Cross-Country Travels

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
My Life
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.The Weekly Genealogist, produced by NEHGS, regularly has a survey question designed to make you think about your ancestors’ lives. They recently had a question asking if you or your ancestors traveled “across the country” not by airplane. In this case, “across the country” was a trip of more than 1500 miles.

Randy Seaver, in his blog, Genea-Musing, suggested taking that idea, cross country trips, and write about it.[i] I thought about the question and realized that with Detroit to Portland, Oregon, is over 2300 miles, my grandmother, mother, and I have all have had such travels, several times.

My Cross-Country Trips

I’ve made trips across the country several times.

1964 Ford Falcon Estate pic2
1964 Ford Falcon like I traveled in in 1969.
When I was in the service, (Christmas 1969) three of us drove a Ford Falcon station wagon from San Francisco to Minneapolis. One person drove, one sat in the passenger seat, and one person slept in the back. Each person would rotate positions every three hours. We only stopped for gas and made the 2000 mile trip in less than 34 hours.

My second cross country trip was when I left Oregon to go to training in Vallejo, California, in 1972. After training, we knew I was heading to a ship at sea, so my wife and son moved from Oregon to Minneapolis. I drove Mary (my first wife), and our son Matt, the 1600 miles back to Minnesota, where they lived during my time at school. I flew from Minneapolis to San Francisco to training and again to the Philippines for my first cruise aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

The next cross-country trip was when I moved Mary-Alice from her home in Maine to Minneapolis. Just a little over 1500 miles, it only barely qualified for this list. That trip was in her Dodge Caravan, loaded to the top with stuff. We arrived in Minneapolis just after the “Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.” Before I had told Mary-Alice that Minnesota was colder than Maine, but we didn’t get as much snow. When we got to Minnesota, Interstate 94 was two ruts heading up out of the Saint Croix river valley because of the 28 inches of snow the Twin Cities had received. She gave me that look, that said, “We never had this much snow in Maine in October.”

The Mojave Desert in Bloom – Photo by Geoff Stocker.

In 1998, Mary-Alice and I moved to Long Beach, California (about 1900 miles). I drove the car and Mary-Alice drove her van. We kept in contact with little radios. When we got to the Mohave Desert, she kept asking where the desert was. We drove through it during a “once-in-a-century” flower bloom. It was gorgeous, entire hillsides yellow with flowers.

In 2000, Mary-Alice and I moved from Long Beach to Boston, Massachusetts. Our van was over-loaded with stuff and relatively old, so I was afraid to try the shorter 3000-mile northern route because of the mountains on the way. So, we took the 3200 mile-route through Phoenix, El Paso, and Dallas. That was a brutal trip. We stopped at a weird motel in Tennessee and had a difficult time finding our room. Little did we know that the 200 rooms were downstairs from the 100 rooms.

I made the trip between Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, as an infant, twice with my mother. I don’t remember either trip and rely only upon my mother’s telling of the stories.

My Mother’s Cross-Country Trips.

Back in 1950, my mother got a job with an outfit that sold magazines door to door. They had a crew of kids, my mother was 18, and moved city to city. I know they started in Detroit and ended in Portland, Oregon, in just a few months, stopping at cities and towns all along the way. I still wasn’t born yet but was born a few weeks after her arrival in Portland.

In 1953, my mother was pregnant with my sister, Glennis. Mom like the hospital I was born in and decided she wanted her second child to be born in the same hospital. She hitch-hiked from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon (1700 miles) with 3-year-old me. Wow—What a trip that must have been for her.

My mom and Budgar traveled between Minneapolis and Phoenix (over 1600 miles) many times.

On one occasion she traveled between Phoenix and Minneapolis by herself and then continued with me to Clarksburg, West Virginia (about 2600 miles in total).

My Grandmother, Donna

My Grandmother was a fantastic traveler. She was born in Albion, Michigan and lived there until about 1914 when she went to California to be one of Max Sennett’s Bathing Beauties and to be in the movie, “Birth of a Nation.”

