The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
  • Front.homecoming Court
  • Cheer
  • Front.park.lights
  • Front.pull
  • Front.ropes
  • Front.sculpt
  • Front.tar.wide
  • Front.toss
  • Front.walk Across

Dr. Jan Younger: Ginnivan from the chautauqua tradition 2010.06.16

Written by David Green.

younger.jan.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

Two hours in a hot tent?

That was entertainment in the days before radio and television, said Dr. Jan Younger.

“People had attention spans then that were remarkable,” Younger told an audience Thursday in Fayette. “Some of these speeches were two hours long. We’re talking about a hot tent, no air conditioning, and flies—and babies crying.”

And yet, he said, people were on the edge of their seats listening.

Dr. Younger, recently retired chair of the Heidelberg University honors program, spoke at the Fayette Arts Council annual meeting about culture and entertainment in decades past, with special reference to Fayette native Bud Walker who traveled with the Ginnivan Dramatic Company tent show.

Tent shows such as the popular Ginnivan production fit perfectly into the study of American cultural studies, Younger said.

John Ginnivan started his tent show in 1898 while the Spanish American War was underway. Younger describes the conflict as “a splendid little war” that lasted only a few months and produced dozens of heroes.

Two programs had spread across the Midwest that helped people know the heroes: the chatauqua and the lyceum.

The lyceum movement started in the 1820s as an educational program, but after the Civil War, musical entertainment and drama shared the stage with orators.

Younger believes the lyceum gave rise to the construction of buildings such as the one he was standing in Thursday—the Fayette Opera House. These structures were built in towns both large and small across the nation.

The lyceum brought culture in the winter while in the summer citizens were entertained in the tent.

From its beginning in Chatauqua, N.Y.,  in 1874, the tent show movement spread across the Midwest.

“The focus was definitely not the theatre,” Younger said. “The chatauqua people believed in mother, God and country. The theatre was always considered maybe a little too wild.”

Many famous speakers traveled on the chatauqua circuit, including Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Josh Billings and Will Rogers. A lot of money was to be made for well-known figures.

One of the most popular religious speakers was Baptist pastor Russell Herman Conwell who preached a new message that Americans wanted to hear: You can make a lot of money and still get to Heaven. The New Testament message of helping the poor, Younger said, changed to one that made God and money go hand in hand.

Conwell once gave his famous “Acres of Diamonds” speech at the Fayette Opera House.

Tent shows

Chatauqua went beyond fixed locations and took the form of itinerant shows that would spend a few days in a community before moving on to another. They incorporated the same values from chatauqua and moved them into the theatre.

“People wanted religion and values and country,” Younger said.

The Ginnivan show produced plays in its early days, and there were three melodramas that dominated chautauqua: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” based on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel; “Ten Nights in a Bar,” William Pratt’s temperance story; and “Cricket on the Hearth” from a Charles Dickens novella.

Through the years, the entertainment broadened. A preview of the 1937 season described the show as hilarious comedy, thrilling drama, vaudeville, magic and novelty musical acts. Little Buddy Walker fit right in.

“You mentioned that when you talked with Buddy, he would say that he couldn’t remember anything,” Arts Council president Tom Spiess said to Younger, “and then he would break into an entire skit or routine.”

“I think when we lost him we lost a wealth of information,” Younger said.

Younger was once acquainted with a graduate student in search of a doctoral project and he directed the young man to Bud Walker and the Ginnivan Dramatic Company. The student started researching, but later changed direction and dropped the project.

He expects a student will come along sometime in the future who will produce a definitive document about Bud Walker. That’s the only way it will get done, he added, because the hours of research needed could never be completed on a voluntary basis.

It’s an interesting tale to weave together, Spiess said: What Bud means to his family, what he means to the residents of Fayette, what the Ginnivan tent show is all about.

“It’s a pretty remarkable story,” Spiess said. “It helps us understand more about what we were like from 1898 through the Depression and on.”


buddys.jpgFive members of Bud Walker’s family attended the Fayette program Thursday, but they don’t have a lot of details to share from his life with the Ginnivan show.

“He didn’t bring up too much of what he did in the past, to any of us,” said Walker’s daughter, Sherri Werner of Wauseon. “He kept most of that to himself so I’m learning from the pictures [in the scrapbook].”

Tom Spiess said the last time he spoke with Bud’s mother, Theresa, she recalled the tent show days as work; it was a job.

Bud’s granddaughter Melanie Whitlock of West Unity said the closest she came to the Ginnivan days was at Halloween when she was dressed up like Bozo.

“We didn’t get the cigar, but we got a corncob,” she said.

Beyond that, Bud’s tent show career wasn’t well known.

“[My grandparents] didn’t talk about it,” Whitlock said. “We are learning. We didn’t know the scrapbook and these pictures existed until after he died. He kept a lot of secrets.”

He took a lot of secrets to the grave, she said, which is really sad.

Beyond his days as a workaholic in Fayette industry, he spent a lot of time playing in bands—mostly with “Three D’s Plus One.”

“Playing the drums, that was his life,” Whitlock said.

Bud once drove with Maynard Gamble for an audition in Chicago. Maynard was a bass player and he wanted Bud to play the baritone horn—an instrument Bud didn’t know.

He told Spiess about the four-hour drive to Chicago during which time he learned to play the instrument.

“It’s part of who Bud was,” Spiess said. “He was an entertainer.”

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2015