Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 6 – Anthony Wayne Theatre

Beginning in 1933, the Men’s Club Minstrels, and later the Merriemen gradually began to include outside talent in their shows rather than to make them exclusively the product of their own numbers. As stated in last week’s column, the Wayne Junior Drum and Bugle Corps participated in the performance given at the Anthony Wayne Theatre that year, while in January, 1934, James and Jean Blackstone were featured in a Winter Concert put on by the Merriemen at the Saturday Club.

Later in that same season Betty Ott, then a student in High School, was the partner of the interlocutor Joe Forrest in “The Easter Parade”. In 1935 the Delaware County L. W. D. Orchestra contributed several lively musical numbers to the program. A chorus from the Bala Cynwyd Junior Woman’s Club was one of the hits of the evening in 1936. That same year saw the introduction of an instrumental sextette from the High School.

On the 1937 program there was a tap dancing number by Betty Brooke, while a dancing chorus from Mrs. Renee P. HIll’s class put on a number entitled “The New Orleans Strut”. Peter Marcantonio played a cornet solo and Francis and Joey Lennon presented guitar and banjo novelties. And Alice Hart’s singing was the big hit of the after-piece of that evening’s show.

In 1938 the “Sauer Kraut Band”, a small group of German musicians, played “Wienerschnitzel”. It was in February of either ‘37 or ‘38 that an “Amateur Night” for “any one who could do anything” was staged in the High School by the Merriemen. The public was invited and during the fifteen or more acts and stunts merriment and entertainment was about equally divided between those behind the footlights and those in front of them!

The ‘37 and ‘38 Merriemen shows were the last ones to be put on by that group. Both were for the benefit of the Radnor High School Scholarship Fund and both were pretentious affairs with full programs of music, dancing and acting. Ben James, old time favorite, was interlocutor of the former, while Charlie Smith, of the high school was the surprise hit in that capacity in the latter. Charles Mintzer was the musical director of both shows, while Paul Teel and Walter Howson were at the piano.

Many of the high school faculty, students and maintenance force assisted back stage in the 1937 show, which was a particularly elaborate one, with the scenario of Part II written by R. Rhodes Stabley, of the English department of the school. This was of the 1865 period with the scene laid on “a southern plantation, untouched by the War . . . a tried and true gentleman of the Old South . . . his daughter . . . a Yankee captain, wounded, brought in by the slaves”. Sentimental songs, many of them old timers like “Darling Nellie Gray”, were sung by the chorus and others, among them Alice Hart with the appealing “Lover, Come Back to Me”. With Hal Reese and the chorus she also sang “Your Land and My Land”, from “My Maryland”. Jules Prevost as “Jemima”, Ted Park as “Sam” and Bub Park as “Rainbow” united in a rendition of “Alabama Barbecue”. “A Medley of HIts From Former Shows” as arranged by Paul Teel and sung by “Two Parks, Art Stilwell and Two Brookes” was one of the most amusing numbers of the first part of the show.

The ‘38 show opened with a chorus number appropriately entitled “We’re Singing Again”, the words written by Jules Prevost. Other chorus songs were “A Little Close Harmony” “Harrigan”, “Song of the Jolly Roger”, “Just A-Wearying For You”, “Who’s That Tapping At My Door”. But the real hit of the show was a take-off on “Show White and the Seven Dwarfs” entitled “Pitch Black and the Seven Giants!” Bob Morrison was “Pitch Black” who, sweetly sleeping, was carried on the stage by her “seven giants”. Once there “she” awoke and brought down the house!

At this time Harry Creutzburg was president of the Merriemen; William Holloway was treasurer and Albert Ware, secretary. The executive committee was composed of J. Arthur Standen, L. W. Garratt, Benjamin F. James, Carl Wetzel, Ralph Aman and F. Ashby Wallace. These men and many others had worked hard with the Minstrel Shows, most of them from its very beginning. Many of the older group would have been glad to continue the brilliant successes of the last shows. For some, however, this had been enough, and it was not easy to recruit new members.

Ashy Wallace has told the writer of one encouraging renewal of interest just before the War, when some thirty voices were training under Charlie Mintzer and Paul Teel. These promising recruits soon dwindled in number to twenty, then to twelve . . . And with that they disbanded . . . the War would have put a temporary stop to the activities of the group, anyway. Hal Reese, who served in both World War I and World War II, was killed in action . . . many of the young voices recruited for the last few shows were stilled forever.

