.

Unbuilt St. Davids house, S. Wayne homes – John H. Watt, Saturday Club

The end of the booklet lent me by Miss Beatrice Tees upon which the last several articles have been based shows “Our Latest Plan.” Familiar as is the writer with Wayne and St. Davids houses, she cannot cite for her readers an example of this type of home. Perhaps one like it was never built for the description states “No price can be named for this handsome house until the ground it will occupy is first known. This is one of several special plans which we will build to order at a reasonable price, on any selected ground of one tract. We invite an interview with those needing homes of this high class order.”

So if anyone among our readers has failed to identify his home among those especially described, it may be built from “one of these special plans.”

“After “five years of intelligent and systematic development” of Wayne’s home building, a booklet of another type was printed illustrating the changes and improvements that had been made.

There was one “before and after” picture; several interior views; pictures of the homes of several of Wayne’s leading citizens and pictures of its churches, its school and of its bank. That was the original small Wayne Title and Trust Company building, as many of us still remember it before the present larger building took its place on the same site. There was also a picture of the Wayne Country Club during a cricket match between its team and the Belmont Summer Eleven.

Among the homes of prominent citizens was the residence of John H. Watt, father of Louis Watt, who was for many years president of the Wayne Title and Trust Company. This is the house at the southeast corner of Louella avenue and Upland way, purchased about thirty years ago by John H. Stone and still occupied by members of his family.

The picture shows that there have ben few, if any, changes in the exterior of the large stone and shingle house since it was originally built. A neighboring home, demolished about twelve years ago, is also illustrated. It was the spacious house of Frederick H. Treat at the northeast corner of Louella avenue and Upland way, directly across from the original Watt home. The vacant lot now used by a group of badminton players who have their own fireplace and picnic tables has been purchased by the Christian Science Church, now having headquarters at the Saturday Club. In the not too distant future they will erect their own church building on the old Treat property.

Pictures of two neighboring houses in St. Davids are also shown, one being that of C. S. Walton, on St. Davids road, just where it is joined by Midland avenue. With scarcely any exterior changes it is now the home of the son of the original owner, Charles S. Walton, Jr., who with his family has lived there for a number of years. Directly across the street from the Walton home was the equally impressive residence set in spacious grounds and owned by John W. Yeatts. The years have brought some changes both in the exterior and the interior of this house, which is now owned by Dr. Louis Edward Silcox.

Still another house pictured in this booklet was the residence of State Treasurer John W. Morrison, located at the corner of Chestnut land and Eagle road.

It was one of the houses of the “New Tower” type and is described as having a “southern exposure sheltered on the north and east by the woods, open to the southwest slope, as a house should be.”

(To Be Continued)

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

Footlighters, part 2 – Women included in membership

As we recounted last week, the presentation of “Erstwhile Susan” by the Dramatic section of the Saturday Club on February 8, 1929, had much to do with the formation of the Footlighters. For one thing, the cast of that play included a number of men, and since the Club boasted none in its membership, these parts had to be taken by women. And so there was much discussion on the formation of some sort of a dramatic organization which should include both men and women in its membership.

Whether this discussion went on for almost an entire year is not recorded. But it was that long before any steps were taken to form such an organization. On January 6, 1930, Mrs. Richard Howson, then drama chairman of the Club, presided at an evening meeting at which Mrs. Willis T. Spivey was appointed temporary secretary The main discussion seemed to hinge on whether the contemplated dramatic group should be, or should not be, a “Club Study Class.” There were great monetary advantages to the former since a “Study Class” would not have to pay rentals for rehearsals and performances, though it should be self-supporting.

As this writer well remembers, there was considerable reluctance on the part of some of the men to affiliate themselves so closely with an organization as distinctly a women’s group as was the Saturday Club. However, W. N. Stilwell finally meade a motion “that the Little Theater Group be started under the auspices of the Saturday Club as a club class with nominal fees to come within the by-laws.” Percy W. Clark’s motion that “finances be started by initiation fee of one dollar” was carried, whereupon all those present joined the new organization.

T. Bayard Beatty refused the presidency on the grounds that this office would handicap him in his capacity as play director. Mrs. Howson was then unanimously elected to the office with Mr. Stilwell as secretary and Mr. Clark as treasurer. A committee on organization plans included Mrs. Y. P. Dawkins, Walter A. Halkett and Mrs. Willis T. Spivey, in addition to Mr. Stilwell and Mr. Clark. Dr. J. Arthur Standen was named as chairman of the publicity committee.

