The Schaffner Players Copyright © 2006 Michael Kramme
CEO …………… Jim Slife Publisher ……. Polly Clark An Iowan Books Publication 218 Sixth Avenue, Suite 610 Des Moines, IA. 50309-4009 515-246-0402 www.iowan.com
Editing/ Martha Hayes (Hard Copy) Cover design by: Steve Seemann/ Pioneer Graphics First printing; September, 2006 Printed in U.S.A.
A Michael Kramme Book ISBN 0-974055-4-9 (2006 Edition)
ISBN 9849392-0-6 (2011 Digital Edition)
2011 Digital Edition Copyright © 2011 Historic Preservation Publication Washington, Iowa 52353 319-653-4329 Co-Editors (Digitial Edition, 2011) Proofreading: Laurie Wittmayer-O’Neill Digitizing: Terry O’Neill
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Reproduction of the contents in any form, either in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the written permission of the publishers.
REVIEW by Laurie Wittmayer-Oâ€™Neill Trouping; ----- who knew? Laughter, great for the soul. How to achieve that? The Schaffner Players knew. With wholesome family-style variety this repertoire theater company brought levity to days destined to be difficult in myriads of ways during the twentieth century in the Midwestern United States. The rise and decline of fame took this theater group to international recognition and back again to its roots. The connection to rural Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois gentry was mutually beneficial for both the entertainer and the audience. The lines, scenes, and characters were the conduit that connected people, one to another -- finding joy and purpose in one another, while affirming their own. Thus, formed the bond of
the people of the “road” and the people of the land. The Schaffner Players gave their all and in return so did their customers. Read how the connection stood the test of time and circumstance. Learn the distinction between “acting” and “trouping” and how they found big hearted people in little places. You’ll feel their joy and sometimes their agony, but always their passion for their audience. Let the author, Michael Kramme bring the flavor of “tenting” and humor into your understanding of theater and entertainment that became the culture for rural communities for several decades of the 1900’s. You’ll have a whole new appreciation of the behind the scenes effort that made such frivolity seem easy. Enjoy! Publishers: Historic Preservation Publication
The Shaffner Players Table of Contents Chapter 1
Beginnings Chapter 2
A Show of Their Own Chapter 3
Hard Times Chapter 4
Corntussel Chapter 5
War Times Chapter 6
Playwrights Chapter 7
Their Fame Spreads Chapter 8
The Farewell Tour Chapter 9
The Davis Years
The Final Days Chapter 11
Finale Chapter Notes Bibliography Appendix A
Plays, Casts, Towns Appendix B
Dedicated to the memory of Caroline Schaffner for introducing me to the wonderful world of repertoire theatre.
PREFACE Neil and Caroline Schaffner, better known as Toby and Susie, formed The Schaffner Players in 1925 and continued performing in opera houses and tents in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois for the next thirty-five years. Jimmy Davis bought the show from the Schaffners and continued its operation until early in 1998. The Schaffner Players began during the last of the golden years of the repertoire business. The Schaffner Players continued even as the business declined. As the opera houses became unavailable, they became a summer only tent operation. Through depression, war and
competition from other media, The Schaffner Players continued until it was the last of its kind. I first met Caroline Schaffner while I was a high school teacher in Washington, Iowa. I was also part of a group of performers known as the Blair House Players. We were in need of some material, or “bits” as I would later learn to call them, for our performances. I read in an Iowa Arts Council newsletter of a theater museum located in Mount Pleasant. I was surprised that in teaching high school theater and being involved in community theater for seven years, I had never heard of this museum located only thirty miles away. I made an appointment with Mrs. Schaffner to meet one evening at the museum. It was one of the most fascinating and, as I would later come to realize, significant evenings of my life. After discussing the “bits” in the collection, we talked well into the evening about repertoire theater companies. At that time, always a promoter of the museum, she extracted from me a promise to
return and collections.
I returned, and began to bring a small group of my high school students down to the museum each Wednesday evening. We worked for about two hours sorting and cataloguing materials, and then we would go to Carolineâ€™s house for cookies, ice cream, and most importantly, stories about the rep business. The students were just as captivated as I was by this wonderful storyteller. Through Caroline, I met Jimmy Davis. Jimmy hired me to troupe with the Schaffner Players for the summer of 1976. I played leading man roles in three plays, Once in a Blue Moon, Susie Slick from Buzzard Crick, and Three in a Bed. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a great deal of practical knowledge and skills including comic timing, trouping a show, and perseverance. I never had so much fun or worked so hard in my life. I learned many things while on the road. I learned that:
• • •
French fries were the only vegetable on the menu of countless small restaurants. Some motel managers still refused to let actors stay in their establishments. A rope tied to the end of the footboard of a hotel bed was intended as a fire escape, (Fortunately, I never had to try out this theory). The first thing to do in a new town was locate the public restrooms, plot the shortest route from the tent, and plan ahead. A farce was performed at breakneck speed so the audience didn’t have time to think about the plot. I also learned that the speed could be increased if a storm was on the way. Perry, Iowa was the best place in the world for our tent show to play, because Barb Sass was the show’s greatest fan, and kept us well fed throughout the week.
I hadn’t planned to go out again in 1977. An actor “jumped the show” after the final performance in Washington. Jimmy asked if I would take over the roles until he could “find a replacement.” I said I would, not realizing that he wouldn’t look too hard for the replacement, and I trouped the rest of the season. I memorized the role for the first show, while driving from Washington to Perry (not a recommended procedure). I received the other scripts on Sunday morning and performed the first show on Monday night and again on Tuesday, the second play was given on Wednesday and Thursday, and the third on Friday and Saturday. Throughout the process Caroline’s words kept echoing in my mind, “To make it in the business you had to be a ‘quick study.’” Caroline helped me choose my dissertation topic when I decided to pursue my doctorate. I wrote about a rep show newspaper, Bill Bruno’s Bulletin. She gave advice and answered my questions as I researched and wrote.
I continue to work closely with Caroline at the Theatre Museum for the next several years. As her health began to decline, she never lost her sense of humor. Eventually her mind began to falter, and theater history lost a vast stockpile of information; and I lost a dear friend. I wish to express my gratitude to many who have helped me with this project. A special thank you goes to Lennis Moore, CEO of Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association and to the Associationâ€™s Board of Directors for their continued support to the Theatre Museum. The staff and volunteers of the Theatre Museum have also been of great help: Joe Mauck, Brian Haymond, Billie Turley, Claudia Streeter and Carla Trees deserve much credit for their hours of dedicated work. Martha Hayes, collections supervisor, deserves a special thanks for answering hundreds of questions and proofreading the manuscript. Grace Davis was especially helpful with the final chapters with information, suggestions, and loan of memorabilia.
I appreciate the time given to me by troupers and fans of the show including: Jeanie Casady, Bill Claus, Brian Haymond, Brian Iles and Becky Wilt. I wish to thank Ginalie Swaim, the editor of Iowa Heritage Illustrated, and the Iowa Historic Society for allowing me to reprint my article on Tobyâ€™s Corntussel News. Note on towns: All towns are located in Iowa, unless otherwise noted. Bracketed numerals, e.g. , refer to the chapter notes at the end of the book.
CHAPTER ONE BEGINNINGS Susie: What are you having for supper? Toby: Windmill soup. Susie: What’s windmill soup? Toby: If it goes around, you’ll git some. The joke was silly. Many in the audience had heard it many times before, but they still laughed. Small children, their parents, and their grandparents all laughed together. For seventytwo years, from 1925 until 1997, the Schaffner Players entertained audiences in Midwest opera houses and tents. Neil and Caroline Schaffner’s characters “Toby and Susie” became household names. Jimmy Davis continued the tradition as long as he was able. George Eells, author and drama editor for Look Magazine, wrote of the Schaffner Players:
The Schaffners have played their Missouri, Illinois or Iowa towns every summer for thirty-three years. Presenting a show that is designed to appeal to everyone from three to one hundred and three. Neil and Caroline have probably played to more paid admissions than any other acting couple in the living theater. To most people in this area, Toby and Susie are the only living theater that is available. They are stars, and more than stars, they are personal friends. Fans, who have remained faithful to the show for a quarter of a century, confide in Toby and Susie, apologize for having missed a play, report on family upheavals and appeal (especially to Toby) for help in solving problems that no one else can manage.
Neil Schaffner was born on May 24, 1892 in Fort Dodge. He later explained: “There were several reasons why I chose Fort Dodge as a birthplace. First reason, my mother was there at the time – have forgotten the other reasons but have feelings they were of little importance anyway.” 
His father, John H. Schaffner, was a sign painter, house painter, wallpaper hanger, and later a partner in the North Floral Co. in Fort Dodge. Neil was the youngest member of his family. He had two half-brothers, two half-sisters, two full brothers and a full sister, who died in infancy. His older brother, Frank, was a professional actor. He performed for forty years under the stage name of Francis “Jap” LaCour. Neil began his show business career in 1905 at the age of thirteen at Fort Dodge’s Midland Theater. He was hired to help carry ashes from the furnace in the basement to the ash pile in the alley. “After a few weeks, I became the ‘Head ash carrier out’ and charged with the responsibility of opening the stage door for the carriers and making sure the ashes were piled in the proper place” Schaffner continued with odd jobs such as props boy and candy seller.
Midland Theater, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Neil answered help wanted advertisements in the show business newspapers that actors left behind at the Midland. He eventually had a response and received his first acting job in 1909 with Maxim and Sights Comedians in northern Minnesota. However, this job lasted only three weeks. Soon, the Spedden and Paige Dramatic Company Players hired him. He joined them in Aberdeen, South Dakota. While with Spedden
and Paige, Neil and the other members of the company traveled from town to town by stagecoach. Neil held numerous acting jobs during the next few years. He worked on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. He was with Mason & Mason, a German dialect comedy act, for a while and then became a partner of Bert Rose to form the team of Rose and Schaffner. He joined his brother Jap on the Guy Hickman Show in 1914. This was his first experience working in a tent show. He also trouped with the TA-MO-PIC Company. The name was an abbreviation for Talking Moving Pictures. The actors sat behind the movie screen and read the lines as the lips of the movie actors moved. Soon he was able to join more prestigious companies such as the North Brothers Stock Company in Wichita, Kansas and the Princess Stock Company in Des Moines. World War I interrupted his work on the Gordiner Stock Companyâ€™s tent show. He became a first sergeant in the U.S. Fourth Infantry.
Neil resumed his acting after being discharged from the service. He worked in the Toby Wilson Stock Company in Oklahoma City, and resumed some vaudeville touring. He also performed in burlesque on a show called the “Wheel of Mirth” on the Columbia Stock Company for the 1924 winter season in the Princess Theater in Des Moines.
Marquee of a theater featuring Schaffner’s vaudeville act
While at the Princess, Neil received several notices in the Des Moines Register: “And then came Neil Schaffner. He stopped the show, tied it up in knots, untied it and tied it up again. By all accounts, he is the funniest man the Princess has ever seen.” He then rejoined Angell’s Comedians as performer and manager. During a break from Angell’s Comedians his life changed when, in 1925, he went to see a show at the Lyric Theater in Fort Dodge. Al Russel and His Sizzling Cuties were performing. Neil could not keep his eyes off the petite red-headed chorus girl. He and Caroline Hannah soon started dating. When his mother discovered he and Caroline were both Christian Scientists, his mother nor only approved of, but also encouraged their relationship. Neil signed Caroline to appear as the ingenue on Angell’s Comedians for following summer. When I joined the show at Murray [Iowa] on the 27th of April, 1925, Neil was at the depot to meet me in his Franklin and I was very thrilled
to be going with the leading man – he was the leading man of the company then, remember. He was very attentive to me. During rehearsals we had a dinner together in the evening and then he would take me for a ride in the car. During the first two or three weeks of the show, he came around every night when I had gotten out of my makeup and said. ‘Are you ready. Peewee?’ and we would drive out somewhere and have a late supper. Of course, Neil had played through this territory for many years and had many lady friends. One evening when we were out in the car, he said in a very mysterious manner that he must explain the situation now, and how it would be for the remainder of the summer. For business reasons, he said, he had to renew his friendships with the ladies in these different towns and so he would not be able to take me out after the show. He would take me out some evenings but there would be many times when he would have other lady friends and I would have to get along as best I could. I thought that over, and assured him I understood perfectly the business part of it
and that he was perfectly free to go with any of his friends any time he wanted to. However, he could not go with them and me also. So he could just make up his mind which he preferred. If he was going steady with me that would be fine but if I wasn’t going to be all of it, I wasn’t gong to be in it at all.” Neil chose to accompany Caroline. He was fond of recalling: “She came on, and had drawn money in advance and each pay day had repaid a small amount toward the balance she owed. In July, she had full salary coming. Married her on that Friday and she swears has never gotten that week’s salary.
Caroline Hannah as a chorus girl (fourth from right) 1922
Caroline Helen Hannah was born on June 24, 1901 in Orange, Texas and grew up in DeRidder, Louisiana. While Caroline was very young, her mother took her to a tent show. As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she proudly replied “a tent show actress.” While in high school, Caroline won a scholarship which enabled her to go to college. She attended Louisiana State University and then taught school for a year. At the age of nineteen, she left home to study “expression” and, in 1921, became the first graduate of the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City. Caroline had been a dramatic reader and part of a musical group, The Dixie Trio, in Lyceum and Chautauqua before becoming a dancer in tab shows. A “tab” (or tabloid) show was a cut-down version of a play, with music and a chorus line added. Tab shows were performed between showings of motion pictures. This provided not only an added attraction, but also allowed time for the projectors to cool.
Caroline Hannah (upper right) as part of the Dixie Trio, on the Redpath Chautauqua circuit, 1921-1922 season
Neil L. Schaffner and Caroline Helen Hannah were married by a Justice of the Peace on July 26, 1925 in Sac City. The couple returned to Angellâ€™s Comedians after their wedding. Caroline was fond of saying, that she was married on the road.
They were married at two o’clock in the afternoon, then did a show that night. Neil was a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and wanted to have Angell’s become an Equity show, but Mr. Angell was opposed. The Equity representative visited the show in August and explained to Neil that he would have to leave Angell’s if it did not become all-Equity or give up his Equity card. Neil left the show. After a belated honeymoon, the Schaffners heard about a tent show in trouble. They investigated, and soon took over management of the company.
REPERTOIRE THEATRE When pioneers founded the thousands of towns and villages that comprised the American frontier, one of the first important structures to be erected in most of these communities was the town hall, opera house, or in some cases grand opera house. The term “opera house” was a misnomer since very few of them ever actually
housed an opera, but at that time the word “theater” had a tarnished reputation and the title “opera house” provided a bit of class to those oases of the prairie and plains. Many of the opera houses were simple, perhaps only a platform at one end of a large room on the second floor of a business building. It would not be unusual for the chairs for performances to be borrowed from the local undertaker. At the other end of the spectrum were the elaborate structures – the pride of the community fortunate enough to have one. Many times these opera houses were the most impressive edifices in the entire county. The 1905 edition of Julius Chan’s Official Theatrical Guide list 122 theaters and opera houses available for use in the state of Iowa. Every major population center had one or more opera houses, and many small communities also had other halls available for live performances. For instance, the Woodman Theater, located in Vail, Iowa, seated 500 patrons even though the town’s population was only 600. With so many available theaters and a population hungry for
entertainment, opportunities abounded for enterprising showmen to make money. Outside of large metropolitan areas such as Chicago or St. Louis, the region was too sparsely populated to support long runs of shows. Midsized towns might support a stock company. The Princess Theater Stock Company in Des Moines, the North Brothers Stock Company in Wichita, and the Toby Gunn Players of Canton, Texas were examples of well-established stock companies in operation at the beginning of this century. The manager of a stock company hired a group of performers for the season. They performed a play for a short run, usually one week, and while one play was being performed, the next production would be in rehearsal. This pattern, performing one play while rehearsing the next, would continue for the entire season. Many well-known actors began their careers in stock companies, often becoming local celebrities before moving on to more ambitious goals. For, example Broadway and Hollwood actor Ralph Bellamy often remarked that he got his start with the Princess
Stock Company in Des Moines. Other troupers who became famous included Milburn Stone and Chill Wills (both traveled on the Wallace Bruce Players), Warner Baxter and Jennifer Jones (Ted North Players) and Red Skelton (John Lawrence Players). Hundreds of smaller communities, while not having an adequate population base to support a full-time stock company, could muster enough people to provide an audience for a single performance. To provide entertainment for these areas, entrepreneurs developed the traveling show doing one-night stands. After one performance of a play, the cast, scenery, props and costumes would all move on to the next town. Very early in American theater, many major stars discovered touring the larger towns supplemented with one-night stands in small communities was a lucrative way to organize their performances. Edwin Forrest, Charlotte Cushman, Edwin Booth, James Oâ€™Neil and Joseph Jefferson III all made several national tours. For instance, from
September 1887 through May 1888, Edwin Booth toured a repertory of Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, MacBeth, King Lear and the Merchant of Venice. He gave 258 performances at 72 cities, 48 of them for one night only. Although they provided a reasonable box office, one-night stands proved not only inefficient and expensive, but also exhausting for the performers. As transportation costs increased, fewer and fewer “one-nighters” continued in operation with the exception of the many Uncle Tom’s Cabin companies that roamed the territory. Without the drawing power of a major star, most onenight stand companies could not show a profit. In order to counteract the financial problems of one-night stands, managers created repertoire companies. The spelling “repertoire” rather than “repertory” became preferred by members of the business, and in later years was shortened to “rep” company. The manager was usually the owner and at times a major actor and perhaps playwright for the company as well. The typical
company he hired for a season consisted of six or seven men and three or four women, although some shows were much larger. On the small shows, it was important for each perfomer to be able to do specialty acts, used as between-act entertainment, as well as to “double in brass”, that is, to play an instrument in the orchestra. In the rep companies, actors built careers playing stock types. Each would perform a “line of parts” conforming to their character type. Young men entering the business would begin their careers playing “juveniles” or the second romantic interest in the show. As the actor matured, and if he had the right looks, he would move into the “leading man” roles that provided the major love interest in the play. If the actor’s appearance was not right for leading man, he would usually graduate to the villain roles (always called “heavies”) or “general business” parts which would include such characters as business men, officials or miscellaneous supporting roles. The two most common character roles were the “Gstring” comic in the early days of the business and
the “Toby” in the latter days. The G-string character was an old man with chin whiskers who spoke in a high squeaky voice like the G-string on a violin. Toby was a good natured, rustic country rube whose homey philosophy always outdid the city slicker. Neil Schaffner was not the first actor to play Toby, but he was among the earliest. The popularity of the character increased and over one hundred professional actors played the character. Women in the rep companies had their stock character counterparts to the men. A young actress would usually begin her career playing an “ingenue” or sweet young girl opposite the juvenile. Many early plays also included a “soubrette.” A soubrette was a young girl, often performing flirtatious comedy roles. As they matured, many actresses grew into leading “lady roles,” and some played those roles longer than they should have. This phenomenon seemed especially true if she was the manager’s wife. If the actress did not have the right look, or as she
grew older, she would next play the “general business” roles, a category encompassing a variety of supporting efforts. Interestingly, no female counterpart existed for the “heavy”, the villainous roles played by women were categorized as general business. “Character” roles were also available for women. Common female character roles were the mother of the leading lady, a society woman, a gossipy neighbor or a comic maid. A popular female character was labeled the “Sis Hopkins” or “silly kid.” The lady who played this part often performed opposite Toby. The Sis Hopkins role became the model for Caroline’s “Susie” character. A rep actor was expected to supply his or her own wardrobe. The men would need a few suits, a tuxedo or tails, a rustic outfit, a western or Indian costume, and perhaps a generic eighteenth century period costume. Women were expected to have a period costume, a rustic costume, and several evening gowns. Managers were convinced that the rural communities wanted to see the company in fancy dress so the beautiful evening
gowns were an important part of an actress’s wardrobe, so much so that each season she would have to purchase a new set of gowns. Each actor and actress would also have to supply a wardrobe trunk, but round-top trunks were never used because of a superstiton that they would bring bad luck. A more practical reason was that they would not stack easily in the baggage trucks or railway cars. Performers were also required to have a fine wardrobe for street wear, they were expected to be “snappy dressers on and off” stage. Most performers had two trunks. One was the wardrobe trunk to be delivered to the theater upon arrival in town. The other, which was delivered to the hotel, contained the performer’s street clothes. Cast members gathered for a short rehearsal period at the home base of the company. Since rehearsals were intense – the company preparing six or seven plays in a two week rehearsal period – the ability to be a quick study was one of the rep actor’s most important skills. On the first day of rehearsal, each actor received parts that
contained only the last three words of his cue, and his line. This shorthand version of the script made it easier to memorize quickly. The director, who had a complete copy of the script, had the final word, and he would have planned every movement and line reading in advance of rehearsals. Often an older play was being revived, the director would demand traditional line readings and bits of business. Actors had little input as to how a role should be interpreted. The morning of the first day of rehearsal would be spent getting acquainted with each other and learning the rules of the company. Then the director would oversee a read through of the first play. A read through of the second play followed that afternoon, and the company spent the evening learning parts. On Tuesday the company read the third and fourth plays, and on Wednesday, they tackled the fifth and sixth plays. Thursday consisted of rehearsals for the first and second plays, Friday for the third and fourth plays, and Saturday the fifth and sixth plays.
Sunday the company had the day off, but most members studied their lines. The company spent Monday of the second week, morning and afternoon, rehearsing the first play, opening it to an audience that evening. On Tuesday, they rehearsed the second play both morning and afternoon, and opened it that evening. This hectic pace would continue throughout the week until all six plays were on the boards. The troupe then moved to the next town and repeated the procedure. As the plays were polished, rehearsals were dropped. Needless to say, lack of rehearsal time caused many of the early performances to be poorly presented. Since actors often had their parts waiting in the wings (the offstage sides of the acting area) for emergency consultation between scenes, they were literally â€œwinging it.â€? Prior to 1920, companies traveled by train. The railroads provided a free baggage car for every forty tickets purchased. Many mangers took advantage of this rate and rented one passenger car for the troupe and one baggage car for
wardrobe trunks, scenery and props. As more hard surfaced roads were constructed, the companies found it easier and more economical to travel by car and truck. An advance man, hired by the company, arrived in town one to two weeks before the companyâ€™s arrival in order to arrange for advertising in the local papers and to post advertising bills. The advance man was necessary, since the troupe would be in town only one week and could not do their own pubicity in time to assure themselves of adequate audiences for the first performance. When the actors came to town, clever managers staged grand entrances for them. Company members would strut from the railroad depot to the hotel dressed in their finest street clothes, greeting passersby, and encouraging them to see the show. Many companies played the same towns year after year; hence actors trouping with same company for repeated seasons often became local celebrities. Managers chose cast members carefully; and carefully monitored their private lives. Good
business practices dictated maintaining positive relations with the townspeople, since many rural residents were suspicious of any outsiders, especially “show folk.” Most companies maintained a double standard concerning dating. They allowed, and even encouraged, men in the company to date local women, since such activity was seen as having a positive effect on box office revenues. Most shows, on the other hand, refused to allow company females to date “towners” in order to avoid reinforcing the commonly held opinion that actresses were “loose women.” In the early years, the repertoire companies provided full-time employment, and many were Equity shows. Their season ran fifty-one or even fifty-two weeks of the year. Some companies played exclusively in opera houses; others played opera houses in the winter and in tents in the summer when the heat made it too unpleasant to work inside. In the 1920s, as many of the opera houses were converted to motion pictures, the
repertoire companies had to rely more and more on the tent season. The early companies relied heavily on the classics. Shakespeare, Camille, The Count of Monte Cristo, East Lynne, and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde were all favorites. At the turn of the century, repertoire companies also did many Broadway plays. At about this same time, the rep companies also began to perform plays written especially for them. One reason for the increased use of specially written scripts was that the royalties for the Broadway shows were becoming prohibitive. A producer could lease a play written for the rep companies for about $25 to $30 for the entire season while a Broadway play would cost an average of $150 per season. In 1914, two plays, Stop Thief, and Officer 666, leased for $600 to $725 per week. An equally important reason for the increased number of plays written especially for the rep companies was the subject matter of many of the Broadway hits. What might be acceptable to New York audiences was
often unacceptable or downright immoral to rural playgoers. Some rep plays were melodramatic, in that they relied heavily on action and emotion. They were not, however, the “meller-drama” that is so often spoofed today. Many plays were farces, but the majority were comedy-dramas that had very serious monents. Henry Brunk, whose family operated five different companies, knew the worth of serious drama at the box office. He once stated, “A laugh is worth a dime, a tear is worth a dollar.” Mr. Brunk was referring to the belief that if a dramatic play was done well enough to move audience members to tears, they were sure to return for future productions. Prior to World War I, most companies opened on Monday, then performed a different play each day through Saturday. Since Sabbath performances were not approved by the townspeople, the company traveled to the next town on Sunday. After moving pictures began to be shown on Sundays, several rep companies, including the
Schaffners, prepared an additional production and began to perform seven plays in seven days. The order in which they performed the plays was of great importance. It was vital for a play to have “after draft,” which meant that the play must make the audience members want to return to see the rest of the week’s repertoire. The first play was often a religious or highly moral play in order to gain the support of the clergy and town leaders. If the play was one that these leaders could recommend, the rest of the run would be better attended. The six or seven plays would be selected to present a good variety of enterainment. In addition to the moral play, companies would offer selections that might include mysteries, drawing room “fancy dress” dramas, period plays, rustic dramas, and family comedies. True to the maxim “always leave them laughing,” the week often ended with a bedroom farce such as the Schaffner’s Three in a Bed, or Natalie Needs a Nightie. Often the title of the farce was the most provocative part of the show.
The first tent theater presentation may have taken place in the United States as early as 1825, with Yankee Robinson credited as owning the earliest regular tent theater company. Robinsonâ€™s troupe performed in Quincy, Illinois on May 29, 1851. In the days before air conditioning, opera houses were too hot in summer for large gatherings so tent theaters were used. It was common for a company to perform nine months in opera houses and three months in the tents. As the popularity of motion pictures increased, especially through the 1920s many oprea houses converted to filmed entertainment. It was much easier and cheaper for an opera house manager to rent a film than to hire a company of live performers. When the traveling companies found fewer available theaters open to them each year, they relied more heavily on their tent season. As the availability of the opera houses continued to dwindle, many companies became solely tent shows. Some of the companies became summer only operations, while others, like the circuses and carnivals, played in the south during the
winter and moved north in the late spring. The tent theater became a major source of entertainment, especially in the rural areas. In 1927, the Tent and Repertoire Managers’ Protective Association estimated that “400 Dramatic Tent Shows, serving 16,000 communities and playing for over 78,000,000 people yearly” were in operation that one year. Chicago, prior to the turn of the century, was the theater capital of the Midwest. Kansas City, however, surpassed Chicago as the major theatrical center for the traveling rep companies from 1900 to the 1940’s. Managers would arrive in April to lease plays and look for performers to fill their companies. Theater owners would visit to find attractions to book, and actors would be there to replenish wardrobes and look for work. The Gladstone, Mercer, and Columbia Hotels would buzz with the latest gossip, business deals, and reunions of friends and former colleagues. In September, the same would happen as the producers prepared for the winter season.
Kansas City also became a major center for suppliers of the rep companies. Tent manufacturers, suppliers of theatrical goods, wardrobe resale shops, and candy companies all headquartered there. Kansas City became such a major center for activities that Actors Equity Association had a branch office there, run by Frank and Ruth Delmaine. Although at one time over four hundred companies operated in the surrounding area, the business remained a closeknit family. Hundreds of companies operated during the 1920s. Although motion pictures began to compete for audiences, rep managers thought this to be a temporary situation and expected the novelty of films to wear off. The Depression took a major toll on the number of shows operating. Those companies that survived soon had new competition from the â€œtalkies.â€? Talking motion pictures made even more theaters inaccessible to the traveling shows. Owners usually put the bulky speakers permanently on the stage area right behind the projection screen.
