Miami Valley CHAUTAUQUA Then and Now
By Seymour S. Tibbals
This souvenir booklet was authorized by the Cottage Owners’ Membership of Miami Valley Chautauqua and is published in commemoration of Chautauqua’s Golden Jubilee, July 26-28, 1946
PRICE: ONE DOLLAR
The Miami Valley Chautauqua Association
1896 Chautauqua, Ohio 1946
Through the shadowy past, like the veil of mist in the valley below, we stand on the hilltop at twilight and look back at the paths we have trod. Here we seek to muse and ponder o’er the changes time has wrought: to recall familiar names and scenes and bring back friends with whom we were associated in days long gone. We realize that in attempting to preserve the history of Miami Valley Chautauqua during its first fifty years, our efforts have resulted in only a sketch. To have told the entire story and to have given credit to all who are entitled to credit would have required a volume of many pages, which, after all, would have interested comparatively few.—Seymour S. Tibbals.
I “WHY SO MANY PEOPLE LOVE CHAUTAUQUA”…….. 7
II “IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME”…………………………… 8
III “HOW CHAUTAUQUA WAS CREATED”………………… 10
IV “CHAUTAUQUA SECURES ITS OWN HOME”…………. 11
V “DAYS FOLLOWING THE 1913 FLOOD”…………………. 14
VI “DR. SHOWERS’ BRAVE EFFORT”………………………. 16
VII “MANAGER MILLER COMES ON THE SCENE” ……….. 19
VIII “THE SEWER AND WATER PROJECT”………………….. 21
IX “BOARD OF MANAGERS CARRIES ON”………………… 21
X “NEW FEATURES ARE BUILT”…………………………… 24
XI “A FULL SUMMER OF INTEREST”………………………. 25
XII “MRS. ROOSEVELT’S APPEARANCE”………………….. 26
XIII “RADIO BROADCAST PROGRAMS”……………………. 27
XIV “WAR RESTRICTIONS PRESENT PROBLEMS”………… 29
XV “ CHAUTAUQUA DEBT RECEIVES ATTENTION”……… 31
XVI “THE COMMITTEE OF NINE”…………………………….. 32
XVII “NEW BOARD OF TRUSTEES”…………………………… 34
XVIII “1945—BIGGEST AND BEST YEAR”……………………. 35
XIX “WHAT IS CHAUTAUQUA?”……………………………. 37
Miami Valley Chautauqua—Then and Now
WHY SO MANY PEOPLE LOVE CHAUTAUQUA.
Chautauqua, Ohio, the site of The Miami Valley Chautauqua, a community of homes located on the most beautiful bend in the entire length of the Great Miami river, has a distinction all its own.
The minds of older people throughout the Miami Valley are filled with memories of Miami Valley Chautauqua that go back to the horse-and -buggy days. That era before the automobile and the radio when folks on the farm got the chores done earlier than usual, packed a big picnic dinner and drove to Chautauqua to hear the Rev. Sam Jones lambast them.
Thee are many homes in which the grandparents of today first met and fell in love at Chautauqua. Hundreds of families throughout the Miami Valley may trace their origin to romances dating back to Chautauqua during its fifty years of existence. Today the grandchildren of couples who first met here are coming on the scene. Often, as we stroll through the park in the twilight of a summer’s evening we come across an elderly man or woman standing beside a tree on the river bank, looking longingly across the stream. Dreams of long ago are cherished by that lonely observer. Dreams of a youth or maiden waiting eagerly at the end of the old bridge for the one who is coming to keep a tryst. Homes have been built, families have been raised by those sweethearts of long ago who first met at Chautauqua. No wonder so many people love the place.
There is scant satisfaction in finding oneself the lone survivor of a group that fifty years ago founded any institution. As you look back you long for the touch of vanished hands, you listen in vain for the sound of voices that are still. Perhaps, because we were the youngest of the twelve men who picked up Chautauqua when Rev. E. A. Harper laid it down we find that at this year of the Golden Anniversary, we alone are left of those who chartered the Miami Valley Chautauqua Company and worked with F. Gillum Cromer in those first days.
The memories that live within the peaceful grove beside the river, that linger in the shadows of the cottages, and in the woodland that is Miami valley Chautauqua are sacred memories. For many years the people of the Miami Valley have met here—the gray-haired fathers and mothers, the happy, care-free young people and the little tots that romped upon the grass. They come and they go. Their songs and their prayers, their hopes and their disappointments, their loves and their losses, all hover about the winding river or flit in the moonlight among the trees.
The task of telling story of Chautauqua has been delegated to me. I accept it with humility and enter upon it with a sense of keen responsibility. There are few of us today who can travel down memory’s lane to the very beginning of the organization. The story should be written by one of those who has covered the entire trail. We knew and worked with the founders, we have lived among the cottagers through all these fifty years. We have witnessed the growth, we have participated in the advancement and setbacks that mark the long period. Chautauquans like all other specimens of humanity, are at heart just folks. The petty jealousies and the rich generosities of life are found in their midst. They have been fussy and fretful at times, but lovable, always, and eagerly seeking to find the right way. The rafters in the old auditorium have echoed to their voices in song and prayer, great men and women have delivered messages from our platform and here always has been maintained the freedom of free speech. Little children who filled the font row of seats, and laughed at the antics of a trained dog, have graduated to seats farther back and pondered the sermons of great preachers, sought to follow the arguments of eminent leaders of thought or drifted on the voices of great singers and dreamed to the music of skilled musicians.
The advantages that accrued to the people of the Miami Valley from having the Chautauqua Assembly in its midst cannot be estimated. The influences for good that have reached out in many directions, are far deeper and richer than any of us know, and like the widening circles of a pool deeply stirred, spread and widen beyond all human estimation. In the past thousands of people received inspiration and help from Chautauqua. If the people needed that influence then, they need it more than ever now. We must carry on.
Visitors to Chautauqua comment upon our shaded streets and the pride taken in our cottages. The roads are kept in good condition and the summer homes are kept attractive.
When Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Chautauqua on Sunday, July 14, 1940, she wrote in her column, “My Day”: “We drove to Chautauqua, Ohio straight from the train and as we entered this widely-known summer resort we passed gay parties and boats on the Miami River. The big swimming pool and tennis courts were crowded with young people. The cottages looked unpretentious, but attractive and comfortable. The place impressed me as being thoroughly American and an ideal spot for a vacation.”
The youth of America has been living in a weird and strange environment during the past decade and we marvel at times that our boys and girls have held as steady as they have during that period.
When the writer was a boy the church was the center of the social life of the community. There were no automobiles, no moving picture shows, no radio to distract our attention. We lived a full life in the home, the church and the school. Today the road traveled by youth is filled with pitfalls and temptations. Upon all sides are found influences to distract the attention of our boys and girls from the better things in life. Parents are prone to criticize their children for following the primrose path but little is done to counteract the temptations that beset them. Chautauqua has a definite purpose along this line. We seek to provide a wholesome place in which the young people may meet and play. We seek to provide an antidote for the dance hall, the cocktail lounge, the night club, and gambling joint.
It is natural for young people to go where other young people are. Human nature does not change. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. The will mingle in spite of any barrier that may be raised. When we are asked, “What is the greatest attraction at Chautauqua?” we invariably answer, “ Boy meets girl.” This has been true throughout the half century history of Miami Valley Chautauqua.
Much attention has been given by our government to providing parks, playgrounds and recreation centers for the youth of America. But Chautauqua has plodded steadily on, paying its own way, with the steadfast purpose in view of furnishing a happy family life and a wholesome place for our children and young people to play. We have held fast to the maintenance of a Christian environment, the teachings of the great truths of the Bible, the desire to train up a child in the way he should go. Chautauqua deserves and seeks your support in this endeavor to help and guide youth in this mad world of today.
And now to the story:
IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME
It has been a long, long time since that hot Wednesday night of July 15, 1896, when Rev. Thomas Harrison of Rochester, Massachusetts, led a revival service on the old Fair Grounds at Franklin, Ohio, which marked the birth of The Miami Valley Chautauqua. That was fifty years ago and few of us are still alive who sat in the congregation, under a tent, that night. Rev. Harrison remained throughout the entire eleven days of the Camp Meeting, conducting evangelistic services each evening.
The program, which began each day with a sunrise prayer meeting, was entirely made up of religious services with the single exception of Wednesday, July 22, which was designated as G. A. R. Day and upon which occasion Gen. John M. Thayer, ex-Senator from Nebraska, delivered an address at 11:00A. M. and Gen. John B. Gordon gave his matchless lecture on “The Last Days of the Confederacy” at 2:00 P. M. But it was these two addresses which stood out among all the sermons and caused the Camp Meeting to be changed to Miami Valley Chautauqua the next summer.
Rev. E. A. Harper, a Methodist minister at Germantown, Ohio, was the man who had the vision and the courage to start a movement which has meant much to thousands of the residents of the Miami Valley. Quick to sense the keen interest in seeing and hearing men of wide reputation outside the realms of the church, as was evidenced by the throng attracted by Gen. Gordon, the religious camp meeting was changed to the broader Chautauqua field. In announcing the second program, July 23 to August 8, 1897, Rev. Mr. Harper printed the following in what he called “a catalogue”:
“With heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for the kindly interest and splendid patronage of last year, and with the generous assurance and bright prospects of many times greater attendance this year, the management takes great pleasure in preparing this catalogue of attractions, consisting of some of the best talent not only in this country, but also of the world, and which has been secured for your entertainment and instruction during the weeks of mid-summer embraced in our session.
“By the time set for our forth-coming assemblage, you will be fatigued from the almost ceaseless daily routine of work, worry, care and vexation, and to give you an opportunity of recuperating from your daily grind, we have prepared this magnificent and unexcelled program.
“A few days with us will strengthen and freshen you, and furnish you with a most delightful outing, but we hope to have you with us the whole session. Come and bring your family and friends with you and it will do you good.”
So the first real Miami Valley Chautauqua Assembly was launched. That 1897 program featured a five-day religious camp meeting which preceded the Assembly proper opening on Wednesday, July 28th. Appearing on the Chautauqua program that year were Bishop Chas. H. Fowler, who gave his famous lecture on “General Grant”; Prof. J. L. Shearer’s stereopticon lecture on “South Africa” interspersed with music by a Zulu sextette of South African natives; Dr. J. Wesley Hill’s lecture, “Four Years Among the Mormons”; Dr. T. DeWitt Talmadge at that time the most famous preacher in America; Dr. George M. Brown, Field Secretary of the Chautauqua Lake Study Circle from the Mother Chautauqua, acted as superintendent of platform and lectured on “Making the Full Man”; Gen. John B. Gordon returned for his second lecture, “The First Days of the Confederacy”; Dr. John Potts, general secretary of education of the Methodist Church, Canada, preached a sermon on Sunday, August 1st; Col. H. W. Ham, a humorist from Georgia, lectured on “The Snolly Goster”; Gov. A. S. Bushnell and Dr. A. J. Palmer of New York, who delivered his great lecture on “Co. D., the Die No Mores,” were featured on G. A. R. Day; Dr. Thos. Dixon, Jr., author of “The Klansman” and “The Other Woman, “ who at that time was preaching in Music Hall, New York City, spoke afternoon and evening on August 5th; Bishop John H. Vincent, chancellor of the Chautauqua movement, and Hon. Paul J. Sorg, then Congressman for the Third Ohio District, appeared the following day; and Rev. Sam P. Jones, famous Georgia evangelist, closed the assembly on Sunday afternoon and evening. In advertising this first appearance of Sam Jones on our Chautauqua platform, Rev. Mr. Harper said: “We do not know what we would do without him and we do not know what we would do with another like him. Jones knocks them all out alike; big guns, high-toned guns, long-range guns and rapid fire guns, are all ignored when he mounts the platform.”
And so the Miami Valley Chautauqua was launched in that summer of 1897. Many notable people, numerous widely known artists, a number of statesmen and great preachers have been heard on our platform since that time, but never in the fifty years of its history has such a galaxy of outstanding talent been brought together on a single assembly program.
