I’m still looking to find more about Donna’s time in the Spring of 1924. I know she was in Bridgeport, CT in early February but have nothing on her whereabouts until she appears in Billings, Montana, at the Babcock Theater on May 17th and 18th. There is a lot of time and there are many places between the two shows. More to research.
I know very little (yet) about Donna’s “Novel Song and Dance Romance.” We do know that the Babcock Theater advertised it as a headline act within its vaudeville offering for the day Featuring “Donna Darling” in their “Five Big Acts” for the day. [i]
The Billings Gazette of May 18th shows a photo of “Donna and the Boys” on Page 16. [ii]
Unfortunately, all the copies I could find of the paper, both Newspapers.Com and Newspaper Archive.Com, have really poor quality images of the paper. If anyone has access to the original papers and would do a photo image of the paper I’d really love it. In the meantime, I’ll put trying to find a copy of it on my “want to do list.”
I also know on June 2nd she is in Oakland, California. Although it is only two weeks later, I doubt she went that distance without a few shows along the way. So much more to research.
In 1896, A. L. Babcock opened the Billings Opera House. Mr. Babcock operated that theater until September 22, 1906 when the building burned. Mr. Babcock built a new theater, the Babcock, a few blocks away and opened it just over a year later, on December 23, 1907.[iii]
At the time it was built, at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle.
The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, 1922 Supplement, reports that the Babcock Theatre seated 1200 people and the stage was 36×32 feet.
On February 21, 1935, the Babcock Theatre was rented out for a prize fight. It was a real “smoker.” The fire chief ask there be no smoking in the theatre, however, the patrons didn’t listen and a fire broke out under the boxing ring. The theatre entrance lobby and 13 rows of seating under the balcony were all that survived. The roof collapsed during the night, the proscenium
arch failed, the stage was ruined and the amazing pipe organ demolished. The owner at the time considered rebuilding as entirely apartments or hotel, but decided to rebuild as a theatre. Within six months it was rebuilt. The reopening was a huge affair with the street being closed to handle the crowds, bands playing, and telegrams from Hollywood celebrities including Katherine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, Mae West, and Bette Davis [iv].
Today, after extensive renovations from 2008 through 2012, it houses 14 apartment units, retail shopping, and again operates a theatre for live performances.[v] The next live show scheduled at the Babcock is D. L. Hughley[vi], stand-up comedian, the original host of “Comic View”, and the eponymous character of The Hughleys.
Ninety years after Donna Darling and Company performed, comedy is still alive at the Babcock.
Find a better quality image of The Billings
Gazette, 18 May 1924, Page 16.
Note: This post was reformatted on 27 April 2018.
[i] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 17 May 1924, Sat • Page 3 – Advertisement: Babcock Theatre – “Donna Darling and Company “ Source: Newspapers.Com, et al. [ii] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 18 May 1924, Sun • Page 16 – Feature Vaudeville_Act. Source: Newspapers.Com, et al. [iii] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 13: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf [iv] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 22: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf [v] Wikipedia: Billings, Montana; the historic Babcock Theater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billings,_Montana [vi] Babcock Theater website – http://www.babcocktheater.com/
Where I am at with my various DNA Projects, October 1st, 2014.
I was mightily disappointed when Ancestry quit support for their Y-DNA testing. I was surprised to see that my results and other information was still on Ancestry, but, of course, there were no new matches.
My Y-DNA Lineage from Ancestry.Com
My plan to follow my closest DNA match from Ancestry up five generations and back down five generations didn’t yield any potential candidates for the “baby daddy.” So, without any further Y-DNA matches possible through Ancestry it appears that further looking into that line is not going to be fruitful.
My Wife’s Y-DNA – Ancestry
My wife’s brother’s Ancestry Y-DNA test results are in the same state. No new matches because Ancestry has stopped supporting Y-DNA. Another promising tool that has ended in a dead end.
I definitely feel that I wasted some money with Ancestry on their Y-DNA tests. As such, I will probably never recommend Ancestry DNA Testing of any kind because of my bad experience with due to their decision to stop support of Y-DNA testing.