The manpower shortage during World War II also cut into the number of shows on the road. By the early 1960â€™s only three companies, all exclusively tent shows, were still performing, and usable opera houses had virtually disappeared. None of the many professional rep companies remain today.
CHAPTER TWO A SHOW OF THEIR OWN Susie: Where’s your barn? Toby: I ain’t got no barn. Susie: You ain’t got no barn! Toby: No Susie: Where do you milk your cow? Toby: A little back of center. Shortly after leaving Angell’s Comedians, the Schaffners heard of a tent show that might be available. Baldy Wetzel, the owner of the Baldy Wetzel Company, walked off the show leaving the cast stranded. Neil and Caroline drove to Colfax to investigate. The performers agreed to let them take over management of the show. Neil booked several towns for the rest of August and through September. The last engagement of the season was at the fair in Fonda. On closing night, a storm destroyed the tent.
The first performance of the Schaffner Players under the Schaffner name was on October 10, 1925, at the Strand Theater in Fort Dodge. Neil persuaded the manager of the Strand to hire them to do tabloid versions of their plays for a ten-week run. Neil kept the members of the Wetzel Company and hired four additional performers. The Neil E. Schaffner Players opened with a matinee performance of one of Neil’s plays, The Vulture. They performed for ten weeks and received a two week extension. Movies were increasing in popularity. Some theater and opera house managers hired tab show companies, but most showed films exclusively, instead of hiring traveling live companies. It was simply a matter of economics. It was much cheaper to rent a film than pay the expenses of a troupe of performers. Many of the year-round traveling shows became summer tent shows only. The Schaffners organized their company like most repertoire companies of the time. Three women played the standard “line of parts.” Caroline Hannah (Schaffner), billed as “Little
Sorrel Top”, played character roles.
Neil and Caroline as “Ezra” and Skeeter” in Valley Center at the Strand Theater, Fort Dodge, 1925
Neil, billed as the “polite comedian.” played juvenile or leading roles, usually with a comedic tone. Alan “Big” Whitehouse played straight leading man roles. Dorothy Mills was the company’s leading lady, and Fanny Hatfield played general business and character roles.
Post Card of the original Schaffner Players cast, 1925
The Schaffner’s orchestra, soon known as “Schaffner’s Syncopating Savages,” included: Paul Morokoff, piano; Tubby Duer, saxophone; Alan Whitehouse, drummer; Kenneth Whitehouse, piano; and Rusty Harrison, trombone.
The original Schaffner Players company outside the Strand Theater in Fort Dodge, 1925
Several company members also perfomed vaudeville numbers between acts of the play. Paul Morokoff danced and was the companyâ€™s choreographer. The Whitehouse twins did specialty duo dance numbers. The Harrison Sisters, ages five, seven and nine, sang and danced. The girlâ€™s father, Rusty Harrison, did a specialty playing Schubertâ€™s Serenade on the trombone, using his foot to operate the slide while lying on his back. Mrs. Harrison, wife of Rusty and mother of the sisters, traveled with the company, but did not perform. After the engagement at Fort Dodge, the company opened their winter season at the Drake Avenue Theater in Centerville. Prices were ten and thirty cents. They played Monday through Saturday and on Sunday they performed at the Grand Opera House in Ottumwa, Iowa. They then performed at the Iowa Theater in Bloomfield. Prices were twenty-five and thirtyfive cents, with reserved seats on Friday night at fifty cents. Next they went to the Grand Opera House in Ottumwa for two weeks with a one-
night stand in the middle of the engagement at the Opera House in Eldon. The next engagement was for two weeks at the Masonic Theater in Oskaloosa, and then on to the Colonial Theater in Grinnell.
The band for the original company. L to R: Toby Duer, “Little” Whitehouse, “Big” Whitehouse, Paul Morokoff and Rusty Harrison, 1925
In addition to presenting the plays, the companay often had an added attraction to increase business. Popular attractions included amateur
talent contests and Charleston contests for local participants. Frank North, a former show owner, joined the Schaffners as an advance man. The Schaffners soon formed a partnership with North. It was agreed that he should find a theater in a larger city. North rented the Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. The theater, which had seating for two thousand patrons, had been vacant for a few years. The engagement proved to be disastrous. In just one week the company had a loss of $860. It was their first loss of the season. The partnership was dissolved, and Neil got an advance of two hundred dollars from Silvers Payton, manager of the Drake Avenue Theater to return to Centerville. Payton wired them the money with the message: â€œStay in your own back yard.â€? The company kept The Vulture, The Old Grouch, Love Germ, Midnight Guest, and Mystic Island in the repertoire. They added: The Troubles of Andy, Jiggs and Maggie, Smiles, The Girl in the
Case, Guttersnipe, Keep to the Right, and What Every Daughter Learns. Salaries had to be cut in half because of the Kansas City disaster. Actors now received eighteen to twenty-one dollars per week. They concluded the season at the Opera House in Eldon, and the Columbia Theater in Milton where the company disbanded. The Schaffners returned to Fort Dodge, where they made plans to take a tent out in the late spring. 1926 was the first full year, which included the following: The Old Grouch, The Marriage of ‘Lizabeith, Cabaret Girl, Crackers and Codfish, Love Germ, S’manthy, Mystic Island, Valley Center, The Town Constable, The Old Home Town, Midnight Guest, Hurry Up Bride, Handy Andy, and The Vulture. Seven of the plays featured a Toby. Three of the plays were Schaffner plays: The Old Grouch, The Town Constable and The Vulture. The summer of 1926 was the first tent season performed under the banner of “The Schaffner
Players.” The tent season lasted from May 8 through Sept 25. Clyde Gordiner owned the first tent bought by the Schaffner Players. It had been stored in Illinois. Neil described it as “very old, dirty gray circus tent that had been cut down and made into a dramatic end. When it was stretched it looked thin enough for me to poke a finger right through it, but it was a tent.” The tents used through the years by the Schaffners varied somewhat in size. A standard tent contained a rounded end, one or more center sections and a “dramatic end.” The dramatic end was supported by two side poles rather than a center pole. A canvas proscenium arch was fitted around those poles. The main tent had a side wall of canvas, and then an outer wall of canvas referred to as the “air-dome.” The sidewall could be raised to allow for air circulation and the airdome obstructed the view from the outside so non-paying customers could not see the show. The audience bought their tickets at a trailer near the front of the tent. They then passed through a
tent annex called the “marquee” where concession equipment was located. Next, they entered the main tent through the marquee. The general admission price allowed them to sit on the “blues,” which was a term coming from circuses, which referred to backless bleacher seating which formed a “U” shape along the back the tent. If the patron paid the additional reserved seat price, they were allowed to sit on folding wooden chairs closer to the stage. Neil referred to the chairs as the “soft seats,” soft pine that is. Seating for the performance would vary depending on the size of the expected crowds in a specific town. Typically, the tent contained eight hundred chairs and additional seating for two hundred on the blues.
The Schaffner Players first tent, 1926
As the audience faced the stage, to their left was the orchestra platform and to the right was a platform containing the prizes for the candy sales. Pinned to the proscenium arch, above the orchestra was a sign. “If the baby cries, please take it outside.” The Schaffners encouraged the entire family to attend the shows. Mothers often brought infants to the show. It was not unusual for a mother’s attention to be focused on the entertainment, and she might not be aware that her baby’s cries bothered the actors and other members of the audience. When a baby continued crying, Neil would turn on a spotlight
aimed at the banner. to remind the mother of the childâ€™s disturbance. To get the outfit on the road, Neil borrowed five hundred dollars from his brother, Rome. Rehearsals began in Earlville. Before opening, Neil had to borrow another $250 from his brother. Rome loaned the additional money, but told Neil not to mention it to his wife who was still angry about the first loan. They were not able to get first rate actors to sign, since they were a new show. The better and more experienced performers were more comfortable with established companies. The heavy for most of the season was Bill McDade. Mr. McDade had a pronounced stutter off-stage but never while performing on-stage. Salaries for the actors ranged from $18.00 to $37.50 per week. Bad weather plagued the early part of the tour. Neil noted in the account books: â€œthree consecutive days of rain, worst weather since early spring. Roads flooded and practically impassable, terrible mud.â€?
Caroline did not perform the entire summer. She was pregnant and by the sixth week of the tent season she sold tickets. While performing in Mt. Pleasant a storm began just before the show started. Caroline took the box office money and hid in their car at the back end of the lot so she would not have to make any refunds. Fortunately, the storm did not last, the performance resumed, and refunds were not needed. Caroline left the show in June to go to her motherâ€™s house to await the birth of their son Rome Lee who was born on July 19. Thirteen days after his birth, Caroline rejoined the company playing ingenues. The show did not do well, and eventually Neil had to sell their new Nash automoblie to pay the actorsâ€™ salaries. The company continued to have special attractions such as the amateur talent and Charleston contests. During this season they added a new feature, a real wedding. A local couple received $25 to have their marriage on stage. The company also paid the ministerâ€™s fee.
The audience members were invited to remain after the show as guests at the wedding. Finances of the company continued to falter. Four cast members were let go and replaced by George Lanshaw and his wife. Lanshaw owned a tent show in Michigan, which closed early allowing the Lanshaws to help the Schaffners finish the season. Neil made Lanshaw an offer to join in a partnership for the next summer. During the season, Schaffners made use of two traditional procedures used in the tent show business to increase income. They sold banner advertising and sold candy. The selling of candy was an important method of earning extra income. The account books show that candy sales one week were $183.15. The Schaffners erected a platform to the right of the stage to hold a display of the premuim prizes. During the intermission between the last two acts of the play, Neil gave the sales pitch. The pitch was always humorous and made fun of the candy. A typical pitch used by Neil was:
Now folks, we’re gonna have our candy. If you’ll all look over there on the stage, you’ll see a lot of swell premiums. See all them prizes? There’s French dolls, electric lamps, blankets, and hundreds of other swell prizes. Now all them things we carry from town to town. The only reason we got’em on display is to make you think you’re gonna win one of ‘em. After all, this is a money makin’ scheme. But I want to make one thing clear. Tonight, at this performance, every cent taken in at this candy sale goes for the benefit of the poor -- the poor Mr. Schaffner. I aint’s gonna tell you there is a prize in very box, cause there ain’t. If there was, I’d go broke. But every once in a while there is a box with a coupon in it. Now if you git one of them coupons, jist bring it down to the stage and the lovely lady will give you whatever it calls for. Now the price of the candy is the same old price, jist fifteen cents a box. But tonight
as a special inducement I’m gonna let you buy two boxes for thirty cents. You know somethin’ happened tonight that made me feel real good… Well, anyhow, when we were here last year, there was a young feller settin’ right down there… and across the aisle from him was a young lady… They was strangers to each other… But in the candy, this gal won a safety razor and he won a pair of nylon stockin’s… They held ‘em up for me to see… I suggested they trade, which they did… Well, tonight I was out in front of the tent and who should come up but them same two young folks and in their arms a bouncing baby boy… Which only goes to prove that you can’t never tell what you might get out of my candy. Actors, and other company members, then went through the audience to sell the boxes of candy. The boxes contained a few pieces of taffy and some also had coupons, which could be redeemed for a fancy prize from the display of the stage. In
some towns, during the last performance, the company held a drawing from the weekâ€™s coupons for a special door prize. A diamond ring or French procelain doll was a typical prize. The Schaffners purchased prepackaged candy and prizes from various suppliers such as: The Gordon Howard Company of Kansas City, The Union Concession Company, Universal Theaters Concession Company, and The Bob Hofeller Candy Company, all located in Chicago. Banner advertising became another important source of income. While performing in the opera houses, the company printed programs containing local advertising. Programs were not used during the tent season, so banner advertising became an important source of revenue. A representative from the company would contact local businesses in each town. For a small fee, a cloth banner advertising the business would be placed with other banners around the proscenium arch of the stage. Neil would draw attention to the banners at some point during the program.
Sponsors were often kidded during the show. A favorite joke was directed at a restaurant and gas station combination. Neil would proclaim, â€œeat here and get gas and pop.â€? At other times, the other times, the sponsorâ€™s name or business was inserted into the dialogue of the play. The sales of banners for the tent season added about $150 to the company treasury. The 1926 tent season finished successfully. The company gave 138 performances to an estimated audience of over 134,000, with a profit of about $950. The company closed the tent operations and returned to stock performances at the Strand Theater in Fort Dodge and the World Theater in Sioux City. During the 1926 season, Neil finished another play, Where is My Teddy? It became the most popular of any of his plays until the 1950s. He estimated that it became one of the three most popular plays ever written especially for the rep show business. In the beginning of 1927, the Schaffners joined a company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which
guaranteed them ten weekâ€™s work. The engagement was not successful and the company tried a circle stock operation but that also failed. A circle stock was a common way of organization for a company to perform in the opera houses. The company had a base town to which it returned after each performance. They located five or six opera houses within a reasonable driving distance of the base. Caroline often compared it to a bicycle wheel. The base town was the hub, and each spoke of the wheel represented one of the nearby towns.
Neil Schaffner, 1925
Neil as “Toby,” 1925
Caroline Schaffner, 1925
Caroline as “Susie,” 1925
They would prepare a new play each week. Some companies opened in the base town’s opera house. Other companies, including the Scaffners, did not play the base town. Each night they would perform at one of the other opera houses. During the day, they rehearsed their next play. Some actors preferred circle stock to trouping since they could have a more permanent home in the base town. The company was not able to pay salaries. Fortunately, Neil received a royalty check for amateur rights to The Vulture. They loaded their
eight trunks onto the old Dodge and returned to Iowa. The company now began a routine typical of most of the rep shows. The fall season usually began near the first part of October and lasted through December. The winter season lasted from January through the end of April. Often the cast for the fall and winter seasons remained the same. The tent season in the Midwest began near the first of May and lasted into September. The companies leased opera houses and began to perform in stock. The length of the stay in one opera house depended on the amount of business generated. The Schaffners often performed one or two week stock engagements although some lasted twelve or more weeks. Around the first of May, the companies reorganized and moved into tents. Veteran troupers often referred to a beginner in the business as a â€œfirst of Mayer.â€? Before the advent of air conditioning, the southern and midwestern opera houses closed during the hot and humid summers. The tent show typically played a town
for one week. They performed their play in repertoire or “rep.” The Schaffners would typically present seven plays in a week, one each night Monday through Saturday and also a Saturday matinee. Saturday evening, after the show, the tent and equipment were loaded into trucks and the show moved to the next location on Sunday. Occasionally, they gave a Sunday or a one-night stand performance. They often had “ladies free” nights to encourage business. A lady would be admitted to the show if accompanied by someone buying an adult ticket. They took the tent out again in partnership with Lanshaws as the Schaffner-Lanshaw Players and had a reasonable season. Near the end of the 1927 season, they played in Floris during the annual fox hunt. The committee made arrangements with the Schaffners to hold a dance in the tent each night. The 1927 winter stock season began at the Grand Theater in Greenfield, then moved on to The Masonic Theater, Oskaloosa; the Ritz Theater, Chariton, Knoxville, Bloomfield, the Drake
Avenue Theater in Centerville, the Rialto Theater in Newton and the Odeon Theater in Marshalltown. The Schaffners were able to rent the Odeon Theater in Marshalltown over the objections of the owners of the town’s movie houses. The Odeon had been unused for several years. After cleaning the theater, the company had nearly sold-out business for twelve weeks. Their contract was not renewed because of complaints from the manager of the moving picture theater. During the twelve weeks at the Odeon, the company presented thirty-three plays for a total of eight-five performances. The profits were the “first big money we had made with the show.” The Schaffner-Lanshaw Players’ 1928 summer season was expanded from twenty to twenty-two weeks. The last two weeks were played in the Grand Opera House, Ottumwa, and the Graham Opera House in Washington. An interesting entry in the 1928 account book was $1.50 for a “line call.” Neil went to the central telephone office where he made arrangements to
ring all party lines and talk about the show. It was an early form of telemarketing. The show experienced a major storm while playing in Ollie. Neil heard someone digging outside the back of the tent. When he investigated, he found a complete stranger who explained that he had been digging a trench, “so you folks won’t get washed away.” He continued, “I’m the Christian minister here in town and I want to make you folks welcome.” During the same season, Caroline had a less friendly encounter with a lady evangelist. The ladies of the company were in their dressing area, when the evangelist entered and introduced herself and then said to the actresses, “You know, no matter how low people get, I like to get acquainted with them.” After the 1928 tent season, the Schaffners and Lanshaw mutually agreed to dissolve their partnership. Lanshaw wanted to do more dramatic plays while Neil wanted to emphasize the comedies, especially those featuring the Toby character. In addition, Neil believed that Mr.
Lanshaw did not do his share of the work, so the partnership ended after the close of the tent season. The company went back into two-week stands at opera houses. The Schaffners bought Thanksgiving dinner for the entire company, at a cost of $8.00. For the 1929 season, the Schaffners bought a one year old tent and equipment. The outfit cost two thousand dollars. An agreement was reached to pay five hundred dollars down and seventy-five a week. They were able to pay off the entire debt during the season. Neil wrote two additional plays, Chain Stores and Be Yourself, during the winter season. The Schaffner Players had become a respected company. Neil and Caroline closed the winter season and moved to Kansas City where they purchased a new home. The show was now a financial success and Neil was able to lease several of his plays to other companies. â€œThe Schaffner Playersâ€? had been added in gold leaf on the door of the Karl Simpson Agency in Kansas
City, one of the rep businessâ€™s most prestigious agencies. It looked like good times ahead.
CHAPTER THREE HARD TIMES Susie: Did you hear that Jeb Proudy and Flaxie Frizzle are going steady? Toby: That’ll be quite a sight. Susie: What do you mean? Toby: Why he’s so bow-legged and she’s so knock-kneed that when they walk down the street they spell ox. The Schaffners began the 1930 season optimistically. Iowa farmers enjoyed a good corn crop and record numbers attended the show. Business remained strong until the 4th of July. Almost overnight everything changed. Neil told the story: What I will never understand is, who told everyone THAT A DEPRESSION WAS ON? Nobody told me. But how did everyone know it that day and just stop spending all at once? It was uncanny; the bottom went out of everything. We started cutting prices and working every kind of gimmick we could think
of. The public just stopped spending period. The only way we could get enough in to keep our heads above water was to mail out a free season ticket to every box holder on every rural route, proceeding on the assumption that one would hardly come alone, but would bring one cash customer with him. Anyway, we got a chair charge [reserved seat] out of the free ones. This season ticket had to be used each night or it became void. We had a distinctive punch we punched it with so we would know if it had been used or not. We cut salaries from forty-five dollars top to forty all around. And whatever we would take it in, it was not quite enough. Whenever we would make a cut somewhere, it seemed that business fell off in exactly that same ratio.
Neil went to some merchants with a proposal to help them gain customers by giving away tickets to the show. After a few merchants explained they did not need more customers, but needed their existing ones to pay back charges, Neil came up with a new idea. He made an arrangement with various merchants that for every five dollars paid on accounts over thirty days old, the merchant would give a free season ticket to the
show, for which the merchant paid one dollar to the Schaffners. As attendance continued to lessen, the Schaffners called the company together in North English and announced that all salaries would have to be cut in half. Everyone chose to take the cut rather than leave because there was no place else to go. The other companies had either cut salaries or closed down completely. The Schaffners continued to battle against the local motion picture interests. Often the movie house manager would convince local politicians to raise license fees for traveling companies. The Schaffners countered by several methods. In Ottumwa, the company’s license was revoked. That night Neil stepped in front of the audience to explain the situation. Twisting his wig in his hands, he said in his best Toby fashion: Folks, I’m just a farmer boy in a red wig and I always thought Iowa was a part of the democracy. I guess I was wrong. It appears these Hollywood moguls dictate who can come to Ottumwa and who can’t, tell you what you can see and what you can’t. What’s more, there’s not a blamed
thing you can do about it. Unless, of course, you got on the phone and let the mayor know how you feel about these Hollywood big shots running your lives. Neil received a phone call from the mayor the next afternoon. The harried mayor called to ask Neil to inform the audience that the Schaffner show could stay as long as it wished. “Otherwise,” he said, “I’ll never get anything done. They started calling at eight o’clock this morning and haven’t let up since.” Toby had taken on the city slickers and triumphed in real life in the best tent show fashion. In Marshalltown, the city council had raised the license fee for tent shows to $150. Neil checked the ordinance book and found that the annual license for an amusement park was only twentyfive dollars. He then rented a ballpark and took out an amusement park license. The manager of the movie house complained and the city council held special meetings to discuss the situation. In the meantime, a representative of the musician’s union visited the show and Neil pointed out that all of the musicians on the show were union members. A member of the building trades council also visited the show and Neil
reminded him that all of the actors were members of Actor’s Equity, which was affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Both men went to the council meeting and told the council that their members would not let the city officials run a show out of town to please the movie managers, who had very few union members and no musicians at all. The council reversed the license fee ordinance and charged only three dollars per day. While Neil was discussing the problems of license fees with a friend, the friend pointed out a law passed by the Iowa legislature after World War I which provided that any Iowa ex-serviceman had the right to “hawk, vend, peddle or sell any article of his own manufacture” without any license. Shortly after this discussion, the mayor of Osceola informed Neil that the town ordinance raised the license to one hundred dollars per week. Neil called the mayor’s attention to the law and said, “Inasmuch as I wrote all of the plays we are using, I take the position that I am selling an article of my own manufacture. I am an Iowa exserviceman and I am not going to pay any license at all.” When the mayor threatened to have him arrested, Neil responded, “That’s just fine with
me. As a matter of fact, I think I will insist on you arresting me so I can file a suit for damages under this state law. We’ll see how it comes out.” The mayor relented and the previous fee was restored. In Fort Dodge, the company was preparing to open the 1934 tent season when they learned the license would cost two-hundred dollars a week. Neil checked the ordinance book and found that an airdome license was twenty-five dollars a year, so they set up the stage and sidewalls but not the tent top, and called the Schaffner Players business an airdome. The Schaffners discovered another highly successful method of dealing with license problems. The company would get local sponsorship when possible. Groups such as the American Legion, the Elks or Rotary would receive ten percent of the gross receipts. In exchange, they would furnish the “three l’s – lot, license and ‘electricity.” The sponsors could put pressure on local officials to give them the license at a lower rate or free; and, in many instances, could procure a better lot location at no expense. It was also advantageous
to have a group in a town with a vested interest in the show’s welfare. In later years, the sponsor also furnished manpower to help set up the tent and equipment. This arrangement worked well for both parties. The civic group could earn some money and provide a worthy project for members. For the show, it saved money and helped create community good will. A common complaint leveled against the show was that it took money out of the community. Neil stumbled on a response when he went to a hardware store. The owner said that he was not going to the show because he did not like to patronize something that took money out of the town. Neil saw a new car parked in front of the store and asked the man if it was his. When the man acknowledged that it was his car, Neil responded “Do you realize that more money went out of this town when you bought that car than I’ll take out of here in four or five years? As a matter of fact did you ever stop to think that every item in your stock represents dollars that went out of town?” Neil then pointed out that he had fifteen or twenty people on the show that spent most of their salary in town for meals, lodging,
clothing and laundry. “In other words, I take twenty per cent out of town and leave eighty per cent here. With you, it’s just the opposite – you keep twenty per cent and send all the rest out of town.” The 1931 winter season provided a bright spot for the company’s finances. The Schaffners had a successful engagement at the Grand Opera House in Ottumwa. They chose Ottumwa because the local packing plant was operating twenty-four hours a day, and had a large payroll. Prices for tickets were ten cents and thirty cents. They produced fifty-four different plays, two each week, from September 14 through March 20, for a total of 270 performances. In just one year, during the season from May 1931 until May 1932, the company had produced an astonishing eightyone different plays. The Schaffners began performing on Sundays during the 1932 season. They chose to do this after the movie houses opened on Sundays. At first, they were apprehensive as to the communities’ responses, but they received no major objections and, in many places, Sunday performances had the largest audiences. While at the Grand Theater in Ottumwa, they gave ten
performances each week including three on Sunday, one at 3:00, one at 7:00 and the last at 9:00.
Cast of The Sheik on stage of the Grand Opera House in Ottumwa, 1932
After the engagement in Ottumwa, the company moved to the President Theater in Des Moines. While there, Caroline received what would become her favorite review of her career. The reviewer for the Des Moines Register said of her performance in The Shepherd of the Hills, â€œThe play is well acted by the entire cast, with
particular credit going to Caroline Schaffner who plays the roll of the half-witted boy, Pete.” During the summer of 1932 the Schaffners formed a partnership with J. Doug Morgan and his wife. Morgan owned his own show off and on from 1929 through 1942. After the tent season, the Schaffners and Morgan moved the show to Missouri and then on to Texas to cash in on a bumper cotton crop. The Schaffners chose to end the partnership after the finish of the season. 1933 began with the Schaffners forming a circle stock company. The Schaffners based their circle in Fort Dodge. They opened in Gilmore City on Sunday, then played in Farnhamville on Monday, Woodstock on Tuesday, Palmer on Wednesday. Barnum on Thursday and closed the show in Clarion on Friday. Jack Bailey toured with the company during the summer of 1933. Bailey later went to Hollywood and became the voice of “Goofy” in several Walt Disney cartoons. He later became the host of the popular television program Queen for a Day. Difficulties arose during the tent season of 1933 while the outfit was in West Burlington. One afternoon when they were in Burlington proper,
Neil received an emergency call: “Are you the fella who owns the tent show in West Burlington?” a voice demanded. Neil said that he was. “You’re a dammed liar. It just blew away,” Neil soon learned that the caller was one of his employees.
Schaffner Players tent show audience, 1932
The Schaffners drove to the lot only to find the rope skeleton of the tent. The canvas boss had guyed it so skillfully that the frame held while the surprise windstorm stripped it off the rotten canvas. As they sat in the car, tears of discouragement rolled down Caroline’s cheeks. Neil took her hand then and promised, “Don’t worry, honey. It won’t always be like this.”
They played the rest of the engagement as an airdome, and did not lose one performance to bad weather. Neil immediately ordered a new tent from the Caster Tent & Awning Company of Wapello. For $475 the Schaffners received: â€œa fifty-four foot wide tent, one forty-foot end, one forty-foot middle piece, and one twenty-six foot end; including sidewalls and top. Said tent to be made out of 10 ounce khaki duck. This contract does not include stakes and poles.â€? Neil heard of a successful amateur talent contest program, Iowa Barn Dance Frolic, on Des Moines radio WHO. He made an arrangement with the station manager to take the Barn Dance Frolic out into the tent for one-night stands as part of the 1934 season. He would receive free radio advertisement for the regular tent show with the Schaffners and WHO splitting the profits evenly. The response was poor and the arrangement soon ended. The 1935 season was the last time the Schaffners included a winter season. Fewer theaters were available due to the popularity of sound motion pictures. Theater owners used the former stage areas to locate the necessary speakers and sound
equipment. Also, the screen installations became more permanent. At the end of the tent season, the Schaffners planned to move the show south again. They performed in Canton, Missouri and then Edina, Missouri, but the weather turned bad so they chose to organize a circle stock of Missouri towns using Edina as a home base. The Edina circle stock company consisted of nine performers. Each week, after performing in Edina, the company performed in Baring on Wednesdays, Lewistown on Thursdays, Knox City on Fridays, and Leonard on Saturdays. One of Caroline’s favorite stories was about the Edina circle. The company was returning after a performance. It was raining and the car got stuck. The ladies remained in the car, while the men got out to push. After a lack of success, Caroline overheard Monte Montrose exclaim, “My God, there must be a better way to earn a living!” After a good start, business dwindled. The only way they could pay expenses and move from Edina to their engagement in Chariton was to use Caroline’s engagement ring as security for a loan. In later years, Neil recalled, “I still look on that
day as the absolute low point of the Schaffners. I never had done anything like that before and I haven’t since.”
