Meet You Under The Tent

CHAUTAUQUA TENT WILL RISE TODAY

Performer with Red Path Chautauqua, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929

During the early decades of the twentieth century, the arrival of the big brown tent was the highlight of a town’s summer.  Under the canvas roof, large crowds would gather for a week’s worth of entertainment and education.  The Redpath Circuit Chautauqua was part vaudeville show, part educational lecture series, and at its height in the 1920s the performers and lecturers appeared in over 10,000 communities in 45 states.  Crowds, far from the cultural benefits of metropolitan areas, were thus able to hear Broadway hits, watch classic plays, and learn about the social and political ideas of the day.  For many Americans the Circuit Chautauqua was an important factor in molding the very character of the nation.

CHAUTAUQUA TO HAVE JUNIOR TOWN

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

The chautauqua wasn’t only for adults.  Thousands of children had their cultural horizons expanded through programming just for them, and for hundreds of young women, the job of supervising the children’s programs offered an opportunity to work and travel. One such lucky lady was my grandmother, Kerma Pauline Bradford.  In the summers of 1928 and 1929, Kerma left her hometown, Coshocton, Ohio, to set up Junior Town in a circuit that included Canton and Masillon, Ohio, and Greene County, Pennsylvania. In each community, Kerma met with the youngsters, ticket holders all, at nine o’clock the first day of chautauqua.

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

From among the assembled kids, ten boys and girls were elected to the Junior Town Council, which was then charged with assisting Miss Bradford.  Every day the Junior Chautauqua would meet from nine until noon, to play games, listen to stories, take hikes, and, most importantly, prepare the week’s project–a minstrel show or pageant–which was performed during the last day, for the entire chautauqua. 

In 1929, Kerma Bradford traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where she reported to the Big Brown Tent each morning from her room in the Wisecarver House.  Beyond her duties to Junior Town, Kerma had time for friendships, and time for romance. When the Junior Town supervisor returned to Coshocton that fall, she had many stories to recall to her kindergarten students, including the memory of a certain young man, future husband, Donald Minor.

Photographs from the Marilyn Minor Collection, archived with the author.

For more interesting chautauqua tidbits:

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Woman Directs Chatauqua Event,” August 12, 1928. http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Chautauqua To Have Junior Town,” July 31, 1928.  http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

Canning Charlotte, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa City. 2005.

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa digital collection: http://www.sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/msc150.html.

Aunt Alice’s Festive Table

The year was 1934, and though a great depression set boundaries on aspirations and dreams, folks still found occasion to bring out the good dishes and light the candelabras.

Marilyn pauses Aunt Alice Stansbury was celebrating, as was her niece, Katie Bradford.  Little Marilyn was coming! The toddler, Katie’s only grandchild, arrived midday at Alice’s home in Coshocton, Ohio.  After the long car ride from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, the adults lingered in the back yard, soaking up the spring sun.  Marilyn busied herself in the grass, sharing her pickings with her Grammy Bradford, Grandmother Minor, Aunt Alice, and Coshocton friend, Earnest Bachert.  Young Uncle Carlos Bradford hung back, laughing at the scene.

Eventually, the party moved indoors, where Aunt Alice could keep tabs on the simmering pots and roasting meats.  Donald and Kerma Bradford Minor coaxed their little botanist to wash up, preparing to take her place as honored guest at Aunt Alice’s festive table.

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The Value of a Smile

Kerma Pauline Bradford Minor, born in Coshocton, Ohio on June 25, 1905.  A graduate of Denison College, Kerma married Denison alumnae, Donald Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania.  They raised five children on his family's farm before moving to nearby Waynesburg.  Kerma continued to live and teach in Waynesburg after Donald's death in 1964, until she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1986.  Kerma died last night in her sleep, October 14, 2013, at the age of 108.  May her peace be eternal.

Kerma Pauline Bradford Minor was born in Coshocton, Ohio on June 25, 1905. A graduate of Denison College, Kerma married Denison alumnus, Donald Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania. They raised five children on his family’s farm before moving to nearby Waynesburg. Kerma continued to live and teach in Waynesburg after Donald’s death in 1964.  She moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1986. Kerma died last night in her sleep, October 14, 2013, at the age of 108. May her peace be eternal.