But the menu proved too rich for the appetites of the rural folk of the Miami Valley, the cost was too high, the overhead too much of a burden and the fledgling Chautauqua went into the red.
A group of Franklin citizens, believing the movement was worth preserving, organized a stock company with the intention of carrying on. The men who saved the Miami Valley Chautauqua at that time were F. Gillum Cromer, Wm. Michael, J. D. Miller, Wm. F. Schenck, Seymour S. Tibbals, Dr. F. R. Evans, Elias Folk, R. B. Parks, Wm. S. Roof, C. H. Harding, J. S. Stoutenboro, Adam Bridge, W. G. Anderson, Dr. B. F. Clayton and James Knapp Reeve. Of that group, Mr. Tibbals alone survives. Rev. Mr. Harper, the real father of Chautauqua, was offered a place on the Board of Directors and urged to continue in the work, but worn by the heavy burden of one-man management and harassed by incessant creditors, he wanted no more of it. How we wish Rev. E. A. Harper could spend a summer with us at Chautauqua and see how his original camp meeting on the old Fair Grounds at Franklin has grown and developed.
HOW CHAUTAUQUA WAS CREATED
The third annual assembly was held under the management of The Miami Valley Chautauqua Company. This assembly was held on the Fair Grounds just west of Franklin and opened Saturday, July 30, and closed Sunday, August 7, 1898. F. Gillum Cromer, at that time Superintendent of the Public Schools at Franklin, was the president and J. D. Miller, prominent attorney, was secretary. The Directors were F. Gillum Cromer, Wm. Michael, J. D. Miller, Wm. F. Schenck, S. S. Tibbals, Dr. F. R. Evans, Elias Folk, R. B. Parks and W. S. Roof. A 48-page pamphlet program, over half of which was devoted to advertisements of business firms, was issued. In this program appeared the following announcement:
“TO THE PUBLIC:
“The summer Assembly has solved the problem of happily uniting recreation and profit, and filling a vacation with intellectual and spiritual uplift. The Miami Valley Chautauqua, organized among the leading business men of Franklin, proposes to take up the work where it was unfortunately laid down by Rev. E. A. Harper, the father of the Miami Valley Chautauqua. For the courage of Rev. Mr. Harper, this newly organized company has the greatest admiration. He is a man of great energy, brave purposes and enduring pluck. That the first years of the Miami Valley Chautauqua were not financially successful is not to be attributed to a want of strength in the programs offered. Experience has taught us, however, that an Assembly of this character can never succeed as a one-man enterprise. The gentlemen composing the Miami Valley Chautauqua Company have entered upon this undertaking in a spirit of self-sacrifice, but with a determination to make it win. The Company is thoroughly organized under the laws of Ohio, and will make good its every promise but in order to realize our hopes and ambitions we must have the hearty cooperation of all the intelligent people of the Miami Valley. May we have your support?
“F. GILLUM CROMER, President.”
Tents were provided for campers and the stalls in the old Fair Grounds stables were used by many for sleeping quarters. A dining room, operated by Mrs. Tillie Hamilton, was conducted in the Art Hall. The auditorium was still a big circus tent. The people came in horse-drawn vehicles. The third program was limited to nine days, covering two week-ends. On the 1898 program appeared Rev. Sam Jones, Dr. P. S. Henson, Booker T. Washington, Dr. Wilbur P. Thirkield, Corporal James Tanner, Senator J. B. Foraker, Commander Ballington Booth and others.
Assemblies were continued at the Franklin Fair Grounds under the same management in 1899 and 1900. On Friday, July 28, 1899, William Jennings Bryan made his first appearance at Miami Valley Chautauqua and brought wide-spread fame and popularity to the institution. Bryan was a great national character at that time and when he was secured to appear at Chautauqua everybody sat up and took notice. We were on the high road to success when we booked William Jennings Bryan and the people turned out to hear the man who had sprung into national fame at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Other names of this fourth assembly program were Col. Geo. W. Bain, Hon. John Temple Graves, Sam Jones, Mrs. Maude Ballinton Booth and Dr. T. DeWitt Talmadge. Dr. Talmage sought to cancel his contract a few weeks before his date, claiming illness as an excuse. The Board of Directors sent President F. Gillum Cromer to Asbury Park, N. J., where the great preacher was vacationing in an effort to get Dr. Talmadge to keep his engagement. Mr. Cromer was unsuccessful. When he returned and reported at a Board meeting, he said: “Yes, I found Talmadge. He was swimming in the ocean with a lot of women, but he insisted he was too ill to come to Ohio and speak at our Chautauqua.” We have taken part in many meetings of the Board of Directors of Miami Valley Chautauqua since that conference in J. D. Miller’s law office on that July night in 1899 but we have never seen our associates more discouraged than they were when F. Gillum Cromer came back from the seashore and said: “The old fool won’t come.” The programs had been printed and distributed and T. DeWitt Talmadge was the star attraction for the first Sunday. However, William Jennings Bryan, Sam Jones and Maude Ballington Booth drew more than satisfactory gate receipts and Miami Valley Chautauqua had a comfortable bank balance after declaring a dividend to the stock- holders.
The fifth assembly held August 4 to August 12, 1900, was the last held at the Franklin Fair Grounds. Before the program was completed and the advertising matter sent out 200 tents had been engaged for the Chautauqua Camp and all the horse stalls were taken. This was a presidential campaign year. Bryan was too busy chasing his second nomination as the Democratic candidate for President to give any thought to an appearance at Miami Valley Chautauqua. He got the nomination at Kansas City on July 4th, but was defeated by William McKinley in November. Prominent politicians were not available for Chautauqua dates during the summer of 1900. They were all too busy in the Presidential campaign. However, a strong program was built, featuring Dr. Russell H. Conwell, who delivered his famous lecture, “Acres of Diamonds,” on Saturday afternoon, August 4, and preached on the next day. Dr. Robert McIntyre, of Chicago, gave his lecture, “Buttoned-up People.” Elijah P. Brown, editor of The Ram’s Horn, made two appearances. Bishop Charles B. Galloway and Dr. John Pott were also on the program. This 1900 program marked the first deviation from the established sermons, lectures and musical interpolations. On Saturday evening, August 4th, Mons De Villiers, the French illusionist and prestidigitator, appeared in an entertainment of mystery and mirth. The 1900 assembly was another financial success in spite of the turmoil of a hot Presidential campaign.
At this period in the history of the Miami Valley Chautauqua the infant outgrew its swaddling clothes and began looking around for a bigger cradle. Contention arose among the fourteen stockholders and the Cromer men found opposition from a faction led by Clarence H. Harding. Mr. Cromer was looking toward the Van Derveer Grove, the present site of Chautauqua, and Dr. Evans was seeking to interest the stockholders in the Evans’ Woodland on what is now Route 73, between Franklin and Middletown. Chautauqua had developed an earning power and was about to invest in a permanent home of its own. The stock, on which only an assessment of $12.00 per share had been called for, doubled in value. The fight was on. New stock was issued and the small group of fourteen stockholders jumped to 39. A group of thirteen men from Dayton, headed by E. S. Lorenz, came into the picture and swung the deal for the purchase of the Van Derveer land.
CHAUTAUQUA SECURES ITS OWN HOME.
The year 1901 marked the first season for Chautauqua at its present site, immediately north of the Franklin Hydraulic Company’s dam, with a two mile frontage on the Great Miami River, far famed for its beauty. The reorganization made possible the purchase and improvements of a permanent home for these annual assemblies. The present large auditorium, the Bellevue dining hall, later destroyed by fire, and other buildings were ready for use on the opening day, Friday, July 26, 1901.
F. Gillum Cromer had again been elected president and general manager. The Board of Directors was made up of nine members, among them E. S. Lorenz, of Dayton, who later was destined to play an important role in the management and salvation of Miami Valley Chautauqua.
When Chautauqua moved from the old Fair Grounds at Franklin to its present beautiful site, a three-span iron foot bridge was erected over the river. Twelve hundred trees of forty varieties were transplanted, adding to the beauty of the natural grove. This foresight of Mr. Cromer’s is now being rewarded in the beauty and shade that marks the park, the cabin and the cottage sections. The wisdom of his determination to hold out for the present site has also been vindicated, in spite of the heavy loss sustained by the great flood of 1913.
The forces of nature and art appeared to be vying with each other to make the environment of the fledgling Miami Valley Chautauqua one of the most picturesque in Ohio. The Great Miami River at this point is a fine body of water, broad and majestic, tracing a beautiful curve on the north then bending again gracefully to the east. On the opposite side of the river, the adjacent hills, showing the penciling of ages, had forced the lines of traffic to the water’s edge. In that day Chautauqua campers could see the moving trains of the Big Four Railway system; the constant threading past of the Southern Ohio traction cars; the occasional drifting by of the slow and easy-going canal boats, and trotting steadily over the dusty ribbon of the pike, the ceaseless flow of horse-drawn vehicles. Here within a narrow width of less than one hundred feet, from the river’s edge to the foot of the hills, was a picture of the busy world of fifty years ago bringing to view four different means of transportation that flourished in the horse-and-buggy days. Today as you stand on the bank of the river and look across to the hills you find that time has erased three of the means of transportation from the scene. The traction line, the canal and the railroad have vanished from the picture and fast speeding motor cars, buses and trucks have taken the place of the rattling electric cars, the floating canal boats and the lumbering freight trains. The old iron foot bridge has also disappeared but Chautauqua, more beautiful that ever, still abides at the bend in the river. Life has grown faster, harder and more complex in the last fifty years but thousands still turn to this beautiful sylvan retreat and keenly enjoy the rest and recuperation so abundantly afforded.
The program in that first year of Miami Valley Chautauqua in its own home was one of rare strength and variety. On that 1901 program we find the names of outstanding national characters including Hon. Champ Clark, Dr. Robert Nourse, Dr. Robert McIntyre, Col. Robert Cowden, Hon. Alf Taylor, the Kaffir Boy Choir, Rev. Sam Jones, Gen. Ballington Booth and Maud Ballington Booth.
The new location won the admiration of thousands and the tented city continued to grow, necessitating the purchase of forty more acres of land in 1902. Lots were surveyed and were offered to persons who desired to erect cottages and the sound of the hammer and saw made merry music. Chautauqua was growing, thriving and prospering. On the 1902 program the biggest attraction was Lieut. Richmond Pearson Hobson. Lieut. Hobson was the handsome young naval officer who sank the Collier Merrimac, in the narrow channel of Santiago and bottled up the Spanish fleet. He was the outstanding hero of the day and American girls smothered him with kisses. We recall that a number of Chautauqua maidens paid Lieut. Hobson the popular tribute upon the occasion of his visit here.
In 1903 the Board of Directors of nine members was supplanted by an Executive Committee of three, F. Gillum Cromer, E. S. Lorenz and Elias Folk, who took over the active management of the Company’s affairs. By 1904 sixteen cottages had been erected and the white city of tents reached its peak.
With the 13thAnnual Assembly, held July 17 to August 3, 1908, the number of private cottages had reached sixty. Lot purchasers were given warranty deeds, with such restrictions as will prevent this from ever being other than a desirable place for summer homes. The grounds were the only location in the State of Ohio bought, owned and operated solely for Chautauqua purposes. Unpretentious, but steady, had been the growth, each year adding strength, vitality, confidence and enthusiasm. The Miami Valley Chautauqua became a member of the National Chautauqua Alliance, composed of the best assemblies only. Its methods had been those approved by experience and general manager F. Gillum Cromer now devoted his entire time to the management and development of the institution.
In 1909 the United States Post Office Department recognized Chautauqua and granted a new Summer Post Office which placed our Chautauqua on the map and greatly pleased the growing colony of summer residents.