Stage setting for Tropical Love, in tent, 1932
By the end of the season, the Schaffners made enough money to get Caroline’s ring out of hock. However, they were unable to make mortgage payments on their home in Kansas City, forcing the bank to foreclose. The Schaffners began their radio careers in late 1935. They would broadcast their fifteen-minute program “Toby’s Bugtussel (later Corntussel) News” until 1945. They aired the early programs
from Carthage, Illinois and later broadcast from Cedar Rapids. Eventually, the effects of the Depression began to lessen. The 1930-1936 account books for the company are missing but the books show that the tent season of 1936 showed a profit of just over $2,044 and the 1937 tent season’s profit was $4,625. The Schaffner Players had, with a few minor exceptions, been exclusively an Iowa company from 1925 through 1935. They chose to expand into Illinois and Missouri on a regular basis beginning in 1936. Iowa, northeast Missouri and western Illinois remained their territory for the rest of the company’s existence. While making preparations for the 1936 season, Caroline decided the time had come for her to stop playing ingénue leads. She felt she was too old for them, but not old enough to play character roles. She had been a hit as the Susie character on the radio shows, so they began to write Susie parts into all of their Toby plays. For the next several years all the advertising for the show featured “Toby and Susie, Direct from Radio.” Neil and Caroline were partners in writing the plays, choosing the route, hiring and rehearsing
the company. While on the road, Neil handled publicity and other public relations duties. Caroline was in charge of the box office, payroll and all bookkeeping. Caroline was also in charge of discipline and other problems, including firing of personnel when necessary. When actors would go to Neil to ask for a favor or a salary raise, he would respond by saying something to the effect, “I would love to help you.” or “You are well worth more money, but you know how Caroline is.” Late in her life, Caroline once confided that the most difficult task she ever had to perform on the show was to fire Ed Ward. Ward was an experienced trouper. He had once owned his own show, and had been with the Schaffners for several seasons. He lost his driver’s license, but refused to give up driving his car. Fearing liability, the Schaffners realized that he had to be given notice, and it was Caroline’s job to relay the bad news. Hiring a reliable tent crew was a constant problem throughout the repertoire business. The Schaffners hired Scotty Greenhagen as boss canvas man, and Shanty Speer as his assistant in 1936. These two experienced tent handlers
relieved Neil of all chores dealing with the tent. Both Scotty and Shanty stayed with the company for the next eighteen years. Neil bought a custom-built house trailer for the 1936 season. It was sixteen feet long and contained two settees that converted into beds, a little kitchen and a small bathtub. The use of the trailer saved on hotel and rooming house expenses. It also saved time and bother of constantly packing and unpacking their personal items in each town. The Schaffners were the first theater troupe to use a house trailer. In later years, it became a standard feature on all of the rep companies. The success of their radio programs continued to help build audiences for the tent seasons. Business for the 1937 season doubled, and in some towns tripled over the 1936 season. 1939 was the first season that Roy Hilliard worked for the Schaffners. He had a reputation of being a first class actor and director. He and Neil had worked together in the stock company at Des Moinesâ€™ Princess Theater years earlier. Hilliard worked for numerous repertoire and stock
companies. Hilliard’s biography in the 1944 souvenir program stated: Roy is truly “the Grand Old Man” of stock. Many of the famous present day stars owe their success to the training they received under Director Hilliard. Warner Baxter, Ralph Belamy and Melvin Douglas were just a few of the numerous actors that he guided along the narrow road to fame. During all these years, Roy Hilliard has not only been a great director and character actor, but at the same time he has remained HUMAN and Real – in other words, AN HONEST TO GOODNESS SWELL FELLOW.
Hilliard’s daughter, Harriett, became a vocalist and married band leader Ozzie Nelson. The couple later achieved television fame as “Ozzie and Harriett.” Hilliard worked for Schaffners for several seasons. In 1939, the company began using its own trucks to transport the show. The Schaffners bought one large semi-truck and trailer, two regular trucks and a trailer especially built to haul the canvas. In later years, Neil reflected on hard times. He often said, “Hell has no fears for me. Anyone who
managed a traveling tent show in Iowa in depression days has already had it.â€?
CHAPTER FOUR RADIO DAYS “Here comes Toby, here comes Suz with their fun to chase your blues.” This announcement alerted radio listeners for ten years that for the next fifteen minutes, Neil and Caroline Schaffner would bring them the latest comical happenings from the fictional village of Bugtussel, Iowa. Thousands of Midwesterners weary of the Great Depression and the World War II tuned in to Toby’s Corntussel News for a daily dose of humor. The Schaffner Players were appearing in West Burlington in September 1935, when Johnny Palmer, business manager for 250-watt WCAZ in Carthage, Illinois, arrived to sell advertising. Palmer and Neil visited at length about the radio business, now in its second decade. Eventually they agreed on a proposition. The Schaffners would do a fifteen minute comedy radio show,
five days a week, without pay. In exchange, the station would give the Schaffners some airtime each day to promote their traveling company.
Post card advertising the WCAZ broadcasts
After trying out a variety of material for the new program, the Schaffners remembered a successful routine they had used as a specialty act on the road. The routine was set in a small-town newspaper office. Toby (played by Neil) was the editor. He was in love with Susie (played by Caroline), the paperâ€™s secretary, proofreader, and society columnist. Events in the newspaper office would become plots for the radio show. Caroline remembered a sign she had seen in Texas for the
town of “Bugtussel,” which sounded like a good name for the show’s fictitious setting. They named the newspaper The Cockeyed Nooz, later, they changed it to The Bugtussel Nooz and then The Bugtussel News. The Schaffners first realized the impact of their new radio show when they arrived at the Columbia Theater in Fort Madison where they had been hired to do a fifteen minute vaudeville routine between movies. As they approached the theater, they saw a large sign on the marquee announcing: “IN PERSON. TOBY & SUSIE, STARS OF TOBY’S BUGTUSSEL NEWS.” Neil’s gamble had paid off. The publicity from the radio show added to their visibility and boosted ticket sales and bookings for their traveling shows. In May 1936, the Schaffners suspended the radio program. The tent show season was approaching, and they used the tag line “Toby & Susie Direct from Radio” in their advertising for their traveling company. The traveling company was now more often known as the “Toby and Susie Show” than as the “Neil E. Schaffner Players.” Pleased with their exposure on radio and it’s effect on ticket sales, the Schaffners decided to try for work on a larger station. In Chicago, they
auditioned for the Wade Advertising Agency. (At that time, many radio programs were still supplied by sponsors, who relied on advertising firms to produce the programs and used the airtime to sell their products.) Walter Wade offered the Schaffners a three minute spot on the weekly radio show National Barn Dance, starting in November 1936. Barn Dance played before live audiences on Saturday nights and was broadcast over the NBC network of 550 stations. Toby and Susie shared the microphone with headliners Joe Kelly, Lula Belle & Scotty, The Maple City Four, and other regulars. Toby was even given license to poke fun at the show’s sponsor Alka-Seltzer. One evening, Joe Kelly and Toby added these lines to the live commercial: Kelly: Toby: Kelly: Toby:
Do you take Alka-Seltzer? I certainly do. I follow the directions. What do you mean? I keep the bottle tightly closed.
The Schaffners were soon gaining notice in the radio world. As a reviewer for NBC News Services commented, “Uncle Ezra’s Rosedale, famous home of the mythical five-watter Radio Station E-Z-R-A, has a rival on the Alka-Seltzer
National Barn Dance broadcasts now that Tovias and Susie Sharp are putting Bugtussel, Iowa on the map with their ‘Cockeyed News’ now a regular feature of the Saturday night program.” The reviewer continued “Tobias and Susie, who in private life are Mr. and Mrs. Neil Schaffner, made their rollicking comedy popular…last winter, during a lull in their tent show business… Their radio comedy features the publisher of a small town tabloid and his gossipy-minded girl friend.” After nine months of National Barn Dance, the Schaffners chose to return to the tent for the summer of 1937, eager to perform again for audiences face to face. But they recognized that they had also become radio personalities. To maintain their presence on the radio, they appeared on the Barn Dance once a month through the summer or had letters from “Toby and Susie” read on the air during the program. And with an agreement from the show’s sponsor, they now advertised themselves as “Direct from the Alka-Seltzer Barn Dance.” The next winter season, when the Schaffners lost their Barn Dance spot to a New York comedian, they turned to other stations, first to WMT in
Cedar Rapids, and then to WOW in Omaha, where they successfully auditioned in early 1938 for the Peterson Baking Company, bakers of Peter Pan Bread. Their new show’s format would be much the same as their previous fifteen minute program. However, the sponsor insisted on one change. Because bakers would not want their products associated with bugs, Toby’s Bugtussel News became Toby’s Corntussel News.
Radio cast, WMT studios, Cedar Rapids
The program originated live from the WMT studios from 11:30 to 11:45 a.m., Monday through
Friday. The broadcast went out over a network of five stations: WOW in (Omaha, NE); in Iowa, WMT (Cedar Rapids) and KMA (Shenandoah); and in Illinois, WHBF (Rock Island) and WCAZ (Carthage). The Schaffners were again responsible for writing the fifteen minute programs and performing them live, five days a week, throughout the winter season (they suspended the radio show when the summer tent season started up). The format of Toby’s Corntussel News remained basically the same over the next few years. The first thing the listeners heard was a jingle composed and played by WMT’s Frank Voelker, billed as “radio’s blind organist.” Here comes Toby, here comes Suz With their fun to chase your blues. Buy the freshest bread you can Complete your meals with Peter Pan.
Publicity photo of Neil and Caroline while under sponsorship of Peter Pan Bakeries. Notice Caroline’s Pater Pan style hat.
Next, announcer Bennie Alter warmed up the listening audience with: “It’s all in fun. Just to brighten your daytime hours the foolishness of Toby and Susie sent to you with the best wishes of the Peter Pan Bakers.” In case anyone had missed an episode, Alter reviewed the story line of the last few episodes. Just before the day’s episode began, a commercial for Peter Pan Bread
was broadcast live, always ending with the phrase, “Will you listen?”
The Schaffners would stretch a story line over a dozen episodes. Each plot involved some silly scheme devised by Toby. In one story line, for instance, Toby is trying to please Susie’s disapproving mother. To get in her good graces, he promises her some canaries he expects to win in a contest. But all he wins is an offer of one canary for every twenty-four packages of perfumed laundry bluing he sells. Quickly failing
as a salesman, too, Toby instead uses the bluing to dye some sparrows, which he passes off as singing bluebirds. Just as Toby is about to ask Susie’s parents for permission to marry their daughter, a telegram announces the arrival in Corntussel of Professor Ebenezer Schnozzle, here to examine the unusual birds. During the examination, the professor accidentally puts on Toby’s blue sunglasses instead of his own glasses and declares the birds to be genuine and, indeed, quite rare. Victory for Toby! The wedding will go on, or so it seems. Busy with plans, Susie’s mother now decides that the bluebirds must sing at the ceremony. And if they do not, she warns Toby, the marriage will not take place. But now a commercial interrupts the drama for the day, followed by the announcer’s teasing wrap-up; “What will Toby do now? Will Susie’s mother figure out what really happened? What will Susie think when the beautiful blonde comes into town?” As the show concluded, listeners heard the theme song again, then the promise that “Toby and Susie will return at this same time tomorrow and it will all be in fun.” And finally, the reminder that
“Toby and Susie presented by the Peter Pan Bakers have reached you by a special Midwest network.” Neil Schaffner signed off each day with “This is Toby Tolliver saying, ‘Keep ‘em smiling.’”
Toby and Susie appeared in every episode. Other regulars included Susie’s parents, her Aunt Mehitable, the town constable, Zeb Proudy, and the printer, Shorty Snaggelby. The episodes, built on simple humor and familiar characters, used several running gags. Every time Zeb Proudy came into the office his dog fell asleep and Zeb had to awaken it as he left. Toby always answered the phone by saying “Commence,” and ended each phone call with “This end is through.” Although the Toby character would evolve over Neil’s career, essentially Toby Tolliver was a bumbling rube whose good heart and good intentions generally won out over the more savvy sophisticated characters. Susie became the foil or “straight man” for Toby. Whenever he had one of his crazy ideas, she was always the voice of reason and common sense, even though she would always go along with him. More than 330,000 listeners tuned in daily to Toby and Susie, according to Milton Peterson, vice-president of Peter Pan Bakers. He understood the program’s appeal: “The character of the program was a simple humorous comedy of
the audience’s sympathy type, very high in emotional appeal,” he expounded. “It combines laughter, suspense and pathos, tears or near tears, and keen sympathy for the character in their frustrated aims. They are constantly trying to do something, trying to accomplish something, frequently failing, but always bouncing back with optimism ready to undertake it anew, making all of the mistakes and meeting all of the problems that are met by simple country folks in the smaller towns.” Toby and Susie’s following continued to grow. In 1939, they received some 7,800 Christmas cards. Neil recounted how a shopkeeper had refused to wait on customers until the show was over. In 1941, the Schaffners persuaded the sponsor to run a promotion. They created an actual issue of the Corntussel News, printed 10,000 copies, and offered it free to anyone who requested it. In just fifteen days, more than 33,000 requests poured in, often with praise for the program and for Peter Pan Bread. Some of the letters attested to the role the show played in listeners’ daily routine: Your story is twice told nearly every day you’re on the air. You tell it to me and then it’s my turn when Friend Husband comes from work.
Just as often as not his greeting well be, ‘what did Toby get into today?’ -Mrs. Lou Loveland, Oelwein, Iowa We want to thank you and Peter Pan Bread for a lot of enjoyment. We always need laughable nonsensical entertainment and of course we all need it very much in times like these. -Louis Poorman, Shell Rock, Iowa Please send me your newspaper. I enjoy your program very much. I just want to see if it is as dumb as you are, Toby. -Mrs. Elmer Kantz, Rock Island, Illinois Please send me a free copy of the Corntussel News. I am a steady listener for I think you are very funny. I would hate to be Toby. Sincerely Yours, Age 13, 1941. -Jimmie Mixer, Beverly, Illinois I am one of your listeners and I sure do enjoy your program. It really is worth my time to just stop my work and listen as it is just so good that I can’t miss a bit of it. It takes one’s mind off of war news and bad luck just around the corner.
-Dorothy Brenizer, Shenandoah, Iowa
Tent in Lewistown, Missouri, with “Stars of Peter Pan Corntussel News” painted in the side
Some letters contained more personal messages. “I know my daughter Betty 12 yr. old will be listening too at Iowa City Hospital inf. Paralysis victim of over a year ago. She never misses your program.” -Mrs. Mary Foley, Marion, Iowa
Promotional “wedding photo” “Please send me the Corntussel News, and if you care to send one to the Sunny Slope Sanitarium, Ottumwa, Iowa, to Lorraine Junkman it would be something for pastime for all patients on the porch she is on.” -Mrs. Walter Junkman, Manson, Iowa
The Schaffners eventually published three issues of the newspaper, emblazoned with the slogans
“Published weakly now and then” and “If you subscribe to the News it will serve you right.” Like the radio show, the newspaper was filled with invented news stories and advertisements, its humor relying on misinformed spellings and double entendres, as in these want ads: WANTED: To rent, room by middle-age man with large bay window. BOM TON CAFE-Eat hear onct’ and youl never et anywhere else. FOR SALE: Dinning room table, by young lady with mahogany legs. NOTISE: Anyone found around my chicken coop at night will be found there the next morning. WANTED: Laundry and sich. Latest methods used. We do not tear your clothes with machinery. We do it carefully by hand. FOR SALE: Large bed by old maid that folds up and looks like a piano.
The Schaffners had found a niche among the soap operas and serialized dramas rampant on radio. As a promotional brochure described it, “these two former NBC laugh riots were a welcome break, coming at the time of day when the air is choked with sob-sister, three-cornered love affair programs.” Buoyed by their success, the Schaffners, with the assistance of the Peterson Baking Company, decided to sell the program to other stations. Depending on their size, stations paid them between five and forty dollars as weekly royalties. Stations from coast to coast purchased the series. An industry advertisement in 1940 listed seventy-six subscribers, including WOR in New York and KFY in Los Angeles. Eventually, 172 stations in twenty-four states carried the series, as did twenty-five Canadian stations. (With their sense of humor, Toby and Susie no doubt appreciated the fact that they were reaching towns with names like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.) After Pearl Harbor, the various stations’ interest in the Schaffners’ show dropped away, but Peterson Baking Company continued to sponsor Toby’s Corntussel News on the regional network until 1943. Then in 1945, the Wade Advertising
Agency in Chicago again approached the Schaffners with an offer: twenty-six weeks on WMT in Cedar Rapids, sponsored by Green Mountain Cough Syrup and G-M Liniment. The Schaffners accepted the offer, and Toby and Susie delighted their radio listeners again. After thirteen weeks, the station conducted another test of the showâ€™s popularity. This time they offered a free wedding photo of Toby and Susie. Almost overnight, the station received 10,000 requests. In spite of the showâ€™s success, the Wade Agency did not renew the contract but bought rights to Lum & Abner instead. Frustrated, Neil and Caroline said goodbye to their radio careers.
CHAPTER FIVE WAR AND AFTERWARD
Toby: I didn’t get any sleep last night. Susie: Why not? Toby: The window shade was up. Susie: Why didn’t you pull it down? Toby: I couldn’t. It was across the street.
The tent at Delta, 1942
The depression years took their toll on many of the traveling rep companies. Difficulties encountered due to World War II caused the closing of many more shows. Only a handful of shows were on the road after the war. By the 1940s, the Schaffner Players had settled into a routine they would follow for the rest of the Schaffner ownership. They no longer played a winter season although they occasionally played in opera houses for a few weeks at the end of the tent season. The characters of Toby and Susie were firmly established. Even though Toby was the most popular character in the shows, the Schaffners continued to perform non-Toby plays. In the 1940 season, only two of the eight plays featured the Toby character. The routine of the productions became set. The orchestra played a brief opening concert. Neil then stepped out and gave a folksy talk in front of the curtain. A typical opening night announcement was: Hyah, everybody! Sure glad to see all you folks here tonight, to say nothinâ€™ of the money you brang with you. Glad to see so many
women, too; ‘cause that means they is a lot of dirty dishes in the sink. . . Anyhow, I sure hope you like the new actors we got with us this year. They’re all darned good -- ‘specially me -- I’m the best one in it. Our play tonight is in three innings. Right now the score is nothin’ to nothin’. This here is a brand new story. It’s about a gal and she is in love with a feller. Now right there is a brand new idea. Just ‘cause she’s in love don’t prove there is anything wrong with her, ‘cause when you come right down to it, there is just as many men get married as women. But, anyhow, this gal’s folks don’t want her to marry this feller But, she wants to, so they both -- well, heck, I kin just tell you the whole story of it and you can all go home. Maybe you got somethin’ better to do. Still, we might as well put it on ‘cause we got to pay them actors anyhow. Now the part of the young man in this play will be took by our new leading man, he is Mr. _____________. And, girls, he is single! You can recognize him anytime on the street, ‘cause he drives a canary yellow Cadillac convertible -- or whatever the girl happens to have.
And the gal what takes the part of the gal in the play is Miss_______________. She takes off like she’s in love with this feller. Oh, she’s just a-pinin’ away fer him, ‘course that’s just a fake, ‘cause the feller she’s really nuts about . . . Anyhow, I told all my actors what swell folks you are here in __local town _ . So whatever you do, don’t let me down, don’t make a liar out of me, ‘cause that’s somethin’ I never do. ‘Course sometimes I have to twist the facts around to fit the truth. But here’s what I’m hopin’ you’ll do: when each one of them actors makes his first appearance, give him a swell welcome. You know, just give him a swell hand. They ain’t nothin’ makes a actor strut his stuff like feelin’ the folks out in front like him. Go give him a real good hand. ‘Course when I come on, you naturally know what to do. If you don’t, I’ll stop the show and tell you. Course I expect more applause than the others, ‘cause, after all, they are just the hired help. So, set back and git your hands limbered up and we’ll bring you the best darned show you’ve seen tonight.
Immediately after the warm up speech, the orchestra played a brief number while the curtain went up on the first act of the featured play. After
the conclusion of the act, members of the company presented one or two vaudeville routines followed by the second act. Between the second and third act, Neil gave a candy pitch which was followed by the candy sales. The candy sales were followed by another vaudeville act. Before the beginning of the last act of the play, Neil gave a brief farewell speech. The final speeches during the week were humorous. However, on closing night the speech was given seriously. After the play’s conclusion the orchestra played the show’s final number, “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
Inside the tent, 1942
The company continued to hire directors to allow Neil to focus on business and promotion matters as well as his stage performances. Joe Sunnite directed the 1940 productions. L.Verne Slout served as director for the 1941 season. Slout owned and operated his own company for many years in Michigan. Roy Hilliard directed in the 1939, 1943, 1944, and 1945 seasons. Rome Lee Schaffner had appeared during the 1933 season at the age of seven. He joined as a regular company member in 1942 playing juvenile leads. One of the plays, Skidding, was similar to the Andy Hardy films. Rome played a teenager with Neil in the role as his father and Caroline playing his mother. World War II seriously affected the show. The personnel of the remaining tent shows changed markedly during the war. Many of the experienced performers worked in the war industries. Most of the young men were in the services. The Schaffners had to rewrite several of their plays, changing male roles to female ones and relying on more mature characters. Moving the show from town to town became an even bigger headache. Gasoline for the trucks came under the jurisdiction of the Office of Defense
Transportation. The ODT considered the show an essential industry for national morale and allowed the company to purchase all of the gasoline it needed. Tires were under the jurisdiction of the Office of Price Administration and the OPA did not consider the show an essential industry. â€œWe had fifty-six wheels to keep rubber on and we would not have been able to operate if it had not been that good friends in our regular towns from time to time gave us spares or tires from wrecked vehicles, or tires that materialized mysteriously from places I did not bother to find out about.â€? Caroline often reminisced about this period of the showâ€™s history. She recalled that the tires on all of the vehicles were in very poor condition. One morning she and Neil came out of their trailer home to find that every tire on every vehicle had been replaced during the night. They never learned the source of the gift. Since farming was an essential war industry, farmers were able to get new tires as needed. A group of farmers must have pooled resources and worked together to help the show. Obviously the farmers agreed with the ODT that the show was an essential industry.
The June 4, 1945 performance of Crying Out Loud in West Burlington was a â€œWar Bond Show.â€? Anyone proving he or she was a recent purchaser of a war bond was admitted free. As with earlier give away tickets, the company made money on the sales of reserved seat chairs and concessions. Many of the old-timers did not return to show business after the war. As experienced personnel became less available, the Schaffners began to rely on college drama departments from which they recruited performers. More time had to be spent in rehearsals to train the actors with the special needs of tent rep. Neil evolved a speech for the first rehearsal that included many suggestions to the neophytes: The most brilliant lines conceived in the mind of man are of no value unless they are heard and understood. Words are the tools of an actor; just as the saw, the plane, the hammer, and chisel are the tools of a carpenter. It is not so much the words you speak as what you say with the words that makes an artist. Almost any meaning can be transmitted to the audience with many combination of words. As
an example, you can say ‘He is a louse’ with a
serious tone, you are expressing disapproval, or you can say ‘He is a louse’ with a smile and you express approval, yet you have used the same three words. If a young man looks at a young lady and says,
‘I love you’ he is merely stating a conviction. If, however he looks at her a moment in silence and then suddenly blurts out, ‘I love you’ he is saying I have just discovered a somewhat disturbing fact. Here he has said two different things with the same three words. Remember there is only one critic whose opinion is of any value and that one is the cash customer. If he enjoys it, it is a good show. If not, it’s a stinker. You’ve got to learn to troupe a part, and there is a great deal of difference between acting a part and trouping a part. Here you will get no theory. But if have what it takes, I will make a trouper out of you.
Advertising bills, 1942 No one can teach you to act, and I mean no one. A competent instructor can teach you how you can learn to act, but he cannot teach you to act. The most accomplished violinists on earth could not hold your hand and draw it back and forth across the instrument and teach you to play, he can only show you how you can learn to play. There is no plan, method or chart whereby you can learn to act. This can only be learned by observing people and noting how they react to various combinations of circumstances.
If you can go down in the gutter and bring up a pearl, by all means do so, but donâ€™t go into the gutter just for the sake of sensationalism. Remember the theater is a place of entertainment and not a laboratory. Some purveyors of filth on the stage claim, as a defense, that such things do happen in real life. True! So also do accidents with the bowels happen in real life, but they can hardly be classed as entertainment.
Sound â€œballyâ€? truck in Mt. Pleasant, 1949
With the hiring of lesser experienced performers, the Schaffners needed to enforce several rules including: No use of alcohol around the tent (actually not a new rule, through the years the Schaffners had to let several actors and crew members go due to problems with alcohol). Girls of the company could not date boys in the town in which they were playing (an obvious double standard in that boys could, and were at times encouraged to date town girls). Members of the company were not to display their lovemaking, if any, in public. All members of the company were to be neat and clean in their appearance at all times both on and off the stage. Neil was not fond of the Stanislavsky system of acting, nor method actors. He remembered a young actor who was so involved offstage in “getting into character” that he missed his cue and had to be pushed on stage. Another time in rehearsal an actor had to be given a direction three times to move across the stage on a certain line. When the actor asked “What is my motivation for that?” The response was, “Your motivation is that I am going to make an entrance in that center door, and if you don’t get out of the way, I’m going to walk right over you.”
Late in life, Neil noted: “All through my career it struck me that the most temperamental actors were the least talented, while those with the most talent worked the hardest and, wherever they came from, they were the proudest of their engagements with the Schaffner Players.” Weather was of utmost concern to rep company owners. Weather would determine the size of the audiences. Serious weather threatened the security of the tent as well as safety of the cast, crew and patrons. Neil often stated that if the show was not doing well, it could be fixed. The only thing over which the owner had no control was the weather. Weather also determined the size of the audience. Rain before noon is money in the bank. If it chased the farmers in by noon, by evening they’re sick of one another [the farmer and his wife] and want entertainment. If it rains in the afternoon, it is murder. They go inside, take a beer and settle down and say, ‘Aw I’m not goin’ anywhere.’
