Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Mr Aydelotte's Show" 1950

Hope Howard Hart was the daughter of Sterling Reece and Martha Nelson Kennedy Hart of Dresden TN. Among the papers of Virginia Shumate Moran we found a Washington Post newspaper clipping and two typewritten pages titled "Mr. Aydelotte's Show" from Hope Hart to Virginia and Jim Moran.  "Mr. Aydelotte's Show" was a play based on real people and real events that happened in Dresden around the year 1910.   The play featured current Dresden folks taking the roles of earlier Dresden citizens with names you may recognize: McCuan, Jeter, Tansil, Smith, Garrett, Hart, Ingram, Ward, McWherter, Gates and Marcum.

From The Washington Post, March 25, 1950
"There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight" at the National Press Club as this group helps
reincarnate "Aydelotte's Show at the Tennessee State Society Hoe-down.  From Left to Right,
James Dike, Mrs. Sarah Little Ward, Mrs. David Gates, Miss Hope Hart and Dr. David Gates,
all originally from Dresden, Tenn.  Their show, a reproduction of one which toured the South
some 40 years ago, will be part of an amateur contest to precede square and round dancing
at the Tennessee Party.

"Mr. Aydelotte's Show"
Presented by a group of former residents of Dresden, Tennessee, for the Tennessee State Society, at the National Press Club auditorium, Saturday Evening, March 25, 1950.

Forty years ago... That's a long time.   So long that many of the things we like to associate with "the good old
days" have almost faded from memory.  Almost...but not quite.

Not yet forgotten, for one thing, are the first movies we ever saw...the old-fashioned "flickering tintypes." Most of us, nowadays, take our movies pretty much for granted.  But there was a time....back forty years ago...when motion-picture entertainment was...well, quite different.  We didn't have luxurious film palaces in those days...and the pictures didn't talk...and they weren't in Technicolor.

Go back with me, if you will, to the little town of Dresden, in Weakley County, Tennessee.  The year is about 1910. The citizens of this little county seat are all excited, for handbills have just been passed from door to door with thrilling news...Aydelotte's Tent Show is coming...It will present the last word in moving pictures, with musical turns and popular illustrated songs as added attractions.

Back many will recall...Aydelotte's Tent Show was a well-known institution in rural Tennessee.  It came around every spring or fall, playing one-night stands and giving the towns and villages their only taste of the films of that day.  Mr. Aydelotte, himself, was a genial character who made friends with everybody.  He put up his own tent, with the aid of his piano player, Joe Pitts.  he placed the chairs and benches for the patrons and spread a piece of canvas down in front for the kids.  He sold tickets.  He strummed a guitar and sang a little between reels.  He also cranked the projector, read all the titles for the benefit of those in the audience who couldn't read for themselves, and gave a running commentary on the pictures as it unfolded.

And how the "neighbors" he called his patrons...ate it up.

I can see him now...ushering the good folks of Dresden into his little tent.  Perhaps some of those very same people are here with us tonight.  To them and to all of those "dear friends and gentle people" in our home town now, we dedicate this impression from "Mr. Aydelotte's moving picture show," as presented in Dresden, Tennessee, featuring the "Academy awar picture of 1910," John Bunny and Flora Finch in "Go Hang Yourself."

(The curtain opens on a scene representing the interior of Mr. Aydelotte's tent, with chairs arranged in front of the screen and a rug spread on the floor on which the children are to sit.  Mr. Aydelotte lays aside his guitar and busies himself taking up tickets and ushering the patrons to their seats.)

Page 2
At this moment, two well-known matrons of Dresden enter...Mrs. Will McCuan and Mrs. Maude Jeter. They want good seats so they can keep an eye on their young daughters, Ruby and Sarah, probably having their first dates.

And here's His Honor, the Mayor...the Hon. Rice McWherter.

Next is one of Weakley County's most beloved citizens, Colonel Egbert Tansil, a Confederate veteran who fought with Forrest, with his good wife, Miss Jackie. Col. Tansil likes to wear his uniform at all public gatherings.  With them is their niece, Rebecca Tansil, visiting from the nearby town of Sharon.  She's at the giggling stage.

Coming next are Sheriff and Mrs. Ben Wright.  The Sheriff is in on a pass and he'll see that all the young bucks behave.  He might even stop the picture if any scene should be too risky for the town's morals.

Closely following are Dr. and Mrs. Shobe Smith, with granddaughter, Nancy.  Dr. Smith is Dresden's "tooth-dentist."  His wife, known to all as Miss Mattie D., is the music teacher.

There are many greetings for Congressman and Mrs. Finis Garrett, home from Washington where the 61st Congress has just adjourned.  With them are their children, Burns and Virginia.

Last comes my Aunt Alice Killebrew, leading her six-year-old nephew.  It's the youngster's first show and he's quite excited.  And, confidentially, that youngster might be me...forty years ago.

Well, it's about time for the show to start.  The piano player takes his place to knock out some rag-time tunes.  Mr. Aydelotte gets ready to turn out the lights and start the projector.

And onto the screen, with much flickering and jumping, flashes the hit of 1910..."Go Hand Yourself."

Characters in the skit
Mr. Aydelotte......................Dr. David Gates
Piano Player.........................James Dike
Mrs. Will McCuan................Estelle McCuan Gates
Mrs. Maude Jeter..................Sara Little Ward
His Honor, the Mayor............Rice McWherter
Col. and Mrs. Tansil..............Joe and Louella Ingram
Colonel Tansil's niece.............Rebecca Tansil
Sheriff & Mrs. Ben Wright.....Nell Wright Marcum, and
                                               son Jack
Dr. & Mrs. Shobe Smith........Clarence & Imogene Smith
Granddaughter.......................Nancy Smith
Congressman & Mrs. Finis Garrett...Burns and Hilda Garrett
Burns and Virginia Garrett.......Hildagarde & Ann Garrett
Aunt Alice Killebrew..............Hope Hart
Her Nephew..........................Sterling Hart
Introduction written and spoken by Key Hart

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