The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

July 26, 2006

July 26, 2006 – Entertainers who came to town

After going to see “The Men of the Deeps” this week, at the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Center, (which was excellent by the way) I got to wondering what kind of entertainment came to Springhill in the years gone by and I have found out that there was quite a diversity of entertainers who came through Springhill in those days.

One of the acts was the men and their trained bears. Then there was the scissor grinder who would come with his wagon and the ladies of the town would search for their scissors to have them sharpened. The hurdy-gurdy man, who played the organ grinder while his monkey, which was dressed in a little red coat and hat, would take his hat off and pass it around in order to get money. Of course, all the children would want to give the monkey some money because then he would do tricks for them. The Stock Company would come and put on shows at Fraser’s Hall or the Grand Theatre. Price Webber and Edwina Gray, Mae Edwards and her company “East Lynne” was a favorite as well as the Matinee “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

In the winter of 1896 a Merry-go-round was set up in the Drill Shed. It was brought in January and was still here in March. Several nights each week the 93 rd Battalion Band would play music there. Private parties would rent the merry-go-round for the evening. Canon Wilson rented it for the children of All Saints Sunday School. The merry-go-round was enjoyed by both the young and the old. The price was 8 rides on the merry-go-round for 25 cents.

Also in 1896 King Bartell and his Company of Comedians came to town. Bartell was a mesmerist and mind reader.

Wallace Hoppers Dramatic Club was here in March of 1896. They presented a New England Comedy Drama entitled “Uncle David”. It played for five nights to a packed house.

A company under the management of J.N. Shafer entertained with one act comedies, dancing, vocal and instrumental music.

In July of the same year Harry Houdini came to town. He performed in the Pioneer Hall for two nights. The prices were 15, 25 and 35 cents. Mrs. Houdini was suspended in mid air without any means of support. Houdini also did his famous “Escape from Dorchester Penitentiary Act”. He was handcuffed, shackled and bound with rope and chains by the local police. He was free in 1 minute 5 seconds. Later, after relieving some of the local card sharks of all their available money he showed them a few card tricks.

Also that year the “Bohemian Glass Blowers” showed the large crowd the manufacturing of different objects by spinning, blowing, weaving and netting glass. The displayed the original spun glass dress from the Worlds Fair. The dress, which cost $2000, was as soft as silk and perfectly flexible.

Harry Lundley’s Dramatic Company performed here for a week. They were at Fraser’s Hall and performed “Lynewood”, “The Castaways”, “Chick”, “The Celebrated Case”, “Woman against Woman” and “Our Boys”. For the matinee they preformed “Little Lord Fauntleroy”.

In September the “Lilliputians” were here headed by Mrs. General Tom Thumb who had Count and Countess Magri, Bason Magri, Annie Nelson, Jimmy Quigley. Captain George Liable, George Higgins and Professor Ferguson with her. She also had a full company of vaudeville performers with her. They were all “little people” but a lot of people thought they were children.

On Saturday October 31, 1896 W.S. Harkins brought in Wilson ’s Kentucky Minstrels. This was a company of colored comedians. Billy Wilson was the leading comedian with the “biggest mouth in the world” and Jimmy Wilson was the “only colored juggler in the world. For weeks afterward all the kids in town tried to do the juggling acts.