Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on 4 May 1920.
“Chin Chin” played at the Lyric Theatre in Allentown on the 3rd and cast and crew headed the 60 plus miles north to Wilkes-Barre.
Advertising for the show began a week before with a page 3 photo and both a display and a short writeup telling the readers about the coming show. Eventually, three papers[i] would all let the people about the show.
It must have been a big deal to play at the Grand Opera House. It was one of the few theaters at the time that hadn’t added silent films to their schedule and remained a strictly live theater establishment. Advertising copy was upscale and thoughtful. For example, “‘Chin Chin’ at the Grand” spoke about the popular translation of The Thousand Nights and One Night, translated by John Payne, even though “Chin Chin” only used the concept of many stories in one and not having a plot.
Sadly, Donna was never called out specifically, although some of the songs she sang were mentioned as part of the “Musically Rich Show.”[ii]
Post Show Info
I still have not determined where Donna and Chin Chin played on May 5th or May 6th, but by May 7th, they were 140 miles east to Patterson, New York.
Grand Opera House, Wilkes-Barre, PA
I have never had such a difficult time learning about a theatre as I have in learning about the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre. I’ve been unable to find photographs or postcards of the venue. I cannot even find a reliable source for its build date. Certainly, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of 1891 shows that the Theatre was NOT there. Likewise, the 1892 City Directory doesn’t mention the Opera House as either a “Hall” or by address. However, the 1893 City Directory does indicate that the Theatre was there at 13 South Franklin and that Moses Burgunder was the manager. So, I believe that the Opera House was probably built in 1892.
The Joseph Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory for 1921 reported that the theater seated 1290 people, 464 on the main floor, 280 in the Balcony, 500 in the Gallery, and 46 in box sets.
Specifications for the Grand Opera House, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Proscenium opening: 36×34 ft
Front to back wall: 36 ft
Between side walls: 60 ft
Apron 2 ft
Between fly girders: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 60 ft
To fly gallery: 38 ft
and there were 12 Dressing rooms
I have been unsuccessful in determining what happened to theater, although I know that it has been demolished.
Today the site is a parking lot.
I have contacted several organizations in hopes to learn more about the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre. I will incorporate that information when I learn more.
[i]The Evening News, The Wilkes-Barre Record, and the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.
[ii]The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) · Mon, May 3, 1920 · Page 5, “At the Grand.”
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Lyric Theatre in Allentown, Pennsylvania on 3 May 1920
The cast of “Chin Chin” arrived in Allentown on May 2nd. Some of the cast, including Donna, performed at a church benefit “Sacred Concert” that night. (See post.) On Monday, the cast and crew continued with their regular schedule with a performance at the Lyric Theatre in Allentown, PA.
The earliest advertisement I’ve found for the show was on Saturday, April 24th. It said:
Seven gorgeous settings make up the stupendous production of Chas. Dillingham’s “Chin Chin” which is scheduled to appear at the Lyric or the evening of May 3rd.
In this musically rich show such numbers as “Violet,” “The Grey Moon,” “The Love Moon,” “Good Bye Girls, I’m Through,” and the comedy song “Go Gar Sig Gong-Ju” always receive spontaneous applause.
The riot of fun, feast of music, bevy of feminie ????ity with pret-dresses, swift and grotesque dancing, lots of prankish amusement including Tom Brown’s Clown Band as the famous Saxophone Sextette, promises a most enjoyable entertainment.
Additional articles on April 27th and 28th, further described the show, Walter Wills and Roy Binder are in the lead. The show has practically no plow. In the first act, Aladdin and Violet Bond and the remaining acts occur because of the lamp found in the tea shop of Widow Twankey. The show makes you think you “awakened in a Hong Kong dream bazaar.”
On the 29th, we see our first display ad for the show. That ad was carried on in subsequent display ads.