She traveled from California to Massachusetts in 1915 and lived in the Boston area for a few years.

In 1919, Donna traveled from New York to Decatur, Illinois to join the cast of “Chin Chin.” She then toured with the show to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before the show ended.

Known locations Donna was at during the “Chin Chin” Tour.

In 1922 & 1923, “Donna Darling and Company” went on the road. They started in New York and went to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

In 1924, Donna went on another tour heading west from New York to include Montana, Oregon, and California with stops all over in between.

In 1926, Donna had another tour heading west from New York and including Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan.

In 1927, Donna had another tour heading south from New York and across to New Orleans and back.

During her travels, virtually all of the trips were via train. A typical day, she’d board the first train out of a city, take the train with her crew, cast, and sets to another town, typically 2 to 4 hours away. The crew would unload and install the sets at the theater. She would then do a show or two that day. After the show, they’d head to a hotel for the night then head out again with the first train to another town. Sometimes, on longer travels, I’m sure they’d sleep on the train while heading to the next city. She had a train stuck in the snow in Nebraska for several days, a trestle washed out in Arizona (where they needed to carry their scenery past the wash-out on their backs), and had an earthquake break the tracks in California.

As I get more and more of her vaudeville career documented, I’ll create maps showing her travels and some of her many travel challenges.

Others

Oxen Team pulling covered wagon – Photo by Don Harrison (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I don’t know anything about my biological father’s life travels, nor do I know about his parents’ travels. I know that grandpa Dick was in the service and probably traveled cross country with that. He served in Panama, so I’m sure he at least traveled from Minnesota to the Gulf (or a coast) as a minimum. My great-grandmother Mary (Manning) Brown never traveled 1500 miles (to my knowledge), but she did travel the 1000 miles, from Kentucky to Minnesota, by oxen-driven wagon. That trip was with her grandparents, Enoch & Minerva (Toliver) Mannin.  I think a 1000 miles trip by oxen-driven wagon is much tougher than twice that distance by train or automobile, so it should count.

ENDNOTES

[i] Internet: Genea-Musings by Randy Seaver – 27 July 2019 – “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Ancestors Trans-Continental Travel (not by Airplane)

 

Donna Darling Collection – Part 51

Treasure Chest Thursday
Vaudeville

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at three clippings from the Donna Darling Collection.

The first article is a short paragraph about “Dancing Girls at Orpheum”

DANCING GIRLS AT ORPHEUM

Donna Darling and her dancing girls headline the Orpheum bill for the first half of the week. “Songs and Steps” is the title of Donna’s act.

The Golden Bird, a trained canary….

Interesting. I had never heard of that act, and there are so many Orpheum theatres, it is impossible to know where, or even when, this show was playing.

Next, is an ad for the Orpheum Theatre with The Golden Bird headlining the ad with Donna Darling and Girls being the finale act. Donna’s show is billed as “The Musical Comedy Beauty Assisted by a Bevy of Bewitching Enchantresses in Songs and Steps.” I’ve seen “Donna Darling and Girls” before. She began that show sometime between August and September 1924. The movie Another Scandal was released in June 1924, so the show had to have been after that.

Finally, a third article for the show provides all of the remaining desired information. It was the Orpheum Theatre, Oklahoma City, Okla., for the week of September 6th (Sunday through Wednesday). The program played Sunday thru Wednesday – September 6th thru September 9th 1925.

Key features:

  • The venue was the Orpheum Theatre in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is “The World’s Best Vaudeville”
  • The show was the “Donna Darling and Girls, The Musical Comedy Beauty in Songs in “Songs and Steps”
  • Also on the Bill
    • Fox News “Modern Whaling” an Educational.
    • “Another Scandal” featuring Lois Wilson and an all star cast.
    • Althea Lucas and Co. in “An Artistic Triumph.”
    • Chad and Monte Huber, Late of So Long Letty” co. in “Dance Divertisements.”
    • THE GOLDEN BIRD, The Canary of Almost Human Intelligence, presented by LORRAINE EVON, The Charming Violinist.
    • Pat Barrett and Nora Cunneen in “Looking for Fun.”