The seventeenth annual assembly was held in 1912. Mr. Cromer, at that time, the largest individual stockholder, had been running Chautauqua for eleven years as somewhat of a dictator. He made hard and fast rules governing cottagers. He worked hard for Chautauqua and insisted upon the Puritanical Sabbath. You couldn’t buy a cigar or anything else on the grounds on Sunday. Bathing, boating and recreational pursuits were prohibited on the Lord’s Day. Sermons by the greatest preachers available featured the Sunday afternoon program and the Sunday night programs were always advertised as “Sacred Concerts.” But the crowds continued to come and Chautauqua continued to prosper.
During those eleven years the assembly programs brought to the platform at Chautauqua Senator J. P. Dolliver, Miss Jane Addams, General Joubert, Helen Stone, the missionary who was kidnapped and held captive in the Balkan wilderness and still holds the record for the largest single day’s attendance (18,000) at Chautauqua, Dr. Frank Gunsaulus, the Champ Clarke/Chas. B. Landis debate, Mrs. Gen’l John A. Logan, Rev. Sam P. Jones, Gov. LaFollette, Bishop Fowler, Wm. Jennings Bryan, Senator Gore, Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis, Senator Moses Clapp, Rev. Daniel Poling, Billy Sunday, Senator T. E. Burton, Senator Simeon D. Fess, Senator Bob Taylor, Bishop Hartzell, Hon. John Sharp Williams, Dr. John Watson, Senator J. B. Foraker, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, Dr. S. Parks Cadman, Dr. Frank Dixon and a host of others. What memories, what echoes of eloquence linger in the rooftrees of our old auditorium.
The seventeenth annual assembly, 1912, brought a change in policy. In the published program for that year we find this announcement:
“Through the co-operation of the Chautauqua Stockholders, it is proposed to change the corporation to one without stock or possibility for individual profit. The Company property is to be held by a Board of Trustees. Three are to be elected by the cottage owners, three selected from each of various religious denominations, a few selected at large; the direct management to be in the hands of an executive committee and general manager, chosen by these trustees.
“For the purpose only of providing for the future, as herein stated, the stockholders will accept for their stock the actual cash cost to them plus 6 per cent simple interest from date of purchase.”
After the passing of twenty-seven years, since this statement was made, our memory is rather vague as to just what Mr. Cromer and his immediate associates had in mind at that time. Whatever their plans may have been they did not materialize. In March, 1913, the devastating flood that swept down the Miami Valley wrought great havoc at Chautauqua. Among the first spots we visited after the waters had receded was the Chautauqua grounds. The picture presented will never be forgotten. The torrent had torn through what is now the Park and reached to the foundations of Grandview. Cottages and buildings on the lower level had been swept away, the bridge across the river was gone and the beautiful grove was in utter ruin.
When we first met Mr. Cromer after the flood, his eyes were dimmed with tears as he exclaimed, ”What are we going to do now?”
DAYS FOLLOWING THE 1913 FLOOD
Following the great flood, which occurred in March, 1913, dark days came upon Miami Valley Chautauqua. It was utterly impossible to hold an assembly program that summer. The Chautauqua grounds had been devastated and the entire Miami Valley was too busy digging out of the mud, and in the work of rehabilitation, to give any thought to vacations. The people were so engrossed with their individual losses and problems that no time could be give to the proposed surrender of stock or the plan to reorganize Chautauqua.
In 1914 Mr. Cromer bravely sought to carry on again and arranged a twenty-five day assembly program, opening Friday, July 17th, and closing Monday, August 10th.
This 1914 Assembly program was carefully built in the effort to reawaken the interest of the people and regain the public support. The old bridge could not be replaced and a pontoon bridge was laid across the river just below the dam and a rather picturesque environment. The distance from the traction car stop to the auditorium was about the same as heretofore. The 25-day program was equal to any in the past. One entire week was devoted to agriculture and farm study. The State Experiment Station sent a valuable exhibit to Chautauqua and furnished a number of speakers. Another week was devoted to the study of school methods for Sunday school workers. Dr. Carolyn Geisel, Dean of the School of Health, conducted classes with trained assistants in charge of each of the departments of Home Nursing and Emergency Help and Domestic Science. Dr. Byron W. King, noted President of King’s School of Elocution, conducted classes and delivered a series of his best literary efforts. In addition to the educational features patterned after the programs at Chautauqua, New York, many star attractions were booked, including Thaviu’s Orchestral Band and six grand opera stars, Pamahasika’s Pets, Governor J. M. Cox, Rev. George R. Stuart, Chas. K. Holstein, Rev. Sam Small, Ng Poon Chow, Dr. Brougher and Hon. Frank B. Willis. In spite of the expensive effort to win people back to Chautauqua, the heavy clouds left by the 1913 flood hung over the Valley and the season ended with a deficit.
Early in 1915 the storm clouds gathered and a number of creditors were suing and obtaining judgments in court. The sheriff of Montgomery county was forced to enter upon a foreclosure suit to satisfy these judgments and April 8, 1915, was fixed as the date upon which the Chautauqua grounds were to be sold under the hammer. An injunction was secured on April 7th, to stop the sale, twenty-four hours before the time set. This injunction was granted on a petition filed by William D. Chamberlain, E. J. Brown, J. R. Fenstermaker, J. M. Stutsman, C. W. Green, O. E. Wright, G. W. Paris and others, stockholders and cottage owners. The charge was made that F. Gillum Cromer, as president of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Company, had attempted through the filing of the foreclosure suit to secure control of the Chautauqua properties, regardless of the rights and interests of the stockholders and cottage owners. The injunction suit was brought to enjoin the sale of the property, to compel Cromer to render an accounting and for the appointment of a receiver to take charge of the grounds.
At a hearing before Judge Carroll Sprigg on April 26, 1915, the application for appointment of a receiver for the Miami Valley Chautauqua Company was denied and the prayer contained in the petition filed by stockholders and cottagers was refused. Realizing that the sale of the property by foreclosure, which was stopped by the temporary injunction, would again soon have the attention of the sheriff, E. S. Lorenz, one of the interested stockholders, called a meeting of stockholders immediately.
At this meeting Mr. Lorenz volunteered to undertake the organization of a syndicate to which the property would be allowed to pass under the order of sale, provided the creditors were satisfied, and to acquire by common consent the entire stock of the Company. Mr. Cromer, at this meeting, agreed to withdraw from active participation in the affairs of the Company if such action would serve to bring about a complete and satisfactory adjustment of affairs.
To understand the troubled situation which existed at that time it should be known that when the water subsided after the flood of 1913 the grounds were greatly damaged and the outlook was exceedingly dark. F. Gillum Cromer found himself loaded with 51 per cent of the stock and the treasury without sufficient balance to rehabilitate the beautiful grounds. His effort to hold a successful assembly in 1914, with the river bridge gone and the grounds showing ugly scars from the flood, had only plunged the Company deeper into debt. Additional stock was sold and the impression got abroad that the proceeds from the sale of this additional stock were to be used in recovering the grounds from the devastation of the flood and that a new Board of fifteen directors was to be chosen by the stockholders, both old and new. Later it was found that most of the money subscribed by the new shareholders had been appropriated to purchase all but eleven shares of Mr. Cromer’s stock and the old Board of Directors had been re-elected. This started trouble between the management and cottage owners and the breach widened as time went on.
At the second special meeting of stockholders held in Franklin on May 3, 1915, there were present 19 cottage owners and 112 shares of the 156 shares of stock were represented. Mr. Lorenz offered his plan of organizing a non-profit-sharing syndicate to be managed by a board of trustees, members of which were to be selected from the various religious denominations throughout the Valley. The plan was adopted upon the assumption of the debts by this syndicate and the chattel property and land were to be turned over to them and the stock certificates surrendered.
A committee consisting of E. S. Lorenz, Howard B. Anderson, F. G. Cromer and Prof. J. Balmer Showers was appointed to direct the negotiations looking to the forming of the syndicate. Under court order in the foreclosure proceedings the sheriff’s sale was again postponed for five weeks at which time it was expected the syndicate would bid in the property. It was also decided to omit the assembly program for that year (1915).
In the five weeks’ interim following the stockholders meeting the syndicate idea was abandoned and the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association was created. And right here started that long drawn out mixup between the Company and the Association, which for more than twenty years confused and bothered the management.
Through the effort of Mr. Lorenz most, but not quite all, of the original stock certificates were surrendered to him as Trustee. The Association issued $25,000 worth of first mortgage bonds, sold enough to pay off the pressing debts and Chautauqua was saved.
When the programs for the 19thassembly, which ran from July 28 to August 14, 1916, were printed many new names appeared as officers of the Association and F. Gillum Cromer’s name was not among them. The new officers were J. Balmer Showers, president; E. G. Ruder, first vice president; R. A. Colter, second vice president; W. G. Anderson, secretary and assistant treasurer; R. T. Johnson, treasurer; C. R. Lowe, general secretary. The address was give as the Y.M.C.A., Dayton, and Mr. Lowe took over the active management. The Board of Managers were W. D. Chamberlin, H. D. Dickson, Elias Folk, H. H. Long, E. S. Lorenz, C. R. Lowe and J. B. Showers. The Board of Trustees had a roster of 51 members, probably forty of whom took no active interest in Chautauqua.
The big feature of the 1916 assembly was the joint debate between Gov. James M. Cox and Hon. Frank B. Willis, who were rival candidates for Governor of Ohio.
In 1917 when the 20thannual assembly was held America was in World War I and Mr. E. S. Lorenz had charge of the program. Mr. Lorenz said: “Miami Valley Chautauqua is no longer a profit-sharing concern. All the income now goes to building up the institution. It belongs to you. Treat it as such.”
It was even more difficult to secure talent in 1918 and the attention of the people was centered in the war. Dr. J. Balmer Showers, as president of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association, got little help or encouragement from his 51 members of the Board of Trustees and had to carry the load almost alone. His name appears on that year’s program for the first time as General Secretary.
DR. SHOWERS’ BRAVE EFFORT
During the decade 1918-1927, Miami Valley Chautauqua held regular annual assemblies covering seventeen-day periods without interruption. All of these assemblies were under the personal direction of Dr. J. Balmer Showers and to him should go full credit. During that time the unwieldy Board of Trustees, with a roster of 51 members, functioned indifferently and examination of the records, kept by the late W. G. Anderson, Recording Secretary, show that 38 of the members never attended a meeting of the Board. The Trustees who gave Dr. Showers support were H. B. Anderson, W. G. Anderson, Elias Folk, S. S. Tibbals, R. W. Solomon, E. S. Lorenz, K. K. Lorenz, W. O. Gross, E. L Eidemiller, A. K. Morris, W. D. Chamberlain, A. T. McCarthy and R. T. Johnson.
Dr. Showers held fast to Chautauqua traditions and offered the best talent available on the programs. But the trend away from the lyceum platform was already setting in and it became more difficult to attract audiences in sufficient numbers to meet expenses.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees held at the Y.M.C.A. in Dayton, on December 15, 1925, Mr. E. S. Lorenz, seconded by Mr. H. B. Anderson, moved that the Board of Managers be instructed to arrange for a reduction of the Board of Trustees “to such number as they deemed advisable.” The Board of Managers at that time were Dr. Showers, W. D. Chamberlin, Elias Folk, E. S. Lorenz, S. S. Tibbals, C. M. Shera and H. B. Anderson.
Nothing definite was accomplished in the proposed reduction of the number of members on the Board of Trustees during the following year. The cottagers were asking for more consideration in the management of Chautauqua, as very few cottage owners were members of the Board of Trustees. Almost the entire burden of management, financing and keeping peace among cottagers now rested on the shoulders of the General Manager. It was becoming a heavy burden and as Dr. showers could afford to devote only a part of his time to looking after Chautauqua, he was asking to be relieved of those responsibilities.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees held December 15, 1926, Dr. Showers tendered his resignation as President and General Manager. At this meeting it was decided to give the cottage owners greater representation on both the Board of Managers and the Board of Trustees. The following Board of Managers was elected: E. S. Lorenz, Elias Folk, S. S. Tibbals, H. B. Anderson, L. E. Marshall and C. A. Lishawa.
Thirteen Trustees were also elected for a term of one year to fill vacancies on the unwieldy Board. Among them were R. O. Holton, W. G. Davenport, L. E. Marshall and C. A. Lishawa, all cottage owners.