Sunday’s Obituary: Amaziah (Amzi) Bradford

Through the generosity of fellow family historian, Doug Kreis, I have the following obituary for my great-great-grandfather, the fiddle-playing man of my grandmother’s youth. Amaziah Bradford was the son of John R. and Hannah Geyer Bradford of Highland Township, Muskingum County, Ohio.  This life synopsis originally appeared in The Adamsville Register, Adamsville, Ohio.

A. G. Bradford Called By Death Last Thursday

Amaziah Bradford, aged 81, died at his home in West Lafayette, Ohio, Thursday 18 October (1928) of heart trouble and infirmities.  He had been in poor health for some time.  Several years ago Mr. Bradford had conducted a confectionery store in West Lafayette and was later employed in the enameling plant in that village.  Mr. Bradford had been a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in West Lafayette for several years.  He was a member of the M E Church.  He had been a resident of West Lafayette for 30 years.  He formerly lived near Bloomfield.  The deceased was united in marriage with Miss Julia McCall 53 years ago who together with one son and two daughters survive; Charles of Coshocton, Mrs. Samuel Bell of Cincinnati and Mrs. E. A. Robinson of Walhounding.  The funeral was held Saturday afternoon at the M E Church in West Lafayette and burial was made in the cemetery at that place.  The following nephews and nieces attended the funeral :  Mr and Mrs. J. A. Bradford, Harry Bradford, John Kay, Ray Bradford, Isaac Bradford, W. R. Bradford and Mrs. W. D. Brannon of Adamsville and daughter Mrs. Myrville Truax of Zanesville.

Surname Saturday: Minor Details

This is the year, I thought, of the De-Clutter Project, as I surveyed each room’s crammed shelves and drawers.  Impose a fifteen minute limit and voluntarily suffer a daily dose of sorting, storing and recycling, and by year’s end I will have managed 5,475 minutes of life simplification.  Resolutely, I reached for that first stack of books, envisioning an clean and orderly home in just ninety-one 2013 hours.

If today is any indication, the 3.8 days I committed to de-cluttering will only get me to the bottom of one pile.

I started the resolution with a photograph album; more journal than photo-document, this book chronicles an eleven day visit south of the Mason-Dixon line.  I didn’t make it past the second page before deciding that I couldn’t give this to my daughter, or store it in an safe place.  I had to reread it, and keep it within arm’s length for future reference and rumination. In other words, there was not one jot of de-cluttering in today’s 15 minutes of suffering.

Blue skiesIn my mind I’m going to Carolina… March 22-April 2, 1989

Aw, I thought, I was such a sweet young mom, wanting to record my first mother-daughter trip. I kept reading, not sorting. The second page opened with an entry in my grandmother’s hand:

“She has grown so much. And she is talking- hurrah. Caitlin calls me GG for Great Grandmother. I love the name.” 

What followed her note was a forgotten Story Moment, in which some minor details of my grandmother’s family were recorded.

Kerma Pauline was born to Charles Ross and Katherine Roahrig Bradford in 1905.  In 1989 Kerma sat in my mother’s home, watching my toddler play, and recalled:

Grandpa John Roahrig (1849-1919)

One day, my grandmother recounted, she sat in the dining room playing paper dolls with her sister Thelma, her Grandpa Roahrig asleep in a nearby chair.  Thelma talked incessantly and presently Grandpa, always a stern man, spoke up and said, “Thelma, your mouth moves as fast as a goose’s ass!”

The two girls decided to leave the fireside and play in the next room.

Grandpa Amaziah Bradford (1847-1928)

Kerma recalled that her Grandpa Bradford played the fiddle and clogged and played horse with his grandchildren.  His son, Charles Ross, must have inherited his gifts, since Kerma recalled that her dad could play any stringed instrument–guitar, banjo and fiddle.

De-clutter to Discover

I may not have accomplished much in the way of de-cluttering, but I DID discover a treasure, hidden within the minor details of an old photo album, a side benefit of my daily fifteen which is sure to be repeated often in 2013.