Customers waiting for the box office to open, Centerville
There is no greater bane to a tent showmanâ€™s life than a storm. Not only does it threaten the tent but it always raises the specter of people getting hurt. If a storm hit while the play was on, I always stationed someone -- the boss canvas man if I had one -- outside to keep an eye on it; and every moment when I was not on the stage I was outside myself. If it looked like a serious blow I would stop the play and go out front and tell that
in the history of the Schaffner Players we had never had anyone hurt in our tent and since I did not want to break that record I would like to ask them to leave in an orderly manner. If we were in the first half of the second act I would tell them we would refund their admission on the way out; if we were in the latter part of the second act or farther on we made no refunds. In a rainstorm, the ropes would begin to shrink as they got wet. This would cause the stakes to start pulling loose, presenting the danger of the tent collapsing. All available crew and male cast members would have to loosen ropes and re-drive stakes. At the beginning of most storms, the canvas sidewalls were raised to allow the wind through without resistance. If the wind became strong enough to begin to billow the top, the sidewalls were lowered. During minor storms the audience rarely left the tent. They preferred to remain dry, and usually the storm was short lived. The show seldom continued, since the rain on the tent top made too much noise for the audience to hear the actors. At times, one of the actors would go in front of
the curtain to lead the audience in community singing until the storm ended. When the storm posed a threat, the audience would be evacuated. The set would be taken down and then the quarter poles were raised to a more perpendicular position to tighten the top. The company members would watch for the development of â€œrain pocketsâ€?. If the tent sagged anywhere during the storm, water would gather causing large pockets to form. Poles, covered with pillows to protect the canvas, would be pushed against the pocket from inside the tent to force the water out. If this failed, the canvas had to be cut to allow the water to escape. Almost every company experienced tent blowdowns. The Schaffner Players were lucky in that it only experienced a few blow-downs, one in West Burlington in 1933 and three under the Jimmy Davis ownership: one in Delta in 1964, another in Carthage, Illinois, in 1980, and one at the end of the season in Mount Pleasant in 1984. No one was injured in any of the incidents. In addition to weather and other regular hazards of trouping, the Schaffners encountered two polio scares in 1946. One was in Bloomfield and the other in Shelbina. Receipts were down five
hundred dollars from those of the previous year in each town. During the 1947 season, the company gave a flood relief benefit performance on June 15 in Bloomfield for the victims in nearby Ottumwa. Dick Ellis (Elsenpeter) trouped as leading man and dancer during the 1948, 1949 and 1950 seasons. Ellis also trouped on other rep shows. He performed the Toby character on the television programs Possum Holler RFD and Possum Holler Opry on WGEM in the late 1960s. The Musical Grays, Erman and Goldie, first joined the Schaffners for the 1949 season. Erman began his career in 1923 when he joined his familyâ€™s tent show. For the Schaffners, Erman led the orchestra, and Goldie served as pianist, in addition they performed several musical specialties. Erman also played character roles. The Grays worked for the Schaffners intermittently from 1949 through the 1962 farewell tour. They also trouped with Jimmy Davis in 1969. Their son, Bill, joined them several summers playing in the orchestra and juvenile roles. With the demise of so many of the rep companies, The Schaffner Players were becoming a curiosity
and began to receive national attention through a series of magazine articles in the late 1940s. Robert Downing mentioned the Schaffner company in an article about the Toby character in the November 1946 issue of Theatre Arts. Donald Wayne, writing for Holiday Magazine in June 1948, stated: “The Schaffner Players, the nearest thing to a living folk theatre that America has. Toby is the little man who makes the whole world seems brighter.” The Schaffners appreciated this quote and soon started billing the show as “America’s Only Living Folk Theatre.” “Blasé Broadway boy wonders could take lessons from this veteran tent show trouper. Toby is as Midwestern as the tall corn,” wrote Francis A. Klein for the St. Louis Globe Democrat. He also noted: “Schaffner doesn’t employ slapstick at all, but gets his laughs by a judicious use of language and pantomime.” Writing for the Colliers Magazine in 1949, Vance John wrote: “Toby is as much revered in his territory as John Barrymore ever was on Broadway.” Mr. Johnson would later co-author Neil’s biography The Fabulous Toby and Me.
CHAPTER SIX THE SCHAFFNERS AS PLAYWRIGHTS Toby: Susie, why are you staring at the can of orange juice? Susie: I’m just following directions. Toby: What do you mean? Susie: Well, it says right on the can ‘concentrate.’
Scene from the 1948 production of Her Unwanted Relative, a rewrite of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Neil Schaffner was often referred to as “The Moliere of the Midwest.” He was not only one of Iowa’s most prolific playwrights, but one of the nation’s as well. Like Moliere, Neil wrote comedies especially to fit the needs of his own traveling company of actors. Caroline once stated that Neil had written thirty-five plays, rewritten twelve of his own plays and adapted over one hundred others. Neil adapted his first play in 1917 while he was a member of The Gordinier Players. Owner Clyde Gordinier bought scripts and a great deal of advertising materials for a play titled Ishmael. When the script arrived, it was obvious that the company did not have the resources to produce the play. Neil rewrote the story to fit the size and abilities of Gordinier’s Company. Neil met Larry Johnson while on the Fred Gordon Show. Johnson, already a successful playwright, hired Neil to do typing of new scripts. This experience further fostered Neil’s interest in playwriting. Neil’s first original play was Hard Boiled Hamilton (1923) written for Angell’s Comedians. His first major success was The Vulture (1923). Mystery plays were popular on Broadway. The
Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood had an especially successful run. Neil stated that he wrote The Vulture to cash in on the mystery fad. The Vulture was the first Schaffner play to include a Toby role. The title page of the script describes it as a “Mysterious Melodramatic Comedy in Four Acts.” The play’s plot concerns the murder of a corrupt chief of detectives. The murderer is disguised by a black cloak and becomes referred to as “the Vulture.” As in any good mystery, several individuals had motives for his murder. Toby, who had recently studied fingerprinting by mail, accidentally stumbles on the solution. Neil used the play in several companies in which he worked and also leased it to numerous other companies. He sold the amateur performance rights to the Dennison Play Company. They listed it in their catalog as The Ghost Bird. Three of his other successful early plays were The Old Grouch (1925), Where is My Teddy? (1926), and What Every Daughter Learns (1928) which was noted as “A Comedy Drama of Today and Tomorrow.” It was an adaptation of a nonSchaffner play, Inspector Jimmy Donovan.
Schaffner wrote three hits in 1929, Jittering Spooks, Be Yourself, and Chain Stores.
Scene from the 1952 production of Trail of the Lonesome Pine
The credit line on plays written after 1942 included both Neil and Caroline’s names. The extent of Caroline’s involvement in the actual writing is unclear. She always claimed that Neil did all of the writing, and she was a sounding board. Neil wrote in his memoirs: “Through the years I had adhered to one unvarying rule: no gag stayed in any of my plays unless Caroline thought it was funny. She had a great feel for comedy and came up with many of the best Susie gags and situations.”
Company owners wanted plays specifically written for the rep shows for two major reasons. First, the royalty charged for the rep plays was much less than for Broadway scripts. Also the subject matter of the Broadway plays was not always relevant to or did not have the same moral values of the rural audiences. The rep plays dealt with issues of major importance to rural audiences. The foreclosure of the mortgage on the farm was a very real and painful experience to many members of the audience and formed the basis for many rep plays. Most every audience member had, or knew someone who had, property repossessed during the depression. Many plays were concerned with hypocrisy, especially in the church. The most famous of the preacher plays was Charles F. Harrisonâ€™s 1915 hit Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners. Neil rewrote Saintly Hypocrites as The Giggling Gossip in 1957. By todayâ€™s standards, the plots may seem contrived and predictable and the heroes and villains stereotypical, but to the audiences of the day, the productions were exciting, real and meaningful. The plays also intended to reinforce
the basic beliefs of the audience. Good was rewarded and evil punished. Honesty and hard work were virtues that would triumph. True love would always win out. Rustic common sense would always get the better of the sophistication and corruption of the city slicker. The Schaffner’s plays were especially crafted for their audiences: We only wanted to entertain the people. And we were very keen to any criticism they might have about anything. After we had written a play, every moment Neil was not on stage, he was watching the audience. Did they laugh where they were supposed to laugh? Were they entertained? Were they restless? Were they moving around? Did it hold their attention?
Many people asked: “Where do you get the ideas for these plays?” We said we got them from other people. When we were in the restaurants we listened to the conversations around us. What were they talking about? What was important to them? One criticism Caroline had of many productions of educational institutions and community
theaters was that they often became so focused on what the directors and actors wanted from, or felt about, a production that they ignored what the audience wanted. Once in Sarasota, Florida, Neil was in conversation with what Caroline referred to as a “snooty east coast person who was involved in professional theater.” The man said: “Those people out in that country are so naive you can get away with anything.” Neil responded with: You don’t know how
wrong you are. There is no more critical audience than the Iowa conservative farmer. He knows what he likes. He knows when he is entertained. He knows what he will pay for. You give him what he wants, and what he will pay for and you will have a loyal customer for life.
Neil gave some of his philosophy behind his plays in a newspaper interview: The public wants the family type of shows. They want dramatic situations that each theatergoer can imagine might have happened to himself. Human nature hasn’t changed in fifty years and heartthrobs are the same. Plays
of the triangle type, like East Lynne, the original triangle play, still pull; and the lifting of the mortgage on the old farm and joyful ending are the same now as they were when our grandparents were thrilled by Way Down East. People still have mortgages on their farms. They still want their daughters to turn out well and they want a happy home life ending to a play. A play that they appreciate because these scenes that thrill them on the stage may be like a dream life they sometimes imagine may be their own. Hollywood and Broadway have the wrong idea about what our people like. People in the Midwest don’t live in palaces, change wives overnight and spend their time in nightclubs. Many have never seen a nightclub and Hollywood’s nightclub goings on are meaningless to them. Hollywood folks say our kind of plays are corn but that doesn’t get them anywhere. Midwest people know corn as their support. They don’t like the word ‘corny.’
When asked when Neil had time to write the plays, Caroline responded:
He was writing constantly, and constantly searching and looking for things to write about. Many people would say to him, ‘Where did you get your ideas?’ We got the ideas for the plays from association with the people in the towns; we knew and understood those people. The most important thing about a play, not only in our era of show business but also back in the early days of the repertoire companies, was afterdraft. That was the most important thing a play must have -- afterdraft -- meaning that the audience would be so well pleased and entertained that they would come back the next night. When we wrote a play, our only thought in writing the play was ‘How would the audience be entertained?’ When we had written a play, Neil constantly watched the audience; if they reacted as we thought they should, if they laughed at the right place or cried at the proper moment -- it was all right. If not, we immediately rewrote that scene.
Neil also explained his writing of the Toby character: “He’s a composite of Mr. Midwest. Everyone in the audience can see something of themselves in him; he’s their alter ego. He says
the things that they want to say, but never think of in time.”
Scene from the 1953 production of The Panty Snatchers, also titled In Connie’s Cabana
Another common feature of the rep plays was the lack of potentially offensive or “blue” material. The companies relied on entire families coming to the show. The Schaffners were proud that they presented only good clean family entertainment.
The Schaffnersâ€™ philosophy paid off. In addition to providing material for their own show, they leased the plays to many other companies. One hundred seventy-three professional repertoire companies leased Schaffner plays through the years. Over one hundred companies leased Why Girls Walk Home in 1928. Even late in the business, companies continued using Schaffner plays. The Schaffners also had success in selling the amateur rights to their plays to a variety of publishers. Dr. Frances Langford did an analysis of the Schaffner plays in her 1978 dissertation. Some of her observations were: The shows were clean and familiar. They reinforced the stereotypes and beliefs of the audience. They provided a full evening of wholesome, family entertainment. The audiences got what they wanted, they got their moneyâ€™s worth. Characters were simple and clearly delineated, immediately identifiable to rural audiences. Plots were reduced for artistic presentation, all human existence to an over simplified formula of good vs. evil with good always clearly triumphant. They were uncomplicated by psychological angles.
Their plays seldom preached or sermonized, but always had a moral or good thought at the closing. The audience carried away a message that reinforced their beliefs, attitudes and values.
Often the plays were predictable. Caroline indicated that this was intentional. The audience liked being ahead of the plot. When something happened that audience members predicted, they enjoyed nudging each other saying, “I knew that would happen.” They also had as much enjoyment of being in on a joke as being surprised by it. Many of the scripts contained a running gag or an often repeated line. Toby’s line: “That’s what I was goin’ to do.” in The Vulture, is repeated throughout the script. In Where is my Teddy?, “Now I’ve got that to worry about,” is used often. Once in a Blue Moon contains “I gonnies” and Uncle Sol and His Hadicol uses ‘Just jokin’, Ma.” The Schaffners worked to keep their plays relevant and timely. Why Girls Walk Home (1927) used topics of gangsters, prohibition and the theme of nice girls walking home from automobile rides rather that compromising their virtue. When they rewrote it as Once in a Blue
Moon (1948), the play dealt with the use of marijuana. Chain Stores (1929) dealt with the competition that new chain stores gave to local merchants. Neil had the following author’s note in the script: In view of the fact that ‘Chain Stores’ form the most discussed topic in America, at this time, this play is particularly timely and will prove a great drawing card. It has been written in such a way that it will not antagonize anyone, no matter on which side of the argument he or she may be.
A 1930 review of the play stated: “The managers of chain stores thought it favored them. The independent merchants thought it favored them, so everyone was happy -- including the audience - which ate it up.” The Schaffners later rewrote Chain Stores as What Mothers Don’t Know (1951) with juvenile delinquency as the main theme in lieu of the chain store issue. Neil, as Toby, gave the following announcement for it:
Now, folks, tomorrow night we’re gonna bring you a brand new comedy that will keep you laughin’ from the time it starts till it’s all over . . . We call it WHAT MOTHERS DON’T KNOW. There is only one reason we call it that . . . that’s the name of it. You know, lots of times you hear a mother say, ‘I tell you, I keep my eye on my daughter.’ Huh! Oh yeah? Well, in this play the mama has two daughters, and she keeps one eye on one and the other eye on the other one; but what goes on between them eyes is a caution. And, girls, you know, lots of times your mama will say to you, ‘When I was a girl, I never thought of doing the things you girls do.’ Maybe that’s why she didn’t do them. Anyhow if you want a bundle of laughs and see a darned good story, don’t miss WHAT MOTHERS DON’T KNOW tomorrow night.
Through his career, one of Neil’s favorite reviews said of the play: “They put on What Mothers Don’t Know . . .an amusing and entertaining but otherwise worthless farce.” Neil’s response was “What do you expect from a farce? Social significance?” Other examples of the use of contemporary themes for shows included Toby and the Nazi
Spies (1940), Toby in Orbit (1960), and Back From Berlin (1962). They also made reference to popular radio and television programs with How Funny are People? (1949), and Hopalong Toby (1948). Jimmy Davis kept the tradition of updating topics alive in later years with such shows as Mini Skirts, Bare Legs and Goosepimples (1969), Gunsmoke Over the Ponderosa (1973) and Hillbillies in Hot Pants (1977). Titles were of great importance to the rep company. If one title did not draw a large audience, the title was often changed in the next town. The classic play Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm did not draw well for the Schaffners until they changed the title to The Unwanted Relative. Most rep companies changed titles frequently. Trouper Jay Bee Flesner once introduced himself by saying, â€œI have a trunk full of plays and two trunks full of titles.â€?
Scene from the 1955 production of Toby Hits Hollywood
Occasionally a company changed a title to avoid paying royalties, but most companies did it in an attempt to gain larger audiences. The constant title changes made researching the plays difficult. The Schaffner account books list thirteen different titles for the 1938 season. This was when they did only seven different plays in a season. Often the farces made the best use of titles to get an audience. Three in a Bed (1957), Natalie Needs a Nightie (1944), In Bed with Grandpa (1949), and Right Bed, Wrong Husband (1955)
all had suggestive titles, but were still clean family shows. The use of clever titles is illustrated by Where is My Teddy? (1926), which had the alternate title Panty Snatchers. Catchy titles were, and are, of prime importance to bring the click of cash to the box office. At the time the word ‘teddy’ was a familiar reference to an intimate article of feminine attire. When this title was announced, as a forthcoming attraction, it created -- in the minds of the audience -- an image of a young lady lacking a necessary portion of her apparel. This mental image brought about an audience reaction which in turn caused a desire to see it.
In the play, Teddy is the lost dog of one of the characters. The Dramatic Publishing Company of Chicago published Where is My Teddy? as Hullabaloo. Two of the Schaffner’s later farces, Natalie Needs a Nightie and Right Bed, Wrong Husband became their most often performed plays. After Neil’s death, Caroline allowed the Samuel French Company to be her agent for these two titles.
Natalie and Right Bed became favorites of community theaters and dinner theaters across the United States and Canada. Caroline said receiving the royalty checks was â€œa bit like playing roulette, you never knew when you would do well.â€? The royalty check at times was for twenty or fifty dollars. However, with one check for a long run professional Las Vegas production of Natalie, Caroline bought a new Thunderbird automobile. Natalie Needs a Nightie concerns a young man and young woman both named Tommy Briggs who live in the same apartment building, causing several instances of mistaken identity. To get a pay raise, the young man told his boss that he was married. To get a bonus, he also told his boss that he had a child. The boss, originally played by Neil, is coming to visit, so the young man has someone impersonate his wife, and borrows a baby to claim as his own. Things go wrong and the man ends up with too many wives and children Things are complicated throughout the play by the rather tipsy chambermaid, originally portrayed by Caroline. Right Bed, Wrong Husband is similar in plot. A young man deceives his uncle by claiming to be
engaged. The uncle visits and mistakes the wife of the man’s best friend as the girlfriend. A comic maid and tipsy neighbor complicate the mistaken identity. A list of Schaffner plays is included in Appendix B. Other of the most successful Schaffner plays include: Toby Goes to Washington (also titled Toby and the Nazi Spies)(1942) in which Toby is a smalltown newspaper editor who helps outwit potential saboteurs, was written at the time the FBI was looking for sabotage and Nazi spies. Joseph Toniutti, director of a Midwest Stock Company said; “If this play were produced on Broadway, the critics would cry, the reviewers would retch, but the public would buy a million dollars worth of it” The Return of Aunt Susan (1949) was also titled Truth or Consequences and She Learned about Men. Neil wrote it to capitalize on the popular radio and later television show People Are Funny. The play illustrated how other people’s behavior can be strange and funny.
Uncle Sol and His Hadacol (1951) made fun of advertising for health and happiness cures. Hadacol was a dietary supplement widely advertised on radio and television at the time. When Hadacol was no longer marketed, the play’s title became Uncle Sol and His Geritol. Uncle Sol keeps taking drinks from his bottle of Hadacol. When the others discover that the bottle really contains whiskey, they fill the bottle with castor oil. Jittering Spooks (1929) featured Toby as a detective who solves the mystery of spooks seen in an old mansion. The Schaffners sold the amateur rights to Dramatic Publishing Co. of Chicago for $250. The play won an award from the Eugene Field Society of American Journalists and Authors for “outstanding contribution to contemporary literature.” Jittering Spooks had a special announcement to be read before the play: Ladies and Gentlemen: we are present at this time somewhat of a playwriting and construction. And few words of explanation will not
going to novelty in perhaps a be amiss.
The play Jittering Spooks contains many happenings that will be hard to explain from purely material standpoint, happenings that are commonly associated only with a spiritualistic sĂŠance -- however, I assure you that you are in very little danger, so long as you remain seated. In order to present this play, it was necessary for us to make some extensive changes in the wiring of this theater (tent). The entire auditorium, as well as the stage, is now wired with high-tension electricity. No one knows under whose seat this may be. At one point in this play it is necessary that we have a woman scream in the audience. We had some difficulty in getting a woman to scream at the right time, but now, with the aid of electricity we no longer have that trouble. Some of the scenes are played in semidarkness, some of them in total darkness, but please do not be frightened. There are about three hundred people in this theater tonight, and two hundred and ninety-nine of them are absolutely safe. Let me caution you, if in the darkness, any thing or person should brush past you, do not attempt to touch it. For your approval, we now present Jittering Spooks.
CHAPTER SEVEN THEIR FAME SPREADS
Toby: I sure am glad you’ve come to my tent tonight, to see my show. Susie: What do you mean your tent and your show? It is our tent and our show. Toby: (Tugs on his pants) Susie: Now, what are you doing? Toby: I’m pulling up our pants.
Neil as Toby, 1952
Caroline as Susie, 1952
By 1950, there were only a handful of rep companies on the road including: Bisbee’s Comedians in Kentucky and Tennessee; Brunk’s Comedians in Colorado; the Slout Players in Michigan; and the Jack and Maude Brooks Stock Company in Wisconsin; Tilton’s Comedians, Sun’s Players and the Schaffner Players, all in Iowa. Television cut into attendance at theaters and movie theaters across the nation. However, it did not affect the Schaffner business. Neil commented to a newspaper reporter:
Back when radio came into being there were a lot of folks who were ready to load the tent show into the hearse. But we weathered that. Then along came talking pictures and they backed the hearse up again, only the corpse still didn’t arrive. We’ve heard the same predictions with respect to what TV would do to our business. But I’ll bet every family sitting out there in that tent tonight has both a radio and TV. Yet they’re here to see our show because we’ve still got a kind of entertainment that they want to see.
The Schaffners bought a home in Sarasota, Florida in 1951. They spent each winter there while they wrote and rewrote plays and made plans and arrangements for the upcoming season. Neil purchased a boat and spent a great deal of time fishing. They remained in Sarasota until the middle of April when they went back to Wapello to organize the company and begin rehearsals about the first of May. The prices for adult tickets increased to fifty cents for adults. Children’s prices remained at twentyfive cents and reserved seats were an additional fifty cents. These prices remained unchanged for
the rest of the Schaffner’s ownership of the company. Bert Dexter joined the company in 1951, and with the exception of the 1954, 1955, and 1958 seasons, remained with the Schaffner Players until his retirement after the 1975 season. Dexter was an experienced performer. He was billed as “the man with his brains in his feet.” His specialty dance “Tedious” became an audience favorite year after year.
Bert Dexter performing, with Jimmy Davis at the piano
Bert began his show business career as a singer in a quartet on the vaudeville circuit. He worked with numerous performers who later became national celebrities such as Fanny Brice, Bing Crosby, and Red Skelton. While in vaudeville, his quartet played the Palace Theater in New York City. “To play the Palace” was the dream of every vaudevillian, as it was the country’s most famous vaudeville house. Bert began his repertoire career in 1926 when he joined the Wallace Bruce Company. He worked for Bruce on and off for forty-one years. He also worked on the Princess Musical Comedy Players, Ginnivan’s Stock Company and the Roberson Gifford Players. While he was with the Robersons, he played Toby roles. Also on the Roberson show, he worked with Milburn Stone who would go on to a successful movie and television career including the role of “Doc” on Gunsmoke. Bert and several members of the company went to see the motion picture Funny Girl. Bert performed in vaudeville and saw Fanny Brice perform the song My Man, several times. After
seeing the movie, Bert said that Streisand was very good, but she couldn’t hold a candle to Brice. Bert’s personal motto was, “Nothing really sad happens to me, I won’t let it.” The 1952 season welcomed two performers who would have a major impact on the company, Delores Heft Dorn and Jay Bee Flesner. Delores Heft studied theater at the Goodman in Chicago. She signed on to play ingénue roles. Caroline later recalled that after the first company meeting, where the rules were given to the new members, Heft privately told her that they did not have to worry about her behavior, since she was serious about being an actress and not pursuing a social life. Shortly after her season with the Schaffners, Heft went to Hollywood and was soon under contract with Warner Brothers. She appeared as leading lady opposite Randoph Scott in Bounty Hunters. She was also in Phantom of the Rue Morgue, Underworld U.S.A., 13 West Street, and others. She married actor Franchot Tone. They appeared together in a New York production of Uncle Vanya. The production was filmed, and the San Fancisco film critics voted her performance in Uncle Vanya the best of 1957.
Delores Heft Dorn in the title role of Tildy Ann, 1952
Heft-Dorn continued correspondence with the Schaffners for several years, and was always generous with her praise of the show. She wrote an article about the show for the August 1958, issue of Theatre Arts Magazine. She concluded her article by writing: The opportunity for such training [performing in repertoire] is not entirely gone. It can still be had by two or three lucky youngsters each year. One of them might be one of the girls
Neil Schaffner has asked me to interview for him as I write this. Possibly she may get from a season with the Schaffner Players some of the things that I did -- an understanding of comedy timing, a sense of feeling comfortable on a stage even when things are going wrong, a realization of the important role that one man can play in holding an enterprise together and inspiring teamwork. The opportunity for real rep experience still exists, but it wonâ€™t exist for long unless someone rises up to carry the torch with which Neil Schaffner has been lighting up the rural Midwest for forty years. If that torch goes out, the theater will have deliberately abandoned one of its finest basic training grounds and one of the most interested and enthusiastic audiences it has ever had. 
Neil doing pre-show warm-up, 1953
Jay Bee Flesner was an experienced rep performer when he joined the Schaffners. He previously worked on the Henderson Stock Company, Collier Players, Sauline Players, Zarlington Comedians, Roberson-Gifford Players and the Famous Players. For the Schaffners, he began as a performer but soon also became the showâ€™s general manager. He had a variety of talents including chalk artist, magician, character
delineator, and hypnotist. A reporter for the St. Louis Dispatch wrote of Flesner: His [Neilâ€™s] general manager, Jay Bee Flesner was supervising the town lads. Flesner has a weird assortment of talents. He does a hypnosis act, creates pictures out of colored felt, is an ex-Marine captain, gives dramatic readings, lectured at school assemblies, graduated as a major in abnormal psychology, has been a teacher and in general has an excellent time out of life. 
Flesner trouped with the Schaffners in the summer and presented school assembly programs during the rest of the year. He remained with the Schaffners until after the 1957 season.
Caroline in “Granny” costume, giving a prize during the candy sale, 1950s
During the 1950s, at the conclusion of the final play in each town, Neil stepped out in front of the curtain and gave a serious talk to the audience. Friends, this is the last time I’ll get to talk to you, and I want to begin by thanking you for the wonderful patronage you have given us this week. I can’t tell you how very much we have enjoyed being here with you and seeing all our old friends again. Now I come to the part of my announcement that I never like to make. It is when I must say . . . farewell. As the years roll on, that word farewell, takes on an added significance. It
always brings a feeling of sadness to us, particularly in a town like this where we have so many loyal patrons and personal friends. During the first few years of our showâ€™s existence, that word farewell tripped very lightly, off my tongue. Because with the confidence and enthusiasm of youth, I had no doubt but that we would return the next year and the next and the next. But, as these milestones in this thing called life go flashing by, we realize that, after all, time does take its toll. A great many people have asked me if we are coming back next year. My only answer to that is that all the future plans of this organization are in the hands of a higher power. We are leaving here tonight however with every intention of returning at this same time next year. [At this point Neil paused, which usually brought applause.] And I canâ€™t tell you how much I appreciate that applause. The thought that you want us to return fills me with a gratitude I can hardly find words to express. We have tried to make the Schaffner Players more than a show. We have tried to make it a part of the community itself. It is a labor of love to which Mrs. Schaffner and I have dedicated ourselves. If we have been fortunate enough to bring a little
sunshine and laughter into the lives of people, we feel that we have not lived in vain. Whatever success our efforts have had has been due more to you than to us. It has been your loyalty through all these years, through wars, panics, depressions and booms that has kept this organization flourishing. For that we are deeply grateful. And now, friends, after the next act is over, the final curtain has fallen, and until we do have the pleasure of meeting again, the best of luck to all of you. God bless you all, I thank you.
Neilâ€™s ability to work an audience impressed a journalist from St. Louis visiting the show in Monroe City. Blase Broadway boy wonders could well take lessons from this veteran of 40 years of trouping in the difficult art of thawing an absolutely cold audience. In a matter of minutes, Toby had them completely on his side, and, long before the show was over, he was their favorite, and had won a place in 1,416 more hearts (actual box office count!). The entire population of this city is only 1,978. These he could add to the hundreds of thousands who have applauded him over the years.
The Schaffners became close friends of many of the people in the communities in which they played. In Kahoka, Missouri, a woman came up to Neil and told him that she had inherited part of a big estate in Chicago, but she was convinced that the lawyers were cheating her. “Please, Toby, she said, “Go up to Chicago and straighten it out for me. I’ll pay you well.” I told her that I couldn’t possibly do anything like that and she should hire a lawyer who could do the job better than I. “Oh, no, Toby, I’ve been watching you on the stage for fifteen years, and I just know that you can straighten out any mess.” Once at a post office, a woman came up to Neil and said, “Oh, Mr. Schaffner, that was such a funny play that you did last night It was all I could do to keep from laughing right out loud.” A farmer stopped Neil on the street and said: “Neil, the show’s not as good as it was last year.” Neil replied. “I know, I know it very well. We have tried several changes. I have tried everything. I know it and I am sorry.” The farmer then patted him on the back and said, “Don’t worry. We know it will be better next year and we’ll all be here.”
Menâ€™s dressing room, 1953
The Schaffners continued to receive national attention. The show was profiled in the September 1954 issue of Look Magazine. The troupe was featured on an Omnibus television program in October of the same year. The Ford Foundation sponsored the Omnibus telecast. The film crew arrived in Shelbina the week of August 8. They worked three days in Shelbina, and then moved the company to La Plata where most of the program was filmed. The film was televised on October 31, 1954 and repeated in November 1955.