Before concluding this series on the Men’s Club Minstrels and The Merriemen, the writer has talked to four of the “old-timers” Al Ware, Grif Roberts, Harry Creutzburg and Ashby Wallace. From them she has obtained some of the material for this last piece, for they love to talk of the fun – and the work – of those days that are over, over unless indeed there can be a renewal of interest sufficient to start again, and to carry on. The older men would be glad to give their support to such an undertaking, providing there is a sufficient group of the younger element to do their share, too. Few Wayne organizations have given their community as much pleasure and entertainment as the Merriemen have, while at the same time they were enjoying the pleasure of that companionship that comes from working and playing together.

But the Wayne Minstrel Show that started all Minstrel Shows in the community was given in the old Opera House before the Men’s Club Minstrels and the Merriemen were ever thought of, according to Grif Roberts. Just how long before he doesn’s quite know. But according to him it was the original minstrel show! Jay Canizares and George Allen were the end men. Among those who sang in the show and took part in the “after-piece” were Gene Bonniwell, Matthew Randall, Bill Beatty, Sr., Sam Jaquette, Charlie Tatnall, Bob Lynch, Frank Muller, Walt Whetstone, Sr., Fred Ristine, John Rogan, Ashby Wallace and Grif Roberts. (There were probably others, but this was as far as Mr. Roberts’ memory took him at the first try!)

Part I consisted of the usual minstrel show of songs and jokes as passed around in “the circle”. The “after-piece” was a take-off on a courtroom scene with Eugene Bonniwell, a judge in real life, acting as “the Judge” in the play. Grif Roberts as the “dizzy blond” was suing Johnny Rogan for breach of promise. Doc Standen was “the new woman”, so commonly satirized in that day. The jury, much confounded by the evidence, got into an argument, which was highlighted by the talk of three of the members. One stuttered, one lisped, and one spoke with a German accent! In the end, “the dizzy blond”, Grif Roberts, fell into the arms of the man she was suing, John Rogan! Both took a tumble, as the writer understands it!

This was the original Wayne Minstrel Show!


Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 5 – “Merriemen of Wayne” Del.Cty. LWD

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

Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 4 – Radnor H.S. Band, Main Line Kiwanis

Even some of Wayne’s old-timers have forgotten the connection between the Men’s Club Minstrels and the Radnor High School band. The fact is that the band owes its existence to the Minstrels. Originally the net proceeds of each show were put into the Organ Fund with the hope that this fund would grow to such proportions that an organ could be purchased and installed in the Radnor High School Auditorium. This was to be a memorial to the alumni of the School who lost their lives in World War I.

Although the Minstrel Shows were staged on a lavish scale and the cost of production was always high, nevertheless each year showed a profit, until in 1930 there was the sum of $1050 in the treasury. Then it was decided to convert the Organ Fund into the Band Fund, since at this time there was no High School band in Wayne. At the Radnor-Lower Merion football games it was even necessary to hire a band. The latter did not compare very favorably with the splendid school band or our neighboring community! Townspeople and students alike longed for a school band of Wayne’s very own. It was then that the Minstrel Men turned over more than $1000 for this purpose, and Radnor High School’s Band obtained its start.

The 1930 Minstrel Show was the last of the “gorgeous era” ones. This was in the first years of the depression and the returns from seats selling at $1.50 and $1.00 had to pay for the show. Although it was a gala one, attendance was off to such an extent that the Minstrels were several hundred dollars in the red. Fortunately, the Main Line Kiwanis Club had contracted for a show in Ardmore, and the proceeds from this made up the deficit.

Ironically enough, since the depths of the depression had not even been reached in 1930, the show of that year opened with the rousing song “Happy Days Are Here Again”. The Minstrel Men were evidently doing a bit of wishful thinking! The atmosphere and scenery were Spanish, with gay senoritas and matadors doing their parts in bright colored raiment. “Bub” Park, playing on the end of the circle for the first time, captivated his audience with the song “Me and the Girl Next Door”, while Ted Park followed with “The Load Is Heavy”. “Willie” Shuster repeated his great success of the previous year by singing “He Went In Like a Lion”, while “Doc” Standen made a hit with his song “I Can Get It for You Wholesale”. Among chorus numbers were “The Troubadours”, Victor Herbert’s “Moonbeams”, “Bells of the Sea”, and “Gunga Din” with the solo part sung by Bill Dowdell.

