Fifteen hundred amateur entertainers, 22 finalists, and three victors who went on to New York to perform on “big time” stages in the Big Apple. Those are the statistics of the 1935 “Welcome Neighbor” Stark County entertainment show.
Fifteen hundred amateur entertainers, 22 finalists, and three victors who went on to New York to perform on “big time” stages in the Big Apple.
Those are the statistics of the 1935 “Welcome Neighbor” Stark County entertainment show.
“Tonight at 8:45,” an advertisement in The Canton Repository promoted on Oct. 19, 1935, before locating the “Big Amateur Show” at the city’s auditorium and guaranteeing “2 full hours of very unusual entertainment” for only 10 cents.
Indeed the talent was varied. Contestants included imitator William Deckman of Carroll County, saxophonist Evalyn Baker of Holmes County, vocal duet Murray Gerber and Elvera Sommer of Wayne County, harmonica player John Candle of Columbiana County, whistlers Dan Nigro and John Royce of Tuscarawas County, and violinist Marie Jacksich and impersonator Pearl Boli of Stark County.
A favorite of the city crowd was Vincent Turpin of Canton, a 12-year-old Cab Calloway imitator who won the Stark County amateur show to become a finalist in the six-county grand finals competition.
“Singing and dancing to the piano accompaniment of Lester Wright, also an entrant in the contest, Vincent treated the old auditorium to a new high in hi-de-ho,” said an article published in The Repository on Oct. 20, 1935. “So wild was the audience’s response that he was brought to the stage for two more numbers after the regular program was over.
Other favorite Stark County contest winners included the swinging group The Three Lads — John Lighthizer, Joseph Lighthizer and Russell Elston — and Dorothy Kerst Davis, a frequent competitor in amateur contests who sang “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.”
“A capable trouper was 12-year-old Miss Ginger Michaels, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Michaels of 826 Diehl Court, Alliance,” said the newspaper article. “Ginger, who hates to be called Virginia, sang her way into the finals with ‘From the Top of Your Head to the Tip of Your Toes.’”
The Stark County finals “climaxed a busy day for hundreds of Stark County visitors and “left only ‘All County Day’ next Saturday to conclude Canton’s seven-week ‘Welcome Neighbor’ celebration.”
That lengthy celebration, which promoted Stark County and its businesses, included the issuance of “Welcome Neighbor Kurrency,” which could be used in bidding for merchandise put up for auction by Stark County stores.
Thayer’s Military Band played a concert from a stage at the county courthouse at 7 p.m. preceding the Stark County finals competition. And the competition was followed by “the usual display of fireworks.”
A band concert and fireworks also were included in the festivities of the all-county contest, whose 23 contestants performed at the Canton Auditorium and could be heard over radio station WHBC.
“4 Young Women Win Contest and New York Trip,” said a headline in The Repository on Oct. 27, 1935, the day after the contest. “Singer From Canton And Three From Wayne County Take Amateur Honors.”
Page 2 of 2 - The winner from Canton was Dorothy Kerst Davis, who reached her dream. The two winning acts from Wayne County were soloist Arline Stout of Wooster and the Manson duo — Thelma and Frances Manson of Shreve.
ORDER OF APPEARANCE
“The Manson duo, appearing ninth on the program, were the first of the winners to appear,” said The Repository’s report. “They sang a medley of popular tunes. Thelma plays the violin and Frances the banjo. They are accompanied by their mother, Mrs. Winnie Manson, on the piano.”
Thelma was 17 and Frances was 22. Both had started their musical careers years before, playing drums.
Mrs. Davis was the next to appear. A college graduate, she had married shortly after her schooling.
“She and her husband faced the Depression together,” said the newspaper article, “Mrs. Davis fighting bravely through the trying times, auditioning in the hope that her voice might prove her fortune.”
Arline Stout was the last of the winners to perform, singing “Lulu’s Back in Town.”
“She is 19 years old and has never studied music,” said the newspaper review. “A year’s study in piano is her musical background, mainly because she preferred to play basketball than play the piano.
“Miss Stout gave an imitation of the way Mae West would sing the song on the second chorus. The audience was delighted.”
The trio of acts performed with the Maj. Bowes amateur unit in the city auditorium Nov. 17-19, 1935. Then it was on to New York for additional performances with Bowes’ amateur troupe.