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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lyceum Theatre Program from 1924

Posted By on Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Lyceum Theatre Program, 1924/25
  • Lyceum Theatre Program, 1924/25
Today I purchased a 1925 Central High School yearbook at an estate sale, and while I was flipping through the pages, a 1924/25 program for the Lyceum Theatre fell out. The yearbook was quite interesting, but the old theatre program was more fascinating for several reasons.

First of all, it was packed with ads for long-gone Memphis businesses and products. The Buckingham-Ensley-Carrigan Company (whew, they need a shorter name) was offering the new Garod Neutrodyne radio, "a five-tube receiver of the latest design, using the famous Hazeltine circuit." This thing cost $195 — an enormous sum in those days. And if you wanted tubes, batteries, and a speaker (you know, all the things that would actually make it WORK), you'd have to pay $275. (By comparison, a ticket to a box seat at the Lyceum cost only $1.)

Elsewhere around town, Hull-Dobbs announced, "Our service floor and shop are open all night for adjustments and repairs on Ford cars." The Romie Beauty Shoppe offered "marceling, permanent waving, and the latest cuts in shingles and bobs." Roy Grinding Company (apparently a very specialized business) urged, "Ladies, bring us your scissors to grind and we will make them cut like new." Cassie McNulty's Hat Shop (oh, what a great name!) promoted their "beautiful line of Spring hats." The Laird School of Dancing offered classes in "plain and fancy ballroom dancing." And Permo Service Station advised readers that their car could be "called for and PERMANIZED within three hours." Permanized?

The other thing that caught my eye in the old program was a section called "ANSWER TO QUESTIONS." They didn't bother posting the QUESTIONS, which had apparently been submitted by readers; they just posted the ANSWERS. All of which made for some puzzling reading. For example:

"Dear L.M.B.: Received your 'Lost World' poem, but your later letter was more cheerful — both read by Mr. Lewis with much interest. We are glad 'your world.' is returning."
"Dear B.A.D.: Well, no, I really do not think that you meant what you said. You were sorry that you had posted it, I bet. Do not listen to all the talk of stage folk and their doings. Introduce yourself to me and I will introduce you to some real stage folk, and you will then know that it is all rot what you said."

Okay, let me say right now that I don't understand any of this, but I LIKE IT. In fact, from now on, in the "Ask Vance" column that runs in the magazine each month, I'm not going to waste any more precious space with readers' questions. I'm just going to provide the answers. It will be much more entertaining, I think.

FINALLY, I love this feature of the old program. They call it their "MISSPELLED WORD CONTEST." And it is brilliant: "Each week, the Lyceum Program will contain an ad in which there will be a word purposefully misspelled. Prizes will be given for the finders of that word."

Again, this is something that I plan to incorporate into my future "Ask Vance" columns. So from now on, when you encounter a mistake — a misspelled word, a wrong date, wrong address, anything at all, really — you can rest assured that I have done that ON PURPOSE, and it is a contest. It's part of my plan to provide you, Dear Readers, with the very best experience possible. But don't bother waiting for any silly prize to come your way; just take joy in the immense satisfaction of finding the intentional mistakes.

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