A three-day, first-of-its-kind event was Nov. 22 through Nov. 24, 1934, at the Paris High School auditorium.
The Edgar County Farm Bureau sponsored a drama and music tournament to bring together the local farmers and the business community to experience the fact that home talent drama was important to the community as well as entertaining. A packed house of enthusiastic and interested on-lookers filled the auditorium.
It included eight one-act plays given by groups throughout the county and several musical groups were organized for the event. Local event winners were eligible for a district contest in December and winning at the district earned a spot at the University of Illinois during the Farm and Home week celebration in January 1935.
Lola Moss, Mrs. Chester Boland and Glen Dodd were in charge of the preparations. The plays performed were from an approved list by the Agricultural Extension Bureau of the University of Illinois. Judges for the contest were Paris High School teachers Margaret Steele, Betty Lou Hunter and Betty Parrish.
At the first session on a Wednesday night almost all of the seating of the first floor was taken and but few seats were left in the balcony. When the curtain went up on that rainy Wednesday evening the first play “Goose Money” was performed by the Logan Community Club, which set a high standard for the plays that followed.
Participating from the Logan area were Mary Christman, who played a farm mother; her two high school age children played by Hugh and Mary Ann Fulton; the father played by Charles Williams; the talkative Aunt Sally played by Grace Lientz; the wise cracking aunt’s husband played by Oscar Scott. Israel Lientz played a Jewish poultry buyer; Eula Scott a neighbor lady held the whole farm scene play together; and Walter and Mary Fulton played another uncle and aunt to complete the cast of characters.
Up next was “In Doubt about Daisy” about a farm family and their humorous vacation plans to get away from the farm. The Lane’s Branch P.T.A. performed the play, and the cast was Mr. and Mrs. Bluford Hayes, Caroline Gillespie, Howard Day, Maurice Fox and Thelma Swinford.
The last play of the evening, “A Window to the South,” was a more serious offering where work became the master. The players included Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Dickerson as a mother and father; Arthur Sission and Chester Boland as their sons; Lucile Edwards as their daughter; Mrs. Carol Pearman as a hired girl; with Chester Boland playing a dual role as a doctor.
Thursday evening drew a bigger crowd, and the first play, “Now Don’t Laugh,” was produced by the Stewart Community Club. It involved a courtship between a young lady played by Maxine McDivitt and an Englishman played by Lloyd Lindsey. Jack Rhoads played an uncle with Erma Bartlett as the mother and Katherine Sullivan as the racially stereotyped black maid.
“Spark Plugs” was presented by the lively youngsters of the North Arm 4-H Club, who kept the audience’s attention. Homer Dodd played the proposing male role, Thelma Swinford was the object of his affections and Billie Dickenson was an older uncle.
The concluding production of the evening was “Uncle George Pops In” performed by the Isabel Community Club. This humorous selection portrayed a young, just married couple played by Grace Babb and Earl Sparks having learned that Uncle George, portrayed by Fred Henderson, was leaving his nephew an inheritance, if he remained unmarried. The others in the cast were Flossie Ogden as another racially stereotyped black maid along with Arch Babb and Eva Ogden as supportive neighbors.
The final night left two acts to perform. “Mix Well and Stir” was first by the Grandview Community Club. It contained hilariously unny situations about the gossipy neighbors of the Grant Household. The Grants were played by Charles Dick and Frances Clapp; Mrs. Sam Gleckler and Martin Schneider were two married neighbors; Lou Ann McComas and Forest Morris as social climbers; Virginia Clapp and Harry McIntosh were young lovers; a gossipy Miss Perkins by Mrs. John Yowell; and two stick-up men played by Vernon Hudson and David Long.
The final show of the event featured Zona Gale’s “Uncle Jimmy” by the Pine Grove Community Club. Uncle Jimmy played by John Stanley had his heart set to see the world, but he realized it was too late. He was supported by Mrs. Pauline Thompson as the Grandma, Mrs. James Bolin and Mrs. Walter Morris as neighbors in a small Midwestern village. Emmajean Means and Lois Ann Morris played two of children; Walter Kimble as Uncle Rod; and Mrs. Archie Morris as the postmistress.
It required a weekend of deliberation for the judges to pick a winner. The announcement came the following Monday at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge Hall. The Pine Grove Players representing the Pine Grove Community Club won the event and moved on to the district, which the group also won.
Several musical numbers were presented before and between the drama presentations. There were quartets singing numbers as the Women’s Grandview group, the men of Grandview and a quartet from the Barnett Community. Max Elsberry gave two piano selections and Miss Florence Gumm sang two humorous songs.
The Grandview Quartet won the musical portion of the tournament and advanced in the competition.
When the Pine Grove Players presented to the Farm and Home Festival in Urbana they were without the services of Walter Kimble, who was ill. Clarence Moss stood in for him after only studying the part for one day. He did very well, and the Pine Grove group came home with a first place ribbon.