Before television and radio people either made their own music or listened to live music in the community. The pages of the Pantagraph reflect a deep love of music and theatre in the community. There were concerts, recitals, live theatre, and motion pictures throughout the week. Artists or business owners who produced this entertainment lived throughout FG. Possibly the earliest was Rachel Crothers, who was a playwright in New York. (Her Wikipedia page is on the 1874 page) Harry Saddler, who was a WWI veteran and grandson of the Saddler's of FG wrote for the radio, and an article in the Pantagraph reported his success in this field. Many many musicians lived in FG, amateur and professional. One of the most intriguing for me was Maxine Ross, (pictured at right) who in 1930 gave her occupation as "Musician in Ten Cent Store." With the help of a poster on the "You Know you Grew up in Bloomington-Normal" facebook page I learned that Maxine played a grand piano in the Ten Cent Store. The poster remembered a lady who helped customers with the selection of sheet music by playing the chosen piece so they could decide if they liked it! In 1920 Fannie Robertson of 517 Vale was a musician at ISNU, Margaret Gibson of 408 Willard was a musician at home and Edwin Gill of 406 Willard was a muscian at a theater. In 1930 Walter Ewing, the main breadwinner of the family, was a musician in a theatre orchestra and lived at 212 Florence. In 1930 Irene Quisenberry of 1412 Olive was a church organist. In 1940 Edward Frink lived with his elderly parents at 209 Florence and was in a theatre orchestra. Irma Wills was a music teacher at IWU and lived at 204 State Street in 1940 and Olive Lartz at 512 Olive was a music teacher as well. Arlene Wills of 309 Vale gave her occupation as "music supervisor" in 1940 but I have not been able to determine where she worked. She had 6 years of college education, so one might assume she was at one of the colleges -- does any one know where she supervised music??
Artists in Founder's Grove
Dwight Drexler of 1225 Grove Street was a professor in the music department of IWU. the IWU website made these comments at the time of Professor Drexler's death in 2010: "As a student during the Great Depression, he worked out a deal with the School of Music’s dean, Arthur Westbrook, to earn a scholarship for singing bass in the college choir and to have a summer job scrubbing floors at 25 cents an hour." He was the one of the longest serving professors at IWU. He was organist for the First Christian Church and professionally recorded as a pianist.
Rachel Crothers was the daughter of one of the earliest residents of FG, Dr. Crothers. She was born in 1878 and Dr. Crothers was known to live on Grove in 1874. She became a playwright who wrote on feminist issues. For three decades, she was writing or directing one play per year on Broadway, and the majority of them were critical and popular successes. One of her plays, Susan and God was made into a film starring Joan Crawford and Frederic March. She graduate from ISNU in 1892 and then continued her education in Boston and New York.
Marion Ives was the granddaughter of Almon B Ives, one of the earliest landowners in FG. Her aunts Almira Burnham and Nellie Ives lived at 1321 Washington Street. Marion died just 13 years after her marriage and move to Oklahoma. She had attended the School of Music at Wesleyan, helped to start the Bloomington Amateur Music Society and taught piano lessons.
Lyle Straight was a graduate of ISNU. In 1907 his name appears in the Pantagraph as a participant in a competition at ISNU between the Philadelphians and the Wrightonians. He sang "Nervina" and "Over the Desert." The evening was filled with song, debate and recitations and was attended by students and graduates of the college. Later in life he was the credit manager at a heating company and lived at 1924 Taylor. Throughout his life Lyle Straight sang at community recitals.
Two artists lived at 1312 Washington Street. An article in the May 25, 1975 Pantagraph featured Barbara Coolidge, who worked as a repairer of damaged antiques for local and distant dealers. She also painted in oils. She said that she had a love of art from her mother, Frances Smith Coolidge, who was an illustrator of children's books.