Donna 100 Years ago – Feeley Theatre, Hazleton, PA.

20 April 1922

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” reviews my grandmother’s vaudeville life. Madonna Montran, aka “Donna Montran” & “Donna Darling,” had an exciting career during the 1920s. A definite headliner, she crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

Since my previous review, Donna at the Harris Theater, Pittsburgh, PA, in March, Donna had the following venues:

    • March 12-16, 1922 – Canton, Ohio – Lyceum Theatre
    • March 14, 1922 – Massillon, Ohio[i]
    • March 27-??, 1922 – Pittsburgh, PA – Sheridan Square Theatre
    • April 3-5, 1922 – York, PA – York Opera House
    • April 6-8, 1922 – Harrisburg, PA – Majestic Theatre
    • April 13-15, 1922 – Middletown, New York – Stratton Theatre
    • April 17-19, 1922 – Lancaster, PA – Colonial Theatre

Finally, she arrived in Hazelton, PA, to play for three days at the Feeley Theater from April 20th to the 22nd.

Preshow Advertising

Advertising for the show began on April 15th with a short paragraph on page seven in the Plain Speaker, “Big Bills at Feeley Theatre.”

The Plain Speaker, Sat., Apr 15, 1922.

Donna Darling, the favorite musical comedy star in a song and dance cocktail entitles “As You Like It” will be the feature vaudeville offering with the picture the last half of the week. Miss Darling is assisted by Murray Walker and Jack Finney, and this trio presents on the highest class variety acts in vaudeville today. They have a gorgeous stage setting in three scenes all of gold drapes and with wonderful lighting effects present a magnificent spectacle.

The Standard Sentinel ran the same article on the 17th.

Donna’s Scrapbook included a clipping showing the advertising copy from the show (Trimmed by Donna).

Feeley Theatre Ad – From the Donna Darling Collection

On the bill with her were:

  • Walter Kaufman – “The Black Cloud”
  • Chapman and Ring in “A Breeze From Musical Comedy.”
  • Grant and Wallace – Those Two Fall Guys
  • Two Movies
    • “The Silent Call” movie starring Strongheart (the dog), “The Most Amazing Animal Ever Seen on Any Screen.”
    • Buster Keaton in “The Playhouse”

But, the real gem from this show’s articles is a photo of Donna, the “Famous Musical Comedy Star Now Playing at the Feeley.

Beautiful Miss Donna Darling, who appeared here two seasons ago in “Chin Chin,” is presenting an elaborate Song and Dance spectacle at the Feeley in the Current Bill.

One hundred years ago, Donna played in the vaudeville act “As You Like It” at the Feeley Theatre in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.

Donna’s whereabouts are unknown for the next couple of weeks, but she appears at the Palace Theatre in Port Richmond (Staten Island), New York, on May 5th.

The Feeley Theater, Hazleton, PA[ii]

The Feeley Theatre opened in November 1916 and closed in 1976 for good. It was demolished in 1980.[iii] Today, the theatre location is a parking lot.

Specifications for the Feeley Theatre[iv]

Feeley Theatre, Hazelton, PA – Photo courtesy “Granola” via Cinema Treasures

Proscenium opening: 35×25 ft
Front to back wall: 35 ft
Between side walls: 65 ft
Apron 3 ft
Between fly girders: 40 ft
To rigging loft: 60 ft
To fly gallery: 20 ft
9 Dressing rooms


Endnotes

[i] Date and location provided by Russell Kees and not confirmed.
[ii] Hazleton is about 100 miles north-northwest of Philadelphia.
[iii] Source: Internet-Cinema Treasures, Feeley Theatre – Overview –  http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/12631
[iv] The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical and moving Guide, V. 20, 1921, page 306.

 

Donna 100 Years ago – 6 Feb 1922

The Chestnut Street Opera House, Sunbury, PA

100 years ago
Donna Montran
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting items relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

This week, I rely upon a previous Darling Darling Collection posting from 2018 (Part 25). In it, I learned that Donna played at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, for three days, February 6th, 7th, & 8th, 1922.

 “Donna Darling & Boys” played at the Strand Theater in Ithaca, NY, the week before, had Sunday off and then traveled the 140 miles south to Sunbury, PA. Travel to Sunbury was probably difficult. There were no direct trains between the two cities. Only the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad[i] and Pennsylvania Railroad[ii] (later part of Penn Central) serviced Sunbury, and neither went to Ithaca in the 1920s. She, and the troupe, probably changed trains at Pittston or Wilkes Berre.

Sunbury was growing in the 1920s. Settled in 1772 and made a borough in 1797, Sunbury was incorporated as a city in 1920. Its population had grown from 14,000 in 1910 to nearly 16,000 in 1920.[iii] Since then, its population has slowly declined to just over 9,000 today (2019 est.).

The Chestnut Street Opera House was a small theatre with a seating capacity of only 971.[iv] There were two newspapers in Sunbury at the time, “The Sunbury” and the “Sunbury Daily Item.” Newspapers.com has a limited number of the “Sunbury Daily Item,” however, it is missing papers from 4 February until 18 February 1922. Likewise, Chronicling America, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive have no newspapers from February 1922.

So, if it weren’t for Donna’s Scrapbook collection, I wouldn’t know she was ever in Sunbury.

After three days in Sunbury, the cast and props headed the 19 miles along the Pennsylvania Railroad to Shamokin, PA, and the Strand Theater, for another three-night show (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).

One hundred years ago, February 6th through 8th, 1922, my grandmother was the headliner in her vaudeville act, “Miss Donna Darling.” She played at the Chestnut Street Opera House in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.