My closest hit to my DNA (89% likelihood a common ancestor in 8 generations) still hasn’t answered. So, I emailed him again. I did do a search for him on line and found a person with his name died a couple years ago. Not looking good for the home team. The email address for him in Family Tree DNA is pointing to another person, so it is still possible that I will be able to connect with a relative of his and possibly share information. We will see.
Again, no new connections on Family Tree DNA.
I did not do an upgrade kit for my brother-in-law so there is nothing about any connections to him in Family Tree DNA.
My Friend T-Roy
I’ve been helping a friend, T-Roy, with his genealogy. In particular his paternal side is lost. We know precious little regarding his grandfather and nothing before that. A search for his great grandparents has yielded several potential candidates, however, none are clear. I suggested that a Y-DNA test might help us find someone who is related and then be able to connect the dots from the potential candidates. We’ll see.
My Autosomal Results
There was a new “3rd” cousin identified on Ancestry. Because Ancestry doesn’t tell you anything about the match I have no idea if the match is on my mother’s line or my unknown paternal line. The individual, who is now my closest atDNA match didn’t relate their DNA to a tree so I have no idea about potential surnames. I emailed the individual and hopefully she will share her tree and other information. There were several other new matches, however, they were all 4th cousin and greater. I looked at any family trees that they have and didn’t see anything of interest.
23 and Me has been my most
successful DNA testing company that I have used so far. There are several
reasons for that. First, and foremost, I had both my mother and my DNA Tests
submitted to 23 & Me. That is a big help in determining where matches come
from. My initial plan was to use the tests to be able to discriminate matches
from my unknown father’s side from my known mother’s side of the family.
My mother’s matches:
Looking at my mother’s matches,
the closest match (excluding me) is Ronald M. with 2.3% Shared and 11 segments
in common. I was able to contact the individual and after comparing trees,
found that my mother and Ronald are second cousins, once removed. They share common
ancestors with my mom’s great grandparents (Henry & Marian (Sanford)
The next closest match to my
mother is Rick C. He and my mom share 1.61% and 10 segments. He responded to
some queries and we quickly determined his is a 1st cousin, twice
removed, from my mother. Their common ancestors are my mom’s grandparents
(Arthur D & Mary (Manning) Brown).
The 3rd closest match
is to M. C. this match was really great as it expanded our understand of a line
and broke through a “brick wall.” A review of M. C.’s tree yielded a surname
match on Blackhurst. Further investigation showed that M. C.’s ancestor, William
Stephen Blackhurst, had a sibling named Sarah who was born about the same date
as my mother’s grandmother. Another of the siblings and the father of William
and Sarah died in the same city, Albion, MI, that our Sarah lived. Further
correlation showed me that their William was, indeed, the sibling of our Sarah
and that through this connection we were able to extend the line back another
generation to our common ancestors, Stephen and Fanny (Taylor) Blackhurst.
On my paternal side, matches to me and not my
mother, are much less interesting. The closest match is a male with whom I
share only four segments (.91%). I sent him an introduction but he hasn’t
responded. I’ve sent a few other individuals introductions and received no
responses from most of them. The few that have responded I have looked at their
trees, but haven’t found anything of particular interest. When less than 1%
matches, investing much time isn’t very helpful.
I recently sent a DNA kit to my half aunt (my
mother’s half sister). In a phone call last week, she indicated that she
received the kit and registered it. She said she’d have it in the mail later in
the week. They take several weeks to process so that should be interesting. With
some luck, she will have received some different segment from my mother and we
can those differences to potentially find other relatives.
As I write this GEDMatch.com website is
down. This free site has a lot of
potential and is the only place that I know if that allows you to submit your
DNA results from multiple sites. It is
an unaffiliated, volunteer, website and is in need of donations to maintain its
operation. If you use it, please donate
to them so they can keep the site in operation.
They give instructions on how to export your
autosomal DNA test results from Ancestry.Com, Family Tree DNA, and 23&Me and
you import the results into their system. Although their takes a while to process
your data and populate into their system, don’t complain about the speed. Again, did I say donate?