As no action had been taken on Mr. Lorenz’s motion, made the year before, to reduce the number of members on the Board of Trustees, Mr. Lorenz seconded by Mr. Tibbals moved that a committee of five be appointed to report at the 1927 meeting a definite plan for the reduction of membership on the Board of Trustees and that “method and personnel be considered.”
Well do we recall that bleak day in the early spring of 1927 when Mrs. Drusilla Vaughn and a committee of ladies from the District W.C.T.U. met with E. S. Lorenz, Dr. J. Balmer Showers, Elias Folk, H. B. Anderson and S. S. Tibbals to consider the creation of the Frances Willard cottage. Mr. Lorenz and Dr. Showers wanted to locate it on a spot in the rear of the public comfort station but the ladies desired the present spot upon which the cottage now stands. Messrs. Folk, Anderson and Tibbbals gave their support to the ladies and a twenty-year lease was granted. The Frances Willard cottage has been an important part of Chautauqua ever since. Under the direction of Mrs. Vaughn it has been a well-managed lodging house for women, headquarters for many gatherings of the W. C. T. U. and a loyal supporter of the management. The Frances Willard cottage has contributed its full share to the growth and culture of Chautauqua.
Dr. Showers was persuaded to continue in the capacity of General Manager until his successor should be chosen, elected and qualified, and the Board of Managers was authorized to select a new General Manager. The meeting adjourned with a feeling of anxiety as to the future of Miami Valley Chautauqua.
Dr. Showers, at a great personal sacrifice, carried on and organized and conducted the assembly of 1927. Only those closely associated with him realized at what a disadvantage he was working. He had resigned, an element unfriendly to him was at work and the people seemed to be losing interest in Chautauqua everywhere. Yet he bravely carried on and built a fine program featuring Clinton N. Howard, Senator S. D. Fess, Stanley L. Krebs, Major Hites, Judge George D. Allen, Elsie Baker, Private Peat and Reinald Werrenrath. Added to these bill-toppers were Goforth’s Orchestral Band, The Southland Artists, The Boyd Dramatic Co., National Light Opera Company and the Theodora Concert Company
The annual meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in Franklin on December 15, 1927. The Trustees attending this meeting were Dr. Showers, C. A. Lishawa, E. L. Eidemiller, E. S. Lorenz, R. O. Holton, L. E. Marshall, R. W. Solomon, A. K. Morris, W. D. Chamberlin, C. T. House, S. S. Tibbals, H. B. Anderson and W. G. Anderson.
The committee on Trustees offered the following resolution: “Resolved: That the Rules and Regulations of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association relating to the membership of the Board of Trustees be changed and that Article 2, Section 2, of the same be amended to read—the active members shall consist of 24, eight of whom shall be elected for one year, eight for two years and eight for three years.” The amendment was adopted and a new Board of Trustees elected.
The election of officers was then held with the following result: S. S. Tibbals, President; R. W. Solomon, First Vice President; R. O. Holton, Second Vice President; W. G. Anderson, Secretary; L. E. Marshall, Treasurer. A new Board of Managers was next chosen, consisting of S. S. Tibbals, H. B. Anderson, Elias Folk, R. O. Holton, L. E. Marshall and C. A. Lishawa. This Board of Managers immediately employed Wade E. Miller as General Manager.
Dr. Showers, in a very gracious and kindly address, retired from the active management, saying:
“Herewith is submitted to you my report as President of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association. Though one man cannot make an institution, he was probably right who said, ‘Every institution is the lengthened shadow of a man.’ If this is true and though there were many who lengthened his shadow, the Miami Valley Chautauqua is the lengthened shadow of F. Gillum Cromer. There are three men who, probably above all others, know the cost of the present life and progress of Miami Valley Chautauqua. Two of those are living, Lyman Black and myself; one is dead, President Cromer. Our new, efficient General Manager is on the way to know it. May he be spared the deeper knowledge of its cost.
“But it is a game worthwhile. Nothing done for others can be wholly in vain. This is your consolation and your reward for loyal support of this institution. Chautauqua now under the leadership of Mr. Miller, is entering the third period of its history. The first period, that of its founding, was done, and well done, under President Cromer. In that initial period four of you were fellow-builders with Mr. Cromer—Messrs Tibbals, Folk, Howard and Will Anderson. Following the great flood of 1913 came the second period, or testing time. It was severe; shaking the institution to its very foundations. It was then a group of ten Dayton men spoke. Divided councils were unified, a new association formed and the saving of Chautauqua began. It is not too much to say that but one man knows fully the cost of that restoration.* * *”
Thus on a snowy afternoon, December 15, 1927, Dr. J. Balmer Showers, laid down the burdens and responsibilities of managing Chautauqua and Wade E. Miller picked them up.
MANAGER MILLER COMES ON THE SCENE.
Chautauqua assemblies generally had been suffering financial losses and a waning of public interest for several years previous to December 15, 1927, when Dr. J. Balmer Showers finally had his resignation as General Manager accepted. The Board of Directors was instructed to secure a new General Manager at once.
It was through the happy suggestion of Mr. L. E. Marshall that Wade E. Miller, then principal of the Middletown High School, become the third general manager of Miami Valley Chautauqua. Never shall we forget that cold, bleak December day that Mr. Miller met with the members of the Board on the Chautauqua grounds. We visited the Bellevue Hotel, the first floor of which was the dining room and kitchen, with second floor devoted to rooms for lodgers. The building had been closed for four months and the equipment was in poor condition. Pots, pans and a worn-out range added to the general scene of desolation. The grounds and surroundings were not very inviting on that dismal winter’s day. There wasn’t much to inspire anybody with a desire to tackle the job. But we have since learned that Wade E. Miller thrives on difficult tasks and when the Board of Directors pledged him their hearty cooperation he consented to make an effort to revive Chautauqua. To the credit of that Board, and the new members who have since been elected, it should be said that the pledge has been kept and during many times of trial when Manager Miller faced threatening obstacles and hard-going, we have heard him say: “I can’t quit! You men have stood by me too loyally.” We know there have been times when Wade Miller turned down promotions in his regular field of endeavor, we know there have been times when Chautauqua’s financial burdens were heavy, when the growing details of the job were enough to drive a man crazy and times when he needed and wanted a summer’s vacation, but our general manager has faced the music and carried on. At a meeting of the Board held at the Hamilton (Bomberger’s) Inn in Franklin on Thursday evening, January 12, 1928, Wade E. Miller was elected general manager.
Work of cleaning up the grounds started with the first day of spring, under the direction of “Daddy” King. The old Bellevue Hotel was renovated and Clyde Hackney put in charge. The 1928 Assembly Program was built, featuring “Billy” Sunday, William A. Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, Prof. Glenn L. Morris, Fillmore’s Band and other excellent attractions.
A revival in interest was marked from the very beginning of Mr. Miller’s management. An old-time crowd turned out to hear “Billy” Sunday, August 5thon “Crooks, Corkscrews, Bootleggers and Whiskey Politicians—“They Shall Not Pass.” The attendance throughout that season was larger than it had been for several years past and the enthusiasm created by the new management started Chautauqua on the up-grade again. The evident intention to build upon a more liberal policy, free admission to the grounds, and the plan to make Chautauqua more of a summer resort with interesting features running from Decoration Day to Labor Day, met with immediate public approval.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees held on December 6, 1928, in the offices of Attorney Arthur Bryant in Franklin, S. S. Tibbals was elected President; R. W. Solomon, First Vice President; R. O Holton, Second Vice President; W. G Anderson, Secretary; L. E. Marshall, Treasurer; O. E. King, Superintendent of Grounds. The Board of Managers elected were S. S. Tibbals, R. O. Holton, L. E. Marshall, H. B. Anderson, C. A. Lishawa and Elias Folk. Mr. Miller was reengaged as General Manager.
While marking the greatest stride in improvements, the year 1929 also brought the greatest problems.
At a meeting of the Board of Managers held at the Miami Hotel, Dayton on Saturday, February 1, 1929, it was decided to build an up–to-date swimming pool. Chautauqua was not in a financial position to undertake so expensive an improvement, and Mr. R. O. Holton volunteered to finance the project. It was this investment that made him the largest creditor of Miami Valley Chautauqua. Not only do we owe our beautiful swimming pool to R. O. Holton, but elsewhere about the grounds are many evidences of this enthusiasm, generosity and enterprise. Among these are the dining hall and the coffee shop. His faith in Chautauqua was ultimately justified and eventually he was paid in full but there is a debt for services rendered that can never be repaid.
On the morning of May 4, 1929, the old two-story Bellevue Hotel was totally destroyed by fire started by a blow-torch workmen were using in installing a new refrigerator. On the afternoon of the day of the fire the Board of Managers held a long session with Mr. Miller and decided to erect a new dining hall and have it ready for the Cottagers’ banquet on June 15.
The publicity received from the fire and the building of the swimming pool turned the attention of the people of the Miami Valley to Chautauqua and the spirit and enterprise of the management aroused increased interest.
In spite of most unfavorable weather conditions, the new dining hall was ready for the cottager’s banquet on the evening of June 15thand the beautiful swimming pool was opened to the public on the same date.
The Assembly Program featured “Billy” Sunday, Ruth Bryan Owen and Goforth’s Orchestral Band. Cottagers generally began to sit up and take notice and improve their cottages.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees held December 5, 1929, Charles R. Palmer was elected to the Board of Managers to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Elias Folk, who had been identified with Miami Valley Chautauqua from its very beginning.
In 1930 the first Shelter House was built and made available for large picnic groups, family reunions, etc, not only providing shelter from inclement weather, but protection from flies and other insects.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees held on November 10, 1931, Elmer S. Sawtelle was elected to the Board of Managers to succeed C. A. Lishawa who resigned.
Chautauqua carried on, adding improvements and gaining new friends without any change in the management until the meeting of the trustees held November 21, 1935, when Gordon Sherer was elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Howard B. Anderson.
In the deaths of Howard B. Anderson, which occurred in 1935, and William G. Anderson in 1936, Chautauqua suffered the loss of two of its most valuable supporters. Both had been active in the management for many years and their counsel and the extending of long-time credit by the lumber firm helped materially in building up Chautauqua.
The Board of Managers, made up of S. S. Tibbals, R. O. Holton, Charles R. Palmer, Elmer S. Sawtelle, L. E. Marshall and Gordon Sherer, carried on intact from 1935 to 1944. For ten years under the able cooperation and direction of Wade E. Miller, as General Manager, they steadily improved the grounds and buildings, gave unselfishly of their time and money, regained the public interest, increased property values and maintained the policy upon which the institution was originally founded. They suffered at times much unjust criticism but this was largely due to the fact that they met problems without laying all the difficulties before the cottage owners. Under the reorganization plan and the adoption of a new constitution, we feel that Miami Valley Chautauqua today is upon a much happier foundation and will go on to bigger and better things.
Nevertheless, we still insist that all the men who served on the Board of Managers since 1927, when Dr. Showers and his unwieldy board of 51 Trustees passed out of the picture, did a splendid job and deserve the gratitude of every cottage owner.
Herman H. Lawrence is another loyal Chautauqua enthusiast who works mostly behind the scenes. He served as press representative during the WLW broadcasts, as manager of the swimming pool and all-around handy man. Today he is the editor of the quarterly magazine, THE CHAUTAUQUAN and the CHAUTAUQUA WEEKLY NEWS. In the office, he has been nicknamed “Reverend,” because he is so affable, willing and eager to promote any Chautauqua interest.
THE SEWER AND WATER PROJECT
One of the outstanding developments at Miami valley Chautauqua was the inauguration of the Sewer and Water Project in 1935. With federal aid and the loyal support of cottage owners, one of the first WPA projects in this section was started, when, with the cooperation of the Franklin Board of Public affairs, the Warren and Montgomery County Commissioners, Montgomery County Sanitary Unit No. 1 was established.