Company members backstage, 1954
Harpers Magazine featured the show in November 1954. The September 1955 issue of The Saturday Evening Post contained the article, â€œCorniest Show on the Road.â€? The article was complimentary about the company. However, Neil objected to the title. In a letter to the magazine, Neil explained: By allowing that title to be tacked on the story you have jeopardized the entire livelihood of a
man who has spent forty-six years building a reputation for clean plays and who has been revered by thousands upon thousands of Midwesterners. If there is one word which does not, in the least, apply to the Schaffner Players it is the word CORNY…. The implication is that something corny is trite, childish, common and very inferior.
Jimmy Davis joined the company in 1955, and would eventually purchase the company and continue its operations until 1997. Neil wanted to retire when he reached sixty-five. Caroline believed it would be a shame to close the show. For the 1957 season, Jay Bee Flesner was brought on as a partner. Flesner handled advance work, banner sales, all work concerning the tent. Neil organized and rehearsed the company and then performed Toby. “I took it easy -- doing nothing except my Toby parts, giving advice and acting in general as a consultant. It was a great arrangement -- I kept doing everything that was fun to do and avoided all the work.” Perhaps the show reached its greatest national attention on April 8, 1958, when Neil was the
subject of Ralph Edwards’ popular television show This is Your Life. George Eells, the theater editor of Look Magazine, called Neil and said that some people in Hollywood were going to make a movie called Cavalcade of American Theater; which would have a scene from a Toby show. Neil and Caroline were invited to go to Hollywood for an interview and audition. Neil later recalled: “Eells impressed on all of them the absolute necessity of keeping it all from me, saying that if I found out about it in advance, Edwards would not do the show. I must say that everyone concerned did a perfectly magnificent job of deceiving me. Caroline turned out to be a wonderful liar -- a talent I did not know about until then.” 
The tent, Monroe, Missouri, 1950s
Neil was in the midst of a Toby routine when Edwards interrupted him by saying: “Do you have any idea what’s going on here?” Neil replied: “I haven’t the slightest idea.” Then Edwards replied: “Well, you are on television coast to coast because tonight, Neil Schaffner, this is your life.” Among those appearing on the program were fellow troupers Germaine Lynne (from the Sedden & Paige Show), Steve and Florence Burton (The Gordinier Players), Maude Brooks (The Jack and Maude Brooks Company), former company members Hap Hogan and Delores
Dorn-Heft Tone, company members Bert Dexter and Jimmy Davis, the Mayor of West Burlington, Herb Sanders, and his wife, the Schaffners’ son, Rome Lee, and his wife, Mary. Near the end of the program, officials and citizens of several of the towns played by the Schaffners gave brief testimonials. Edwards ended the program by saying: “Neil Schaffner, This is your life. You have brought sunshine and laughter to millions. May your great gifts be with us for another thirty years.” National publicity increased after the This is Your Life broadcast. Articles appeared in City Services’ Service Magazine April 1958, Chevrolet’s Friends Magazine July 1958, and Theatre Arts Magazine July 1958. “The Sound of Laughter” on the Wide Wide World telecast in May 1958 featured the Schaffners along with Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, Smith and Dale’s Dr. Kronkheit vaudeville sketch, and film clips of Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, Robert Benchley, Bob Hope and Steve Allen. National publicity continued into the sixties. The Schaffners appeared on “Laughter, U.S.A.” on the Dupont Show of the Week, September 1961 and
“Who in the World” a CBS television special aired on September 16, 1962 which co-featured Maurice Chevalier. After much of the publicity Neil was troubled by some of the reaction he received. But after we got all of this new attention on national television and in the magazines and newspapers it seemed to me that we were not greeted with the same old warmth in some of our towns. This surprised and bothered me quite a bit, especially in some of the towns where I really had expected them to roll out the red carpet for us. I mentioned this one day to my good friend, C.B. DePuy, the managing editor of the local paper, when we were playing Centerville.
“I’ll tell you, Neil,” he said, “When you were just a tent show man a lot of these people probably felt real democratic fraternizing with you. They felt superior and so they could afford to unbend. Now you have become a national figure and they no longer feel superior and they resent it.” Neil’s health began to fail and he wanted to find someone to take over the show and step into the Toby role. His first choice was Stan Casady. Casady toured with the show as a singer and
leading man in 1956 and 1957. Neil allowed Stan to play the Toby role on Sunday performances in 1957. Neil made an offer to sell the show to Casady, but Casadyâ€™s family was not willing to provide financial backing. Neil had also stipulated that he did not want to sell to an unmarried person. When Casady insisted that he was not yet ready to get married, the negotiations ended. In February 1961, Neil suffered from a heart attack and the show did not go out for the season.
CHAPTER EIGHT THE FAREWELL TOUR Toby: What you got there? Susie: Why this here’s a sachet. Toby: What in tarnation is sachet? Susie: Well, you put it in your drawers to make them smell nice. Toby: Don’t it make walkin’ harder? Neil recovered from his heart attack, but the Schaffners realized that it was time to fold the tent. They chose to go on the road one last time in the summer of 1962. They advertised the farewell tour as “The End of an Era in the American Theater” and “Your Last Chance to See Those Fantastic Fabricators of Foolishness.” In addition to Neil and Caroline, the company included The Musical Grays, who were in charge of the orchestra. Bill Gray and his wife, Donna Anderson, who played small parts, and performed as singers. They were advertised as the “Songbirds of the Rio Grande.” Audra and Virginia Hardesty were the featured vaudeville act. They performed a different
musical specialty each night. Mr. Hardesty also played some general business parts, and Mrs. Hardesty sold tickets and served as bookkeeper. Bert Dexter performed character parts and did his dance specialties. Flo and Shannon Darling, a mother-daughter team did dance specialties. Flo performed character and general business roles and Shannon played ingénues. The Castles, David Castle and Maureen Koch, performed magic, juggling, and tap dances. Mrs. Koch played leading lady roles. Jimmy Davis played leading man roles. However, he played the Toby character (without the traditional red wig and not being called Toby) in Meet Dallas Daisy. Robert Gadbow and Charles Masher were canvas men and Michael Flanagan joined the company for one week in August as a singer and juvenile lead. Neil and Caroline wrote all of the plays chosen for the season. It was the only season in the history of the Schaffner Players that all plays featured a Toby character. The repertoire consisted of: Back From Berlin, Meet Dallas Daisy, Stump Holler Folks, Toby Goes to Washington, Mr. Wimple Has a Dimple, and Feudin’ and Fightin’.
The price remained at fifty cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children. Reserved seats were an additional twenty-five cents. They chose to discontinue candy sales, and gave only three Sunday performances. They opened with a three day stand in Wapello, followed by five nights in Mt. Pleasant, a one night performance at the Coliseum in Ottumwa (in the same place they appeared during their first winter season in 1926), followed by six nights in Delta, New Sharon, Bloomfield; Carthage, Illinois, and eight performances in Quincy, Illinois; Kahoka, Unionville, Edina, Lewistown Palmyra, Vandalia, Paris, Centralia and Macon, Missouri. It was a bittersweet experience. The Schaffners received numerous tributes throughout the season. The merchants of Wapello held “Toby and Susie Days.” The season opened in Wapello on Neil’s seventieth birthday. During an intermission the side wall was raised and the local high school band played a number and then “Happy Birthday” and a large birthday cake was brought on stage. A citation from Norman A. Erbe, the Governor of Iowa, was read to the Schaffners:
Neil L. and Caroline Schaffner, for an outstanding achievement in the field of entertainment over the past fifty-three years. The State of Iowa is indebted to Toby and Susie for delighting audiences and bringing laughter to the hearts of citizens for more than half a century. They are indeed goodwill ambassadors for our great state. As Governor, and in behalf of the people of Iowa, our deep appreciation and sincere best wishes as the final applause fades away on your devoted and distinguished careers.
While in Mount Pleasant, Mayor Wade McBeth presented another citation: This citation is awarded in recognition of long years of entertainment and friendliness in our city by the Internationally Famous Schaffner Players, starring Toby and Susie in the Tent Theater Beautiful. And, for their excellent display of cooperation and citizenship in this community. Though their entertainment and visits to our city are being discontinued, we hope they can still enjoy many years in the future and assure them of our welcome to visit Mount Pleasant and that our friendship and appreciation will long be remembered.
During the Mount Pleasant engagement, the ceremonies occurred between acts two and three. I had a quick change to make for the third act and as soon as I could do so tastefully, I ducked off the stage. I had just stripped down to my underwear when Bert Dexter ran up to the door of the dressing room and said, ‘Neil, get back out on that stage!’ Just then I heard a thunder of applause and asked Bert what was happening. ‘They are giving you a standing ovation,’ he said. Never in my life had I received a standing ovation and the only one I ever saw in the theater was given John Barrymore one night toward the end of his career. But there I was - not caught with my pants down, but with no pants at all -- and I could not even acknowledge it.
In Delta, the citation said: In recognition of the affection the Delta community people have built up for the Schaffners over the many years: We, the Mayor and City Council, of the town of Delta on behalf of our citizenry, do hereby
express our appreciation for the many hours of wonderful entertainment you have provided us with, and most sincerely hope that the many friendships which have developed between yourselves and many of our people may continue, and that you may see fit to come often to visit with us. Maybe the ‘Schaffner Players’ will come no more to Delta, but you may be sure that ‘Toby and Susie’ will always remain with us as a fond memory; and the best wishes for their future success and happiness.
In New Sharon, the Schaffners received a dish inscribed “For Outstanding Contribution to the Morale of This Community.” The mayor, in his presentation speech, said that he had never heard one word of complaint concerning the actions of the Schaffner Players. “Theirs has always been one of the finest and cleanest entertainments to be found.” Neil also received a personal tribute while in New Sharon: During the afternoon of opening day in New Sharon a pretty little girl of about twelve came over to the tent and as she looked up at me, tears started falling.
‘My mother died of cancer just a short time ago,’ she said, ‘And one of the last things she said to me was, when Toby and Susie come, I want you to be sure and tell them how much I enjoyed their plays.’ I don’t mind telling you I joined her in tears.
During the last intermission of the final performance in New Sharon, the local high school band played “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” “Tears flowed freely on the stage and in the audience as one voice failed, another would take up the song until all had voiced the prayer of this grand old hymn.” Such a demonstration may seem mawkish and overly sentimental to some, but it was the kind of tribute that came naturally to the people of this area. Most farewell tributes given to people retiring from show business are given by colleagues in the field. But the kind of tributes that the Schaffners received are really more important, for they were tributes from the audiences, the people for whom the theater is performed. Such theater as the Schaffners performed was truly a “folk theater,” centered around the audience, designedly appealing to that
audience and not to what is considered to be the “best” theater in terms of critical appraisal.
Neil and Caroline with Quincy, Illinois Mayor Wes Olson
Neil received the Quincy tribute replying: “Since I’m accused of being a wit -- although that’s only half right -- there’s only one thing I want to make sure: that the city doesn’t change the locks that this key fits.”
The Schaffners received a silver tray engraved: “Mr. and Mrs. Neil Schaffner, Toby and Susie, We offer our appreciation for Many Years of Loyal Service and Good Clean Entertainment.” From the Kiwanis Club and Chamber of Commerce of the City of Kahoka. The mayor commented that Quincy had presented the Schaffners with the key to the city, “But we in Kahoka and Clark County feel we cannot give you something which you already have, as for years you have had the key to our hearts and minds for the good, clean entertainment you have presented in our community.” The tributes continued: in Unionville the American Legion presented a plaque “for many years of fun and laughter brought to our city by the Internationally Famous Schaffner Players.” The Edina Lions Club gave a plaque “In Appreciation of Wholesome Family Entertainment.” The Lewistown American Legion plaque said “In recognition of years dedicated to friendship through wholesome entertainment.” Palmyra’s plaque was given “In appreciation of the many years of fine, clean, wholesome entertainment for our community.” In Vandalia, gifts included a silver bowl presented
by the IOOF [International Order of Odd Fellows] Lodge and a key to the city given by the Business and Professional Men’s Club. While in Vandalia, the local newspaper reported: Many people of this community will miss Toby and Susie. In a moment of nostalgia one person said ‘For as long as I can remember I’ve looked forward to seeing them each summer just as I looked forward to seeing Santa at Christmas.’ They have been an annual tradition as long as some can recall with an excellent quality of good, clean entertainment.
Neil and Caroline with Missouri Governor John M. Dalton
Representatives of the town of Paris presented similar tributes and flowers. In Mexico, Missouri, Governor John M. Dalton presented a plaque on behalf of the Mexico Evening Ledger. The plaque referred to Shakespeare’s line “all the world’s a stage and all men and women merely players.” The Governor said: Few persons, I think, have played their parts as well as these two fine people. They have brought wholesome, good humored, laughtermaking plays to the rural Midwest, to communities where the lively art of the theater would be almost completely unknown were it not for the Schaffner Players. I have heard nothing but good of them, I have enjoyed seeing them on stage tonight.
They also received tributes from the Centralia IOOF and Rebekahs. The Macon Lions Club plaque was inscribed: “In Grateful Appreciation for the many years of bringing joy and laughter to millions of people.” The audience gave the Schaffners a standing ovation during the awards presentation and at the end of final performance,
the company and the audience joined together to sing “Auld Lang Syne” as the final curtain fell on the farewell tour. The Schaffner Players played to full houses throughout the season, and had the largest profit the company had ever made. Dale Kittle, in his dissertation about the Schaffner Players, summed up their success: That the company was a financial success over its thirty-seven year history might seem relatively insignificant to this couple who had managed to survive all those things that caused the hundreds of other tent repertoire Toby companies to fall by the wayside. But the figures shown by the Schaffner Players account books also reveal the scope and magnitude reached by the company and by Neil and Caroline Shaffner: ‘over three hundred plays performed, approximately five thousand performances, approximately four million paid admissions to see the company perform, and a total profit of over two hundred thousand dollars.’
Kittle’s statistics are on the conservative side. His figures are based on the surviving account books.
However, the books for the years 1930 through 1935 are missing. All I know is that I cannot even imagine having been anything but an actor, and I know that nobody ever had more fun than I had playing Toby or found more real satisfaction in the theater than I found with Caroline over those years under the tent. And we were able to lay enough aside so that we would not have to worry about groceries in our declining years. What more can anybody ask? __ Neil Schaffner
The entire farewell tour company with Missouri Governor
CHAPTER NINE JIMMY AND JUANITA Toby: You’d better be careful what you say to me. If you’re not careful when you get to be forty, I’ll trade you in for two twenties. Susie: I’m not worried. You’re not wired for 220. Toby: (Pause) I’ve never been so insulated in my life.
Jimmy Davis as Toby
Jimmy Davis had expressed privately to the Schaffners and interest in owning the show. There was no doubt that during the farewell season, Neil was grooming Jimmy to be the next Toby. James V. Davis was born on January 18, 1937. His parents farmed near Wapello and they had brought him to the Schaffner Players every year since he was an infant. He continued to attend the show as a teenager, and in 1953 won the amateur contest by playing the piano while wearing boxing gloves.
While in high school he formed his own dance band “Ace of the 88s -- Jimmy Davis and his Orchestra.” At the age of seventeen, Jimmy applied for a job as a trumpet player with the Schaffners. However, the Schaffners did not hire anyone under the age of eighteen. When Jimmy learned that he could not yet work for the Schaffners, he joined the Sun Players for the 1954 season. After Jimmy graduated from Wyman High School in 1955, the Schaffners hired him for the 1955 and 1956 seasons. In the fall of 1956 he joined Jay Bee Flesner’s School Assembly Tours. He did the school assemblies during the off season and continued to work with the tent shows in the summers. He worked for the Collier Players in Illinois for the 1957 season, and then returned to the Schaffners in 1958. In the 1960 season, Jimmy was drafted into the Army. He served in Germany, and entertained troops all over Europe. After his release from the service, he rejoined the Schaffners for their farewell season.
Neil presenting Jimmy with the Toby wig
Like Jimmy, Juanita Bellomy played a musical instrument in some of the Schaffner Players amateur contests. The Schaffners hired Juanita to play ingĂŠnue roles after her graduation from the Unity High School in Mendon, Illinois. Juanitaâ€™s first year touring with the Schaffners was in 1960 while Jimmy was in Germany. They met when Jimmy visited the show during a leave from the service. They corresponded until
his return to the show. After the farewell season, Jimmy and Juanita married in September 1962. The Schaffners went into partnership with the Davises for the 1963 season. The Schaffners traveled with the company, Neil directed and Caroline sold tickets. Caroline played Susie opposite Jimmy’s Toby for the season. The show was still billed as “The Schaffner Players,” and Jimmy was advertised as the “New Toby Tolliver II. The role of Susie was dropped from most of the repertoire and Juanita played the leading lady roles. In each town, Neil introduced Jimmy to the audiences. Age finally caught up with us and last summer Mamma and I retired. But I am happy to say that Toby is going to keep right on going. For several years before my retirement, I was grooming a fine young actor to step into my shoes. He worked on our show a number of years and now you know him well. I ask you to give him the same loyal support you gave me for so long. It is my pleasure to introduce Tobias T. Tolliver the second -- Jimmy Davis.
Jimmy came on in Toby make up and costume but minus the red wig. I took it out of my pocket
and held it in my hand as I directed a little speech to him: Jimmy, when I created the character of Toby I wanted something distinctive -- something in the manner of a uniform -- and the something I hit upon was the red wig. Now I am going to confer it on you, Jimmy. For half a century or so I have worn it, and now it is yours. I want you to wear it with pride and honor, and remember that Toby is a clean comedian -always on the side of right and against wrong. If you do that and give these people the same kind of clean, wholesome entertainment that Toby always has brought them, I am sure you will be able to carry on for thirty more years.
The show orchestra, Bert Daxter at drums, Juanita playing the saxophone and Jimmy at the piano
Additional company members for the first season under the Davis’ ownership included veterans Bert Dexter, Grace and Crawford Eagle and several less experienced performers. Connie Foster appeared with the company during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. A native of Olds, Iowa, she was familiar with the show and trouped upon graduating from high school. She became a theater major at Drake University, and appeared on WHO-TV’s popular children’s show with Duane Elliot and his puppet Floppy. She continued a successful acting career in Chicago, and, for a few years, she was the “Ace Hardware
Girl” in a series of television advertisements and personal appearances. Jimmy and Juanita Davis purchased the Schaffner Players on May 7, 1964. Under the terms of the sale, in exchange for $10,000, the Davises owned the tent and all equipment, the right to use the name “Schaffner Players as created by the legendary Toby and Susie,” or “any part or adaptation of the title.” They also received the Queen City real estate (where the outfit was stored off season) and the use of the barn (used for additional storage) at Wapello for two years. In addition, they had use of the Schaffner plays royalty-free for two years and then permission to use any of the plays for a royalty of twenty dollars per play per season. Keeping the show on the road proved to be a monumental task. Later in his career, Jimmy noted that the year before he took over the show, Neil had numerous experienced people. Erman Gray was in charge of the orchestra, Bert Dexter did the advance advertising and billing for the company, Jay Bee Flesner was in charge of set up and tear down. Jimmy sold advertising and prepared the banners and Neil and Caroline wrote the plays, managed, and directed the
company. Within two years, none of these people, except Jimmy, were with the show or were physically unable to perform the chores. Jimmy soon became in charge of all of these activities.
Fleet of trucks used to move the tent and equipment
Juanita also had numerous duties in addition to playing in the orchestra and performing a full line of parts. She was responsible for scenery, set decoration and selection and maintenance of the showâ€™s wardrobe. She also served as bookkeeper and payroll manager. Jimmy and Juanitaâ€™s first child, Brant, was born in August 1961. Eighteen days later, he was
carried on the stage, a part having been written into a play for that purpose. Darren Davis was born in April 1971 and Ryan Davis in August 1973. All three boys trouped with their parents and participated in vaudeville numbers. Brant soon became an accomplished drummer on the show. National publicity faded after the farewell tour, but the company was occasionally profiled, including an article in the June 1965 issue of Diners Club Magazine. The company struggled with entertaining the audiences during the Viet Nam War years. I remember Bert and I, especially Bert, thinking of every conceivable funny thing that he could think of. We had jokes that had been surefire, that are surefire today. We did everything in the world that we could think of and we could not make those people laugh. They came in there and sat there all through the time.
Jeanie Casady first appeared on the Schaffner stage at the age of three. One night, during the candy sales, she saw the dolls in the display, and crawled up the stairs to the stage and headed toward the dolls. Neil was in the midst of the
candy pitch, when he saw her and said “Well it looks as if we have another little dolly here, does anyone wish to claim her?” Jeanie’s embarrassed mother retrieved her. Jeanie babysat for Brant Davis while the company played in Unionville, Missouri, in 1967. She asked about joining the show the next summer. The Davises gave her an audition at that time, and contacted her with an offer the following spring. The 1968 season was the first year Jeanie trouped with the Schaffner Players. Her older brother, Stan, had trouped in 1957 and 1958 and she joined soon after graduating from high school. Jeanie played in the orchestra, performed ingénue roles, and painted banners for the company through the 1978 season. She continued with the show until the end of the 1978 season. Veteran performer, Leo Lacey, died onstage during the August 8, 1968 performance in Shelbina, Missouri. Lacey was playing the role of an attorney counseling a couple in a divorce. He was seated at a table. When he did not respond to his cue, the company members first thought that he was overacting, by taking a long dramatic
pause, but then noticed that he had slumped in his chair. The curtain was lowered and efforts to revive him failed. Between performances for the rest of the week, the curtain remained tied off at a halfway up position in tribute. The Schaffners and Davises both lived in motor homes on the tent lots. Men in the company slept in the main tent. This saved the company the cost of housing the men and provided extra security for the tent. The women either stayed in motels or private homes. The 1968 season was the first to use a trailer to house the actresses. The company suffered its first motor vehicle accident in 1969. On the move from Kahoka to Canton, Missouri, two actors, Herb Baston and Gary Cupp, rolled the sound truck. Cupp broke an arm, and the truck was out of commission for the rest of the season. A less serious accident befell the Musical Grays in the same year. They had a Mexican musical vaudeville number, which they performed between acts of the featured play. They were dressed in sombreros and serapes. Erman played the marimba, accompanied by Goldie on the maracas. As the curtain was raised, it caught on the corner of the marimba, pulling it into the air.
The marimba became untangled from the curtain, and fell to the floor, the wood bars scattering all over the stage. Erman stood holding the mallets with a look of shock on his face. The curtain was mercifully lowered but it was awhile before the cast members could stop laughing long enough to continue the show. The Schaffner Players received an invitation to perform at the Smithsonian Institutionâ€™s Festival of American Folklore in the summer of 1969. They appeared in their tent erected on the Mall in Washington D.C. during the week of June 30 to July 5. They arrived at the nationâ€™s capital with two trucks, two trailers, three cars, one house trailer, and a cast and crew of twenty-one.
Jimmy doing pre-show speech during the Festival of American Folklore on Washington D.C.
Annalee Delabar played character roles on the show for several seasons including the Washington D. C. performances. She recalled that they took a wrong turn and the caravan drove past a row of stately embassies. She turned to Jimmy and said. “I’m not sure they are ready for this.” In an effort to make the orchestra look fuller, Annalee was persuaded to pretend to play the bass which she nicknamed “Baby.” During the season she gave a convincing performance as an enthusiastic, experienced bass player. While in Washington D.C., The CBS television network was firming some scenes. Annalee saw that their sound technician was about to put a microphone in “Baby.” She notified Jimmy that either the microphone would go or she would go. They removed the microphone and Annalee continued to “play” Baby the rest of the season. The company was well received, and played to thousands. On July 3, halfway through the run, the company learned that Neil Schaffner had succumbed to a heart attack in a Burlington hospital. Neil and Caroline had planned on
joining the cast in Washington until Neil began having health problems. Upon returning to Quincy after the Washington tour, Jimmy told a reporter, “We hauled loads and loads of corn to them. They ate it -- and loved every grain of it.” The sixties saw the end of most of the remaining repertoire companies. Bisbee’s Comedians, under the ownership of Billy Choate, ended in 1966. The Sun Players’ last season was in 1967. During the seventies the audiences in the towns began to slowly decrease. The show depended more heavily on the income from the various fair dates rather than the towns. The Davises cut back the number of plays performed in each season. Instead of doing the traditional seven plays, they performed three, and also prepared a short vignette production for the fair dates. During the decade of the seventies the show performed regularly at the Iowa State Fair. They also played at state fairs in Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. They had engagements at several county and regional fairs including: Clay, Dekalb (Illinois), Keokuk, Louisa, Rock Island (Illinois), and Van Buren County (Iowa) fairs. The Central Iowa
Fair, The Farm Progress Show (four times), The Waterloo Dairy Cattle Congress (Iowa), Farmfest USA (Mankato, Minnesota), The Mid-South Fair (Memphis, Tennessee), Spirit of America Fair (Saratoga, New York), Heart of America Fair (Peoria, Illinois), The Orange County California County Fair, and The National Winnebago Convention. They performed every year at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mount Pleasant. Juanita was expecting her third child during the summer of 1973. She did not plan to perform, but did the ticket sales and bookkeeping. Darren, their two year old, had the mumps. While performing in New Sharon, tornado sirens sounded. The family went to the basement of a nearby house for safety. Jeanie was with Darren in the enclosed space, and it soon became apparent that Jeanie had the mumps. She had to leave the company, and Juanita had to perform ingénue roles while eight months pregnant. The company performed at the Spirit of America Fair in Saratoga, New York, in 1974. Jimmy as Toby appeared as the fair’s “Ambassador of Good Will.” He served as emcee for the grandstand show and introduced performers including Tony
Orlando, Olivia Newton John, Red Skelton, and Tawny Godin, who later became Miss America of 1976. When Red Skelton learned that a tent show was on the grounds, he made a special point to come to the tent and visit the company. He had performed Toby roles on the John Lawrence Show early in his career. Juanita appeared on The Hollywood Squares television program in November 1976. She won over $20,000 in cash and prizes. One of the prizes was a magnificent fur coat. She made a grand entrance wearing the coat at a performance during the 1977 season. Jimmy joked that since she wore the coat as part of her show wardrobe he could deduct it from their taxes.
The Return of Aunt Susan, 1977. Left to right Jeanie Casady, Michael Kramme (author of this book), Jimmy Davis as Toby, Sam Smith, Annalee Delabar
The company suffered a near disaster in 1977 in Perry during the 4th of July celebrations. Embers from locally sponsored fireworks started coming toward the tent. It took ten minutes for police to get the fireworks stopped. The tent suffered from hundreds of small burn holes. Jimmy later said, â€œI have learned not to play within eleven miles of any town having a Fourth of July fireworks celebration.â€? Annalee Delabar suffered heart problems while the company was in Minneapolis late in the 1976 season. The company revised the plays to work without her for the rest of the season. She rejoined the company for the 1977 season, her last. With the continued demands of raising a family and keeping the show on the road causing increased difficulties with their marriage, Jimmy and Juanita divorced on November 1. 1979. Juanita and the boys later moved to Branson and worked at the Jim Stafford Theater there. Jimmy continued to keep the show on the road.