The X Chromosome
I’ve recently been hearing a lot about X
chromosome matching. This has really
gotten me excited and rejuvenated regarding using DNA as a method to find
I’m looking forward to using the GEDMatch
system to look at the X chromosome matches for my mom and my aunt (when her
results are received). Because one of
the X chromosomes comes from the mother
and one from the father, having both my mother and her half sister’s X results
will yield a clear look at their father’s (Clifford) X marker. My mother and my aunt should match the X
completely because the X chromosome is passed down from a person’s father
relatively unchanged. Thus, by testing
two females with the same father we can basically jump a generation. Their father, Clifford, received his X from
his mother, Mary Elizabeth Manning which is a mix of her parents, approximately
50% from each. Mary received her two X
chromosomes from each parent so Clifford has a 50-50 chance to have received
his X from his grandfather (John William Manning) and 50-50 chance from his
grandmother (Eliza Fannin). His grandfather received his X from his great
grandmother (Minerva Tolliver Mannin). If, as family legend says, Minerva was full-blooded
Cherokee, Because Clifford whould have received about 50% of his X DNA from
Minerva, we should be able to see some markers that are in common with Cherokee
people if she was, in fact, Cherokee. The other great thing about this test is
that Clifford should have also received about 25% of his X from Eliza’s parents
both of whom are unknown. It certainly has the potential to open up a whole new
area of investigation.
Using the X isn’t as clearly defining as using
the Y chromosome but it clearly can yield more definitive results than the other
22 chromosomes typically do. I am very excited about pursuing this direction. One of the really cool things about your X Chromosome inheritance is that the potential surnames follow a really clear pattern. In my case the surnames of interest are:
DNA is a helpful tool. It has the potential to break down some brick walls, as it did for my Blackhurst tree. However, it is not likely to magically solve a problem or give answers to difficult questions.
There are a number of utilities that can help understand the matches I’ll look at them in a future blog posting. In the meantime, I’ll continue my searching in this area.
Chin Chin played the Burley Theater, Burley, Idaho, on December 2, 1919.
Beauties of Chin Chin
Burley Bulletin – 28 Nov 1919 – Page 11
I was able to view the microfilm of the Burley Bulletin and the Burley Herald thanks to the University of Idaho Library and WorldCat– Interlibrary loan is awesome! What this exercise really did show me was that the Chin Chin company probably didn’t have many, if any nights off and that it is because of the lack of newspaper resources that I am unable to track every action of the company.
I looked pretty carefully, the print is small, the projection is dim, and the neck begins to hurt looking up to read the text through my bifocals, but I was unable to find any articles, press releases, or reviews of the “Chin Chin” show in Burley. I did find that they played there on December 2nd and there were some really nice ads in both the Herald and the Bulletin.
The ad in the Burley Herald included a great photo of the four principal with fans covering their faces. I’ve seen the photo before but this microfilm version was higher quality than others that I have seen. The ad mentions:
Beauties of Chin Chin
Burley Herald – 29 Nov 1919
With Its Wealth of Novel Effects
And Wonder Scenes
Including The Flight of
THE PAGODA AND AIRSHIP
Caravans of Pretty girls – Company of 65
Tingling – Jingling Numbers – Quaint Toy Bazaar
The Famous Clown Saxophone Band (Tom Brown’s)
I had not heard of “the Flight of the Pagoda and Airship” before. Sounds interesting.
In the theaters I’ve followed regarding “Chin Chin” performances, the Burley Theater is the first building I’ve come across that is still in use as a theater, albeit a motion picture theater. Stanley J. Osika was the proprietor and manager of the theater during the “Chin Chin” show. It is not clear to me when it was built, but it appears to have been about 1917. Apparently the original stage is intact. [I would love to find a photo if it.]
By the 1930’s it had vertical signage added that allowed the theater name to be seen from up the street and a marquee added. The theater’s facade was restored in 1991 and is mostly original.