And from that time on Footlighter affairs moved rapidly with a meeting on January 14 at which by-laws were adopted after “animated discussion concerning certain provisions” and an open meeting on February 18, which began with a business session and ended with the first play given by the Footlighters, “The Last of the Joneses.” Directed by Walter Halkett, the play had in its cast Dewitt C. Clement, a librarian; Mrs. C. H. Rolf, his assistant; Miss Cornelia Wright, a young lady in trouble and Mrs. F. W. Conner as Mrs. Abbott “from the West.”

The SUBURBAN of February 21 gave the following write-up, “Dewitt C. Clement gave a most realistic portrayal of a young geneologist, shyly and absent-mindedly going through his first, and it is supposed, his last love affair, with the charming little lady in distress, Miss Neal Wright. The latter won the sympathy of the audience, as well as their admiration for the clever way she handled her part. Mrs. C. H. Rolf, in some mysterious fashion, added 20 years to her age and at least 40 to her looks, and gave an excellent character study of an old-maid secretary. Frs. F. W. Conner, a newcomer to St. davids, pleased everyone by her presentation of a Western relation trying to get a fortune, and be conscientous about it at the same time – a hard thing to do.

“We should like to make special mention here of the scenery which received a large hand all on its own merit. As a result, Howard Tilghman, who was responsible for it, has been elected chairman of properties for life, as far as the Footlighters are concerned. – – – The evening ended in an informal reception, and all enjoyed the coffee and cakes, served by Mrs. Post and her committee. Everyone is now looking forward to the next meeting in March”.

At this March meeting two one-act plays were presented, “The Little Stone House” and “A Matter of Husbands”. The old record book even has pictures of these two casts! They included Miss Ruth Wetzel, Miss Cora Roever, Jules Prevost, Harold Dwight, W. N. Stilwell, Arthur Edrop and Francis Smaltz for the first play, with its Russian setting for which T. Bayard Beatty, Jr., had made “a most exquisite ikon, copied from a Russian original”.

Mr. and Mrs. Makarov with their knowledge of Russia had also helped to make the details of the peasant home true and accurate. (Mrs. Makarov was director of the Neighborhood League at that time). This rather tragic story of a little old peasant woman, a part most sympathetically taken by Ruth Wetzel, was directed by Mr. Beatty. It was followed by “A Matter of Husbands”, a play consisting of a dialogue between Mary Soleliac as a famous actress and Madeline Hale as an earnest young woman.

April brought “The Drums of Oude”, this time on two different nights. A suggestion given in advance through the columns of the SUBURBAN was that “to avoid overcrowding on either night . . . those whose names begin with A through L come the first night . . . and those from M to Z, the second night!” At the moment the writer does not remember whether this solved the problem or not.

In the cast were Charles C. Smith, Eugene Williams, Arthur Edrop, T. Bayard Beatty, Jr., Barry E. Thompson, William Welsh, Jr., and Mrs. W. Roberts Cameron. As the action of the play took place in 1857 in the store room of an ancient palace in Northern India, both staging and costuming must have presented its difficulties! A program note states that “we are indebted to Captain Edgar C. Kirsopp, M. C., late of the 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch), and alter Staff Officer, for advice as to correct military usage; and to Mr. Frank MacIlhair, secretary of the Caledonian Pipe Band of Philadelphia, for the use of several of the uniforms.

Footlighters, part 3 – historian of the club

Once the organization had been launched, Footlighter enthusiasm seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. The first play was given in February, 1930. By May ther were so many eager aspirants for stage parts that two casts were chosen for that month’s play. The SUBURBAN describes the organition growth as “Mushroom-like” in a long article concerning “Ice Bound,” a play that was “so subtle a comedy that in it pathos almost outstrips humor.” The stage setting as arranged by M. Howard Tilghman, Jr., was a fore-runner of some of the excellent ones that have followed in these twenty years past. “The ugly interior of the plain New England parlor was emphasized by the stiff little horse-hair settee, the red table cover, and the wall mottoes” according to the SUBURBAN article which continues “Only the little rush bottomed chairs suggested something of beauty, and even they were not made for comfort. In contrast to the ugliness of the room was the beauty of a bit of winter landscape outside the windows, the little pine tree powdered with snow shining in the cold winter sunshine of a Maine day.