CHAPTER TEN THE LAST YEARS Toby Tolliver: Did you know I wrote a lot of songs? Susie: Oh, then you’re a composer. Toby: No, I’m a Tolliver. Susie: Well, what is the name of one of your songs? Toby: I named one of my songs “Little Lamb Sitting on the Mountain.” Susie: “Little Lamb Sitting on the Mountain,” That a nice title of a song. How does it go? Toby: Baaa. In 1980, a tornado hit during the engagement in Sedalia at the Missouri State Fair. Several tents were blown down but the Schaffner Players tent was unharmed. In the same year after the last performance at Midwest Old Threshers, the tent was blown down on September 5. The 1981 season was the first time the Schaffner Players trouped without any experienced rep performers with the exception of Jimmy Davis. It
became harder to locate reliable performers. Jimmy soon relied almost exclusively on college and eventually, high school students. Many of the young people were enamored with the idea of being in show business, but were unprepared for the hard work and realities of life on the road. Many of these “jumped the show” mid-season. In 1983, Jimmy remodeled one of the old trucks so that he could tour a one-man show between tent seasons. He planned to do school assemblies, as well as perform at fairs, malls and for special events. One of the 1939 trucks purchased by Neil was disassembled cleaned and reassembled. During the restoration, the truck’s body was dipped in acid to remove seventeen coats of paint. The top of the truck could be raised for better head room, and a stage platform slid out creating a larger performance space. Attendance continued to decrease. “ Two years ago  I ran into very poor business during the summer. In some cases I played towns to one-fourth the business I had in 1982. The crops in the Midwest burned up and even the State Fairs were down.” Expenses continued to escalate. When he first took over ownership of the company insurance
was $350 for three months, by the late eighties it had reached $8,500. Salaries also had to be increased to remain competitive with other summer jobs. Jimmy was unable to get the show out for the 1984 season. He explained in a letter to some friends: Perhaps you have heard the rumor that the Schaffner Players Tent Theatre is not on its tour of the Midwest this season? The rumor is correct. I have spent the entire winter and spring building the route and producing the shows for the 1984 season. As I opened my rehearsals in June, I had just enough people hired to cast the shows. I was in the process of hiring two additional men to do ‘leads’. On the third day of rehearsals one of the cast members ‘jumped the show’, leaving me with five young, eager, people who had not yet learned to carry their parts, double specialties, and drive the trucks. Inasmuch as I have to open in a very short period of time, I was forced to let the entire cast go, cancel all the major dates, and shut down the theater operation until next month. I have moved the ‘outfit’ to the Old Threshers grounds and it will remain there until I set it
up for the Old Threshers Reunion. The Schaffner Players will present shows during the reunion with a cast supplied by Michael Kramme and a group of business people from Washington, Iowa. Mike is a member of our theater board and has recently been hired to head the Department of Drama at Culver Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. He will return to Washington, Iowa to direct this cast and I will join them in the production of â€˜Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners.â€™
After the Old Threshers performances Jimmy stored the tent and equipment. The tent was not used again until 1990. Jimmy continued to perform one-man or small cast shows in the truck or local auditoriums. In a letter dated January 24, 1985, Jimmy shared his problems: I built a one-man show on one of the old 1939 trucks I bought from Neil. It was used to haul chairs for some 40 years with the show. I put a great deal of time and effort into this project so that I can play shopping centers, fairs, malls, etc., anywhere in the nation. I took it west last year and scouted a lot of territory,
which was ripe for this winter. The dates are still there but I am not. During the spring I had a lot of major trouble booking, then once I got that solved with a couple of big dates, I had trouble with the cast. I had to recast the show four times in a period of less than two weeks. When I finally got into rehearsals one of the key people jumped the show on the second day. I had no reserve people, no leads as to any people to call -college was already dismissed for the summer and I was out of money to go on. I had to call all of my people together and let them go. At the first of the year the banks wanted answers -- so I had no choice but to take â€˜Chapter 7â€™. I have spent the last three weeks with lawyers in nearby Burlington. Before long it will be on to Davenport for Federal Court. In the end I will lose every truck, and since my home is either the motor home or the mini-home and they are secured as part of my major notes . . . they will go with the rest of the road equipment, tent, etc. There are NO jobs in Mt. Pleasant, in Iowa, and in the bulk of the Midwest. I got a job in one factory pushing a broom. It was to last three to four months and I got in four weeks before they laid off two-thirds of the entire factory.
At this time I am booking the one man truck for a show this summer, fall and winter at fairs or where ever I can. I will worry about how to move it after I get some of these other monkeys off my back in the next couple of months.
During this difficult time Jimmy moved into a trailer parked on the property of a friend. Jimmy shared his problems with a reporter for the Burlington Hawk Eye, “Toby is not dead, nor are the Schaffner Players dead, although it may be awhile before the players work again.” Davis said the tent theater is ‘a piece of Americana” and whether it returns hinges on finding financial backing.” The Schaffners prided themselves on the fact that they never were subsidized, Jimmy continued this philosophy through the late seventies. However, by the early eighties, it became obvious that the company could not continue without additional help. Jimmy began to look for corporate sponsorship of the show. In the late eighties, he accelerated his efforts. He formed the Toby Foundation as a not-forprofit organization to increase the possibility of corporate sponsorship and to be eligible for state
and federal grants. He established operations in Des Moines in 1987. In 1989 he was working to get national sponsors, and had the backing of US West Communications, Metro Mail, and Cookies Bar B Q Sauce.
Scene from the 1984 production of Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners, Harold Dawson (L) and Michael Zahs (R) of Washington
Jimmy organized a company that gave an opera house tour during March and April 1989. They performed in twenty-one opera houses, high schools and community centers in Iowa and
Missouri. Attendance continued to be small. Only about twelve showed up for the performance in Hannibal including the custodian and his wife. Throughout the eighties, Jimmy always played at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, performing in a tent when possible, or in the remodeled truck, or the basement of the Theatre Museum. He also participated in the annual Theatre History Seminars held at the Theatre Museum. During one of the seminars he met Grace Swank. They were married on Sunday, April 8, 1990, after the Theatre History Seminar. Grace was quite familiar with the rep business. Her family had been in show business for many years, and her grandfather, Lew Henderson operated the Lew Henderson Players for many years. She was â€œraised on the roadâ€? and was a professional entertainer all her life. Jimmy and Grace continued to do vignettes for school assembly programs. They had an engagement for the Pork Exposition in Des Moines in 1990. Jimmy was concerned about the condition of the tent, since it had been in storage for six years. Fortunately, the tent was in good condition, but the engagement did not go well. High winds during the event prevented the use of
the tent and though they were paid for the engagement, the company did not perform. They did go on to the Iowa State Fair where they performed to full houses. National publicity had slowed considerably. The show was featured in the July/August 1991 issue of Country American Magazine. A fire broke out in the Davisâ€™ trailer in Mitchellville on October 24, 1991. They lost their personal belongings, as well as most of Jimmyâ€™s wardrobe and some memorabilia. Jimmy and Grace organized a company and The Schaffner Players performed a season under canvas during the summer of 1991. Engagements that season included appearing at the rededication of Mt. Rushmore in Rapid City, South Dakota. After the regular season, Jimmy and Grace performed on the trailer at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Jimmy built a portable stage in 1993. The Crouse Cartage Company donated a forty-eight foot semi-trailer to the Toby Foundation. The truck had a thirty-foot hole in one side used to load and unload supplies. Jimmy adapted this to use as a proscenium arch. The stage from the tent was erected in front of the proscenium for additional
performing space. This was used, without the tent. Jimmy and Grace continued to do vignette performances in auditoriums and on the portable stage. They gave a series of performances at the Capitol Theater in Davenport and the Scottish Rite Hall in Rock Island, IL. The Davises organized a full company and had a successful season under canvas playing ten Iowa towns in 1996 for the state’s sesquicentennial. Jimmy had diabetes. During the first year of his ownership of the show, he lost forty pounds in one month. At first he thought it was due to over work, later the problem was diagnosed as diabetes. By the nineties, the illness took its toll. By April of 1995, he had no feeling from his knees down. Eventually, he had a toe amputated, and later doctors removed part of his right foot. He maintained his humor throughout, by saying, “I use to be able to count to twenty, and then to nineteen, and now I’m down to fifteen.” The 1997 summer season proved to be a difficult one. One of the drivers fell asleep at the wheel during a move from Baraboo, Wisconsin to Omaha, Nebraska. The sound truck and the trailer
hauling equipment were both demolished. The next day the transmission in the motor home went out. Jimmyâ€™s response was that it was not a week to write home about. They performed in eight locations, but had continued difficulties with some cast members. After the Omaha engagement they were to go on to Red Oak and Washington but Jimmy closed the show, and moved to Mount Pleasant to organize a new cast for the Old Threshers Reunion. The last performance of the Shaffner Players was in Mount Pleasant on September 1, 1997. Plans for the 1998 season were well under way. The Davises were in negotiations with the Tangley Calliope Company of Muscatine to have a calliope added to the show. Jimmy Davis died on February 20, 1998, only two days after performing at a school assembly in Muscatine. Memorial services were held in the Theatre Museum. Joe Mauck, long time fan of the Schaffner Players and close friend to both Caroline and Jimmy eulogized:
‘The show must go on!’ It’s an old theatrical cliché; but if there has been a theme to Jimmy Davis’ life for the last forty-five years, that is it. Ever since he won that talent show on the Schaffner Players in May of 1953, when he was only sixteen years old, show business was the driving force in his life, the smell of canvas was in his blood, and laughter and applause nourished his soul. And when he became the owner of the Schaffner Players tent show in 1963, his life was filled with an almost overwhelming obsession to keep the show on the road. Through the years he met so many obstacles, encountered so many problems, and had so many setbacks that a lesser man would have packed away the tent years ago. The final curtain on his dream has fallen. Jimmy has moved on to a special place that Caroline Schaffner calls ‘Actors’ Heaven.’ I am sure that Jimmy has already learned to play the harp and he’s now rounding up a troupe of angels to tour the heavens. THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
CHAPTER ELEVEN FINALE The auction of the Jimmy Davis estate including all of the scenery, costumes, tent, trucks, and equipment used by the Schaffner Players was held on May 16. 1998. CAST OF CHARACTERS Neil Schaffner: After directing the 1963 season for Jimmy Davis, Neil retired from active involvement with the show. He wrote his autobiography with assistance from Vance Johnson. Prentice-Hall Inc. published the book, entitled The Fabulous Toby and Me, in 1968. On July 3, 1969 while The Schaffner Players performed on the Mall in Washington D.C., Neil passed away in a hospital in Burlington. Rome Lee Schaffner: Graduated from the University of Iowa Medical School and became an ophthalmologist in Cedar Rapids. He died of a heart attack at the age of forty-nine in 1975.
Caroline Schaffner: After Neil’s death, Caroline sold their home in Sarasota, FL and moved to Mount Pleasant. Wesleyan College awarded her an honorary degree on May 21, 1978. She loved to travel and visited China, Egypt, and Austria in addition to taking numerous cruises including one on the Amazon. She suffered a series of heart attacks in 1981 and received a pacemaker implant. She was a tireless promoter of the Theatre Museum, attending numerous conferences and conventions. Her mission was to help in the preservation of the memory of the rep shows. I want to try to correct the idea that we were called ‘Toby Shows.’ If you were asked to describe a body, you wouldn’t call it a leg, you’d call it a body; the leg is a part of the body, so that was the way the Toby character was. Many rep companies did no Toby plays at all. And those that did -- I will now speak especially of The Schaffner Players -- we would only do maybe two plays with a Toby character. The other plays were comedy dramas, and we always closed with farce on
Sunday night -- we had a variety in our repertoire of plays. So, I would appreciate it if you people who are going to write the history of this business that I loved very much would make the distinction, and also remember that for many, many companies, especially in the early days (up through the 1920s), we were in the tents only three months out of the year. The other nine months we were in the theaters and opera houses. So please bear that in mind.
Caroline Schaffner died on October 20. 1998. She and Neil are buried in the Wapello Cemetery. In addition to their names and dates of birth and death, the marker contains the drama comedy and tragedy masks and the words “Toby” and “Susie” Jimmy Davis: Died of a heart attack on February 20, 1998. His last performance was at a school assembly in Muscatine just two days before his death. He is buried in the Cambrian Cemetery north of Crawfordsville. Bert Dexter: Bert trouped twenty-five seasons with the Schaffners. He developed emphysema
and Jimmy Davis had to tell Bert that he could not troupe during the 1976 season. Bert died at his home in Fort Smith, Arkansas on February 17, 1977, and is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery there. Juanita Davis: After her divorce, Juanita worked at the Quincy Community Theater before moving with her sons to Branson. She married Gary Ammon and they now reside in Dallas, Texas. Grace Swank Davis: Grace lives in Mount Pleasant and works at the Theatre Museum. She is also the Vice President of the Society for the Preservation of Folk and Tent Repertoire. The Museum of Repertoire Americana Neil and Caroline began collecting memorabilia pertaining to the rep business early in their careers. When visiting the Greenfield Village complex in Dearborn, Michigan, they noticed that they did not have an opera house. This troubled them since the opera house was such an integral part of the small rural towns.
Original plans called for the reconstruction of a typical small town opera house with a museum building attached. Several towns were considered for the location of the museum. The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers grounds in Mount Pleasant were finally chosen as the site. The Theatre Museumâ€™s emphasis on entertainment in rural America fit in well with the Old Threshersâ€™ mission to preserve our agricultural heritage. Temporary theater memorabilia exhibits were displayed in 1970 at Old Threshers and Iowa Wesleyan College.
The Museum of Repertoire Americana
Jimmy Davis, Caroline Schaffner, Helen Virden, and Joe Mauck became the main promoters of the museum. They attended several meetings of the Old Threshersâ€™ board of directors. With the support of Administrator Heb Hult and Board Member Leo Turley, and agreement was reached to build a brick structure to house the Theatre Museum. Groundbreaking for the structure was in September 1971. Jimmy Davis and Caroline Schaffner cut the ribbon and dedicated the building on September 1, 1973. Through the years, the museum received numerous gifts to its collections. The museum underwent extensive remodeling in 2000-2001. A gift from the Caroline Schaffner estate allowed for the installation of a gabled roof, new facade, and renovation of the library and research center. The Caroline Schaffner Research Library was dedicated in April 2000. NATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF TENT, FOLK AND REPERTOIRE THEATRE
Early supporters of the Theatre Museum formed a national non-profit organization, which was incorporated in December of 1968. The organizationâ€™s major purpose was to promote the concept and raise funding for the establishment of the museum. After the construction of the museum building, the society continued to administer and maintain the museum and its collections. An annual meeting of troupers, educators, and interest people was held each year during the Old Threshers Reunion. In 1986, the societyâ€™s membership chose to move the annual meeting time to April or May to avoid the large crowds of the Reunion. The annual Theatre History Seminar has been held each year since. The Society sponsored the presentation of a festival of repertoire plays in 1996, as part of the Iowa Sesquicentennial. The festival of plays has continued each summer since. The productions are performed as close to the originals as possible.
L. to R. Midwest Old Threshers CEO Lennis Moore, Joe Mauck, Caroline Schaffner, Michael Kramme, 1998
[Editor’s note: The reader will observe two spellings referencing performing art as “theatre”(traditional and historical spelling, also sometimes chosen in a name of a periodical or association.) or “theater”(both the structure for and the group of performing artists, in more modern times, such as the last half of the 1900s). Both spellings can be correct depending on which has been chosen for a specific usage. Every attempt has been made for accuracy in proofing this document. The distinction, generally, seems to be time relativity and also the name choice of the group. For example the museum in Mt. Pleasant is correctly spelled “Theatre”. But references to various plays may properly use “theater”. Confused? So was I, just know that both are correct, and known to be not the same letter order, intentionally.]
The Schaffner Players
CHAPTER NOTES CHAPTER ONE 1. George Eells, unpublished papers. (Return) 2. Neil Schaffner, unpublished papers. (Return) 3. Ibid. (Return) 4. Des Moines Register, undated clipping. (Return) 5. Neil Schaffner, memoirs written in preparation for the book, The Fabulous Toby and Me, pp. 186-187, also told by Caroline Schaffner during an interview, May 10, 1986, Mount Pleasant, IA. (Return)
6. Schaffner, Memoirs, p. 188. (Return) 7. Julius Cahn, ed. Julius Cahnâ€™s Official Theatrical Guide, 1905, pp. 440-469. (Return)
8. Philip C. Lewis, Trouping (New York: Harper & Row, 1973) p. 145. (Return) 9. â€œWhat is the Matter with Stock?,â€? New York Dramatic Mirror, July 8, 1914, Vol. LXXII, p. 7, col. 1. (Return) 10. Henry Brunk, interview, September, 3, 1978.
11. Advertisement, Davenport September, 1851. (Return)
12. Alfred L. Bernheim, The Business of Theater, New York: Benjamin Blom Inc., 1932, reissue 1964, p. 75. (Return)
CHAPTER TWO 1. Neil Schaffner and Vance Johnson, The Fabulous Toby and Me, New York: Prentice Hall, p. 89. (Return) 2. Dale Kittle, Toby and Susie: The ShowBusiness Success Story of Neil and Caroline Schaffner, unpublished dissertation, Ohio State University, 1969, p. 83. George Eells, notes, pp. 22-23. (Return) 3. Kittle, p. 110. (Return) 4. Neil Schaffner, memoirs, p. 221. Ibid. (Return)
CHAPTER THREE 1. Neil Schaffner, biographical notes, p. 13. (Return)
2. Ibid. (Return) 3. George Eells, notes, p. 8. (Return) 4. Neil Schaffner, Memoirs, pp. 278-279. (Return) 5. Ibid. (Return) 6. Des Moines Register, 1931. (Return) 7. Eells, p. 7. (Return) 8. Contract between Neil E. Schaffner and Caster Tent & Awning Company of Wapello County, Iowa, July 15, 1933. (Return) 9. Schaffner, p. 305. (Return) 10. Souvenir Program Book, “The Schaffner Players”, 1944. (Return)
CHAPTER FOUR 1. Schaffner, Memoirs, p. 331. (Return) 2. “Radio’s Newest Journalists,” NBC News Service, January 25, 1937, p. 1. (Return) 3. Program recording and transcript. (Return) 4. Milton Peterson, “Successful Radio Advertising,” unpublished pamphlet, transcript of a speech to Bakery Managers at the Edge Water Beach Hotel, Chicago, 1939, pp. 4-5. (Return) 5. Toby’s Corntussel Nooze, issues 1-3. (Return)
CHAPTER FIVE 1. Schaffner papers. (Return) 2. Schaffner memoirs, p. 350. (Return) 3. Schaffner papers. (Return) 4. Schaffner memoirs, p. 359. Ibid 355. Schaffner papers. Donald Wayne, Holiday Magazine, June 1948, p. 14. (Return) 5. Frances A. Klein for the St. Louis Globe Democrat, September 4, 1949, Section F. p. 1. Vance Johnson “Hits in the Tall Corn.” Colliers Magazine, August 20, 1949, p. 17. (Return)
CHAPTER SIX 1. Neil Schaffner, Memoirs, p. 386. (Return) 2. Caroline Schaffner, “Repertoire Plays and Today’s Dinner Theater,” paper presentation, Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, IA, April 7, 1990. (Return) 3. Ibid. (Return) 4. “Public Still Interested in Family Type Show.” ‘Toby’ and ‘Susie’ Learn, Quincy Herald Whig, July 9, 1941, p. 5B. (Return) 5. Caroline Schaffner, transcript of speech given at ASTRA (American Society for Theatre Research Association) convention at Lincoln Center, 1977. (Return) 6. Francis A. Klein, “Blasé Broadway Boy Wonders Could Take Lessons from This Veteran Missouri Tent Show Trouper,” St. Louis GlobeDispatch, September 4, 1949. See F, p. 1. (Return)
7. Martha Francis Stover Langford, â€˜The Tent Repertoire of Neil and Caroline Schaffner: A Case Study in Tent Repertoire Theater as Communication. â€œUniversity of Colorado, 1978, pp. 14, 23. (Return) 8. Joe Whittaker, Marshalltown Republican, undated clipping. (Return)
9. Neil Schaffner papers. (Return) 10. Dale Kittle, unpublished manuscript containing an introduction to Schaffner plays. (Return)
CHAPTER SEVEN 1. Toby and Susie Coming: Quite a Story, One of Few Tent Shows Left,” The Edina Sentinel, July 4, 1957. p. 1. (Return) 2. Delores Heft-Dorn, “Toby: the Twilight of a Tradition,” Theatre Arts Magazine, August 1958, p. 80. (Return) 3. John Keasler, “Old Time Tent Show, Holdover from Past,” Everyday Magazine, St. Louis Post Dispatch, August 18, 1957, p. 1. (Return) 4. Neil Schaffner, papers. (Return) 5. Francis A. Klein, “Blasé Broadway Boy Wonders Could Take Lessons from this Veteran Missouri Tent Show Trouper,” St. Louis GlobeDemocrat, September 4, 1949, section F, p. 1.
6. Joe Alex Morris, “Corniest Show on the Road.” Saturday Evening Post, September 17, 1955, p. 70. (Return)
7. Caroline Schaffner, “Repertoire Plays and Today’s Dinner Theater,” video, Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, April 2, 1990. (Return) 8. Ibid. (Return) 9. “Letter,” The Saturday Evening Post, November 5, 1955, p. 6. (Return) 10. Neil Schaffner, memoirs, p. 405. (Return) 11. Memoirs, p. 407. (Return) 12. This is Your Life, video, also recalled in The Fabulous Toby and Me p. 188. (Return) 13. Ibid. (Return) 14. Memoirs, p. 415. (Return)
CHAPTER EIGHT 1. Neil Schaffner memoirs, p. 422. (Return) 2. “Overflow Crowd Attends Final Toby-Susie Show,” New Sharon Star, June 21, 1962, p. 1 (Return)
3. Schaffner, p. 423. (Return) 4. New Sharon Star. (Return) 5. Dale Kittle, “Toby and Susie: The Showbusiness Success Story of Neil and Caroline Schaffner, “PhD dissertation, Ohio State University, 1969, pp. 408-409. (Return) 6. “Quincy Says ‘Goodbye’, Key to City to Toby and Susie,” Quincy Herald Whig, July 9, 1962. p. 14. (Return) 7. “Toby and Susie Presented Awards”, Kahoka Gazette, July 20, 1962, p. 1. (Return) 8. “Vandalians Surprise Toby, Susie with Farewell Gifts,” Mexico Evening Ledger, August 20, 1962, p. 1. (Return)
9. “ ‘Good Luck, God Bless You’ Dalton Tells Toby,” Mexico Evening Ledger, August 30, 1962, p. 1. (Return) 10. Kittle, p. 434. (Return) 11. Schaffner, p. 426. (Return)
CHAPTER NINE 1. Neil Schaffner, memoirs, p. 429-430. (Return) 2. Jimmy Davis, “Panel of Managers”, video of a panel discussion Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, 1988. (Return) 3. Bill Bradshaw, “Toby’s Corn Wowed ‘Em in Washington,” Quincy Herald Whig, July 11, 1969, p. 8B. (Return)
CHAPTER TEN 1. Jimmy Davis, letter to Dear Friends, likely Ruth and Morry Grossman, January 24, 1985. (Return) 2. Jimmy Davis, letter to Dear Friends of the Theater (Photocopied letter sent to several individuals). (Return) 3. Jimmy Davis, Dear Friends. (Return) 4. Michael Sweet, “Toby Tolliver isn’t Dead”, The Hawkeye, Burlington, Iowa, March 13, 1985.
5. Joe Mauck, eulogy presented at the Theatre Museum, February 24, 1998. (Return)
CHAPTER ELEVEN 1. Caroline Schaffner, Transcript of presentation at ASTRA (American Society for Theatre Research) convention at Lincoln Center, November 1977. (Return)
The Schaffner Players BIBLIOGRAPHY Books
Ashby, Clifford and Suzanne DePauw May. Trouping Through Texas – Harley Sadler and His Tent Show. Bowling Green, OH, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1982. Choate, Billy, Born in a Trunk Just Outside the Center Door. Fancy Kearney, NE, Morris Publishing, 1994. Glenn, George D. and Richard L. Poole. The Opera Houses of Iowa. Ames, Iowa, University Press, 1993. Lewis, Philip C., Trouping, How the Show Came to Town. New York, NY, Harper and Row, 1973. Magnuson, Landis K., Circle Stock Theater – Touring American Small Towns 1900 – 1960. Jefferson, NC, McFarland and Company, Inc., 1995.
Martin, Jerry L., Brunk and Brunkâ€™s Comedians, Tent Repertoire Empire of the Southwest. Bowling Green, OH, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1984. McKennon, Marion, Tent Show. New York, NY, Exposition Press, 1964. Mickel, Jere C., Footlights on the Prairie. St. Cloud, MN, North Star Press, 1974. Schaffner, Neil E. and Vance Johnson. The Fabulous Toby and Me, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1968. Slout, W.L., Theatre in a Tent, Bowling Green, OH, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972. Wyatt III, Robert Lee, The History of the Haverstock Tent Show -- The Show with a Million Friends, Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL, Southern Illinois University Press, 1997.
“After Hours,” Harper’s Magazine, (November 1954), pp. 82-84. Bradshaw, William, “Toby’s Corn Wowed ‘Em in Washington,” Quincy Herald Whig, (July 11, 1969), p. 8B. Downing, Robert, “Toby”, Theatre Arts Magazine, (November 1946), pp. 651-654. “Good Luck, God Bless You, Dalton Tells Toby,” Mexico Evening Ledger, Mexico, MO, (August 30, 1962). Heft, Delores Dorn, “Toby: Twilight of a Tradition”, Theatre Arts Magazine, (August 1958), pp. 52-55, 58. Johnson, Vance, “Hits the Tall Corn,” Collier’s Magazine, (August 20, 1949), pp. 16-17, 72-73. Kaesler, John, “Old Time Tent Show, Holdover from the Past,” Everyday Magazine, St. Louis Post Dispatch, (August 18, 1957).
Klein, Francis A., “Blasé Broadway Boy Wonders Could Take Lessons from this Veteran Missouri Tent Show Trouper,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, (September 4, 1949), section F. p. 1. Kramme, Michael, “Toby’s Corntusssel News: The Schaffners Take their Show on the Radio.” Iowa Heritage Illustrated, (Spring 2000), pp. 27-35. Mauck, Joe, “James V. (Jimmy) Davis, ‘Trouper Extraordinare,”’ Eulogy presented at the Theatre Museum, (February 24, 1998). Winging It, Publication of the National Society for the Preservation of Tent, Folk and Repertoire Theatre, vol. 5, issue 1, (Spring 1998). Morris, Joe Alex, “Corniest Show on the Road,” Saturday Evening Post, (September 17, 1995), pp. 30-70. “Toby and Susie Coming: Quite a Story, One of Few Tent Shows Left,” The Edina Sentinel, (July 4, 1957), p. 1.
“Overflow Crowd Attends Final Toby-Susie Show,” The New Sharon Star, New Sharon, Iowa, (June 21, 1962), p. 1. “Public Still Interested in Family Type Show; Toby and Susie Learn.” Quincy Herald Whig, Quincy, IL, (July 9, 1941), p. 5B. “Quincy Says ‘Goodbye’ – Key to City to Toby and Susie,” Quincy Herald Whig, Quincy, IL, (July 9, 1962), p. 14. Sheets, Virginia, “It’s Still Show Time for Toby and Susie,” Picture Magazine, The Des Moines Sunday Register, Des Moines, IA, (March 16, 1975), pp. 6-8. Schaffner, Neil, “Don’t Nix the Sticks,” The Hollywood Reporter, (November 18, 1957). Sweet, Michael, “Toby Tolliver Isn’t Dead Yet,” The Hawkeye, Burlington, IA, (March 13, 1985), p. 25.
“’Television Doesn’t Scare Us; Toby and Susie,” Sunday Democrat and Times, Davenport, IA, (May 17, 1953), p. 17. “Toby and Susie Presented Award,” Kahoka Gazette, Kahoka, MO, (July 20, 1962), p. 1. “Vandalians Surprise Toby, Susie with Farewell Gifts,” Mexico Evening Ledger, Mexico, MO, (August 20, 1962), p. 1. Wallace, Irving, “Everybody Loves a Tent Show”. Service, A publication of Cities Service Company, (April 1956), pp. 18-20. Wayne, Donald, “Entertainment,” Magazine, (June 1948), pp. 14-127.
Whittaker, Joe, Marshalltown TimesRepublican, Marshalltown, IA, (June 14, 1929).