With the bringing of running water from the Franklin Water Works system to Chautauqua and the elimination of old outside toilets, by the introduction of a sanitary sewer system with an approved disposal plant, the desirability of residence at Chautauqua was greatly enhanced. Property values increased at once and cottage owners were inspired with the desire to improve their cottages by installing bathrooms with flushable toilets. The quick disappearance of the old outhouses added to the beauty of the cottage section and removed a menace to health and a most unpleasant condition during the later weeks of the summer.
Only those who served on the Board of Managers, or as members of the Sewer and Water Committee, have any conception of the political red-tape, delays and obstacles which were surmounted. To the credit of the cottagers the sewer and water assessments were, in nearly all cases, promptly met but to the men on the Board of Managers and to General Manager Wade E. Miller should go the credit for a dogged determination to put the improvement through. Chief among these active co-workers was R. O. Holton, who sacrificed much of his time in general over-seeing of the work and gave valuable assistance through his long service in general contracting and building experience. It was also in connection with the Sewer and Water Project that Chautauqua secured the services of another man who has become a vital figure in that community. This was Ed. Wengert, who came to Chautauqua as superintendent for the project and foreman of the WPA workers. Mr. Wengert had been a contractor and his mechanical ability and knowledge of construction have made him a valuable man. When the work was completed on the sewer and water lines, Mr. Wengert was employed by the management to take over the job of Superintendent of Grounds at Chautauqua. His capable, efficient and thorough handling of the job has proven that he is the man for the place.
BOARD OF MANAGERS CARRIES ON
During the first decade under Wade E. Miller’s management Chautauqua made steady progress, but over a hard up-hill road. The management made experiments in an effort to find features that would attract the interest of the public.
It became apparent that support of the old-time assembly program was decreasing and more and more difficult to secure nationally known attractions at a price we could afford to pay.
Great effort was made to attract conventions, conferences and reunions. The swimming pool had demonstrated at once that public support would be given to up-to-date recreational features and the management devoted much time to planning attractions for young people. Concrete tennis courts were laid and roller skating at night on these courts drew large crowds. Modern stage equipment was installed on the bleak, old auditorium platform and scenery and a handsome curtain were added. Discarded street car seats were secured by Mr. Sawtelle from The Cincinnati Street Railway Company and the bare old benches were made more comfortable. Lighting effects were changed which greatly improved the interior of the auditorium and later dressing rooms were added. The coffee shop was built and became the meeting place of cottagers each evening. Cabin Row was started and added to from time to time. The old Grandview Hotel was renovated and made more comfortable. G. P. Lewis was granted the concession for a Tom Thumb Golf Course and ground made available south of the swimming pool. Roads and streets were repaired and the greatest improvement of all was installed with the sewer and water system. Steadily during these years Chautauqua was improved. But this all cost money and the Board of Managers and the General Manager were at times hard pressed for means to finance current bills. During this period a borrowing credit was established at The Franklin National Bank and Messrs. R. O. Holton, Wade E. Miller, S. S. Tibbals, E. S. Sawtelle and Charles R. Palmer signed the bond. The Bank would not loan money to The Miami Valley Chautauqua Association but it would loan with these gentlemen as sureties.
A stable was built and riding horses were brought to Chautauqua. Horseback riding has always been popular among young people and it was thought the introduction of a riding stable would prove popular. This was the only mistake the Board made in the early period under the new management. Cottagers objected to horses crossing their lawns, there was no available bridal path and it was necessary for riders to take to the public roads. Two horse shows were put on. The second on a rather elaborate scale under an expensive lighting system. The second horse show was very attractive and received wide attention throughout the Valley, but failed to show a profit and was abandoned. Shuffleboard was installed with two courts and proved so popular that later three additional courts were put down.
Up to the time of Wade E. Miller’s appointment as General Manager, cottage owners had occupied their cottages but eighteen days, during the period of the assembly program, each year. The new management established a free admission to the grounds and extended the season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. With the opening of the new swimming pool and the installation of other recreational features with this extended season, the new and larger dining hall the operation of other concessions, people began spending more time at Chautauqua and improving their cottages. It was evident at once that a new era had dawned but who could tell what the future might bring? The early growth, before the 1913 flood, had been created and prospered around the idea of the Chautauqua assembly and a short eighteen-day program. The tented city was now gone, the wonderful programs were no longer available. The radio became popular and it was extremely difficult to secure high class talent, except at high cost, and the low-priced talent no longer satisfied. The new management, with the idea that Chautauqua could be made an ideal summer resort and vacation spot, turned its attention to building on that line. Because of the modern improvements being made and the careful planning of the new manager and his more liberal Board of Managers, cottages were improved so that instead of the eighteen-day occupation as in former years, practically all of the cottages were occupied during the entire summer season and many of them have been winterized and are occupied the year around.
The Miami Valley Bible Conference was made a feature of the summer season at Chautauqua in 1930. It was not sponsored by the Chautauqua management and was entirely a venture of faith, backed by the belief that the Christian people would be glad to support such an enterprise with their interest, attendance and money. It was interdenominational and was organized by Rev. Parley E. Zartman, of Winona Lake, Indiana. Dr. Hugh I. Evans, pastor of Westminster Church, Dayton, Ohio, was president. No admission fee was charged. Among the speakers at the first session of the Miami Valley Conference were Dr. W. M. Robertson, of Glasgow, Scotland; Samuel M. Swerner, a missionary from Egypt; Robert Watson of Boston, and Ralph C. Norton, of Belgium. Mrs. Florence E. Kinney, associated with Rev. “Billy” Sunday, had charge of a daily class of methods of Bible study. The music was in charge of Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Kindig, of Matoon, Ill. This first season was held August 11to17, 1930.
The second Bible Conference was held July 5 to 12, 1931. At this session, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, one of America’s most famous preachers, appeared for four days. His sermons were inspirational and well received.
In 1932, Dr. W. E. Biederwolf, widely known evangelist, was the prominent feature for four days.
In 1933 the Miami Valley bible Conference returned to the plan of engaging more speakers. The conference opened on Sunday, July 8 with Dr. F. W. Stanton, of Franklin, preaching at the opening service. After conducting three conferences, Rev. Parley Zartman retired as head of the Conference and Dr. Stanton was made president. The inspirational value to the ministers, churches and people of the Miami Valley had proven beyond price, but the bills had to be paid. The public response had been most gratifying in attendance and interest shown but when it came to financial support that was another matter. On the 1933 program, Dr. Merton Rice, Dr. Paul S. Linebach, Dr. James M. Gray, Dr. A. T. Robertson, Dr. timothy Stone and E. Howard Cadle were the leading attractions, while local ministers gave hearty support and preached at many services.
Under the leadership of Dr. Stanton a splendid program was presented at the 1934 Conference. Among the talent appearing were Rev. “Billy” Sunday, Mrs. Maude Ballington Booth, Dr. H. A. Ironside, Dr. Merton Rice, Dr. Ralph Stockman, Dr. Bob Jones and E. Howard Cadle. No finer program could be offered but the financial returns were insufficient to meet expenses and the Miami Valley Bible Conference was given up. While the Conference was in no way sponsored by Chautauqua, Manger Wade E. Miller gave it hearty support and took an active part in its affairs. It was with deep regret the annual conferences were abandoned.
During the decade from 1929 to 1939 the annual assembly programs suffered a slow but steady decrease in public interest and profitable operation. It became evident that the foundation upon which Miami Valley Chautauqua had been built was slowly crumbling. In fact, this waning interest became apparent during the last years of Dr. Showers’ management. This was a matter of deep concern to Mr. Miller and the Board of Managers. The financial loss on the assembly was absorbing a considerable portion of the profit earned during the summer season by recreational features and concessions. Rev. “Billy” Sunday and Senator Simeon D. Fess, who had long been drawing cards, were losing their ability to attract large audiences. Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of the man who once attracted thousands to Chautauqua, appeared before a meager audience. Mr. Miller, in building his programs, then gave more attention to plays and a number of theatrical companies were booked between 1928 and 1942, when the assembly program was entirely abandoned because of war restrictions on travel and the rationing of gasoline.
Among the theatrical troupes booked during the thirties were the Bergman Players, the Redpath Players, who gave a fine performance of the then popular drama, “Grumpy,” the Salisbury Company, Willis Hall and Associates, Freeman Hammond Players, Olive Kackley’s Company, popular Bob Hanscom, and others. But like the old days of theatrical barnstorming, the box office often did not take in enough to pay the troupe and upon at least one occasion we had to send the actors on and mail their check later. In one instance the company borrowed money to get on their way and left a note for future payment.
Feature attractions on the programs during that period were U. S. Senator Fess; Dr. Ira Landreth, president of International Society Christian Endeavor; William A. Green, president of A.F.L.; “Billy” Sunday; Prof. A. M. Harding, University of Arkansas; Alan McQuhae; Ruth Bryan Owen; Gov. Smedly D. Butler; E. Howard Cadle; Dr. Arthur H. Compton; “Alfalfa” Bill Murray; Robert Taft; and Goforth’s Orchestra.
It was evident that some radical change would have to be made if we were to revive interest in the Chautauqua Assembly programs. The cottagers began to complain, especially the older one, who remembered the nationally known attractions during F. Gillum Cromer’s days. Young people flocked to the swimming pool, the new bowling alleys and night roller skating on the tennis courts. The management realized its obligation to carry on the annual assembly as that was a consideration for the original charter granted by the State.
In 1935 the Board of Trustees raised the annual cottage assessment from $15.00 to $25.00. This extra $10.00 was to be applied to helping bear the cost of assembly programs and each cottage owner was to receive two season tickets. Another innovation that year was the booking of a theatrical company for an entire week. The idea of having a play company for six consecutive days did not prove so popular. In spite of a surfeit of dramas the total receipts for admission to assembly programs showed a gain, but this was due to the extra assessment of ten dollars on each cottage.
NEW FEATURES ARE BUILT.
In 1937, Mr. Miller had completed his first ten years of service as General Manager. They were years of steady progress, marked by hard work and the solving of many problems.
During those years only three changes were made in the board of Managers. Elias Folk and Howard B. Anderson were removed by death and Chester Lishawa resigned. Charles R. Palmer, E. S. Sawtelle and Gordon B. Sherer were elected to fill these vacancies. S. S. Tibbals, R. O. Holton and L. E. Marshall served the complete period. In his annual reports to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Miller invariably gave credit to those associates and their faithful service which was always without pay and at considerable sacrifice in time and money.
It is impossible to dwell in detail upon each accomplishment at Chautauqua between the years 1928 and 1937. But to those who knew the institution and the grounds as they were when Mr. Miller and the Board of Managers took over it is at once apparent that great progress was made. May we briefly call out readers’ attention to some of the things that had been done in those ten years?
The Chautauqua Sunday School, after being neglected for two years, was revived by the new management and Mr. Miller started his adult Bible class. It immediately became popular and has been maintained every Sabbath all summer for eighteen years. It has often been referred to as “the heart of Chautauqua” and at times has greatly exceeded the attendance of any Sunday school in all the Valley. Its support has been generous and its influence widely felt. Chester Lishawa, Elmer Sawtelle, Harry Wagstaff, Clyde W. Sullivan, S. S. Tibbals and C. M. Shera have been active as officers and Miss Schroder, assisted by other cottagers, served as pianists. But to Wade E. Miller should be given full credit for the adult Bible class.
Other features built or inaugurated during the new era are the up-to-date swimming pool, the new dining hall, eighteen cabins, two shelter houses, painting all buildings white, the well-equipped and popular coffee shop, the riding stables, sanitary public toilets, road improvements, five cement tennis courts, and resurfacing the cottagers’ private tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, baseball diamond, installation of sanitary sewer and water system, the Chapel in the Woods built and donated by Dean Scully, new workshop, post office and administration building, bowling alleys, and skating rink. All these improvements were not secured by rubbing an Alladin’s lamp. They cost money and required vigilant supervision. Certainly, a deep debt of gratitude is owing to somebody for the progress made at Miami Valley Chautauqua.