Endnotes

[i] The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad went into bankruptcy in the 1970s and its operations merged into Conrail in 1976. (Source: Wikipedia-Reading Company)

[ii] Later Part of the Penn Central Railroad. (Source: Wikipedia-Pennsylvania Railroad)

[iii] US Census Records for 1910 & 1920.

[iv] The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide … v.18 1919

Donna 100 Years ago – The Stroud – Stroudsburg, PA

A Great Thanksgiving Program.

100 Years Ago
Donna Montran & Co.
Vaudeville
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting events relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

The Donna Darling Collection (See Part 76) yielded two articles that put Donna at the Stroud Theater in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, for Thanksgiving 1921. A review of Newspapers.com, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archives, and Chronicling America failed to reveal any newspapers from Stroudsburg for that period. Likewise, The Ancestor Hunt was unable to indicate any Stroudsburg papers online for 1921. As such, the only evidence I have that Donna played at the Stroud Theater in Pennsylvania is her clippings.

The Stroud

Great Thanksgiving Week Program

Today and Tomorrow
5—Big Vaudeville Acts—5  

Special Thanksgiving Engagement – The Barry Jazzers
Three Walceys – Acrobatic Novelty
Whynot & Brady – Musical Act
Phil Davis – Southern Songster
Dona Montrim & Co – Singing and Dancing.

Another Clipping Donna had said

Holiday Week Program at Stroud is a Sure Fire Winner

The article goes on the say that:

“Dora Montrim & Co. have a dance and song revue with very special stage settings and costumes of Miss Montrim that are pleasing.”

We don’t know much about her show, but we know she was at the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 24th and 25th, 1921 – One Hundred Years ago today.

 

 

Donna 100 Years ago – November 1921

“Donna 100 years ago” is my reporting items relating to my grandmother, Madonna Montran (aka Donna Montran and aka Donna Darling). Hers was the exciting world of 1920s vaudeville. She crisscrossed the country with her many shows.

From the Donna Darling Collection, I learned that Donna played at a Strand Theatre (location and date unknown but probably October or November (See: DDC-70). She also played at the Stroud Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA on November 24-25 (See: DDC-76).

The November 25th issue of Variety’s San Francisco Offices reported under NEW ACTS that: “Donna Montran (“Bathing Beauty Revue”) in song and dance act with Walter Davis and Murray Walker assisting.” It shows that Walter and Murray were with her in November. Walter Davis left Donna and her show by January 11, 1922. They were only mentioned rarely in advertisements.

I have not been successful in finding any additional venues for Donna during November 1921.

 

 

100 Years ago – Elizabeth Grace Darling – (1906-1987)

Today is a great day to remember Elizabeth Grace Darling, “Aunt Betty,” because today would be her 110th birthday if she were still living.  Betty is my wife’s great-aunt; the sister of my wife’s grandfather. I have written about my wife’s grandfather several times, See:
Robert Harry Darling (1907-1969)

Elizabeth Grace Darling – (1906-1987)

Elizabeth Grace Darling was born on March 22, 1906, in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mother died in 1913 and she went to live with her grandmother, Margaret Lamb McAllister. In 1915 there was a family issue that required Margaret to return to her native England.  So, in August, 1915, she took her two grandchildren, Elizabeth and Robert Harry, with her to England. Family oral history says she took the children to England so they could be “properly civilized.”
So, little Elizabeth would have spent her 10th birthday celebration in England, apparently in the Lakes Region, probably Appleby (Now Appleby-in-Westmorland), Cumbria, in North West England.
Elizabeth would have been hearing news about the war in Europe. The Russians were having success against the Germans in the north taking the Dneister Bridgehead and also defeating the Austrians in the south. She probably didn’t know that the US was fighting its own war. General Funston was asking for more troops to send into Mexico to assist General Pershing against Francisco Villa. This was really important because General Pershing telegraph communications had been cut off.[1]
Elizabeth Grace Darling Gwyer
c. 1939
Margaret and the two children remained in England until December of 1916 when they returned to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, then locating in the Mount Oliver area of Pittsburgh, PA. Their return was just in time.  Betty’s father, Rufus Harry Darling died just two weeks later, on 5 January 1917.
Later in January, 1917, Germany invited Mexico to join them as an ally against the United States. Germany said they would finance Mexico’s war to recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.[2] Mexico declined, but America was not pleased about Germany trying to bring the Great War to American soil.  The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.[3]
On 10 May 1927, Elizabeth married William Otis Gwyer.  They would later divorce.
On 11 October 1947, Elizabeth married Frank Howell Kemon in the chapel of Mount Vernon Methodist Church, Washington, DC with Rev. John Rustin officiating.[4]
Kemon – Glenwood Cemetery, Washington DC.
Betty Darling – Frank Howell
1906-1987 – 1906-1973
Elizabeth’s husband Frank Kemon died in 1973. In the 1980s, Aunt Betty came to live with her niece and family in Bridgton, Maine.
Elizabeth died on 10 June 1987 at her niece’s home in Bridgton. She was buried at Glenwood Cemetery, Section K, Lot 69, Site 2585 in Washington, DC next to her husband Frank Howell Kemon.[5]

ENDNOTES

[1] The Washington Post, Wednesday, March 22, 1916, Front Page via Newspapers.com
[2] Wikipedia – World War I – Entry of the United States
[4] Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 – The Washington Post, October 1947, Ancestry.com
[5] Find a Grave – Elizabeth Darling “Betty” Gwyer Kemon – Memorial# 133079409

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