Conclusion

My schedule of Donna’s shows had a huge gap before this clipping. She played July 26th in Decatur Illinois and September 20th in Sedalia, Missouri. Now, it appears that she did a Great Plains tour that summer.

September 6th thru September 9th 1925 – Orpheum Theatre, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Donna Darling and Girls.

Sources

Donna Darling Collection – Image DSCN1415.

Donna in the News – New July 8th 2019

“Donna in the News” is my reporting of newly found newspapers articles and advertising regarding my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). I am always excited when I find a new venue for my grandmother’s exciting show business career of the 1910s and 1920s. 

This week I received a notification from Newspapers.com that I had 36 new hits on my alerts – 15 from “Montran,” 15 from “Walter Wills” (which suggests “Chin Chin”), and 6 from “Dona/Donna Darling” from seven different newspapers dated between 3 May 1920 and 5 March 1928.

The articles related to six shows during her career.  Four of the shows I had previously in my list of Donna’s performances. They were:

  • Lyceum Theatre, Paterson, PA – May 7 -8 1920 – “Chin Chin.”
  • Colonial Theatre, Lancaster, PA – April 17, 18, & 19, 1922 – “Special Easter Show.”
  • Grand Theatre, Saint Louis, MO – July 7-9, 1923 – Donna Darling show.
  • Majestic Concerts – Brooklyn, NY – Mar 5, 1928 – Donna Darling and Somory [sic] Clark in “The Princess and the King.”
Can anyone translate?

Adding more clippings to what I already had is always good.  However, what is particularly cool about the Grand Theatre clipping is that the newspaper that speaks of Donna is written in German. I don’t know what it says.  I tried OCRing the words and transcribing the text to no avail. All I really know is that the article mentions “Donna Darling” and was published during the week Donna was in Saint Louis, Mo.  Hopefully, someone who reads German and German font will help me out.

The other two venues were new to me.

  • Fulton Opera House, Lancaster, PA May 29, 1920 – Chin Chin
  • Keeney’s Theatre – Brooklyn, NY – Aug 1921, Donna Montran.

So, I’ve been able to add two new shows that Donna was a part of. I will add All of these clippings to future venue writeups.

Have a great week.

Donna & “Chin Chin” – La Crosse Theatre (La Crosse, WI) – 10 February 1920

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” played the La Crosse Theatre in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Wisconsin, on 10 February 1920

 Vaudeville
Chin Chin

Thanks to my “Donna in the News” alert last January, I learned then that Donna, and the cast of “Chin Chin,” played the La Crosse Theater in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 10, 1920. Now, I’ve finally had a chance to further look at that theater and show. Besides those original articles from the 4th, 5th, and 8th, I was able to find additional articles from the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 10th, and 11th.

“Chin Chin” Schedule –

Feb 1-7, 1920 – Minneapolis, MN – Metropolitan Opera House
Feb 8-9, 1920 – Unknown (possible break?)
Feb 10, 1920 – La Crosse, WI – La Crosse Theatre
Feb 11, 1920 – Chippewa Falls, WI – Rex Theatre
Feb 12, 1920 – Eau Claire, WI – Grand Theatre

Advertising

For a one-night show, the advertising for “Chin Chin” was spectacular. Every day there was something in the newspaper from eight days before the show until the day after the show. Promotion for the show began with a notice on February 3rd, that an Eau Claire boy was one of the show leads.  Along with it was a standard “To the General Public” notice from the theater’s manager, F. L. Koppelberger.[i]

Eau Claire Boy in “Chin Chin”

Include ad The music of Ivan Caryll, which serves to illustrate the story of “Chin Chin,” which comes to the La Crosse theater on February 10th, and in which Walter Wills and Roy Binder, an Eau Claire boy, demonstrate their wonderful powers of drollery and skill in dancing. Ethyl Lawrence, as “Violet Bond” the American girls, is a charming little actress, and always succeeds in winning the good graces of the audience. Her rendition of the duet, “Love Moon,” with the aid of George Usher as “Aladdin,” is one of the particular bright spots of the show.