A FULL SUMMER OF INTEREST
The year 1939 gave evidence of the approaching shadows into which the whole world was soon to pass. War and rumors of war from abroad aroused fear in the hearts of a peace-loving America. People became anxious as to the future. Much attention was being given by the government to providing parks, playgrounds and recreation centers for the youth of America. But Miami valley Chautauqua continued to plod steadily on, with the steadfast purpose in view of furnishing a happy family life and a wholesome place for our children and young people to play. Could the management have seen the many stumbling blocks that lay in the road ahead it is doubtful that they would have gone on so bravely and with faith unshaken.
The 1939 season opened with the Knights Templar Retreat on May 20th and carried through to Labor Day. An assembly program featuring Arthur E. Roberts and “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, interspersed by professional and amateur musical and dramatic talent and moving pictures carried on until the season closed at the auditorium with Thirkields’ Fall Style Show. Anyone who watched developments closely could see that the cottagers and the public’s interest in the assembly was wanng.
By this time the scope of other interests and activities had broadened. Instead of the old eighteen-day Chautauqua season we now had 43 sources of income with a full summer of interest. The increase in the number of activities and the widening of the service to the public increased the total volume of business immensely.
It was in 1939 that the Sewer and Disposal plant were finally completed. The WPA authorities came back to the job and had it completed late in July. They did excellent work and no community in all the Miami Valley can boast of a better sewer system and disposal plant than we have at Miami Valley Chautauqua. The completion of this project made necessary an additional assessment of $20.00 per cottage and a majority of the cottage owners paid at once. The Franklin National Bank acted as trustee for the collection of assessments and deserves much credit for the assistance and cooperation which covered a period of several years.
MRS. ROOSEVELT’S APPEARANCE
The new decade, opened for Chautauquans when a mid-winter get-together banquet and party for cottagers was staged at the Manchester Hotel in Middletown on the evening of January 25, 1940. This was one of the most successful social events in the long history of Chautauqua. It had been planned by the new Cottagers’ Welfare Society of which Mr. J. J. Matthews, of Dayton, was president. In passing, we would like to hand an orchid to John Matthews, who for many years was one of Chautauqua’s greatest boosters. He left a monument in the two-stone entrance gates for which he raised the money. We all hope John will come back and have missed him since war restrictions caused him to sell his cottage as he could not make the daily trips to his business in Dayton.
The summer of 1940 brought to Chautauqua a notable gathering in the Midwest Bible Students Convention, a group of non-sectarian and undenominational Christians whose membership extends throughout the world. They are fundamentalists in the strictest sense of the word, having no creed other than the doctrines plainly taught in the Bible, which is their textbook.
This year also marked the return of “Tom Thumb” golf when Mr. R. G. Kappel, Hamilton, Ohio, was granted a concession for a miniature golf course at the Coffee Shop corner. Mr. Kappel conducted this feature in a highly successful and profitable manner until 1945, when the Board of Trustees, following their recently adopted policy that all concessions should be owned and operated by the Association, took it over.
A renewed effort was made to revive interest in the assembly program. The plan was adopted of reducing the period to nine evening attractions with the addition of three Sunday afternoon lectures by noteworthy talent. The evening programs were furnished by first class professional talent and three Sunday afternoon lectures were delivered by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Will Irwin and Gen. Hugh S. Johnson.
We think the engagement of Mrs. Roosevelt marked the only division we ever experienced in the Board of Managers. Mr.. Miller and the president of the Board felt that the appearance of “the first lady” at Chautauqua would secure much publicity and arouse wide attention. Five members of the Board refused to authorize a contract with Mrs. Roosevelt but agreed that if Mr. Miller and his associate were willing to book her upon their own responsibility they would not object to such an arrangement. So the two gentlemen and three Franklin friends put up the money for the advance payment. It is interesting to know that after Mrs. Roosevelt had come and gone and all the bills were paid the five backers of her appearance divided $45.00 as the profits and each made $9.00 on his investment. Nevertheless, the high mark in enthusiasm for Chautauqua throughout the Miami Valley for a number of years was the appearance on July 14, 1940, of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. While the box office receipts were disappointing, she attracted a great crowd that spent money at concession stands, the dining hall and elsewhere about the grounds.
The appearance of Will Irwin, once one of the greatest reporters in the world, aroused little interest. The present generation seemed to have forgotten this once famous author and editor.
General Hugh S. Johnson, who was widely known as the administrator of N.R.A. when the New Deal came into power, spoke from our platform on Sunday, August 4th. Here was a national character who aroused many people by his effort to hold the “blue eagle’ until the Supreme Court invalidated the N.R.A. A square-shooting, slam-banging critic, one of the great characters of our generation, you would have thought he would draw a capacity audience, but there was plenty of room in the auditorium when he arose to speak, in spite of the fact that only a few weeks before his appearance he had publicly called Secretary Ickes “the original triple termite.” One of the stormy petrels of the uncertain days of 1940 did not have the drawing power of the slangy Rev. Sam Jones back in 1898. No wonder the manager of Miami Valley Chautauqua sought in vain to build a program that would attract the public.
RADIO BROADCAST PROGRAMS.
Early in 1941 the management eagerly entered into a cooperative agreement with radio station WLW, Cincinnati, to broadcast seven Sunday afternoon programs direct from Chautauqua. Mr. Howard Tooley, of Chicago, a nationally known producer of pageants and programs at the Century of Progress Exposition at Chicago and the New York World’s Fair, was engaged to build the program and work with WLW and the Chautauqua management.
This seemed to be an ideal arrangement for both Chautauqua and WLW. The contract was on a fifty-fifty basis and profits were to be divided equally. The expense of transmitting the programs for the Chautauqua platform to the radio station for broadcasting was to be paid by the Crosley Corporation. After many conferences among Mr. Miller, Mr. Tooley and WLW officials, the program was completed. It was considered a master stroke to re-awaken interest in the Miami Valley Chautauqua Assembly Programs.
Sunday, June 29th, “The Quiz Kids,” a nationally prominent feature on the air, opened the series of broadcasts.
Peter Grant, at that time, as now, WLW’s star news broadcaster, appeared in person with the Crosley Choir and Orchestra directed by William Stoess.
Sunday, July 13th, H. V. Kaltenborn, one of the best known commentators over the NBC-Red Network, gave his nation-wide broadcast from Chautauqua.
E. Howard Cadle and the Cadle Tabernacle Octette furnished the program of the broadcast on Sunday, July 20th.
Congressman Martin Dies spoke on Sunday, July 27th.
Theodore Broch, the heroic Mayor of Narvik, an eye witness of the invasion of Norway and twice sentenced to death by the Nazis, delivered a notable address on Sunday, August 3rd. Etta Moten, the Negro Mezzo-Soprano of national reputation, and the Southland Jubilee Singers, also appeared upon the program.
Sunday, August 17th, closed the WLW broadcasts with John Charles Thomas, one of America’s greatest singers, accompanied by the WLW “Little Symphony” orchestra.
On this courageous experiment Chautauqua lost nearly $2,000 and stirred up some resentment among the cottage owners. Because of the agreement with WLW, cottagers’ season tickets were not honored for admission to the broadcast programs. Widespread publicity, both on the air and through the press, proved to be high class advertising and attracted thousands to Chautauqua although many people stayed at home and listened in. The Crosley Corporation was a heavier loser than Chautauqua, but their attitude continued to be most friendly and it was decided to repeat the experiment in 1942 and to honor cottager’s assembly tickets, Chautauqua to pay WLW 50 percent of the value of such tickets issued. Thus the matter stood at the close of the season of 1941.
In addition to the radio broadcasts, Chautauqua staged a nine-day assembly program and eight evenings of motion pictures. Cottager’s season tickets were honored at all these events, but, nevertheless, a number of cottage owners were dissatisfied and trouble began brewing between cottagers and the management.
In spite of the sowing of the seed of dissension Chautauqua had a big year, the biggest in its history. Outstanding was the enlarged field of interest aroused by the WLW broadcasts. This was reflected in the total business done which registered receipts of $93,871.64.
The second convention of the Midwest Bible Students, held August 4 to 10, was another worthy gathering of earnest Christian men and women. In all the years we do not believe any more appreciative group has ever come to Chautauqua. At the opening session of the 1941 convention, E. G. Wylam, of Chicago, said: “We wish to acknowledge the very wholesome and generous cooperation of the Chautauqua Association, and particularly of Mr. Wade E. Miller, and those closely associated with him, in welcoming us here and throwing open the portals of this beautiful garden spot for this period of blessing. They have contributed much in the provision of those physical and material necessities so essential to our health, happiness and well-being while we are their guests.”
Chautauqua lost one of its cherished friends and most loyal workers when Mrs. J. C. Aspenleiter died on November 12, 1941. She had been a faithful Chautauquan for nearly a quarter of a century. For several years she had proven an efficient and cheerful hostess and manager of Grandview Hotel. Many of the guests knew her intimately. She had brought to Grandview the true spirit of joyous living—service, happiness, faithfulness and friendliness.
Two other well-known and old-time Chautauquans passed away in 1941—Mrs. Theodore Cornuele and Henry E. Schroeder.
WAR RESTRICTIONS PRESENT PROBLEMS
With the dawn of the year 1942, we were at war and people were asking, “What about Chautauqua?” The Board of Managers, with Manager Miller, went into a huddle and asked themselves the same question.
With the “all out war program” and with people back on the pay rolls again, it looked like it might be a boom year for amusement fields. The Government recommended that swimming pools, skating rinks and other places of amusement in the various parks be kept going at full speed; and that forum meetings, platform discussions, lectures, etc., be conducted where possible. All of this enthusiasm encouraged the management to carry on, even though the pressure on such items as transportation, tires, gasoline and sugar seemed to serve as emergency brakes to slow us down.
It was decided to discontinue the day by day assembly program and to lengthen the Sunday afternoon broadcasts to nine. With this plan in view, negotiation were again entered into with the Crosley Corporation. Early plans contemplated the appearance of E. Howard Cadle, Father Flannigan, the organizer of Boys’ town; Dr. Tehyi Heich, the Teddy Roosevelt of China; Gregor Ziemer and Carroll D. Allcott, commentators from WLW; Drew Pearson; Wendell Wilkie and Archduke Felix of Austria.
President Roosevelt had issued the statement: “Everybody will work longer hours and harder that ever before. And that means they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.”
Late in May the cancellation of the WLW broadcast programs, at the request of the government, was made. Washington had encouraged the Chautauqua management to go ahead and after building a great program and thousands of circulars had been printed and distributed, the government restrictions were imposed. With gasoline rationing, the authorities ruled that all assemblies that would depend upon automobile travel for patronage should be abandoned.
In June, 1941, Edmund S. Lorenz died at the ripe age of 88 years. Back in 1915 it was Mr. Lorenz who saved Chautauqua from forced sale by creditors following the devastation of the 1913 flood. Few Chautauquans of today knew Mr. Lorenz personally but those of us who did know him can testify that he put his shoulder to the wheel when our beloved institution was slipping down hill and turned the tide that preserved Chautauqua for the present generation.
So the season of 1942 passed. It was more quiet than many previous summers. What the management feared might be a disastrous season turned into a happy, successful one. There were no great crowds that raised clouds of dust and swarmed all over the place, parking cars on private lawns. But there was a steady stream of visitors. People vacationing, picnicking, worshiping, studying and playing—earnest, sincere American citizens subdued somewhat by the grim realities of war but seeking clean, wholesome relief from the cares and burdens of life. Many young men who lived at Chautauqua disappeared, having gone into the armed forces.
Clouds were gathering on Chautauqua’s horizon. Some cottagers thought they should be entitled to deduct ten dollars from their annual assessment but the greater per cent felt that what small sacrifices had been made should be accepted cheerfully and loyally. At the June meeting of the Board of Managers the matter of a rebate to cottagers on their 1942 annual assessments, because of the cancellation of the Assembly program, was thoroughly discussed and the Board unanimously agreed that a rebate could not be made.