Theses and dissertations
Clark, Larry Dale 1963, Toby Shows: A Form of American Popular Theater. PhD dissertation, University of Illinois. Kittle, Russell Dale 1969, Toby and Susie: The Show-business Success Story of Neil and Caroline Schaffner. PhD dissertation, Ohio State University. Klassen, Robert 1970, The Tent-Repertoire Theatre: A Rural American Institution. PhD dissertation, Michigan State University. Kramme, Michael Howard 1987, An Analysis of Bill Brunoâ€™s Bulletin: A Newspaper of Midwest Repertoire Theater. PhD dissertation, University of Missouri-Columbia. Langford, Martha Francis Stover 1978 The Tent Repertoire of Neil and Caroline Schaffner: A Case Study in Tent Repertoire
Theater as Colorado.
Brunk, Mercedes, September, 1981.
Davis, Jimmy, to “Dear Friends:” 1, February, 1977. Davis, Jimmy, to “Dear Friends:” 1, February, 1978. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 7, February, 1981. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 18 March 1982. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 23, February, 1983. Davis, Jimmy, to “Dear Friends of the Theater:” 24 July, 1984.
Davis, Jimmy, to “Dear Friends:” 24 January, 1985. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 18 October, 1987. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 7, December, 1988. Davis, Jimmy, to “Ruth and Morry Grossman,” 14, June, 1990.
Programs, Heralds and Route Sheets
Souvenir Programs. “The Schaffner Players, Starring ‘Toby and Susie’”, Season of 1944. Schaffner Players Heralds, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966. Route Sheets: 1968-1977, 1996.
Manuscripts and Papers
Eells, George, Papers, Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Kittle, Dale, Papers, Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Schaffner, Caroline, Transcript of presentation at ASTR (American Society for Theatre Research) convention at Lincoln Center, November, 1977. Schaffner, Neil and Caroline. Papers, Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Schaffners, Neil, Memoirs, Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Interviews
Casady, Jeanie, by Michael Kramme. Interview, August 14, 2001, Edina, MO. Claus, Jeanie, by Michael Kramme. Interview, August 25, 2001, Mt. Pleasant, IA.
Iles, Brian, by Michael Kramme. Interview, August 7, 2001, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Schaffner, Caroline, by Michael Kramme, Interview, September 3, 1978, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Schaffner, Caroline, by Michael Kramme. Interview, May 10, 1986. Mt. Pleasant, IA. Schaffner, Neil, by George Eells, Interview, 1961. Schaffner papers, Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA. Wilt, Becky, by Michael Kramme. Interview, July 25, 2001, Shelbina, MO. Video
Laughter USA, Dupont Show of the week, NBC, broadcast September, 1961. Schaffner, Caroline, and Jimmy Davis. “Panel of Managers,” Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, IA, April 2, 1989.
Schaffner, Caroline, "What We Did in the Opera Houses," Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, IA, April 2, 1989. Schaffner, Caroline, "Repertoire Plays and Today's Dinner Theater," Theatre Seminar, Mount Pleasant, IA, April 7, 1990. Broadcasts
Omnibus, broadcast November 1954. This is Your Life, NBC, broadcast April 9, 1958. Wide Wide World, broadcast May 1958. Who in the World, CBS, broadcast September, 1962.
APPENDIX A PLAYS, CASTS, TOWN THE SCHAFFNER PLAYERS
The following is a list of the Schaffner Playersâ€™ cast, towns visited, and plays produced. Many of the plays were performed under more than one title. It is not always possible to know the original title or which titles match. Alternative titles, when known are in parentheses. From 1926 until 1935, the Schaffner Players had a winter season starting about the first of the year and lasting through the end of April. The tent season lasted from about May first until the end of September. A fall season lasted from October until the end of the year. After 1935 the company performed only the tent season, occasionally finishing with some opera house performances. Most of the business records for the years 1929 through 1935 are missing, so the available information is incomplete. Note on towns: All towns are in Iowa unless otherwise noted.
The Schaffners took over management of The Baldy Wetzell Players, they played a few towns, ending with a fair date in Fonda, no record of these engagements remain. Opened as The Schaffner Players, October 10, 1925 at the Strand Theater in Fort Dodge. Plays: Cabaret Girl, Crackers and Codfish, Girl in the Case, Guttersnipes, Handy Andy, Hurry-up Bride, Jiggs and Maggie, Keep to the Right, Love Germ, Marriage of Elizabeth, Midnight Guest, Mystic Island, The Old Grouch, Sâ€™manthy, Smiles, Town Constable. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Tuby Duer, Rusty Harrison, Fannie Hatfield, Dorothy Mills, Paul Morokoff, Fred Wagner, Alan Whitehouse, Kenneth Whitehouse. 1926
Plays: Bulldog Mason, Cabaret Girl, Code of the West, The Constable, Crackers and Codfish, Girl
from Laramie, Girl in Case, Guttersnipe, Hurry Up Bride, Jelly Bean, Jewish Princess, Jiggs and Maggie, Keep to the Right, Kentucky Sue, Love Germ, Marriage of â€˜Lizabeth Midnight Guest, Mystic Island, The Old Grouch, The Old Home, Out of the Past, Small Town Flapper, Smiles, Street Salesman, The Town Constable, Troubles of Andy, Tropical Love, Valley Center, The Vulture, What Every Daughter Learns, Wizbang Revel. Winter
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Frank Colton, Tuby Duer, Rusty Harrison, Fannie Hatfield, Dorothy Mills, Paul Morokoff, Bill Wagner, Alan Whitehouse, Kenneth Whitehouse. Towns: Centerville, Bloomfield, Ottumwa, Oskaloosa, Grinnell, Kansas City MO, Eldon, Milton Tent
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Frank Colton, Bill Dade, Chester and Margaret Espey, Nina Flasaig, Jack and Leda Kohler, Bill McDade, Bob
Stanley replaced McDade, late in the season George Lanshaw and his wife Louise joined the company. Vaudeville act: The Musical Dodds, father-son-daughter orchestra. Dan Kimes, Rex Bakerink, Bill Sours, Bill Wagner, Fred Wagner, canvas men. Towns: Earlville IL, Mendota IL, Knoxville IL, Mount Pleasant, Mediapolis, Wapello, Brighton, Hedrick, New Sharon, Montezuma, Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Maxwell, Melcher, Russell, Leon, Allerton, Clio (Fair). Fall
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Dick Coleman, Frank Doyle, Frank Colton, Luther Geisinger, Lee Harold, Ted Hover, George and Louise Lanshaw, Frank Voelker, Joicey Williams. Towns: Coon Rapids, Fort Dodge, Sioux City.
Plays: Angel of Hell’s Valley, Bulldog Mason, Call of the Woods, Clouds and Sunshine, Dad of the USA, Disappearing Jimmie, Girl of Golden Pheasant, Her Compassionate Marriage, Jed, Country Jelly Bean, Jewish Princess, Jiggs and Maggie, Kentucky Sue, Lena Rivers, Mystic Island, The Old Grouch, The Old Hometown, Phantom Trail, Red Hot Mama, Retribution, St. Elmo, Saphead, Small Town Flapper, S’manthy, Toby Butts In, Why Girls Walk Home, Won by Waiting, You’re in the Army. Tent
Towns: Clio, Seymour, Mount Pleasant, Wapello, Mediapolis, Knoxville, Fairfield, Bloomfield, Batavia, Russell, Ollie, Fremont, Delta, New Sharon, Maxwell, Coon Rapids, Guthrie Center, Stuart, Floris, Coatsville MO. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Lyle and Grace Albeitz, Laura Chase, Burt Farris, Dump Fredrick, Hal Geisinger, Arnold Kloxin, George and Louise Lanshaw, Syd Snyder.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Sid Snider, Roscoe Gerrall, Arnold Kloxin, Luther Geisinger, Ed Ward, Maude Dayton. Towns: Greenfield, Oskaloosa, Knoxville, Bloomfield, Centerville, Newton, Marshalltown. 1928
Plays: Abie’s Irish Rose, Absent Minded Bridegroom, The Awakening of John Slater, Bulldog Mason, Cabaret Girl, Dad of the USA, Disappearing Jimmie, Dolly of the Follies, Flapper Flower of Mexico, The Girl He Couldn’t Buy. The Girl of the Golden Pheasant, Hard Boiled Hamilton, Her Gypsy Lover, High Pockets, Irish Mix-up, Jiggs and Maggie, Kentucky Sue, Movie Madness, The Old Grouch, The Old Hometown, Phantom Trail, Poor Simp, Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners, The Shepherd of the Hills, The Silent Shape, Toby the High-pot-nist, Texas, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, We’re in the Army Now, What Anne Brought Home.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Fred Dunning and Wife, Roscoe and Dorothy Gerall, Grant Goodlander, Robert and Dorothy LaThey, Harry Hogan, Ike Newton, Dorothy Phillips, Al Pitcaithly, Dorothy Saxton. Towns: Maxwell, Exira, Ottumwa, Washington, Rushville IL, Ollie, Mediapolis. Tent
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Raymond Cox, Sid Snyder, Maude Dayton, Luther Guisinger, Archie King, Oscar Noe, Homer Swadkey, Ed Ward (?). Towns: Rushville, IL, Astoria IL, Batavia, Fairfield, Mount Pleasant, Mediapolis, Wapello, Ollie, Hedrick, Delta, New Sharon, Maxwell, Coon Rapids, Exira, Atlantic, Melcher, Floris, Moulton, Ottumwa (opera house), Washington.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Fred Dunning, Roscoe Gerall, Harry Hogan, Robert and Dorothy Lathey, Al Pitcaithley. Towns: Belmond, Gilmore City, Laurens, Hawarden, Beatrice NE, Crete NE, Beresford, SD, Cherokee, Grand Junction, Marshalltown, Nevada, Fort Dodge, Story City, Washington, Centerville, Oskaloosa, Grinnell, Knoxville. 1929
Plays: Be Yourself, Butterflies of Broadway, The Girl from Iowa, The Girl from the Night Club, Girl of the Golden Pheasant, The Shepherd of the Hills, The Singer and the Fool, Texas, Toby the High-pot-nist, Wandering Spooks, What Every Daughter Learns, The Wildest Girl in Town. Winter
Towns: Marshalltown, Toledo, Nevada, Fort Dodge, Gearing, Story City, Washington, Centerville, Oskaloosa, Grinnell.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Al Pitcaithley, Eddie and Tillie Paoli, Roscoe and Dorothy Gerrall, Hap Hogan, Charles Kyle, Robert and Dorothy LaThey. Tent
Towns: Melcher, Chariton, West Point, Mount Pleasant, Mediapolis, New London, Keota, New Sharon, Eddyville, Delta, Ollie, Fremont, Coon Rapids, Maxwell, North English, Brighton, Bloomfield, Batavia, Floris. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Edna Julian, Robert Kent, Robert and Dorothy LaThey, Albert Lee, Al Pitcaithley, Del Post, Delpha Trusler (Kent), Buddy William, Ned Wright. Fall
Towns: Newton, Nevada, Story City, Gilmore City, Schlusing, Hawardin, Britt, Shennandoah, Breda, Manning, Perry, Sheldon, Falls City NE.
Plays: Balloon Girl, Be Yourself, Chain Stores, Clouds and Sunshine, The Family Upstairs, Farmer’s Daughter, Flapper Grandma, The Ghost Bird, The Girl of the Golden Pheasant, Her Legal Prisoner, High Flyers, Home Folks, Lena Rivers, The Mysterious Dr. X, No Wedding Bells, The Old Grouch, The Only Road, The Other Man’s Wife, Past Thirty, Restless Wives, The Room of Death, Shepherd of the Hills, S’manthy, Some Baby, Stepping Daughters, Ten Nights in a Barroom, The Village Shiek, What Every Daughter Learns, The Whitlock Family, Why Wives Worry, Wild Wimmen and Tame Men. Winter
Plays: The Flapper Grandma, Past Thirty, The Patsy, Restless Wives, Shepherd of the Hills, Ten Nights in a Barroom, Where is My Teddy? Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Robert LaThey, Eleanor McCraken, George Morris, Eddie Paoli, Gertrude Whalen, Eddie Wilson, Pearle Wilson.
Towns: Ottumwa, Sheldon, Marshaltown, Oskaloosa, Nevada, Anamosa, Ottumwa, Grinnell, Newton, Story City. Tent
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, George and Ruby Cowin, Roscoe Gerall, Dorothy Phillips Gerall, Robert LaThey, Dale Martin, Al Pitcaithley, Eddie and Tillie Paoli. Towns: Nevada, Knoxville Melcher, Des Moines, Chariton, Bloomfield, Mount Pleasant, New London, Mediapolis, Wapello, Ollie, Fairfield, Delta, Keota, Fremont, Coon Rapids, Maxwell, North English, New Sharon, Derby, Floris. 1931
Plays: All Women Are Alike, Almost Married, An Irish Wedding, Awakening (of John Slater?), Be Yourself, Blarney Stone Blues, Bloomer Girl, The Call of the Woods, Chain Stores, A Child of the Streets, Clouds and Sunshine, Come Back, Detouring Wives, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, East Lynne, End of the Trail, The Farmerâ€™s Daughter,
Flapper Grandma, Folks from Toonerville, The Ghost Bird, The Gorilla, Gossip, The Home Life of Tillie the Toiler, In the Army Now, Irish Mixup, Jealous Wives, Jessie James, Keep to the Right, Kentucky Sue, Lena Rivers, Little Orphan Annie, Love After Thirty, Main Street Folks, Meddling Mothers Meet the Family, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, My Flapper Sister, My Old Home Town, Mysterious Dr. X, Nice Girls Don’t, No Wedding Bells, The Old Road, The Other Man’s Wife, Over the Hill to the Poor House, Past Thirty, Peggy O’Moore, Prince in Overalls, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Restless Wives, The Romance of Ella Cinders, St. Elma, Scrambled Babies, Scrambled Yeggs, The Sheik, Shepherd of the Hills, Some Girls Do, Stepping Sisters, Taming of a Flapper, Tempest and Sunshine, Ten Nights in a Barroom, Thorns and Orange Blossoms, A Thundering Herd, Toby Butts In, Toby Comes Back, Toby Goes to Sea, Toby Hits New York, Toby in Alaska, Toby in Mexico, Toby on the Spot, Toby’s Millions, Tom Sawyer, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, What Every Daughter Learns, When Toby Hits New York, Where is My Teddy,
Why Girls Walk Home, Wild Wimmen and Tame Men. Winter
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Harry and Pearle Goldie, Robert and Dorothy LaThey, Roi Lorenzo, Eleanor McCraken, Eddie Paoli, George Norris, Eddie Wilson, Pearle Wilson. Towns: Ottumwa, Derby. Tent
Complete records are not complete. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner. Gladys Adams, Royal Cowger, Harry and Pearle Goldie, Robert LaThey, Roi Lorenzo, Eleanor McCracken, Pearle Minnihan, Eddie and Tillie Paoli, Al Pitcaithley, Todd and Zanza Thorpe, Ed Ward, Eddie Wilson, Pearle Wilson, Corrine Longdon (replacing Eleanor McCraken) and Mickey Arthur (replacing Eddie Wilson).
Towns: Oskaloosa, Mount Pleasant, Wapello, (nine weeks under canvas in Ottumwa July 6 – September 6) Knoxville, Derby. Fall
Sioux City, Des Moines, Ottumwa. 1932
Plays: Almost Married, An Irish Mix-up, Call of the Woods, The Cohen’s and the Kelly’s, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ella Cinders, For Crying Out Loud, The Gorilla, Jealous Wives, Keep to the Right, Let’s Go, Little Orphan Annie, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, My Dad of the USA, She Got Her Man, The Sheik, Sins of Society, Taming a Flapper, Tillie the Toiler, Toby Steps Out, Toby’s Buried Treasure, Toby Comes Back, Tom Sawyer, Too Many Wives, Too Much Family, Trail of the Lonesome Pines, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Whose Baby is It?
Towns: Clinton, Ottumwa. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Gladys Adams, Mickey Cuth, Harry and Pearle Godie, Roi Lorenzo, Eleanor McCraken, Al Pitcaithley, Todd and Zanza Thorp, Ed Ward, Buddy and Corrine Wilson. Tent
Records are not complete. Towns: Freemont, Ottumwa, Oskaloosa, Wapello, Mount Pleasant.
Plays: As Husbands Lie, Country Boy in a Large City (possibly also titled Country Folks and City Relations), Daddy Long Legs, The Ghost Bird, The Girl in the Case, Girl of the Night Club, The Gorilla, Girl of the Golden Pheasant, Her Gypsy Lover, Hoodlum, Little Miss Light Fingers, Love
and Applesauce, The Love Question, Married in Haste, Moonlight and Moonshine, Night Club Girl, The Old Grouch, Polecat Perkins (possibly also titled High Polecatâ€™s Romance), Puppy Love, Shepherd of the Hills, Silk Husbands and Calico Wives, Stepping Sisters, The Stuttering Romeo, Toby in Alaska, Toby Steps Out, The Town Constable, Way Down East, Where is My Teddy?, Wild Wimmen and Tame Men. Winter: Circle out of Ft. Dodge, played: Clarion, Gilmore City, Farnhamville, Woodstock, Palmer, Barnum. Cast of circle: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Fred Ballard, Gladys Bell, Emil Conley, Dick Darling, Loren H. Guin, Neil Helvey, Jane Jordan, Sally Ketchum, Roi Lorenzo, Vic Vatchner. Tent
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Carl Adamson, Fred Ballard, Dick Darling, Ray Fields, Dorothy and Roscoe Gerall, Al Gitzen, Clarence Godbey, Joe Mchaffey, Icel Nagel, Al Pitcaithley, Bobby Wirt.
Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Winfield, Oskaloosa, Mount Pleasant. 1934
Plays: City Girl and the Country Feller, The Haunted House, The Hoodlum, Nancy Gets a Break, No Wedding Bells, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Smilinâ€™ Through, Toby Among the Wild Women, Toby the High-pot-nist, Why Wives Worry. Winter
Towns: Fort Dodge, Nevada, Burlington, Canton MO, Edina MO. Circle stock out of Edina MO, also played Baring MO, Lewistown MO, Knox City MO and Leonard MO. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Loren H. Guin.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Prince Karah (Mystery man from India). Towns: Ottumwa, Wapello, Mount Pleasant. 1935
Records are not complete. Plays: Jittering Spooks, No Wedding Bells, The Pigâ€™s Chamber-maid, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Smilinâ€™ Through, Taming a Flapper, Ten Nights in a Barroom, Why Wives Worry. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Max Grigsby, Loren Guin, Martha Hirrer, Hillbilly Family (musicians), Cleve Lowers, Norcross Sisters, Joseph and Dottie Sauline. Circle stock out of Carthage IL. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, George and Bess Henderson, Monte Montrose.
Towns: Wapello. 1936
Plays: Clouds and Sunshine, Dr. X, Fair and Warmer, The Old Grouch, Runaway Match, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Welcome Old Home Town, Where is My Teddy? Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Edna and Neil Allen, Mickey Arthur, Monte Montrose, Neil and Marjorie Baker, Don Belville Orchestra. Towns: Wapello, Mediapolis, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Eddyville, Delta, Brighton, Washington, West Burlington, Donnellson, Gladstone IL, Lewistown MO, Carthage IL, Camp Point IL, Mount Sterling IL. 1937
Plays: The Awakening (of John Slater?), Baby Mine (Whose Baby is It?), Girl of the Golden
Pheasant, God’s Child, Haunted House, Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, Pat Piper’s Place, Sundown on Honeymoon Ranch, Toby’s Weakness, Unwanted Child, Why Girls Walk Home. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Phil Agne, Verne and Marcia Douglas, Guin Loren Herrincan, Clarence Klein, Jack Peterkin, Mona Rapier, Dancing Sotties, The Tune Tossers, Don Belville Orchestra, Scotty Greenhagen, canvasman. Towns: Wapello, Mediapolis, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Delta, Montezuma, Sigourney, Washington, West Burlington, Carthage IL, Canton MO, Lewistown MO, Quincy IL, Stronghurst IL, Mount Sterling IL, Camp Point IL, Kahoka MO, Queen City MO. 1938
Plays: The Awakening (of John Slater?), God’s Child, A Hollywood Madonna, Jim Bailey, The Love Test, No Wedding Bells, The Shepherd of the Hills, Weakness, Toby the High-pot-nist,
Toby’s Sit-down Strike, Toby’s Weakness, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, The Whitlock Family, Who’s Baby is It? Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Phil Ange, Verne and Marcia Douglas, Loren Herrincan Guin, Clarence Klein, Jack Peterkin, Mona Rapier. Towns: Marion, North English, Wapello, Mediapolis, Mount Pleasant, Delta, West Burlington, Canton MO, Camp Point IL, Quincy IL, Lewistown MO, Kahoka MO, Queen City MO, Bloomfield, Fort Madison. 1939
Plays: Cast of Love, David Harem, Jim Bailey, Lure of the City, Mother in Law, Rose of the Range, Tumbleweed, Why Wives Worry. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Billy Charles, Edward Furbush, Jean Dixon, Guin Loren Herrincan, Roy Hilliard, Art and Ruth Kavanaugh, Ruth Ramon, L. Verne
Slout, Ruth Whitworth, Hazel Williams, Wear Wildcats. Towns: Wapello, Mediapolis, West Point (one performance), Mount Pleasant, Delta, North English, West Burlington, Canton MO, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Lewistown MO, Memphis MO, Queen City MO, Bloomfield, Washington. 1940
Plays: Good Bandit, Jesse James, The Only Road, The Push, Shootin’ Girl, Small Town Girl (rewrite of Small Town Flapper), Toby and the Nazi Spies, Up in Mabel’s Room. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Ora Ackley, Billy Charles, Warda Hatcher, Lorraine and Charles Henton, Kenny Magoon, John Morris, Mundee and June (jugglers), Joe Tonuitti, director. Towns: Wapello, Winfield, West Point (Opera House), Mount Pleasant, West Burlington, Carthage Il, Canton MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point
IL, Palmyra MO, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Memphis MO, Kahoka MO, Queen City MO, Bloomfield, Delta. 1941
Plays: Hoodlum Husband, Law of the North, Men Against Democracy, Other Peopleâ€™s Business, The Push, Restless Wives, Twin Beds. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Ora Ackley, Fred Beckman, Billy Charles, Lorraine and Charles Henton, Clarence Klein, Rajah Kose, Albert Lowder, Martin Mitchell, Margaret Peachy, Ruth Whitworth, Dick Wolever, Marvin Wooden, L. Verne Slout, director. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Keokuk, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Memphis MO, Queen City MO, Bloomfield, Washington.
Plays: The Awakening of John Slater, Getting Gertie’s Garter, Moonshine Road, Skidding, Songs of Squaw Man, Tildy Ann, Turn to the Right (originally Keep to the Right), Toby and the Bearcat, Too Many Crooks, Yankee Doodle Boy. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Gail and Yvette Branccell, Billy and Lorraine Charles, Al and Velma Clark, Ray and Loretta Lamb (dog act), Betty Lee, Monte Montrose, Jeanette Reese, Dick Shankland, C. A. Thornton. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Delta, Mount Pleasant, Kahoka MO, Palmyra MO, Hannibal MO, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Memphis MO. 1943
Plays: Bachelor’s Honeymoon, Double Trouble for Junior, Her Night to Howl, Marion Grey, Mary’s Ankle, Moonshine Road, The Push, Toby in Guadalcanal, Toby in the Spook House,
Tropical Love, Valley Center, The Vulture, When the Cat’s Away, Wrong Bed – Right Husband (another title for Up in Mabel’s Room, not Right Bed, Wrong Husband which was written in 1955). Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Jack Bottoroff, Connie and Nillie Boyle, Billy Charles, Roy Hilliard, Oscar Howland, Mac Johnston, Clarence and Louise Klein, Mundee and June (Jugglers), Betty O’Conner, Janet Reese, Dick Sharkland. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Fairfield, Kahoka, MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Hannibal MO, New Sharon, Elsberry, Delta, Ottumwa, (stock in the Auditorium Theater four weeks). 1944
Plays: The Family Upstairs, In Laws and Outlaws, Junior ant the Female Wolf, Nancy Gets a Break, Natalie Needs a Nightie, Toby Goes to Washington, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, What Every Daughter Learns, What Charlie Brought Home.
Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Janet Barret, Lloyd Burns, Turner and Moreen Depenbrink, Roy Hilliard, Mac Johnson, Janet Little, Monte Montrose. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, Fairfield, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Lewistown MO, New Sharon, Ottumwa. 1945
Plays: Awakening of John Slater, Crying Out Loud, Gay Nineties, Her Unexpected Husband, Pigs, Please Get Married, Slowpoke. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Julio Averill, Gladys Bell, Charles Grindrod, Hildegarde (Schottleutner), Roy Hilliard, Harold Moore, Octavia and Marcia Powell, Raymond Rodrigez Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, Fairfield, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO,
Lewistown MO, Shelbina MO, Edina MO, Queen City MO, Ottumwa (stock). 1946
Plays: Clouds and Sunshine, Girl Trouble, Her Unexpected Husband, Hubba Hubba Grandma, Jittering Spooks, Lena Rivers, Marriage of ‘Lizbeth, Take My Advice, The Whitlock Family. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Julio Averill, Hildegarde (Schottleutner), Clarence Klein, Loretta Miller, Guy and Delores O’Neil, Malcom Nelson, Joe and Bernice Tonuitti, Wayne and Deloris Willman. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, Fairfield, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Shelbina MO, Bloomfield, Ottumwa, Queen City MO.
Plays: The Bachelor’s Bed, The Battling Bobby Soxer, Big Mouth Sister, The Bride said No, The Girl Next Door, Little Sister, No Time for Love, Sister Fix-it, The Stork Laid an Egg, What Mothers Don’t Know, Where is My Teddy?, Wrong Bridegroom Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Douglas Ackley, Robert Brewer, Bessie Delmore (Garn), J.C.M. “Gloomy” Garn, Robert Gentry, Clarence Klein, Novelle Lambert (Ackley), Paul McShane, Malcom Nelson, Maude Nevins (Gentry), James Richardson. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, New London, Delta, New Sharon, Fairfield, Mount Pleasant, Kahoka MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Queen City MO, Russell Centerville, Bloomfield, Memphis MO.
Plays: Bewildered Boy Friend (Junior is a Jerk and is Junior a Jerk?), Cheating Wives, The Girl Next Door, Her Unwelcome Relative, Hoodlum, Hopalong Toby, Once in a Blue Moon, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Silk Nightgowns and Long Underwear. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Rome Lee Schaffner, Robert Brewer, Dick Ellis, Dorrie Field, The Kailu Hawaiians, Norman Kron, Lowell Ketch, Malcom Nelson, Margaret Peachy (Ketch). Towns: Wapello, Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, New Sharon, Fairfield, Kahoka MO, Hannibal MO, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Quincy IL, Lewistown MO, Edina MO, Queen City MO, Centerville, Ottumwa, Russell, Unionville MO. Postseason: Wieting Theater, Toledo; Coliseum, Marshalltown; Rivoli Theater, Oskaloosa.
Plays: Behind the Country Schoolhouse, Hesitating Cowboy, How Funny Are People?, In Bed with Grandpa, The Return of Aunt Susan, Sputters, Sweethearts Again, Too Bashful for Betty, Tumbleweed, Who Stole Sallyâ€™s Slacks. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Freddie Boone, Paul Cox, Kenley Cunningham, Dorothy Eddy, Dick Ellis, Janice Davis, Goldie and Erman Gray (the Musical Grays), Lyle Gwin, Jack Kelton (the boy who tap dances while playing the Saxophone), Donald Lasley, Ed C. Ward, Don Weage. Towns: Wapello, Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, New Sharon, Fairfield, Memphis MO, Knox City MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Monroe City MO, Shelbina MO, Queen City MO, Unionville MO, Centerville Ottumwa. Postseason: Rivoli Theater, Oskaloosa.