Donna’s next stop with the company of Chin Chin was in Boise, Idaho on December 4th to the 7th. The Idaho Statesman ran many agent supplied articles and advertising for the show. Articles began in the “What Boise Theatre Managers Say About Coming Attractions” on November 23rd. It begins with a photo of the Famous Clown Band and continues with a short article.
“To Walter Wills and Roy Binder are are entrusted the principal parts, supported by a company of clever comedians and a beautiful chorus, In their songs. “The Chinese Honeymoon,” “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” and “Temple Bells,” the two clever comedians, Wills and Binder, make a decided hit and are always recalled again and again. In this charming fantasy with a Chinese atmosphere there are also a score of other songs that are the fascinating, whistling kind, and several unique dances that carry the snappy comedy along delightfully.
In the November 27th paper we learn that Ethel Lawrence plays, “Violet Bond,” the rich American girl.
mn ad. The ad reminds us of just how big the show was, particularly for a road show. At the Pinney Theater, Boise, this was “the biggest show in years.” The show had “two car loads of scenery.” We need to remember in 1919 they were referring to railroad cars. The company was huge, 65, including 40 girls. Repeat 40 girls and 35 men back of the scenes. I don’t know if they just couldn’t count or what, because 40 plus 35 is 75 in my world. We knew there was a circus in the show with a horse that Mademoiselle Fallofski tried to ride. We also learn of a ventriloquist show. A list of some of the songs in the production is also included.
Good-bye Girls I’m Through
The Pekin Patrol
The Chinese Honeymoon
We are reminded that ticket prices were low, from $.50 to $2.00, there was a whopping 10% war tax added to the ticket sales.
War Tax (aside)
World War I economics were staggering. Federal Expenditures increased from 1.3 billion in 1916 to almost 16 billion, over 1000%, in two years. (1) To pay for the war the government enacted many new taxes. I think that calling it a “war tax” was really good. I wish taxes today were as clear. Certainly, we know how much our social security and medicare taxes are, but everything else is sort lost in the general economy. I wonder if we had a “war tax” today, would we have quite so many wars.
Back to the Show
On page 10 there was an interesting picture of Marie Cavanaugh and Margie Taylor, whom we haven’t see mentioned in advertising before.
Because of the grainy nature of the image I could find, I just can’t tell exactly what they are doing. I have been unable to find a higher quality photo of it elsewhere. It would be interesting to find a better photograph of them in this role.
The text elsewhere on the same page let us know:
“Not for years has there been such a riot of artistically harmonized, faultlessly blended color upon any stage as Charles Dillingham’s production of ‘Chin Chin,” coming to the Pinney four days, December 4, 5, 6 and 7, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“A flash of burnt orange trailing off into crimson, and we have a tea shop in Pekin. A splendor of apple-green, bronze-green, dull blues and bright blues, and a Chinese Bazaar filled with quaint toys and curious idol images, swings into view. A shimmer of moonlight on porcelain walls and among cherry branches at bloom-time and a place terrace rises slowly into sight. Presto! and we are on the outside of the dressing-tent of a great circus. All flapping canvases and posters of gaudy hue. Presto! and we smell the sawdust. A beam from Aladdin’s ‘lamp’ and all is romance again, the romances of trees and flowers and vistas of a park.
“Nor does the shifting scene contain all there is of color. There are costumes of every primary tint and every pastel shade, flaunting vermillions, lurid yellows, vitreous greens, great splashes of purple, subtle lengths and ripples of pink and azure and violet — an iridescence, a play of pigments that astonishes the eye.
“The vibrations of sound, too, are no less vivid. The tinkle of bells, the blare of horns, the fanfare of trumpets, the bravura of the orchestra, the melody of the singing voice. Sounds musical and sound unmusical, rhythmic sounds and sounds that confuse the ear, sounds sweet, dulcet, silver-toned symphonies, and sounds harsh, croaking, discordant — the who marching, waltzing, syncopating as such sound will, a musical babel of humor and delight — such is ‘Chin Chin.’”