On December 2nd, a bitterly cold day, Utsayantha cottage was destroyed by fire. The Franklin Fire Department, by excellent work under distressing conditions, kept the flames from spreading to adjacent cottages and saved Chautauqua from a threatening conflagration. The family occupying Utsayantha at Chautauqua had refused to move when ordered to do so although the cottage was not winterized and not fit for a winter dwelling. The management had long feared such a catastrophe and had made frequent efforts to prohibit non-resident owners of cottages from renting through an agent. The legal right to evict an undesirable family from renting cottages was becoming a serious problem for the management and a matter of protest from many cottagers. This was another cloud in the gathering storm.
In his annual report to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Miller touched upon this when he read: “Usually in this report in other years, I have spoken of good will. Many times have I referred to it as our greatest asset. This cannot be done this year. On the part of the public, that is the people living within a radius of fifty miles of Chautauqua, I believe this spirit of good will is as fine as it ever was, and greater possibly than formerly. But on the part of the cottagers who live there, I regret to say to you that this is not so. Throughout the summer I have heard grumblings from time to time that register a spirit of dissatisfaction. I may be wrong, but I cannot see how anyone living in such a lovely place as Chautauqua in a time such as this year, and, when people’s hearts are bleeding, can find so much fault and get so worked up over so many trivial things unless it is a protest against the administration.”
At the December meeting of the Board of Managers many serious problems were discussed. It was found impossible to plan definitely for the summer of 1943. One thing, however, was unanimously decided—Chautauqua would carry on. No change was made in members of the Board of Managers and Wade E. Miller was persuaded to continue as General Manager.
CHAUTAUQUA DEBT RECEIVES ATTENTION
With the dawn of the year 1943 Chautauqua was facing serious problems. Those who had stood by the institution through dark days in the past realized that again we were passing through a crisis. With war restrictions and regulations closing down more tightly, help being harder to get and the rationing of food being felt, it was asked, “What will become of Chautauqua?”
The month of January brought death to two staunch Chautauquans and added to the gloom that was gathering.
August E. Bauer, Aged 70, died at his home in Miamisburg on January 22nd. He had long been the life of every party at Chautauqua. He rendered valuable service to cottagers in the installation of plumbing in their homes and was known as “Your Chautauqua plumber.” He had a wide circle of friends, spent much of his time at his Chautauqua cottage.
On January 24th, we were saddened by the death of Wilbur W. Winship, which occurred at his home in Franklin following a heart attack. For six years Mr. Winship had served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees, succeeding the late William G. Anderson. Mr. Winship and his family, who owned and occupied “The Sycamore” cottage, had long been active in the social and official affairs of Chautauqua.
Mrs. Jeannie Mae Hull, aged 64, also passed away in January, 1943. She had made her home at “Navajo” cottage for many years and operated the first gift shop.
The death of three prominent and loyal Chautauquans, an unusually severe winter, the hardships of war and a grumbling discontent among some cottagers, when good will was so valuable an asset to any community, made us realize that we were again entering a difficult period.
For years the promiscuous renting of cottages by absentee owners had been a source of confusion and resentment among many cottage owners. The Board of Managers realized that to maintain the Chautauqua standard of citizens there must be restrictions and the control of rentable cottages. Miss Beryl Orr was put in charge of a rental office to handle the tough job and take charge of booking at the cabins, cottages for rent and the Grandview Hotel. Miss Orr’s services to Chautauqua have never been fully appreciated by the average cottage owner. In addition to using discretion she must be able to say “No” to undesirable applicants. It has taken eternal vigilance to handle rental problems and we would like to give Miss Orr credit for services well rendered.
The annual convention of the Mid-West Bible Students was cancelled by order of the Federal Office of Defense Transportation.
At the annual election of the officers of The Cottagers’ Welfare Association, C. M. Shera was elected president.
The Chautauqua Defense Council was organized. Community gardens were planted in the field adjoining the south entrance. Twenty-two cottagers sponsored these Victory Gardens. Much of the early planting was damaged or lost by the hard and persistent rains and some plats were re-seeded three times.
Two more old-time Chautauquans passed away during the year. Charles E. Judy, aged 87, died at his home in Germantown on June 2nd. Mrs. J. H. Fenstermaker died at the home of her daughter in Indianapolis on April 23rd. Older Chautauquans knew the Judy and Fenstermaker families well as they had been active in cottage circles for many years.
The dining Hall, under the direction of Mrs. Etta Hawthorne, had a good year in spite of rationing, the difficulty in securing help and rising prices. Miss Veda McCray consented to return and again take over the management of the swimming pool after an absence of two years.
One of the outstanding achievements of the summer was the work done by the combined Chautauqua-Miamisburg Dressing Unit of the Red Cross. Fifty-three women registered to work and put in 818 total hours and 5400 dressings were completed and packed.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees Dr. E. T. Storer was elected to succeed Dr. F. W. Stanton. Kristian Kronborg was chosen to fill the unexpired term of W. W. Winship. E. S. Sawtelle and S. S. Tibbals were re-elected to the Board of Managers. C. W. Sullivan was elected to fill the unexpired term of Gordon Sherer, who resigned from the Board of Managers but remained on the Board of Trustees and consented to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Winship, who had been serving as Secretary.
Most of the Evening was devoted to a round table discussion of organizing some plan to wipe out Chautauqua’s debt to a few individuals who had advanced money to the Association and get rid of the heavy interest charges each year. A plan of amortization over a period of ten years was suggested and considered. The Board of Managers was instructed to work out a definite plan to accomplish this and put the financial affairs of the Association on a strict business basis.
THE COMMITTEE OF NINE
The early months of 1944 saw Manager Miller, the Board of Managers and members of the Board of Trustees giving much time and thought to devising a plan to refinance Chautauqua’s debt and reduce the current interest burden. On May 11th, the Board of Trustees met at the Chautauqua dining hall and considered the proposed proposition submitted by the Board of Managers.
A careful review of the progress made since Miami Valley Chautauqua was a small tented city on the Franklin Fair Grounds to its present land-owning substantial investment revealed the fact that Chautauqua assets had grown from nothing to $293,954.70, and the total liabilities were $82, 408.74. The appraisal of improvements made since the change of management in 1928 was fixed at $188,870.05, which did not include the complete new sewer and water system, installed for approximately $30,000, where as the engineer’s estimate was $80,000. The cost of these improvements was paid partly from earnings and partly out of borrowed money and the sale of certificates of indebtedness. The total indebtedness consisted of $14,748.40 in notes payable, $47,000 in certificates of indebtedness and Lincoln Life Insurance $20,660.34. The indebtedness also included liability which the new management inherited in the sum of $25,000. The actual debt accumulated by the present Board of Managers was $57,408. To offset this indebtedness there were improvements starting with the swimming pool and ending with the new skating rink totalling $188,870.05.
Since the certificates of indebtedness and notes were all past due two years and forced collection upon the part of any one or all these creditors might seriously embarrass Chautauqua it was deemed imperative to adopt some plan to retire the indebtedness. The evidence that the Cottage Owner had received great benefit from these improvements was shown by the increase in rentals and the sale prices secured by cottagers.
The plan for the retirement of the Chautauqua debt, finally agreed upon by the Board of Managers and the Board of Trustees, called for the payment of $20.00 per year on each cottage for a period of ten years. In addition to the above retirement of debt plan, the regular assessment would be $30.00 per year on each cottage.
At a cottagers’ meeting held on Saturday evening, July 6th, a majority present expressed disapproval of the plan submitted by the Board of Managers and the Board of Trustees. After some discussion it was voted to appoint a committee to offer a counter plan. This “Committee of Nine” was to consist of Mr. Roy Deardorff, Chautauqua’s auditor, the president of the Cottagers’ Welfare Society, the president of the Board of Trustees, and six additional members to be named by these presidents. The committee, when organized, included Roy O. Deardorff, C. M. Shera, Evan Hamilton, Robert Velte and D. W. Mikesell for the cottagers’ society, and S. S. Tibbals, Clyde W. Sullivan, Dr. E. T. Storer and Walter C. Anderson, representing the Board of Trustees.
If every a committee tackled a knotty problem and worked sincerely, earnestly and untiringly to arrive at a plan that would be fair, just and to the best interests of all Chautauquans, this “Committee of Nine” was that group. Appointed July 6th, they met frequently during those hot summer evenings and on August 5thsubmitted their plan in a letter to all cottage owners.
This plan proposed a revision of the Constitution of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association to accomplish a reorganization of the Association and to provide for a governing body consisting of a Board of Trustees of twenty-four members, all of whom shall be cottage owners. Present Trustees who were cottage owners should complete their present terms of office. All new Trustees should be elected by ballot by cottage owners. No expansion or new building program should be undertaken by the Trustees until approved by a majority of cottage owners who qualify as voters. No increase in assessments against cottage owners should be made by the Trustees until approved by majority vote of cottage owners.
These proposed changes would mean that the complete control of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association would be vested in the holders of Cottage Owners’ Membership Certificates and the management of the Association would be assumed by cottage owner Trustees elected by cottage owners.
To liquidate the then existing debt and pay off the certificates of indebtedness already past due and held by a few creditors, each cottage owner would subscribe for a $100 Membership Certificate entitling him to have voting privileges, and the balance would be raised by the issuance of 4% notes maturing in ten years. Thus by paying only $100 per cottage and investing in the new notes at 4% interest, a rate considerably higher than could be secured elsewhere, the cottage owners acquired complete control of the Association with assets in excess of $200,000.
This plan of “The Committee of Nine” met with general approval and sufficient pledges to take the Membership Certificates and buy the new notes were quickly secured.
The joint meetings of the former Board of Trustees, the cottagers’ membership, now the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association, and the newly elected Board of Trustees, was held at the Girls’ Club in Middletown, Ohio, Saturday evening, October 7, 1944. In all the long history of Miami Valley Chautauqua we have never seen a more earnest and sincere interested manifested.
“The Committee of Nine,” which had been selected at a cottagers’ meeting held at the Chautauqua Dining Hall on July 6th,with the assistance of Attorney Gordon H. Sherer, of the law firm of Cors, Sherer and Hair, Cincinnati, had revised the Constitution, refinanced the debt, and restored good will. The response to the plan, which originated with Roy. O. Deardorff, public accountant, of Middletown, the Chautauqua’s auditor and a member of the old Board of Trustees, was so satisfactory that three–fourths of the property owners of record promptly agreed to the $100 contribution and, in addition, the issue of $45,000 in 4% refunding notes was oversubscribed. All this was accomplished in a period of ninety days, the troubled waters were stilled and the sun of enthusiasm and cooperation shone brightly on Chautauqua.
At the reorganization meeting a fine representation of the membership was present. There were fourteen members of the old Board of Trustees, sixty-seven cottage owners and nineteen members of the new Board of Trustees on hand, far more than a quorum in each instance. A debt of gratitude is due all these Chautauquans, who at the expenditure of priceless gasoline and at much inconvenience made the trip to see that the job was well done and for the third time in its history take Chautauqua out of troubled waters and into a safe harbor.
The old Board of Trustees, which at times had been bitterly criticized as a “self-perpetuating board,” went into session first. The revised constitution was unanimously adopted and the entire Board resigned.
Following this action, the cottagers’ membership, with C. M. Shera, president of the Cottagers’ Society, presiding, took over. Twenty-four Trustees were elected as follows:
Walter C. Anderson, Franklin
Clarence J. Aspenleiter, Chautauqua
H. A. Blair, Chautauqua
Roy. O. Deardorff, Middletown
Dr. O. T. Greenland, Norwood
Owen Gross, Carlisle
Evan L. Hamilton, Chautauqua
Kristian N. Kronborg, Middletown
R. E. LeRoy, Franklin
L. E. Marshall, Middletown
Robert E. McQuiston, Hamilton
Sam R. Maddux, Chautauqua
D. W. Mikesell, Dayton
Charles R. Palmer, Cincinnati
Elmer S. Sawtelle, Cincinnati
C. M. Shera, Middletown
Robert Sherrod, Chautauqua
Ross H. Snyder, Middletown
Dr. Elroy T. Storer, Middletown
Clyde W. Sullivan, Lockland
Ray Thompson, Chautauqua
Seymour S. Tibbals, Franklin
Robert H. Velte, West Middletown
V. A. Woodward, Chautauqua
The new Board of Trustees then went into session with R. E. LeRoy as temporary chairman and Clyde Sullivan as temporary secretary.
