News: Spencer History - Entertainment


Surnames: Strayer, Gardiner, Follett, Landaal, Richardson, Hanson, Crowell, Williams, Bodle, Heath, Graves, DeWolfe, Stoltenow, Burnett, Raabe, Row, Reas, Hiles, Tack, Zogg, Rannow, Seegar, Farrington, Krueger, Genett, Frothinger, Seimers, Rice, Parks, King

Source: Spencer Centennial Book (1874 – 1974)

Musicals and Literary Societies provided the cultural entertainment in Spencer's early years. There was the Lyric Club which met every two weeks in the homes of members. Their program booklet for the year 1901 indicates that their programs consisted of piano selections, vocal numbers, solos, trios, quartettes, book reviews and readings. The familiar names of Mrs. Strayer, Mrs. John Gardiner, Mrs. A. W. Follett, Mrs. Landaal and the Misses Verna Richardson, Mary Hanson, Rizpah Crowell and Effie Williams appear often in the book. A newspaper of June 1902 gives an account of a banquet given at the home of Mrs. John Gardiner. Various lengthy toasts were given, one to the Lyric Club in which it was described as the "Wit, wisdom and beauty of Spencer, and is composed of married maids, bachelor maids, and old maids. The difference between old maids and bachelor maids is that bachelor maids are so from choice, while old maids have no choice."

Musicals were held in homes affording the most space such as the Gardiner, Bodle, Follett, Heath, and J. D. Graves. The programs consisted of musical numbers, piano, violet or cornet with the piano and vocal numbers and readings which were usually humorous in nature.

The Literary Societies were made up of larger groups which met at the school house. In addition to having musical numbers such as those described above, they had lively debates on the current issues of the day. A men's quartette consisting of Dr. F. A. Soles, Rev. John Dux, Lee Pickett, and Frank Swan sang at these gatherings.

In 1914 the businessmen sponsored Lyceum Courses which were held in the Modern Woodman hall. Later chautauquas were held in a tent on the site of the old school grounds. Spencer Record of January 24, 1919 notes that the Commercial Club will sponsor one such series.

The halls of Spencer's early days were the scenes of cultural entertainment. In 1881, in the Opera Hall over the Prentice Store, Mr. E. DeWolfe, agent for the Milwaukee Sentinel, gave one of his popular entertainments consisting of humorous, dramatic and instructive readings. Admission 25c. In the Neils' Hall, The Tennesseans Entertainers gave a vocal concert. In 1884 at Charles Stoltenow's Music Hall, the Nashville Colored Choir held a concert.

Then there were the home talent plays, one given in the very early days, a very dramatic one, "The Lady of Sejons" starring Charles and Hannah Hall. They ordered the costumes from Milwaukee and the production was also put on in Medford. Mr. Hall was a student of Shakespeare. Various organizations have put on plays from time to time, among them the Woman's Club, with the help of the Lion's Club. In 1917 the Spencer School faculty, with the help of a few high school students, put on a play to raise money for some project. Etta Rue Burnett, a grade school teacher, played the part of an old maid with Werner Raabe, a high school youth, being her bachelor suitor.

At the Modern Woodman Hall minstrel shows were keenly enjoyed, one with black-faced comedians Harry Row and Bert Reas, another given by the Royal Neighbors. George Seitz and Harold Hiles were considered a good comedy team.

For more than twenty-five years school sponsored, community supported class plays provided community entertainment at least twice during each school year. Early productions were presented on the stage of the 1915 high school building. After the municipal hall was completed in the mid-1930's, productions were presented using the stage accommodations there. The last class play produced at the village hall was the comedy "The Little Dog Laughed" with the Class of 1959 making their presentation on February 4, 1958. The Class of 1960 presented "Absolutely Murder" as their Junior Class Play on April 7 and 9, 1959, in the new R. J. Tack Auditorium. They were the first group to use the new stage facilities there.

Director of class plays from 1951 through 1966 had been Mrs. Jean Zogg, a member of the Spencer High School faculty. By 1967 Mrs. Esther Rannow had joined the faculty. She directed one play that year and initiated a Drama Club. In 1968 that group had been renamed The Masque and Bauble and class plays had been replaced by all-school productions. Thorton Wilder's "Our Town" presented March 29 and 30, 1968 initiated Spencer audiences to Theater-in-the- round at the R. J. Tack Auditorium.

To put a little fun in your life there was dancing which has always been popular and took place in the many halls in operation from time to time, with some of the hotels also providing dancing space. Ray Malay and Will Genett gave a dance at the National House. The Spencer Tribune of 1884 reports that William Seegar gave a social dance at the Opera Hall with Krueger's Full String Band of Medford furnishing the music. And there was a dancing Club in the 1900's. An item in the Spencer paper of April 19, 1901, announced that George Farrington would be available to teach the "cake walk." Barn dances were held at farms upon the completion of a new barn.

Elmer Nail, in the early 1900's, with the financial aid of T. A. Tack, erected a building for dancing west of town in the Frothinger woods. The floor there was polished down by his brother, Orville, who used a sled-type box with the sandpaper attached to the bottom and which he drew over the floor while riding his motorcycle. The building was later sold to Guy Ingham and Herman Seimers and became the dance pavilion, a part of Spencer Amusement Park. This was a very popular place for dancing, with music provided by very good dance bands such as Earl Parks and his orchestra, Wayne King and the Negro band of Eli Rice. It was also the scene of a very happy occasion in the summer of 1919 when Spencer put on a big Welcome Home Celebration for the servicemen of World War I. There was a sumptuous dinner, followed by dancing. This reminds us that Spencer had also put on a big Welcome Home Party for servicemen who had returned from the Spanish American War. This took place in Graves Hall above their store, shortly after their return.



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