The day of the show, besides the display ad there was a short article:
IN THE THEATRES LYRIC “Chin Chin”
Chas. Dillingham’s famous musical comedy, “Chin Chin” comes to the Lyric this evening. Do you remember when you were just a tiny chap, how you would read the “Thousand and One Nights” or the wonderful adventures of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and “Sinbad, the Sailor.” And all the rest of those fascinating characters, and how from out of them all emerged “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” as the prime adventure of them all? And now Alladin—a very modern Alladin—very much in love with an American girl appears in Charles Dillinghan’s “Chin Chin” which comes to the Lyric for just one performance. In this musical concoction everything comes Aladdin’s way upon wishing and rubbing the wonderful lamp, thereby causing many strange and wonderful situations.
Walter Wills and Roy Binder, as the two slaves of the lamp keep the audience in constant laughter through seven scenes and the three acts that cover one hundred and fifty minutes of the most enjoyable fun.
There were no published show reviews.
Post Show Info
The next stop for the show was the Grand Opera House in Wilkes-Barre for a Tuesday performance.
The Lyric Theatre
Originally built as a Central Market in 1896, it was converted to a theater in 1899 and named the “Lyric Theater” as the result of a naming contest.
During World War 1, the theatre was updated to be able to show films. In the early 1920s, the theater went back to be being the showplace for vaudeville. That is when “Chin Chin” played there.
1920 Specifications for the Lyric Theatre, Allentown, PA[i]
Proscenium opening: 32×29 ft
Front to back wall: 40 ft
Between side walls: 70 ft
Apron 2.5 ft
Between fly girders: 50 ft
To rigging loft: 64 ft
To fly gallery: 27 ft
14 Dressing rooms
Nearby Hotels: Allen, La Fayette
Newspapers & circulation
Welt-Bote (German) 7,000
What happened to the theater.
During the Depression, the theater stayed alive by hosting boxing matches and burlesque shows. During the 1940s the theater became a mixed venue acting as a home for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and burlesque. In 1959, the theater was saved by Donald and Sam Miller from becoming a parking lot when they purchased the building and renamed it the “Allentown Symphony Hall.”
Major restoration projects began in 1991, 2006, and 2011 saved the deteriorating building from becoming a parking lot.
In 2012 the name was changed to Miller Symphony Hall and the theater is in operation today with music and stage productions.
[i] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914, Page 563, Allentown.
Donna and members of “Chin Chin” supported a “Sacred Concert” at the Lyric Theatre in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on 2 May 1920
I might have missed that my grandmother, Donna, helped a “Sacred Concert” at the Lyric Theater on Sunday, May 2nd, 1920, because the newspaper so mangled her surname, “Maritram.” Luckily, they mentioned “Chin Chin,” so I was able to discover a series of articles about how some of the cast of “Chin Chin” performed for a Sacred Concert.
The cast of “Chin Chin” played at Mannoy City on April 30th. I don’t know if the show played somewhere on May 1st, but I now know that the cast moved on to Allentown and was able to support a concert on Sunday evening, May 2nd.
On next Sunday evening the members, friends and well wishers of St. Catherine’s new Catholic church will enjoy a sacred concert which is to be held in the Lyric Theatre. A program thoroughly in keeping with the day and the cause will be carried out. The talent to appear will in the main be composed of professional entertainers, close friends of the men in charge of the affair, who will journey here to lend their aid in proper entertainment and assist in the commenting of the citizens in general. It is to be a gathering of citizens, regardless of creed or class of worship, you are invited to enjoy this music, song and reading festival the program of which is at once entertaining and of a distintive quality.
Prominent among the many artists, more than fifty have so far volunteered, appear the names of the famous Tom Brown saxophone sextette; Alfred Hoffman, cellist, who will be remembered by those who witnessed the performance given by Chauncey Olcott a few weeks ago. (Mr. Hoffmn will journey from Pittsburgh and will arrive here in time for his contribution); Francis Leedom Hess, a humorous reader of prominence, John Devlin in a like number, Mr. English Cody, tenor, Miss Donna Maritram [sic], prima donna, members of the Charles Eillingham’s [sic] “Chin Chin” company, and an orchestra composed of twelve musicians form a partial list of the ladies and gentlemen who have volunteered their services. The complete program will be announced in a few days.