A playlet entitled “The Yankee Toreador” was the very amusing feature of Part II of the program, particularly the “bull”, as played by Dave and “Bunny” Hunt! And then there were Spanish dances by Hal Reese with “Doc” Standen and Ted Park as caballeros! Noteworthy among the soloists were Jimmy Smith and George Orr.

Since the 1930 show had gotten by financially only with the help of the extra performance in Ardmore, the Minstrels decided not to venture on a 1931 performance, particularly in view of the fact that the days of the depression were still upon the country. But in 1932, even operating under a budget cut some 50 percent, a very creditable performance was given. While not as lavish in costume and stage effects as its predecessors, it was still “a typical show of beautiful music, lively dancing and sprightly comedy”. That they did it at all is still much to the credit of these Minstrel Men. Perhaps it was partly because they knew the pleasure it would give to hundreds of spectators, perhaps it was the enjoyment of close fellowship on a common endeavor, certainly it was something of both that prompted them, for each show took months of work and preparation in assembling talent and in working out the details of the programs.

C. Linn Seller, of Haverford College, had now succeeded the well-loved maestro, Ed Hunt, as musical director. The chorus, always the keystone of these shows, sang “Winter Song”, “Buss Frog Partrol”, and “That’s Why Darkies Were Born”. Among the soloists were Lou Garratt, who sang, “River, Stay ‘Way From My Door” and Jimmy Smith, who sang both the “Serenade” from “The Studen Prince”, and “Uncle Rome.” Of the latter, one commentator has said, “A picture that will never fade in the memory of many was Jimmy Smith as the enfeebled and trembling old darky singing in the moonlight, “Uncle Rome”’.

(to be continued)

Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 3 – Radnor High School

Spectacular scenic effects marked the 1928 productions of the Men’s Club Minstrels, given on the evenings of April 13 and 14 in the Radnor High School Auditorium. As the house lights dimmed and fifteen musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Grand Opera Company, with Archibald Morrison at the piano, began to play Sigmund Romberg’s “My Maryland,” the curtains opened on a life-sized reproduction of the rear view of the Broadway Limited! Resplendent in all the glory of glittering brass work and an illuminated keystone on the platform, the Limited stood there true ot life to the smallest detail, even to red tail lights! The life-sized observation platform and end of the rear car jutted out on the stage – the whole on rollers to move it backwards. Only a half hour before curtain time were the workmen finished with this magnificent contribution of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the 1928 Minstrel Show.

As George Borst, standing with the train conductor and porter, began to sing “I’m Going Down South,” the minstrel men came down the aisles in long files, singing all the way up the platform steps, up the steps of the “Limited” and into the train itself. As the last man went aboard, the porter picked up George Borst’s bags, and singer and porter entered the car. The conductor swung his lantern, climbed aboard, pulled the signal cord . . . the distant locomotive whistled faintly, began its staccato music and the train moved slowly away in the darkness as the curtains rustled together.

When the curtains opened again, it was on the Minstrel Company in the traditional circle with Ben James in the center arrayed in white satin and “unsullied by any trace of the more plebian black.” Then followed the usual jokes, amusing stories and many songs by Ed Hunt’s well trained chorus. Jules Prevost and the chorus sang “Spring is Here” and Ashby Wallace with the chorus “portrayed the poignant shadows of the swamplands of the deep South in “Chloe”. Lew Garrett, aided by the chorus, gave a splendid rendition of the old darky spiritual “Bow Down,” while George Orr sang “Ol’ Man River” in a way never to be forgotten by those who heard him that night.

Written for this production and dedicated to the Men’s Club Minstrels was a song by Clay Boland, entitled “He Ain’t Never Been to College,” sung by “Doc” Standen and the chorus. At its conclusion the circle gave the college yell, doubtless still remembered by some among us:

“Oi. Oi. He done vell
Gif him a good substantial yell,
City Collitch.”

After the intermission the curtains opened on the second half of the show, made up of a number of skits, the highlight of which was “In a Chinese Temple Garden,” with its oriental atmosphere skilfully interpreted by the orchestra. Bud Morrison as Buddha, immobile of countenance was seated cross-legged before a wall of typical Chinese design.