Plays: Be Yourself, Down in Arkansas, Grandpa Moves In, Love and Strawberries (Love in the Strawberry Patch), Meet Dallas Daisy, Mother Knows Best, Not quite a Bride, Pa and Ma Snasby, Pepper Family, Toby Goes to Washington (Toby and the Communist Spies), Toby the Town Constable, Whoâ€™s to Blame. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Doug and Novelle Ackley, Doris Baird, Bernard Baler, Paul Cox, Dick Ellis, Arlene and Robert Hacha, The Tracy Family (singers and dancers), Ed Ward, Mason and Dorothy Wilkes. Towns: Wapello, Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Washington, Delta, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Edina MO, Unionville MO, Quincy IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Camp Point IL, Monroe City MO, Shelbina MO, Queen City MO, Russell, Centerville
Plays: Accidental Sweetheart, The Interrupted Honeymoon, Natalie Needs a Nightie (Betty’s Bedroom; and In Bed with Betty), Toby Hits the Jackpot, The Taming of Peggy, Sparkin’in Arkansas, Toby from Texas (Big Tex from the Flyin’ X and Tanglefoot Toby from Texas), Uncle Sol and His Hadacol. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Doug and Novelle Ackley, Bert Dexter, Jay Bee Flesner, Patricia Garber, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), The Collier Family (Replaced the Grays in September), Jan Rogers, Bobby Ross, Ed Ward. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Washington, Delta, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Edina MO, Lewistown MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Oakwood MO, Monroe City MO, Shelbina MO, Queen City MO, Russell, Centerville, Unionville MO, Memphis MO, Kahoka MO.
Plays: Accidental Sweetheart, Devil Chaser, Extra Bridegroom, Hillbilly Hoedown, His Paw from Arkansas, Hollywood Bound, Mother Knows Best, Nosey Neighbors, One Hour in Bed, Tattle Tale Toby, What Girls Find Out. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Don and Margaret Davis, Bert Dexter, Jack and Lucille Collier, Grace and Crawford Eagle (the Van Winkle Marionettes), Jay Bee Flesner, Delores Heft (later Dorn-Heft), Al Maddox, Chuck Neil, Norman Saltzman. Towns: Wapello, West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Washington, New Sharon, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Edina MO, Lewistown MO, Quincy IL, Camp Point IL, Palmyra MO, Shelbina MO, Monroe City MO, La Plata MO, Queen City MO, Russell, Centerville, Unionville MO, Kahoka Mo. 1953
Plays: Accidental Honeymoon, Amazing Mr. Boggs, Bashful Bedmates, Confessions of a
School Teacher, Disappearing Millions, Extravaganza, Good for Nothing Papa, Hopalong Toby, In Laws and Outlaws, In Connieâ€™s Cabana (Panty Snatchers), The Return of Captain Boggs, She Got What She Wanted, Susie Slick from Buzzard Crick, Toby Takes the Town, Too Pretty to Teach. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Charlene Allen, Jakie Branscomb, Sally Cranmer, William Ketcham, George Melson, Leslie Gordon Rea, Richard Tuner, Charles Waddington, Everett and Juanita Ward. Towns: Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Washington, New Sharon, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Edina MO, Lewistown MO, Monroe City MO, Perry MO, Palmyra MO, Quincy IL, Shelbina MO, La Plata MO, Queen City MO, Green City MO, Centerville, Unionville MO, Keokuk. 1954
Plays: Bachelor and the Widow, Girls on Bali Bali, Go Getting Grandpa, Honeymoon Hilarious, Never Married Widow, No Time for
Women, Right Bed - Wrong Husband, South Pacific Toby, Toby Tolliver of Stump Holler, Too Old to Cut the Mustard, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Tropical Love, We’d Like to Go to Bed, Jittering Spooks (Toby in the Spook House). Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Doug and Yvonne Ackley, Jack Branscomb, Bert Dexter, Grace Eagle, Jay Bee Flesner, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Bill Gray, Joseph Hang, Marlene King, June Knight, Caroline Poole, Richard Wagaman, Ed Ward. Towns: West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Washington, Delta, Keosauqua, Edina MO, Lewistown MO, Quincy IL, Monroe City MO, Palmyra MO, Shelbina MO, La Plata MO, Perry MO, Paris MO, Green City MO, Centerville Unionville MO, Kahoka MO.
Plays: Grandpa’s Night to Howl, Her Unwelcome Relative, How Funny Are People?, Once in a Blue Moon, Right Bed – Wrong Husband, The Stork
Was Careless, Sweethearts Again, Toby Hits Hollywood, Toby the High-pot-nist, Too Old to Cut the Mustard, What Every Daughter Learns. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, George Allen, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, William Edmonds, James Espey, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Ed Ward, Sondra Williams. Towns: West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Delta, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Kahoka MO, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Lewistown MO, Camp Point IL, Monroe City Mo, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, La Plata MO, Macon MO, Green City MO, Centerville, Unionville MO, Queen City MO. 1956
Plays: Apron Strings, Aunt Bridey, Bachelor’s Bride, Grandma’s Days, Mr. Tightwad (title only used once), Nosey Parents, Rock and Roll Cowboy, Silk Nightgowns and Long Underwear (Pajama Tops), Tired Toby, Two Guys One Doll. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, Jay Bee Flesner, John Kyle, Glenda
Reed, Bobby Smith, Ed Ward, Jack Woodruff, Jo Anne White. Towns: Washington, Delta, Fairfield, Keosauqua, Carthage IL, Augusta IL, Quincy IL, Palmyra MO, Hannibal MO, Roodhouse IL, Monroe City MO, Vandalia MO, Perry MO, La Plata MO, Macon MO, Centralia MO, Shelbina MO, Green City MO.
Plays: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Balladines (international dancers), Stan Casady, Diane Craig, Bert Dexter, Jay Bee Flesner, Margaret Gerber, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Diane and Buddy Manley, Wally Marks, Glenda Reed, Ed Ward, Jane Willows, Nan Wilson, Dick Zimmerman. Towns: Washington, Delta, Keosauqua, Mount Pleasant, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Edina MO, La Plata MO, Lewistown MO, Palmyra MO, Hannibal MO, Vandalia MO, Perry MO, Paris
MO, Centralia MO, Macon MO, Green City MO, Unionville MO, Centerville. 1958
Plays: Hillbilly Hilarity, Jim Bailey, Natalie Needs a Nightie, Pa from Arkansas, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Sally, Toby Goes to Washington, Uncle Sol and His Geritol. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Stan Casady, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, Grace and Crawford Eagle, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Raymond Lâ€™Dera, Ann Hall, Walter Lukas, Margaret Peachy, Donna Updyke. Advertising, Bill Claus. Towns: Washington, Delta, New Sharon, Mount Pleasant, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Edina MO, La Plata MO, Lewistown MO, Monroe City MO, Perry MO, Paris MO, Mexico MO, Centralia MO, Green City MO, Unionville MO, Kahoka MO, Burlington Fair (one performance).
Plays: Hillbilly Hillarity, Hot Shot Grandpa (Go Getting Grandpa), Merely Mary Ellen, Panty Snatchers, Susie Slick from Buzzard Crick, Tanglefoot Toby, Tildy Ann (Bashful Andy, Bewildered Boy Friend, and Marion Grey), Unmarried Widow, What Mothers Donâ€™t Know. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, Floyd Ditto, Grace and Crawford Eagle, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Bill Gray, Don Harsch, Lloyd Hohl, Carol Ohlson, Jean Whitman, Jane Willows, Larry Youngman. Towns: Washington, Delta, New Sharon, Keosauqua, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Edina MO, La Plata MO, Lewistown Mo, Monroe City MO, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Mexico MO, Centralia MO, Macon MO, Marceline MO, Burlington (fair, one performance),
Plays: Accidental Husband, Clouds and Sunshine, Devil Chaser, Hillbilly Hitchin’, How Funny Are People?, In Bed with Grandpa, She Learned About Men, Sweethearts Again, Toby Goes to Hollywood, Toby in Orbit (Out of this World), Toby Takes the Town, Truth or Consequences, Unexpected Husband, Wife Traders (Wife Swappers). Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Juanita Bellomy, Nelson Brittan, Caroline Cline, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, Grace and Crawford Eagle, Harold Gattis, Goldie Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Bill Gray, James Lonigro, Carol Ohlson, Jamie Pastor, Dale Whitt. Towns: Washington, Delta, New Sharon, Bloomfield, Keosauqua, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Edina MO, La Plata MO, Lewistown MO, Monroe City MO, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Mexico MO, Macon MO, Columbus Junction Fair (one performance), Burlington (one performance). 1961 – No tour
1962 – Farewell Tour
Plays: Back from Berlin, Feudin’ and Fightin’, Meet Dallas Daisy, Mr. Wimple Has a Dimple, Stump Holler Folks, Toby Goes to Washington. Cast: Neil and Caroline Schaffner, Dave and Maureen Castle, Flo and Shannon Darling, Jimmy Davis, Bert Dexter, Mike Flanagan, Bobby Gadban, Goldie and Erman Gray (The Musical Grays), Bill Gray, The Hardestys. Towns: Wapello, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa (one performance, Delta, New Sharon, Bloomfield, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Kahoka MO, Unionville MO, Edina Mo, Lewistown Mo, Palmyra MO, Vandalia MO, Centralia MO, Macon MO.
Plays: The All Night Prom, Happy Hollow Hillbillies, His Paw from Arkansas, An Ozark Wedding, Tantalizing Toby, Who Stole Uncleâ€™s Pants. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Bert Dexter, Jim Dotson, Grace and Crawford Eagle, Mike Flanagan, Connie Foster, Dave Hempel, Dave Meyers, Kent Morton, Judy Pollett, Terence Ryan. Maintenance, Bob Gadbaw. Advertising, Bill Claus. Towns: Wapello, New Sharon, Edina MO, Monroe City MO, Palmyra MO, Bloomfield, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Centralia MO, Macon MO. 1964
Plays: Auntie Beth, Happy Hollow Hilbillies, Her Bewildered Boy Friend, Once in a Blue Moon, Shepherd of the Hills, Silk Gowns and Long Underwear, Toby and the Jittering Spooks, Toby Smells Gunsmoke, Toby Takes the Town.
Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Dave Castle, Bert Dexter, James Dotson, Connie Foster, Ken and Roberta Griffin, Vivienne Hugh, Marvin Huls, George and Margaret Kleber, John O’Keef, Wayne Ryder, Al Smith, Beverly Tresan. Towns: Wapello, Delta, Kahoka Mo, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Memphis MO, Edina MO, Lewistown MO, Palmyra MO, Paris MO, Shelbina MO, Vandalia MO, Centralia MO, La Plata MO, Macon MO. Personal appearance at Midwest Threshers in Mount Pleasant. 1965
Plays: The Country Constable, Gunsmoke Over the Ponderosa, The Return of Aunt Susan, Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners, Three in a Bed (Aunt Mercy From Montana), Tildy Ann, Toby and the Exploding Ghosts, Toby Beats the Gamblers (The Gamblers and the Gossips), Toby Hits Hollywood, Toby’s Hoppin’ Hootenanny (Hopalong Toby), Why Lindy Ran Away.
Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis (eighteen days old), Gladys and Larry Able, David Castle, Bert Dexter, Keni Magoon, Wayne Ryder, Patti and Don Strong (vaudeville rope act), John Troust, Ann Wayner, Bob Wiltshire. Towns: Wapello, New Sharon, Keosauqua, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Lewistown MO, Unionville MO, Edina MO, Palmyra MO, Monroe City MO, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Centralia MO, Kahoka MO, Mount Pleasant, Macon MO. 1966
Plays: Big Tex From the Flyin’ X, Cindy (probably re-titled Slingshot Toby), Go Go Girl (title only used twice), Hillbilly Hitchin’, The Love Bug (title only used once), Love and Horseradish, Marion Gray, Natalie Needs a Nightie, Slingshot Toby, Toby Joins the Peace Corps, Tropical Love. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Jean Adams, Sally Bennett, Don Croxton, Bert Dexter, Laura Guthrie, Jim Harvey, Leo Lacey, Phyllis Miles, Dick Mueller, The Van Koeverings (vaudeville
novelty musical numbers), Marilynne Wilson. Handyman, Wayne Ryder. Towns: Wapello, Washington, Keosauqua, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Lewistown MO, Palmyra MO, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Centralia MO, Shelbina MO, La Plata MO, Edina MO, Kahoka MO, Mount Pleasant, Bloomfield, Unionville, MO, Adams County Fair, Mendon IL (one performance). 1967
Plays: Bitterness, How Funny are People?, In Connieâ€™s Cabana, Stump Holler Folks, Toby Hits Hollywood. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Linda Bailey, Annalee Delabar, Bert Dexter, Richard Grabish, Wendy Kartinos, Leo Lacey, Stan Jewell, David Wagaman. Towns: Wapello, Washington, Keosauqua (Van Buren County Fair, one performance), Mount Pleasant, Fairfield, Carthage IL, Canton MO, Palmyra MO, Unionville MO, Edina MO, Paris
MO, Centralia MO, La Plata MO, Hannibal MO, Kahoka MO. 1968
Plays: Her Hasty Honeymoon, Hillbilly Hilarity, Toby Goes to Washington (billed as His Paw From Arkansas in Centralia), Tom Sawyer (a thirty minute show often played as a second feature), Uncle Sol and His Geratol, What Mothers Don’t Know, Where is My Teddy? (Her Gypsy Lover in Quincy; Who Stole Uncle’s Pants, in Centralia). Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Ethan Allen, Jeanie Casady, Pam DelaBar, Bert Dexter, Charles Groce, Leo Lacey, The Ohlson Family (also did a vaudeville specialty as the Pudgets), David Wagaman. Towns: Wapello, Burlington, Carthage IL, Quincy IL, Paris MO, Lake Ozark MO, Macon MO, Monroe City MO, Shelbina MO, La Plata MO, Sedalia MO, (Missouri State Fair), Mount Pleasant.
Plays: Besides the Crystal Pool, Ghost of Goat Hill, His Pa from Arkansas, Jim Bailey, Dallas Daisy (Mini Skirts Bare Legs and Goosepimples), Right Bed Wrong Husband, Roaring Twenties Review (short show), Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Herb Baston, Lenny Baston, Jeanie Casady, Gary Cupp, Annalee Delabar, Patty DelaBar, Jim DelaBar, Bert Dexter, Chuck Groce, Stan Jewel, Terri Jewel, David Wagaman. Towns: Wapello, Carthage IL, Kahoka MO, Canton Mo, Des Moines, Mount Pleasant, Keosauqua (Van Buren County Fair one night). 1970
Plays: Hill Folks from Hogscratch, His Other Wife, Once in a Blue Moon, Three in a Bed, Toby Hits the Hot Line, Unmarried Widow.
Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Jerry Botkins, Jeanie Casady, Bert Dexter, Roger Erdmann, Chris Fuchs, Jon Graznak, Moletta Regan, Bill Ryder, Edward Shalstrom, Susan Synold. Towns: Edina MO, Canton MO, Kahoka MO, Centerville, Carthage IL, Palmyra MO, Vandalia MO, Paris MO, Shelbina MO, Macon MO, La Plata MO, Wapello, Washington, New Sharon, Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Mount Pleasant, (Old Threshers), Hutchinson, KS, (Kansas State Fair), one performance, Duquoin State Fair Grounds. 1971
Plays: Giggling Gossips, Grandpa Moves In, Headinâ€™ for the Hoedown, Three-In-One Review, Toby Goes to Mexico. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Jerry Botkins, Kevin Bufort, Jeanie Casady, Vicki Fitzgerald, Annalee Delabar, Bert Dexter, Rudy Henderson, Denny Houts, Bert Lacquement, Jr., Dave
Osborn, Randy Osborn, Jim Ryder, Jerry L. Smith. Towns: Edina, Mo, Marshalltown (Central Iowa Fair), New Hampton, Waterloo, (Dairy Cattle Congress), Hampton, Manson, Storm Lake, Harlan, Winterset, Centerville, Oskaloosa, (So. Iowa Fair), Perry, Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Mount Pleasant, (Old Threshers), Spencer (Clay County Fair), Van Horn (Farm Progress Show), one performance at What Cheer (Keokuk County Fair) and Columbus Junction (Louisa County Fair). 1972
Plays: All Night Prom, All of Tobyâ€™s Family (one hour), Hillbillies and Hot Pants, Silk Nightgowns and Long Underwear. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Chuck Bright, Kevin Bufort, Jeanie Casady, Bert Dexter, Ted Doleman, David Edwards, Bob Harvey, Leo Gasca (tight wire act), Winn Higgenbottom, Paula Lee, Maxine Lowman, Cliff and Bunny Ohlson, Jerry Perrin, Orville Starnes, Don Strong (rope and whip act).
Towns: Edina MO, Shelbina MO, Paris MO, Macon MO, Carthage IL, Riverside (Centennial celebration), New Sharon, Unionville MO, La Plata MO, Kahoka MO, Mount Pleasant (Old Threshers), Mankato MN, (Farmfest USA), Galesburg IL, (National Farm Progress Show), one performance at Wilton Junction (R.E.C. Day), and Macomb IL (Annual Arts Festival). 1973
Plays: Gunsmoke over the Ponderosa (Hopalong Toby), Midnight Motel Madness (In Connieâ€™s Cabana), Those Stump Knocker Folks, Where is My Teddy? (Her Gypsy Lover). Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Joe Becky, Chuck and Paula Bright, Jeanie Casady, Bert Dexter, Wayne Fredericks, Dennie Honda, Skip Lewis, Maxine Lomon, Phil Marshall, Richard McCulley, Charles Richards, Bruce Sommervile, Laura Wilkey. Towns: Carthage, Anamosa (Grant Wood Festival), New Sharon, Perry, Unionville MO, La
Plata MO, Macon MO, Shelbina MO, Paris MO, Edina MO, Milwaukee WI (Wisconsin State Fair), Wapello, Mount Pleasant (Old Threshers), Sandwich IL (DeKalb County Fair), Hutchinson KS (Kansas State Fair). 1974
Plays: Beside the Crystal Pool, Natalie Needs a Nightie, Toby Goes to Washington. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Jeanie Casady, Dave Chadderdon, Bill Chockley, Bert Dexter, E.C. Ellis, Mike Hall, Dennis Sherman, Sarla Stole, Harry Todd, Mary Williamson. Towns: Edina MO, Shelbina MO, Quincy IL, Saratoga NY (Spirit of America Fair), Carthage IL, La Plata MO, Macon MO, Paris MO, Louisville KY (Kentucky State Fair), Lincoln NE (Nebraska State Fair), Memphis TN (Mid-South Fair).
Plays: How Funny Are People?, Not Quite Married. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Jeanie Casady, Bert Dexter, Ted Doellman, E.C. Ellis, Tim Joyce, Terry McQuinn, Mike Perkowski, Bob Sorenson. Towns: Edina MO, Carthage IL, Mount Pleasant (Theatre Museum), Saratoga NY (Spirit of America Fair), Peoria IL (Heart of America Fair), Quincy IL, Macon Mo, Paris MO, Louisville KY (Kentucky State Fair), Lincoln NE (Nebraska State Fair), Malta IL (National Farm Progress Show).
Plays: Once in a Blue Moon, Susie Slick from Buzzard Crick, Three in a Bed (Aunt Mercy from Montana).
Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Daren Davis, Ryan Davis, Mark Ballard, Annalee DelaBar, Jeanie Casady, Riley Humeston, Michael Kramme, John Manlove, Don Montgomery, Tony Pierce, V Roy (magician), Lucinda LaBuda (in Perry), Jody Ponder (in La Plata and Macon), Joyce Grubb (in Shelbina). Towns: Edina MO, Carthage IL, Champaign IL (U of I Assembly Hall Mall), Minneapolis MN (State Fairgrounds, Boyâ€™s Club of Minneapolis), Perry, La Plata MO, Macon MO, Shelbina MO, Paris MO, Quincy IL, Indianapolis IN (Indiana State Fair), Mount Pleasant (Old Threshers), Topeka KS (Mid-America Fair), Indianapolis IN (National Farm Progress Show), one performance at Viola IL (Opera House) and Kansas City MO (Hallmark Crown Center).
Plays: Hillbillies in Hot Pants, Return of Aunt Susan, Showboat Ragtime Review (short play).
Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Annalee Delabar, Jeanie Casady, Michael Kramme, Sam Smith. Towns: Edina MO, Washington, Perry, La Plata MO, Paris MO, Quincy IL, Carthage IL, Indianapolis IN (Indiana State Fair), Mount Pleasant (Old Threshers). 1978
Plays: All Night Prom, Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners (The Giggling Gossip), The Tollivers of Two Mile Turn. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Jeanie Casady, David Ripper. Towns: Edina MO, La Plata MO, Columbia MO, (County Fair Grounds), Paris MO, (Old Threshers and Settlers Reunion), Quincy IL, Carthage IL, Rock Island IL (Rock Island County Fair), Wapello, Washington, Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Mount Pleasant (Old Threshers), Costa Mesa CA (Orange County Fair).
Plays: Hill Folks from Hogscratch, Silk Nightgowns and Long Underwear, Toby Hits Hollywood, Tobyâ€™s Show Review. Towns: Carthage IL, La Plata MO, Perry, Mexico MO, Fairfield, Forest City (National Winnebago Convention), Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Mount Pleasant. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Juanita Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Dana Fralick, Mark Moehle. 1980
Plays: Hillbilly Wedding, No Time for Love, Toby Goes to Washington, Why Lindy Ran Away. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Brant Davis (?), Darren Davis (?), Ryan Davis (?), Mike Burns, Dana Fralick, Liz Clayton, Rob Hastings, Mark Peper, Lisa Weimer.
Towns: Carthage IL, Quincy IL, La Plata MO, Macon MO, Paris MO, Mexico MO, Lewistown MO, Sedalia MO, (Missouri State Fair), Chicago IL (DuPage County Fair), Perry, Council Bluffs, Mount Pleasant. 1981
Plays: Hillbillies in Hot Pants (titled Give Me No Sass in Perry to tease long-time fan Barb Sass), How Funny Are People?, Once in a Blue Moon. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Nancy Berg, Rick Fischer, Dana Fralick, David Kelley, Natalie Knowlton, Todd McGree, Clayton Pannell, Mark Peper. Towns: Wapello, Edina MO, Paris MO, Quincy IL, Carthage IL, Macomb MO, Leroy MN (Western Days), Fort Dodge, Perry, Council Bluffs (West County Fair), Creston, Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Washington, Mount Pleasant.
Plays: Giggling Gossip (Sparkin’ in Arkansas), Three in a Bed (Two Tobies Tonight), Wrong Way Willie. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Dean Beckman, Jim Bringman, John Chrisinger, Rick Fischer, Jennifer Hardy, David Kelley, Todd McGee, Kevin McMafee, Mark Peper, Lisa Spellman. Towns: Edina MO, Council Bluffs, Sedalia MO (Missouri State Fair), Washington, Wapello, Paris, MO, Carthage, IL, Perry, Mount Pleasant. 1983
Plays: From Here to Hollywood, Handful of Horse Drovers, Hillbillies, Goosebumps and Moonshine, Marriage of ‘Lizabeth, Right Bed Wrong Husband, Mort Selby. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Brant Davis, Darren Davis, Ryan Davis, Doug Brown, Crystal Jo Nae Buck, Brian Haymond, Kathy Jo Jennings, Kevin Lewis, Dana Nelson, David Ripper.
Towns: Edina MO, Paris MO, Macon MO, Camp Point IL, Carthage IL, Wapello, Britt (Hancock County Fair), Perry, Des Moines (Iowa State Fair), Washington, Mount Pleasant. 1984
One-man show: Mississippi Valley Fair. Did not go on the road with tent, did performances of Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners with cast from The Blair House at Midwest Old Threshers, Mount Pleasant. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Ed Colby, Harold Dawson, Tom Dawson, Dave Elder, Kent Keating, Millie Keating, Lisa Lloyd, Chris McCurdy, Gary McCurdy, Sue Shepherd, Michael Zahs, Dave and Jennifer Kelly (magicians), Director: Michael Kramme.
1985 â€“ 1996
Performed one-man shows or small company productions for special events. Did not perform in the tent except two dates in 1990. 1996
Plays: The Best of Toby and Susie, Meet Ms Day from L.A., The Hooters from Hogscratch. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Grace Davis, Joe Brokken, Trent Heck, Jason Rheinschmidt, Angel Rossi. Towns: Fairfield, Glenwood, Jefferson, Coon Rapids, Ida Grove, Harlan, Red Oak, Pulaski, Washington, Mount Pleasant. 1997
Plays: Hillfolks from Hogscratch, Vignettes. Cast: Jimmy Davis, Grace Davis, Christopher Heller, Mandy Kindrick, Buddy Manly.
Towns: Fairfield, Macon, MO, Eldon, Paris, MO, St. Joseph, MO, Jefferson, Wabeno, WI, Baraboo, WI, Omaha, NE, Mount Pleasant.
The final performance of the Schaffner Players in the tent was on September 1st, 1997 in Mount Pleasant.
APPENDIX B PLAY LIST
The following plays were written by Neil Schaffner or Neil and Caroline Schaffner. The year is the year the play was written or first performed. This is not complete, many scripts do not give include the include the authorâ€™s name. Arkansas Wedding (1946) The Battling Bobby Soxer (1947) Back from Berlin (1962) rewrite of The Girl Next Door Be Yourself (1929) Big Tex of the Flyinâ€™ X (1951) Chain Stores (1929) also titled The Fighting Flapper Constable Thompkins (1925) also titled Town Constable
Crystal Pool (?) also titled Beyond the Crystal Pool, rewrite of novel and non-Schaffner play Trail of the Lonesome Pine The Devil and the Woman (1957) Feudinâ€™ and Fightinâ€™ (1962) Giggling Gossip (1957) rewrite of non-Schaffner play Saintly Hypocrites and Honest Sinners The Girl Next Door (1947) Go Getting Grandpa (1954) Grandpa Gets the Love Germ (?) Hardboiled Hamilton (1923) Her Bewildered Boy Friend (1923) Her Unexpected Husband (1945)
Her Unwelcome Relative (1948) rewrite of novel and non-Schaffner play Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Hesitatin’ Cowboy (1949) Hillbilly Hilarity (1952) Hillbilly Hoedown (1952) Hopalong Toby (1948) How Funny Are People (1949) also titled Truth or Consequences and She Learned About Men Hubba Hubba Grandma (1946) In Bed With Grandpa (1949) In Connie’s Cabana (1953) also titled Panty Snatchers In Laws and Outlaws (1944) Interrupted Honeymoon (1951)
Jittering Spooks (1929?) Meet Dallas Daisy (1950) also titled Bare Legs and Goosebumps Merely Mary Ellen (1959) Mr. Wimple Has a Dimple (1962) also titled Bachelorâ€™s Bride Movie Madness (1928) Natalie Needs a Nightie (1944) No Time for Love (1947) also titled No Time for Women The Old Grouch (1925) Once in a Blue Moon (1948) rewrite of Why Girls Walk Home Restless Wives (1930) The Return of Aunt Susan (1949)
Right Bed, Wrong Husband (1955) Silk Nightgowns and Long Underwear (1956) rewrite on non-Schaffner play The Awakening of John Slater The Stork Laid an Egg (1947) Stump Holler Folks (1962) Susie Slick from Buzzard Crick (1953) Three in a Bed (1957) Toby Hits Hollywood (1955) Toby Goes to Washington (1940) also titled Toby and the Nazi Spies Toby in Orbit (1960) also titled Out of This World Toby Takes the Town (1953) Toby the High-pot-nist (1928) Too Pretty to Teach School (1953)
Trial of the Lonesome Pine (1937) based on the novel Uncle Sol and His Hadacol (1951) later titled Uncle Sol and His Geratol Unmarried Widow (1959) The Vulture (1923) Wild Wimmen and Tame Men (1930) What Every Daughter Learns (1928) What Mothers Donâ€™t Know (1947) rewrite of Chain Stores Where is My Teddy? (1926) also titled Panty Snatchers Why Girls Walk Home (1927) The Wrong Bridegroom (1947)
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