Invitations and reservations of seats for the occasion will be made ready at the Lyric box office on Wednesday and thereafter.
On Thursday, before the show, the Morning Call had the following article:
The Spring music and song festival to be held in the Lyric on Sunday evening under the suspices of St. Catherine’s new Catholic church gives every evidence of being one of the most appropriate and pleasing affairs given in the city in some time.
The musical part of the program seems to have been selected with great care. Conspicuous in the listing of events appear the twelve musicians who will comprise the stringed instrument orchestra, Tom Brown’s saxophone sextet, from the “Chin Chin” company; Alfred Hoffman, ‘cellist, from Chauncey Olcott’s company; Mr. English Cody, Tenor and Miss Donna Montram [sic], prima donna with the “Chin Chin” company; John Devlin, humorist; Frances Leedem Hess, reader; Carl Wallender, violinist; a quartet composed of the fine voices of William Morrison, William Porter, George Reese and Clarence Reinert, will render selections.
Another local quartet of much ability, comprising the voices of Robert L. Wheeler, baritone; Wesley hawk, bass; Harold Snyder, first tenor, and Allen Conrad, second tenor, will contribute toward the making of this nothing short of a grand concert. The orchestra will be under the direction of Donald Voorhees.
Prospective patrons are requested to attend to the matter of securing reservations without delay.
The Saturday Morning Call has a short article, SPRINGTIME CONCERT AT LYRIC SUNDAY NIGHT, that mentioned “Donna Montram.” [sic]
Monday, after the concert, there was an excellent article about the Sunday night concert. It called out Donna specifically.
Large Audience Delighted With High-Class Numbers on Program
A large audience last evening gathered in the lyric theatre to witness the splendid program that featured the spring time concert that was given under the auspices of the membership of St. Catherine’s Catholic church, the new congregation that has lately sprung up in the western part of the city. It was a program composed largely of musical numbers and with interspersed with reading apropos to the occasion; in fact, it was a program that was pleasing to even the skeptical and most fastidious. The proceeds of the affair are to be used as a part of the building fund for the new church.
A number of the members of the “Chin Chin” company, which plays at the Lyric tonight, assisted greatly in the make-up of the program. The success of the affair is due largely to the willingness with which these performers, as well as the others on the program, volunteered their services for this occasion. Included in the personnel from the company on the program was Miss Donna Montram, the prima donna, who favored with a beautiful vocal solo, and as an encore sand a selection of her own composition entitled “My Mother.” The latter part of the program was ably held down by Tom Brown’s Saxaphone Band. Their performance attested to this fact. Another member of the company on the program was English Cody, who gave a vocal selection.
Alfred Hoffman, cellist for the Chauncey Olcott company, played the Irish Fantasy, his own composition, and later delighted with the “Nocturne” and “The Rosary.” Carl Wallander, leader of the Lyric Orchestra, gave a violin solo. Meditation from Hais; John Devlin delighted with a number of humorous stories. Humorous impersonations of two ladies trying to buy theatre tickets were given by Frances Leedom Hess, of Philadelphia.
Selections were given by a male quartet, composed of R. R. L. Wheeler, baritondl Wesley Hawk, bass; Edward Hagenbuch, first tenor, and Harvey Snyder, second tenor. The Aeolian Quartette, of this city, also favored with several selections. The member of this quartet are Wm. Morrison, first tenor; William Porter, second tenor; George Rees, baritone; Clarence Reinert, bass, and So. W. Unger, accompanist. The members of the orchestra, who rendered several selections, interspersing the other numbers are as follows, Donald Voorhees, conductor Messrs. Wallander, Wavrek, Hoffman, Schatlein, Heintzleman, Wavrek, Brian, Meyers, Schlicher and Schaffer.