The following officers were elected without opposition: S. S. Tibbals, president; C. M. “Shera, first vice president; Roy O. Deardorff, second vice president; Clyde W. Sullivan, secretary; and Evan L. Hamilton, treasurer. Wade E. Miller was re-employed as general manager.
Mr. Ross Snyder expressed the opinion that the new organization should not take over without an expression of appreciation to the retiring Board of Managers and the Board of Trustees for the work they had done in maintaining the steady growth of Chautauqua.
The summer season of 1944 brought many groups to Chautauqua for reunions, outings, conferences and conventions. While the number of such gatherings was reduced because of transportation difficulties and the rationing of gasoline, the season still gave evidence that Miami Valley Chautauqua is a popular spot and that in normal times it will again attract thousands.
It was probably the most hectic and trying season in all of Manager Miller’s experience since he took over in 1928. With wartime restrictions, help hard to get, cottagers divided, the outlook grim and many problems to solve, Mr. Miller carried on with dogged determination. “The Committee of Nine” relieved him of some burdens, but only a very few of us know what Wade E. Miller’s love for Chautauqua cost him during the summer of 1944.
NEW BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
In his annual report of the audit of the books and records of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association, Mr. Roy O. Deardorff, public accountant, made the following statement:
“It is gratifying to note that definite progress has been made during the past year in placing the indebtedness in a position that it can be more easily carried on a current maturity basis.
“This has been your best year, as to profits, for the past thirteen years. Operating without sufficient help, war regulations and unfavorable conditions have been difficult and the retiring Board of Managers is to be highly commended upon the results obtained during the year 1944.”
The new Board of Trustees, elected by the cottage owner members of the Chautauqua Association, held regular monthly meetings during the winter. These meetings were all well attended. Now that the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association had passed into the ownership of cottage owning members a new interest and responsibility was evident.
When Mr. Miller was advanced to the position of Superintendent of the Middletown Public Schools it was feared that we would lose him as General Manger of Chautauqua. His ability to perfect organization, his wide acquaintance and frequent appearance on the public platform, his membership upon a number of boards and committees in civic, church and school work give him a wide acquaintance and reputation throughout the Valley that is most essential to the success of Chautauqua. It was, therefore, a great relief to everybody when he consented to retain the position of General Manager at least through the important reorganization period.
The season of 1945 again proved successful from a financial standpoint. Since the beginning of World War II, Chautauqua had been constantly changing. The forced abandonment of the assembly programs, the restrictions on travel and the rationing of gasoline had brought about these altered conditions. There were no longer the big days with great crowds, but there was a steady attendance of people who are making their summer homes and year ’round residence on the grounds. New families who buy cottages, buy them for their own use and there are fewer cottages for rent each summer. Thus one of the most vexing problems that faced the former Board of Managers, the renting of cottages by undesirable groups, has been solved. We predict that with the adoption of the revised constitution, and the successful refinancing plan, Miami Valley Chautauqua will bid less for the patronage of the general public and cater more to the desires of its own population.
During the season of 1945 there were a number of young people’s conferences, family reunions, and a limited program put on by our own people in the auditorium. The Sunday school was held regularly each Sabbath with Clyde W. Sullivan as superintendent, C. M. Shera assistant, and Mr. Miller teaching his adult Bible class.
With victory coming to our forces in both the European and Pacific theatres of the war, there was a slight lessening of restrictions but the summer was amore quiet, peaceful one.
A well-known Chautauquan died on May 25th, when Mrs. V. A Woodward passed away. While Mrs. Woodward had not been in the best of health for some time, her death was wholly unexpected and came without warning.
Chautauqua lost another loyal supporter on Monday, December 17th, when Walter Anderson died at the Miami Valley Hospital. He had been in failing health for some time and underwent an operation in November. He was seemingly recovering and had been brought to his home in Franklin. On December 10th, he suffered a relapse and was returned to the hospital, death following a week later. In the death of Walter Anderson, Chautauqua sustained a deep loss. He had served on the Board of Trustees ever since his father, the late H. B. Anderson, died in 1935. He was 58 years of age and had long been active in Chautauqua official and social life.
1945—BIGGEST AND BEST YEAR
At the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees and members of the Miami Valley Chautauqua Association held in Franklin on January 19, 1946, Manager Miller was able to report that 1945 had been the biggest in financial receipts and best in the good will that existed among the cottagers.
Early in the New Year, on January 3rd, another Chautauquan of long standing answered the call of the Grim Reaper. Clifford H. Bergen, aged 81 years, died at the Middletown Hospital. Mr. And Mrs. Bergen had owned and occupied a cottage at Chautauqua for many years and were active in cottagers’ social affairs. A carpenter, Mr. Bergen had long been associated with Mr. V. A. Woodward in the construction and repair of cottages and they were recognized as “the Chautauqua builders.”
The Golden Jubilee Year at Chautauqua holds much of promise as we complete this record of its history. The season opened on May 25th, following a long period of rainy and gloomy days, but Chautauqua was not discouraged by the weather. We have passed through cool, wet summers and we have gone through hot, dry summers. We have suffered from drought and flood, but like Tennyson’s Brook, Chautauqua goes on forever, we hope.
The first of the three month series of conferences and conventions scheduled was the Third Masonic District Knights Templar Conclave. This gathering of Sir Knights has marked the opening of each season for a number of years and we appreciate the honor of having the summer’s activities opened by so fine a group of citizens of the Valley.
The Mid-West Bible Students’ Conference has outgrown us and we are no longer able to house this ever-increasing group. It was with deep regret we were forced to tell these good friends that we could no longer find sufficient quarters for them. It would have been a joy to have them participate with us in this Golden Jubilee Celebration.
Today our greatest problem is to find lodging facilities for groups that want to come. The 1946 calendar is crowded with institutes, conferences and conventions. By putting cots in the shelter houses and converting them into dormitories we can take care of some of the overflow. When large groups are in session the dining hall must ask regular porch diners and cottagers to go elsewhere for meals. All through the summer the management has to turn down reservations for hotel accommodations that we cannot supply. What are you going to do about it? It is no longer a question for the manager to decide; it is a question for the Chautauqua Association membership to handle. As Mr. Lorenz said back in 1915, “Chautauqua belongs to you.” Shall it become a restricted village, an incorporated town, a big country club or recreation park for the use of the general public? There are still policies to be decided upon, problems to be solved.
This Jubilee season of 1946 will bring to Chautauqua a conference of young people for each week from June 11 to August 21. These are already scheduled and other groups are still seeking a time to come. The only limitation on the size or number of these conferences is our lodging facilities. To meet this situation the Epworth League, which has met at Chautauqua for years, will have two institutes this summer, repeating their program to a different group of young people the second week.
Chautauqua is starting on its third generation. It continues to grow. It is established and respected. Only those who have been associated with the management realize the persistent efforts to break down our walls. The manager is harassed daily by some seeking a concession, everything from a Saturday night bingo game to a chuck-a-luck board has been proposed. The carnival and county fair concessionaires just can’t see why so fertile a field for making money is refused.
Manager Wade E. Miller, by his own indomitable perseverance and personal appeal, with his ability to surround himself with capable assistants, has achieved a steady and satisfactory growth and improvement at Miami Valley Chautauqua since he took up the reins eighteen years ago. He is certainly entitled to the praise: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
And now Chautauqua celebrates its fiftieth birthday. Through the years we have experienced the usual ups and downs that mark the life of all institutions dependent on public favor.
With all the changes that have been made, however, Chautauqua has not lost sight of the Christian background which was the cornerstone upon which the institution has been built. Today powerful forces are seeking to over throw the Christian religion and to destroy the civilization which has given so much to the peoples of the earth in the last nineteen hundred years. At Chautauqua the biggest Sunday School in all the Valley meets every Sabbath morning and Wade E. Miller’s adult Bible class attracts cottagers and visitors form neighboring towns. During the summer there are a number of denominational conferences and conventions.
Miami Valley Chautauqua today has a definite purpose along the line of religious features and a wholesome place where young people may meet and play. It seeks to provide an antidote for the dance hall, the cocktail bar and the gambling joint, believing there is something better in life for young folk than jazz bands, night clubs and crap games. We face the future with courage and a hope for brighter days, when the people will return to more simple living and a greater faith in the God of our fathers.
It has been our desire to give our readers a history of the institution that has done so much for the Miami Valley and brightened the lives of so many families. Chautauqua affords a golden opportunity for the weary and depressed to get away from the cares that annoy them, for there is no charge for admission to the grounds and no parking fee.
WHAT IS CHAUTAUQUA?
A beautiful park along which flows a winding river . . . stately trees . . . a great lawn that reminds one of a well-kept college campus . . . picnic tables, out-door ovens, refuse cans . . . a bell that breaks the stillness at times to call to worship or various conference sessions . . . a great stage upon which many men and women of fame have delivered messages to large audiences; trained birds, dogs and even an educated pig have appeared thereon; choruses, choirs, bands, orchestras and minstrels have sent forth music . . . a chapel in the woods that nestles beside the dam . . . a forum building in which earnest groups have studied and discussed many subjects from the doctrine of the atonement to the extermination of termites . . . a great dining hall where at times hundreds of hungry young people have been fed and an impatient diner growls because the service is too slow . . . a busy administration building where the general manager is beset with a thousand problems, where the mail is handled, telegrams filed, telephone messages relayed, cottages and cabins rented, reservations recorded, books kept, letters dictated—a veritable hive of industry . . . a drug store that handles the needs of its patrons from souvenir post cards to the hot water bottles . . . a grocery that must supply food for the unexpected guest . . . a coffee shop that fries hamburgers by the thousands . . . a tiny tots’ playground with swinging ponies, slides and teeters . . . a miniature golf course that has revived a sport that was once as dead as a door nail . . . vast tennis courts, a model swimming pool, bowling alleys, roller skating rink and boats and bicycles for hire . . . a lodging house, the Frances Willard cottage for women, cabins, trailers and cottages . . . great crowds of people and parked automobiles, baseball games and supervised contests upon occasions . . . family reunions in the shelter houses, industrial picnics that come in chartered buses . . . high school bands. . . cottage house parties and families who make their permanent home here . . . babies, children, adolescent youth, puppy love, dates and the holding of hands . . . through the mystical whirl, under the pale moon, wading along the river’s banks, the old, but ever new experience of boy meets girl. Today the grandchildren of couples who first met at Miami Valley Chautauqua are coming to splash in the kiddies’ wading pool. No wonder so many people love Chautauqua. It is so fragrant with fond memories, so filled with the scenes and joys of by-gone days that are pushed back into the shadows by the romping, laughing, singing horde of youngsters who fill the place in the good old summer time.
We watched a well-dressed, gray-haired stranger who came back to Chautauqua to hear John Charles Thomas sing. He seemed so alone as he wandered about the park and strolled along the river. We lost him in the crowd. When the time came for the concert we found him again. He was sitting just across the aisle. He scarcely stirred during all the time that magnificent voice filled the auditorium. He gave rapt attention to the music seeming to drink it in as a weary traveler quenches his thirst in a woodland spring. Then the singer sang “In the Gloaming.” As his voice faded in the words: “It was best to leave you thus, dear; best for you and best for me.” dry sobs shook the old man’s shoulders and he let the tears fall unminded down his cheeks. That, my friends, is Chautauqua. Memories locked in the heart. Hopes that are shattered. Dreams that came true and vanished. Old men and old women sitting in the shade beneath the trees. Young folks diving from the high board. Babies playing almost naked in the sand. A couple in a parked car. A youth hurrying to meet the girl of his dreams. A father eager to join his family over the weekend. An old man coming back to find no one he knows but the ghost of a brown-eyed lassie he met here many years ago.