Cherry comes to Fernie for Chautauqua

Edwardian Fernie is going to the Chautauqua! What is a Chautauqua? Edwardian Fernie wanted to find out, but not on google. Edwardian Fernie leaves it to the reader to do that themselves. Rather Edwardian Fernie went back to August of 1918 in order to see what was going on at a Chautauqua then. In looking for the Chautauqua of Fernie’s past Edwardian Fernie came across Adabelle Cherry Marshall a young female musician with the Chicago Ladies Symphony Orchestra who performed in Fernie on Monday August 19th, 1918.

“Cherry” as she preferred to be called, travelled with the Chicago Ladies Symphony Orchestra on the Ellison-White Chautauqua circuit during the summer of 1918. She wrote letters home to her parents who lived in Woodbine, Iowa. The original texts of these letters are available at http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1985ACMarshall.pdf.

Cherry’s letters show that she was having the time of her life – and who wouldn’t – because Cherry was perhaps just twenty or so and she was away from home and travelling around the United States and Canada. Her letters provide a wonderful insight into the hectic life of a performer on the Chautauqua circuit. Almost every day of the circuit season was taken up with either travel or performing or both. Cherry noted that all the Chautauqua performers liked the Canadian part of the circuit best because in Canada there were no performances on Sundays and so performers generally got a day of rest. Evidently the observance of the Sabbath was taken more seriously in Canada than it was in the United States at that time for there were no breaks in the performance schedule south of the border.

Appended to Cherry’s letters is the schedule for the summer of 1918. It appears that Cherry had to perform almost every day from June 6, until September 6, 1918 with the only breaks being the five Sundays during the time the Chicago Ladies Symphony Orchestra was in Canada.

The Ellison-White Chautauqua’s were five days in length in each town, and the performers usually arrived sometime before the afternoon of their performance. They then often gave a short afternoon performance followed by a longer evening performance. After performing they were often invited to festivities in the communities in which they performed.

Cherry reports more than once that some attractive young man had asked her to dance – until it was time to leave for the station, or go to bed to get some necessary sleep before the departure the next morning. It all ran on a schedule that was incredibly tight and well orchestrated, when one considers that all the travel was either by train or vehicle on not terribly good roads.

Edwardian Fernie urges you to read Cherry’s letters if you want to learn more about her Chautauqua experiences: you will be impressed by the endurance and great spirit of this young woman, who so far as Edwardian Fernie can tell worked for something less than $33 dollars (about $567.00 in 2017) per week less expenses for hotels and meals. At one point Cherry sends savings home to her parents of $21 (approximately $362 in 2017) in the Canadian mail – though she fears because of a railway postal workers strike that the money may languish somewhere on the Prairies. Edwardian Fernie wonders who today would send any cash by post with or without strike!

Edwardian Fernie wishes everyone a wonderful time at Chautauqua 2017!

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