“Chin Chin” dancers at the American Legion
The Idaho Statesman has an interesting article on page 8 of the December 2nd paper. We knew from other papers that the Chin Chin group played in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 1st. We don’t know where the company was on December 2nd. But, on December 3rd, part of the show was 20 miles west of Boise in Nampa, ID. The Joseph Murray Post of the American Legion, which was 70 members strong, put on a smoker (boxing match) that also included, “vaudeville from the Orpheum circuit, and dancing by the girls playing in Chin Chin.” We don’t know if Donna was with that group, but I would like to think she supported the Legion and their promotional activities. Another article, this time published on December 5th, indicated that the program was a success with approximately 200 returned soldiers, sailors and marines attending.
The newspaper had a very interesting release on December 4th.
“In the chorus of “Chin Chin,” to be seen at the Pinney on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are 30 girls. More than two-thirds of these girls have never been seen either here or in New York.
“By an arrangement that was made with a talking machine Company, out of town applicants for positions in the chorus who were unable to go to New York, where the engagements were made, had their voices recorded on disk records at the various agencies, and the same were sent to Manager Charles Dillingham for consideration. All of the applicants wrote that they were anxious to begin their stage career under his direction.
“The competition lasted for two months, and those selected were given contracts and were notified to be ready for rehearsal.
“By this means Charles Dillingham believes that he has secured a unique chorus, well chosen for voice and beauty, the engagements being unprejudiced by any personal reasons.
Review mentions Donna
A very positive review published on December 5th regarding of “Chin Chin” says that,
“The conventional leads of the show were eclipsed by the specialities. Donna Montran, the good fairy who appears when Aladdin’s lamp is rubbed, has the best voice in the company.”
Way to go Donna!
There is an interesting note in the Society pages on December 14th. Under “Burley” it mentions that:
“Mrs. C. A. Sunderlin has been much entertained during the last two weeks. Mr. and Mrs. S. Grover Rich have a dinner, followed by a box party for ‘Chin Chin,’ Tuesday [which would be 12/9/1919], in honor of the Sunderlins.”
From that note, it appears that “Chin Chin” may have played in Burley on the 9th. I was able to find the Burley newspapers from that period are available via interlibrary loan. I’ve ordered it and will see what it show. This is important because I am not finding the Chin Chin show anywhere until into February 1920.
The Pinney Theater
In 1892, James A. Pinney build the Columbia Theatre. In 1908 the Pinney theater was built on the same site. It was an ornate theatre designed for stage. In the 1920s it began the shift to primarily movies. On February 20th, 1940 they hosted the world premiere of “Northwest Passage” which was filmed at McCall, Idaho, which is about 100 miles north of Boise.
The Pinney was demolished in 1969 and is a parking lot today.
Donna has “Pleasing Voice,” at the Orpheum Theater – Ogden, Utah – Nov. 26th, 1919
After the two nights in Salt Lake City, the “Chin Chin” company packed up and headed to Ogden, UT, only 35 miles or so, to play at the Orpheum Theater.
The Ogden Standard
22 November 1919
Pre-show hype began on November 18th with a paragraph in the “Theaters” column which said, “Manager Goss announced today he has booked “Chin Chin.” the musical comedy event of the season, which with its company of 65 people, will be here on thanksgiving eve. Charles Goettier, business manager of the show, was in Ogden Sunday, completing arrangements for the company’s appearance.”
The paper on Friday the 21st saw the first advertisement for the show coming to the Orpheum. There was also a short advertising article about “Chin Chin Comes to Orpheum.” In the paper of the 22nd, there was a larger display ad for “Chin Chin”, an advertising article, and the now familiar photo of the “Four French Dancing Dolls.” The Ogden Examiner also ran several articles regarding Chin Chin and included the 16 women photo we’ve seen elsewhere.
The Ogden Standard
November 24, 1919
On November 24th, the Ogden Standard ran a new (for us) photo, this time of “The Four Chinese Blossom Girls.” Unfortunately, the quality of the photo is again insufficient to be sure if Donna is there or which one is Donna. I believe that the two middle women are other people but Donna could be either end person. Hopefully, we will find a better image of the four another time.