The synopsis as given in the program describes the scene thus: “A few bars characterize the introduction, the incantations of the priests at the shrine, while the perfume of the incense floats on the air. A melody (given to ‘cello, viola and oboe with pizzicato accompaniment) represents the lover. A Manchy wedding procession passes noisily by; a street disturbance ensues among the coolies . . . the beating of the gong in the temple restores quietude; the incantations of the priests are heard again, and the lover’s song, with a brief quotation from the temple and coolies’ music, brings the piece to a conclusion.” The part of the lover was enacted by James Smith, while the priests were F. A. Wallace, E. B. Stanley, L. W. Garrett, C. E. Riley, R. E. Hinkle and H. C. Creutzberg. The unusual scenery demanded by the “Chinese Temple Garden” was built by Morris Groff and painted by B. F. James.

The setting of the 1929 Show when it was given in April of that year was distinctly nautical. When the curtains opened on another of their performances of the “gorgeous era” the entire backstage was taken up with a replica of the ship “I’m Alone,” the original of which was at that time the subject of an international controversy. The minstrel company, though black of face, were in sailor regalia, while Ben James, ruddy of complexion and glittering in gold lace, was “Admiral of the Queen’s Navee.” As the show started there was a frantic cry of “Man Overboard,” when it was discovered that end-man Ted Park was missing! But a life preserver, making a long arc into the audience, unceremoniously hauled Ted aboard “spouting like a whale the glass of water he had taken while in Davy Jones’ Locker.”

Part of this show was broadcast over WCAU. Notable in the first part was Lou Garratt’s singing of the Negro Spiritual, “Talk About Jerusalem Morning”; “Chalita” and “Buccaneers,” as sung by the chorus; Jim Smith in “Neapolitan Nights” and George Orr in “Comin’ Home.” “By the Swanee River,” in part two of the program, was a musical description of a Southern Jubilee. According to the synopsis “the opening depicts the darkies shouting on their way to the camp meeting. The second part introduces “The Old Folks Dance,” followed by the younger element doing the buck and wing. This leads up to some lively coon shooting, which in turn is succeeded by Old Ephriam Jones dreamily singing “Wid the Old Folks at Home”.

Then follows a finale in which everybody participates”. Other numbers on this part of the program included “Levee Days”, in which “Levee Folks at Play” were introduced and “The Birmingham Quartette”, consisting of Jim Smith, E. B. Stanley, Ted Park and Ashby Wallace, sang various numbers. The finale came with the chorus rendition of “Down South”.

(to be continued)

Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 2 – WCAU

A year after the great initial performance of the Minstrels of the Men’s Club of Wayne, in April 1918, another performance was given, this time on April 24, and April 25, 1919. Again it was staged in the auditorium of Radnor High School. It was an elaborate affair in three parts, part one opening with an overture by the orchestra, followed by many musical numbers sung by the minstrel men. Part two consisted of several skits and part three of a “Farcical Medley of Funny Business” entitled “Good Morning, Si!”

Ben James was interlocutor again, while “Billie” Cochran and “Willie” Shuster were bones and Arthur Standen and Charlie Clay were tambos. The song of the opening chorus was “In the Land of Yamo, Yamo,” and the overture was “Melody from the South.” Among the soloists were Charles Clay, Arthur Standen, R. C. Jacobs, William B. Dowdell, William Shuster and W. P. Cochran. The latter made an especial hit with a number entitled “Plant a Watermelon on My Grave.”

Skits in the second part of the show started off with one entitled “Back from the Front-Lying” in which the two characters were “Captain Lives” as portrayed by Arthur Standen and “Private Bacon” as interpreted by Fred Radcliffe. “The Musical Mokes,” John Rogan, Fred Ristine and Bert Ehart were heard in a “review of current events.” William Shuster and Charles Clay were the two actors in “Taking Chances.” “As Others See Us,” a novelty in the art of impersonations, as done by Ben James, concluded part two.

Characters in “Good, Morning, Si!”, the “Medley of Funny Business,” which constituted part three were “Si, a Grosser,” W. P. Cochran; “Joe, still grosser,” J. A. Standen; “Tom and Jerry,” Charles Clay and W. B. Shuster; “Hank, a Constable,” F. P. Radcliffe; “Tramp, Bird of Passage”, W. B. Dowdell; “Artie Choke, Gentle and Neat”, H. S. Norris; “Jim Spruce, Back from the Wicked City”, William Fox; “Tillie Oddsox, Who Takes a Chance”, T. G. Roberts and “Ima Boob”, J. M. Rogan.

