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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You Are Here - Chester, Vermont

Even though the signal lights aren't flashing, always be careful crossing railroad tracks like these here in Chester, Vermont.  In the cartoons, somebody's always getting flattened by a train that zooms right in front of them the minute they put a toe on the track.  Wile E. Coyote, mostly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter - Court Square Theatre, Springfield, Mass.

Phyllis Thaxter died a week ago on August 14th. Though many will remember her film and TV roles beginning in the 1940s and ‘50s, through to her stint as Superman’s mother in the 1978 film, perhaps a few will recall the young actress who toured New England in the stage production “Claudia.”

Above we have the program cover advertising the national touring company of “Claudia” when it hit the boards at the Court Square Theatre in Springfield, Massachusetts. It ran for three days, March 29, 30, and 31, 1943. Miss Thaxter played opposite Donald Cook and Frances Starr. She understudied Dorothy McGuire as Claudia on Broadway, and when Miss McGuire won the film role of the popular play, Thaxter took over in the leading role on stage. Phyllis would have her own Hollywood career soon.

She was a New England girl, born and raised in Portland, Maine, her mother a former actress and her father, Sidney, a Maine Supreme Court judge. On a visit to her family in 1952, while swimming in the ocean, she developed the first frightening symptoms of polio. She was pregnant at the time, and required treatment in an iron lung for a brief period. Fortunately, the illness abated, she recovered her ability to walk, and had no difficulties delivering a healthy son some months later.

Phyllis Thaxter and her husband, Gilbert Lea, spent their retirement years between Maine and Florida. She was 92 years old. Her obituary in the New York Times is here.

These program pages from the Court Square Theatre display advertising from Springfield businesses of the day. Perhaps you remember True Brothers, Inc., Jewelers, or Converse Carlisle Coal Company, or J.E. Cheney and Staff opticians. Perhaps you went to the Hotel Bridgeway to dance in the Mayfair Room to Vin Breglio’s Society Orchestra.

Or bought your shoes at Stetson’s Shoe Shop on Bridge Street.

Or maybe you’ve never heard of them. Until now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tremont Theater - Boston

A reader, John Y., recently contacted me with these two great scans of postcards of the Tremont Theater.

I put them up on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog, but wanted to include them here as well, as this blog is where my theatre posts are now going.

His contribution is in response to this past post on Boston's Tremont Theater.

From John Y.: "Here you'll see an early, say, 1905 view of Tremont Street looking north towards Park Street. Just a hair to the right of center, if you look carefully, you'll be able to make out the "Tremont Theater" sign on the front of the marquis, the same as is on the first post card. On the right side of the marquis is "C. S. either Millard or Willard". The dance studio is upstairs and just to the right of that sign is a two-story tall Quaker Oats mural. Other businesses readable are Estley Organs and Weber Pianos. I'm confident that the white stone building at the right edge is the Masonic Temple.

Printed in Belgium for Kosmos Art Co., Boston, this view is dateable mostly because of the lack of electric and/or gas engine vehicles and the existence of the subway.
One of your bloggers, Herb, I think it was, correctly determined that the Astor Theater did occupy the building after our Tremont Theater.

If you or any of your friends would like, and you wouldn't mind being the connection, I'll be glad to share whatever views I have of the City. Just let me know what and whaere and I'll check my stuff."

Here is another from John's collection, dated a year later in 1906:

These are wonderful glimpses in Boston's magnificent theatre history, and I'd like to thank John very much for sharing them with us.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Plum Beach Lighthouse - Rhode Island

Today is National Lighthouse Day. We mark the establishment of America’s lighthouses through act of Congress in 1789 on this day. The lighthouse above is called the Plum Beach Lighthouse, and represents how both a love of lighthouse history and future preservation can come together.

It stands in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. The Jamestown Verrazano Bridge looms over it, though when the 53-foot lighthouse was constructed in 1899, there was no bridge here, and a need for aid to navigation around Plum Beach Shoal.

The Hurricane of 1938 wreaked havoc on the little light, and trapped the keeper and his assistant, who reportedly tied themselves down to the apparatus that turned the beacon. They made it through the storm, but the Plum Beach Lighthouse was put out commission only a couple years later, not through storm damage, but because of the first Jamestown Bridge that opened in 1940. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1941.

For several decades it sat rusting, in a kind of legal limbo, until the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse were formed to restore and preserve it. The incredible task of restoring this lighthouse is detailed in the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse website here.

The lighthouse is now restored and the light, now a solar-powered beacon, was re-lit in December 2003.

For more on the history of Plum Beach Lighthouse, have a look here. For more on National Lighthouse Day, have a look at this website.

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