Donna registered her song, “Beautiful Mother of Mine,” in 1923. Could this “My Mother” song of hers be an earlier version of “Beautiful Mother of Mine,” or could it be a here-to-for unknown song written by Donna before May 1920. I’ll continue looking for the music of Donna.
St. Catharine’s Catholic Church
In October 1919, Rev. John C. Phelan was appointed founder and first rector of a new parish in Allentown. A month later they purchased land, with a house, and set to convert the home to a rectory and acted as a temporary place of worship. In November, they celebrated Mass in the new rectory; by the end of the month, they performed their first marriage.
By the spring of 1920, the parishioners began converting a stable and carriage house into a chapel. The concert to help raise money for the church took place in May 1920. By September, thy completed the carriage house conversion to a chapel. The chapel served the parishioners until 1927 when a new church and school were built.[iv]
I’m proud that Donna helped, through her talents, to raise money to build a new Catholic church in Allentown.
[i]The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) · Mon, Apr 26, 1920, · Page 5 – “Sacred Concert at the Lyric on Sunday Night,” via Newspapers.Com
[ii]The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) · 29 Apr 1920, Thu · Page 5 – “Music and Song Festival for the benefit of Church,” via Newspapers.Com.
[iii] The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) · Mon, May 3, 1920, · Page 5 – “Sunday Concert is Enjoyable Affair – Large Audience Delighted with High-Class Numbers on Program, via Newspapers.Com.
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McAllister is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic name, Mac Alasdair, meaning “son of Alasdair.” Alasdair is the Gaelic form of Alexander. There are dozens of forms for this surname. My wife’s family line has records both under McAllister and McAlister (one “l”).
Worldwide there are approximately 52,878 people who bear the McAllister surname. The vast majority, over 38,000, in the United States, with England and Canada being distant second and third (about 6,000 and 5,000 respectively). In terms of frequency, Northern Ireland has the greatest proportion of the McAllister surname, where one in 526 people have the surname. Scotland is the second most frequent area for people surnamed McAllister.
My wife’s great-grandmother, Hannah (McAllister) Darling died in 1913.
Her father, Peter McAllister, was estranged from his wife and was rooming at 2237 Salisbury Street in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1920, Pennsylvania had 146 McAllister families (about 6% of the McAllister families in the US). Peter, his wife Margaret, his son John, his son Edward, and his son Joseph constituted 5 of those 146 McAllister families.
Peter was my wife’s immigrant McAllister Ancestor. Peter had three sons, Frank, Edward, and John, all of whom immigrated to the United States in 1886-1887. A fourth son, Joseph was born in New York in 1889. Frank died young and I have only found daughters descended from John. Edward and Joseph both had sons that would have carried on the McAllister surname (and their Y-DNA).
In 1881, Peter, and his wife Margaret, lived at 5 High Church Street in Workington, England, in 1881. He worked as an Engineman and the couple had two children at census time. According to Forebears, in 1881, there were 900 incidences of the McAllister surname in England and another 2,649 in Scotland.
Family oral history indicated that the McAllister family was Scots. Although I have not found any ancestors (yet) that lived in Scotland, the family did live in Workington, Cockermouth, and Carlisle, all in the north of England. Workington is only about 20 miles from Scotland across the Solway Firth (part of the Irish Sea) and about a 42 miles drive to Gretna Green, Scotland. Cockermouth and Carlisle are even closer to Scotland.
Family oral history also talked of a “Black Peter McAllister” who was a blockade runner during the US Civil War. Apparently called “Black Peter” because of being bad. Anyway, second great-grandfather Peter McAllister was too young to have been “Black Peter” (aged 10 to 15 during the Civil War). However, his grandfather was also named “Peter.” Peter, the elder, would have been born in the late 1700s and is a candidate for having been involved in the US Civil War. I need to do more research regarding Peter McAlister, the elder. It would be great to find information regarding the McAllister’s being involved in the US Civil War.