The following day, a photo of the “Pekin Girls” graced the paper[ii] along with a short article and the same announcement from the manager as on the day before.

The remaining advertisements are pretty standard.

Reviews

Rarely is there a review for a show that has played and moved on to another city. However, the La Cross Tribune ran a modest review the day after the show. Although they didn’t mention Donna, they did mention that “those singing the leading parts last night had pleasing voices and encores were numerous.”[iii]

Theater

The La Crosse Theatre opened in 1900,[iv] but its history goes back to the 1860s when there was an opera house at the location. The Sanborn Fire Maps indicate it was an Opera House in 1891, but it appears to have had a very different footprint than the theater had in the 1920s. The early 1900s form for the theater was short lived. The theater was closed in 1927 and a new building, the Hoeschler Building was opened in 1930.

The James Cahn Theater Guide 1922 supplement indicated that the La Crosse theater had a seating capacity of 1,100 all on the ground floor. The stage was 68 feet wide, 36 feet deep, and 32 feet high.

La Crosse Theater – La Cross, WI.
Photo via Cinema Treasures uploaded by Ken Roe.


ENDNOTES

[i] The La Crosse Tribune · Tue, Feb 3, 1920 · Page 4 – Via Newspapers.com.[ii] The La Crosse Tribune · Wed, Feb 4, 1920 · Page 10 – Via Newspapers.com
[iii] The La Crosse Tribune · Wed, Feb 11, 1920 · Page 5
[iv] Cinema Treasures, La Crosse Theatre, La Crosse, WIS http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/57410

Donna Darling Collection – Part 49

La Crosse, Great Falls, & Baby Russell

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at page “DSCN1452” from the Donna Darling Collection, which consists of two newspaper clippings and one photograph.

Donna Darling Revue at the Majestic Theater.

The first clipping is an ad for

VAUDEVILLE
A Dazzling Dance Fantasy.
“THE DONNA DARLING REVUE”
in 5—Scenes—5
With Donna Darling, Sammy Clark and three stars.
In a super song and dance revue with a dash of comedy.

Luckily, Donna wrote on the upper left corner, “La Cross | Dec 4-5.” From Newspaper Archive, I had previously learned that Donna had played at the Majestic Theater in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on December 4 & 5, 1926.

The second clipping is a bit more problematic. It has a nice photo of Donna and says:

Donna began doing the “Donna Darling Review” with Sammy in April 1926, so the show must have taken place after then. The problem is that the two of them played:

  • The Grand Theater in Great Falls, Montana on Nov 26-27, 1926.
  • The Grand Theater in Macon, Georgia, on March 14-18, 1927.
  • The Grand Theater in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 1-3, 1927.
  • Plus, I have many open dates that she could have played at a “Grand Theater.”

For the clipping in question, other acts on the bill include:

  • Princess Winona.
  • Zehn and Dreis in “Dementus Americanos Habitat North America.”
  • Billy Curtis and Lou Lawrence in “Is That the Custom.”
  • Morell and Elynor (roller skating)
  • The Reginald Denny picture “Rolling Home.”
  • Luckily this bill was short-lived, only about two months. At every showing there was a different picture show. On November 26 & 27, the bill of these vaudeville acts played at the Grand Theater in Great Falls Montana along with the picture “Rolling Home.”  I am confident that this clipping comes from this date and place.
Donna & Russell ca. 1929.

Finally, there is a new photograph of Donna with Russell. Russell appears, to me, to be about two years old. Russell was born in 1927, so I’m fairly sure that the photo come from 1929 or so. This is a case where I wish I knew how to fix photos with Photoshop. I’d love to pluck out the white and have a nicer photo.

Can anyone help?