“Friday night’s cast included T. Bertram Genay, Elisabeth B. McCord, Dorothea Waples, Susan B. Dawkins, Parran Dawkins, Jr., Edith Macartney Edrop, Arthur Edrop, Laurene Rolf, Howard T. Leland, Henry V. Andrews, Mary Knon Genay and Percy W. Clark. Saturday night’s cast had in it W. N. Stilwell, Cora E. Roever, Olive Badger Stacy, Louise Post, Merrill H. Tilghman, III, Margaret Duncan Clark, Arthur Edrop, Marion Keator, Harold Dwight, Dewitt C. Clement, Mary Knon Genay and Percy W. Clark. Both casts were directed by T. Bayard Beatty, assisted by Howard T. Leland.”

Up to this time play programs had been merely mimeographed sheets. Those for “Ice Bound” were printed ones designed by Arthur Edrop, using for the first time the “Footlighters’ lady,” created by him and used in various ways since then. Colorful posters made by several artistic members of the organization adorned the town and added to the “lively press-agenting” done by Betty Dawkins. Two large and appreciative audiences witnessed the plays that ended the formal program for the first season of the Footlighters.

But then plays were not all that cconstituted this first season. For “in recognition of the invaluable services of T. Bayard Beatty, the members of The Footlighters who have been active during the season just passed are giving a dinner dance in his honour on Saturday evening, June 14, at seven by the clock at the Tredyffrin Country Club in Paoli,” according to the announcements sent out to every member of the Footlighters who had done any work during the season. About 600 people attended this party, forerunner of those that have followed the conclusion of almost every Footlighter season since then. Guests were led into the dining room to “a merry tune played on the bagpipes and drums by two brave Highland laddies, Francis Smaltz and T. Bayard Beatty, Jr.” Place cards, which also served as programs, were written and designed by Arthur Edrop, assisted by Barry Thompson. Decorated with a little group of hand painted figures representing different characters in the plays of the first season, these programs are still the most pretentious things of that kind that have ever been done by the Footlighters.

Howard Leland as master of ceremonies took over the party at the conclusion of the dinner and announced the five plays that were to be given on an impromptu stage. All were burlesques of the Footlighter productions to date. “The Last of the Joneses” became “Mrs. Jones at Last,” while “The Tomb House Blues” was developed from “The Little Stone House.” “A Matter of Husbands” was changed into a farce entitled, “Hand Over the Wife” and the “Drums of Oude” became “Some Thrums for Freud.” Last but not least “Ice Bound” was changed into a burlesque entitled, “How She Met the Ice-Man.” Dancing concluded an evening that for originality and amusement has never been surpassed by any other Footlighter party.

In October, the second season started with two one-act plays “Trifles” and “The Third Angle.” Regular dues were fixed at two dollars. Members were urged to fill out “activity cards” indicating in what branch of work each wished to participate. At an annual meeting held the week after the opening plays the treasurer presented his report of the year, showing a membership of 315 and a goodly balance in the bank. All officers were re-elected for their second term, Mrs. Howson for president, Mr. Stilwell for secretary and Mr. Clark for treasurer. Reports of all standing committees were given, showing great activity on the part of each. A new office was created, that of historian, in connnection with which “The president announced that the Executive Committee, in order to preserve for posterity, a record of the acts and acting, brilliancies and banalities, casts and castings, deeds and derelictions, errors and excellences, fame of Footlighters (and so on to the end of the alphabet) of the organization had appointed as Historian, and called upon Mrs. T. Magill Patterson to tell what she had done.

Mrs. Patterson, emulating the most noteworthy statesman at election times, proceeded with an interesting account of what she would do. Indeed the prospect was so inviting that upon motion duly made and seconded, by-laws were amended to read, “The Records and History Committee shall have charge of keeping and preserving full and complete records of the activities of the Footlighters”. (And well does that first historian remember to this day and with this writing the difficulties of collecting programs, newspaper clippings, activities cards and other early records of that first season when the second season was already upon her!)