Printed programs of these early shows, still in the possession of Harry C. Creutzberg, and lent to the writer for this series of articles, are interesting not only for the names and for the program material, but for their advertisers as well. The Counties Gas and Electric Company has long since changed to the Philadelphia Electric Company; the Edgar Jones grocery and meat market is now the Fairlawn Food Market; Frank O’Brien Hardware Store is the Wayne Hardware Store; H. C. Hadley’s Drug Store has long since become Norman Wack’s Pharmacy; the Hubbs Grocery and Meat Market has gone out of existence, the site of its former shop now occupied by the Firestone Store: La Dow’s Drug Store, after passing through several ownerships, is now a Sun Ray Drug Store; Cox and Lynam’s Electric Company has long been known as Lynam Electric Company.

On the inside of the title page of the 1919 program, the Penn Publishing Company of Philadelphia, of which C. C. Shoemaker, president of the Men’s Club, was president, ran a full length advertisement of “The Tin Soldiers”, by Temple Bailey. Miss Bailey was for years a writer of a long line of best sellers published by that company. On the other hand, however, some of the advertisers’ names are those still always appearing on local programs, such as the Wayne Title and Trust Company, the Delaware Market House, Wayne Plumbing and Heating Company, L. K. Burket and the Wayne Suburban.

After the 1919 performances came those of 1920 – and then no more for seven long years – just why there was such a lapse in the highly successful performances of the Minstrel Show is as much of a mystery as their sudden revival in 1927. At any rate, in April of that year the Men’s Club Minstrels played to capacity audiences on two different nights.

By that time a well organized movement was under way to place an organ in the high school auditorium as a memorial to alumni of the school who had given their lives in the war over but a few short years before. With the endorsement of the Radnor Township School Board and of various civic organizations an Organ Fund Committee had been formed, with Mrs. Humbert B. Powell as chairman. Serving with her were Walter S. Mertz, Edgar L. Hunt, C. Walton Hale, Allyn S. Park, Philip W. Hunt and A. M. Ehart.

The Minstrel Show men decided to devote the proceeds of the 1927 performances to this fund. Seats sold for $1.00 and $1.50 and the profits, though not large, formed the nucleus of a fund to which profits of later minstrel shows were added.

So vivid is Harry Creutzburg’s description of this 1927 performance that this writer feels it should be quoted almost in full. “The house lights dimmed as a splendid orchestra followed the baton of Ed Hunt through the melodious overture of “The Student Prince”. At its conclusion the curtains parted and “the spots” picked up George Borst, who, in a reminiscent mood, sang “Bring Back Those Minstrel Days”. Down the aisle and into their places on the stage, as the curtain widened, came the gaily caparisoned minstrel company as they sang the refrain. High silk hatted, satin coated in red, green, blue and yellow, end men capering – bones a-rattling – the lid was off with a bang and the minstrels had come into their own again.

“The well balanced chorus, trained to perfection, as Ed Hunt’s choruses always are, gave a spirited rendition of “Medley from the South”, followed by the lingering beauty of “Lassie O’ Mine”. Other fine chorus numbers were “Hangin’ Out de Clo’es” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s”.

“As to the end men: Jules Prevost made his final bow as a minstrel with “I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana”: Ted Park sang “Sam, the Old Accordion Man” … The redoubtable Doc Standen sang with gusto that pathetic ballad, “The Coat and the Pants Do All the Work, While the Vest Gets all the Gravy”, while Bill Shuster convulsed all with his powerfully rendered “Can You Tame Wild Women?” . . . Ben James was his usual urbane and pulchritudinous self as interlocutor . . .

“Jimmy Smith, with the show for the first item, captivated all with his exquisite “Serenade from “The Student Prince” . . . and then George Orr’s marvelously rich baritone took us “Somewhere East of Suez” in “Mandalay.”

“In Part II, the curtain rose on several lively skits. Then followed a scene revealing an Arab tent in the desert. In nomad costumes a trio – Ashby Wallace, Jimmy Smith and George Orr – assisted by the concealed chorus – sang the rapturous and haunting melody, “The Desert Song’.

“More skits and then the show ended with the ‘Drinking Song’, from “The Student Prince.’”

(to be continued)

Wayne Men’s Club Minstrels, part 1

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.