Apparently there was extremely bad weather the night of the show. Depending upon which paper you read it was either a gale or a blizzard. In either event the Ogden audience wasn’t daunted by the weather.
“CHIN CHIN” DRAWS GOOD CROWD TO THE ORPHEUM THEATRE
Nov. 27, 1919
“Chin Chin” an oriental fantasy, gorgeous in its investiture and colorful settings attracted a good house in the Orpheum theatre last night, dispute the gale that blew on the outside. There were lots of girls, some beautiful and some just girls, but ensemble they made a good impression as their voices blended harmoniously. The costuming showed discriminating taste — Charles Dillingham’s hand plain enough — and the __??__ went over with a bang, but—- And here’s the fly In the ointment– did you ever go up to a soda fountain and asks for a gin fizz or something like, and when you tasted it found that the dispenser forgot to put in the “fizz,” the drink was flat, you know. Well, that was just the matter with this production of “Chin Chin,” the dispenser forgot to put in the fizz –the seasoning was a little short.
However, on the whole, the show went by good after the f!r«t act, and picked up well just about the time the clown band got going strong.
There is practically no plot to the variegated performance. In the first act there were Aladdin and Violet Bond, a charming young American girl who drops in Pekin in search of a magical lamp, and the action is centered about her adventurer.
Carlton Reiger, well known in Ogden since he first came here with “Mickey” last summer was Aladdin. He joined the show in Denver and despite the short time has been with the show gave a creditable performance. He had a good lead voice and really was one of the shiny spots in the show.
Roy Binder and Walter Wills were the two dashing comedians who did extremely well in their specialities.
Others who carried their parts better than average were Donna Montran as “Goddess of the Lamp,” Neva Larry as “Sen Sen” and Irene McKay as “Fan Tan,” and Ethel Lawrence as the “American Girl.” Both Miss Montran and Miss Lawrence have pleasing voices.
The Teddy Bear dance was an Irish number and the clown saxophone band was the hit of the evening.
Popular song hits of the evening were: Violet,” “The Gray Moon,” “Love Moon,” “Go Gar Gig Gang Jur,” and “Good-bye Girl.”
Manager J. P. Goss announces Chaundey Oleoit in “Mascushla” on December 3, his first appearance here in ten years
The Ogden Standard also ran a short review. On Nov 28th they said:
“Chin Chin: Seen by Large Number At Orpheum
Despite a very bad blizzard a large attendance was registered at the Orpheum theatre Wednesday night to witness the performance of the musical melange “Chin Chin.”
Unfortunately, however the production was in now way one to call forth very hearty applause or admiration. Much of the music was very old without being at the same time good enough to be worthy of a long remembrance. The costumes and srake [?] settings were fairly attractive. The singing and acting, with one or two exceptions, were not on high grade.
Roy Binder and Walter Wills were the principal comedians and in most of their work did well.
Carlton Reiger, who appeared here as soloist at the first production of the moving picture, “Mickey” was not seen to advantage in his part. By far the most amusing and interesting items of the performance were contributed by the Saxophone Sextet, whose number would be a considerable headliner by itself on any vaudeville bill.
In extenuation of a poor performance it is to be borne in mind that the artists were most probably suffering greatly from cold on the stage.
The Orpheum Theater
The Orpheum Theater Courtesy Utah State Historical Society All rights reserved
The Grand Opera House in Ogden, Utah, was build in 1890. It was a Romanesque style building with a seating capacity of 1,600 people. In 1909 its name was changed to the Orpheum Theatre after the Orpheum Theater Circuit which was a chain of vaudeville and theaters. The chain ultimately became the RKO – Radio Keith Orpheum.
In 1928 the theater was renovated with new ventilation and sound; the “Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie” played there in June of 1928.
Seating in the theater continued to get smaller and smaller with each renovation; the Film Daily Yearbook said the theatre’s seating was 1,037 in 1950.
It became exclusively a cinema in the 1940s and operated until 1982. In 1983 it was torn down to provide additional parking for the Ben Lomond Hotel.