My wife’s known McAllister relatives.
My records have identified 105 direct-line descendants of Peter McAllister (the elder).
Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Family Theatre in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania on 30 April 1920.
By Don Taylor
It is not clear where Donna and “Chin Chin” played in the days before they played in Mahanoy City. We know they played at the Hippodrome in Pottsville, PA on April 26 & 27. It is unlikely the cast would have off two days in a row, particularly a Wednesday and Thursday.
Advertising for the show began on April 24th with a page 1 announcement that the show was coming, on page 3 there was a official notification to “The General Public,” and on page 5 was a typical “Chin Chin” advertisement.
CHIN CHIN” COMING TO MAHANOY CITY FRIDAY, APRIL 30
Rich in color, pretty girls, artistic settings and the playfulness that goes with good musical comedy is “Chin Chin,” which comes to the Family Theatre, Mahanoy City, Pa., on Fricay, April 30th, night only.
A testimony of its worth is supplied by its past record of a solid two-year run at the Globe Theatre in New York City, and the summing up of the box office receipts in both the Metropolis and on tourr [sic] are convincing proofs of public estimation.
Ivan Caryll, composer of the music, is also responsible for the music of “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Café.” Anne Caldwell and R. H. Burnside wrote the libretto; Walter Wills and Roy Binder will be seen in the leading roles.
In this gigantic production of “Chin Chin” Charles Dillingham, the producer, offers more for the admission price than any other dozen musical shows ever seen. Seats on sale Tuesday.
On April 26th, the following article ran in the Republican and Herald.
“CHIN CHIN” AT MAHANOY NEXT FRIDAY
Charles Dillingham’s sumptuous and only production of “Chin Chin,” as seen for two years in New York, comes to the Family Theatre, Mahanoy City, Friday, April 30th.
This delightful and famous entertainment will be presented in its original entirety with Walter Wills nd Roy Binder in the lead. In this musically rich show such numbers as “Violets,” “The Grey Moon,” “Love Moon,” “Goodbye Girls, I’m Through” and the comedy song, “Go Gar Sig Gong-Jue” always receive hearty applause.
The book is by Anne Calddwell and H. H. Burnside, the lyrics by Anne Cldwell and James O’Dea and the music by Ivan Caryll, so well remembered for his ingratiating melodies in “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Café.”
Seven gorgeous settings make up this stupendous production—dresses, swift and grotesque dancing and lots of prankish amusement, including Tom Brown’s Clown Band as the famous Saxophone Sextette. Seats on sale Tuesday.
The newspaper on the 27th carried the exact same article.
On the 28th, a new article was presented. Much of it the same as the 26th and 27th. And on the 29, the exact same articles as what ran on the 28th ran again.
Finally, on April 30th, the “Republican and Herald” ran an abbreviated article which contained the same information as previous articles.
The theater was originally built in 1895 by John Hersker (Schone Horsker) and named the Hersker Opera House. It also went by the name of Hersker’s Family Theatre and had a seating capacity of 1,250. In 1909 the theater was renamed the Family Theater. Later it was renamed the “State Theater.”[i]
Specifications for the Family Theatre
Proscenium opening: 34 ft
Footlights to back wall: 83 ft
Between side walls: 48 ft
Apron 5 ft
Between fly girders: 42 ft
To rigging loft: 63 ft
Nearby hotels included the Mansion House, Pennsylvania Hotel, and the City Hotel.
After the building stopped being used as a theatre, it was a furniture store for several years. Today it is a gas station and mini-mart.
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[i] “Mahanoy Area Historical Society”. 2020. Mahanoyhistory.Org. Accessed January 15, 2020. http://www.mahanoyhistory.org/charter.html.