Footlighters, part 4

When we consider from what a small group the Wayne Footlighers started it seems almost impossible to believe that by the end of the short first season membership should number 315! The opening play of the second season was “It Won’t Be Long Now”, given on Tuesday, November 18, and Wednesday, November 19, 1930 at the Saturday Club. Directed by T. Bayard Beatty, it had a cast of sixteen, including DeWitt C. Clement, Alan M. Fishburn, William M. Crook, Howard T. Leland, Laurene Rolf, Harold Dwight, Ruth Wetzel Cady, T. Bertram Genay, Jane E. Gray, Mary Obdyke, Edith McCartney Edrop, Arthur Edrop, Carey P. Williams, Barry E. Thompson, Charles C. Smith and Bayard Beatty, Jr.,

The fame of this rapidly growing organization was spreading. There was much publicity in connection with this play, not only in The Suburban, but in many neighboring weeklies as well as in the Philadelphia newspapers, inlucing three well-known ones that have since vanished from the scene, namely the “Public Ledger”, and the “Philadelphia Record”. Pictures of the large cast appeared not only in The Suburban, but in a number of other suburban newspapers. There were also special feature articles in several publications.

The December play, “The Vanishing Princess” featured Mary Whetstone, the former Mary Bay, who had had eight years on the professional stage. Given on two nights, this Christmas play had additional attractions in the way of a “Musical divertissement” in which Mrs William McKeever was the violinist; Mrs. Rowland Paull McKinley, the cellist, and Mrs. E. Bisbee Warner, the pianist. On Tuesday evening Franklin Forsht gave the soliloquy from “Hamlet” and on Wednesday evening Margaret Duncan Clark presented a monologue in French-Canadian dialect. This play was directed by Jean Stineman. February one act plays were “Columbine”, produced by Margaret Duncan Clark and “Suppressed Desires” under the direction of Mary Knorr Genay.

But the real efforts of the Footlighters for February went into the production of a large benefit for the Neighborhood League when “The First Year” was given in the high school auditorium on two successive nights. In the letter that went out to almost everyone in the Community, the Wayne Chamber of Commerce, who sponsored the benefit, explained that “the unemplyment situation in the Wayne area is such that special efforts must be made this winter to care for those who are in need because of it. . . for the purpose of raising money to be dusbursed by the Neighborhood League to those who are suffering because of lack of employment, the Foodlighters will donate the proceeds of their February performance to the Fund for relief of the unemployed”.

The tremendous urgency of the situation is dramatically disclosed in some of the “Suburban” publicity. “Wayne has no bread line. But in this community doctors are reporting cases of illness in self respecting families due to actual lack of food . . . the family diet in some households for an entire week has included only potatoes and tea and a little canned milk . . . malnutrition is producing rickets among the less fortunate children . . “

Unusual and striking programs tell the story of those two performances in which the Wayne Musical Coterie combined with the Footlighters to produce the almost unbelievable sum of $1156.39! “The First Year”, described as “a comic tragedy of married life in three acts” was produced under the direction of T. Bayard Beatty and had in its cast William J. McMillan, Hazel Rolf, Gladys Tilghman, W. N. Stilwell, Jules F. Prevost, De Witt C. Clement, Mary S. Obdyke, Carey P. Williams and Clara Beatty. Before the play Mrs Thomas A. Walton and Mrs. H. H. LaMent played two piano duos while between the first and second acts Ethel Door McKinley played a group of violincello selections. So unlimited was the musical talent that there were different numbers between acts two and three on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. On the former occasion the Coterie Chorus, assisted by Mrs. Charles B. Finley and Mrs. F. Ashby Wallace sang a number of old-time songs while on Wednesday Mary Whetstone danced. A humorous program note states “Gentlemen will be seated. It’s a solo”.

These programs were twenty page affairs, in which one advertiser evidently vied for another in taking space! Arthur Erop produced them while Benjamin F. James presented the engravings. “The Argus Printing Company”, a program note states, “printed them with little of no profit to themselves”. The Committee in charge of this more than successful Benefit consisted of Joseph M. Fronefield, 3d, as chairman; Helen S. Harris for the Musical Coterie; Susan B. Dawkins, Percy W. Clark and Arthur Edrop for the Footlighters and Marian D. Van Pelt for the Neighborhood League. Representing the Chamber of Commerce were Elizabeth S. Kay, A. A. H. de Canizares, Albert M. Ehart and Paul N. Furman, ex-officio.