Other Golden Years 1975-1976
The first major production of the Little Theatre of
1975 was "Send Me No Flowers," under the direction of
Sherm Doolen and Marilyn Gluck. A sneak preview for patrons only
was given on January 18, with the first public performance on January
The Centralia Philharmonic Orchestra presented their first midwinter
concert on Sunday, February 9. This was the first time in recent
years that they had given a concert during the winter months. For
the first time, J.T. Alexander was not the Director. Elza Allen,
Director of Instrumental Music for Centralia City Schools, made
his first appearance as their Conductor.
On Sunday, March 21, the Choral Society presented "The Messiah,"
under the direction of Margaret Sapp. The performance was given
in the sanctuary of the First United Presbyterian Church.
The twelfth annual musical, Showboat, was presented in the CHS auditorium
on April 19, 20, 25 and 26 in 1975. Robert Cover was the Director.
In the late spring, the Illinois Arts Council awarded two grants
to the Centralia Cultural Society. The first grant for $500.00 was
given to the Philharmonic Orchestra. The second grant for $600.00
was earmarked for the Cultural Society Newsletter. Also in the spring
the Cultural Society received further recognition as one of the
finest cultural organizations in Illinois when they received a grant
from the Illinois Arts Council to hire a full-time administrator.
The grant covered a three year period after which time the individual
was expected to be permanently established in arts work in the community
The Palette and Brush Club held their spring art exhibit on the
Mall in downtown Centralia on June 27. The exhibit featured works
of Club members only and included landscapes, still life, portraits,
and abstracts in all media. The downtown merchants gave a free painting
to the winner of a drawing.
"Antigone" opened the summer season of Little Theatre
Players '75. Mike Boyll was the Director and Bruce Geary was Technical
Assistant. The play was billed as "Broadway Like Today's Headlines,
But Written 442 Years Before the Birth of Christ."
In midsummer Beryl Perry, a native of Johnson City, Tennessee, was
named Executive Administrator of the Centralia Cultural Society.
She had attended the University of Miami and East Tennessee State
University, with majors in business and art. Her duties included
program coordination, fund raising, office management and public
relations. The creation of the position was made possible through
the joint efforts of the Cultural Society and the Illinois Arts
In July, Summer Session '75 presented the "40's, a musical
revue. This musical drama was a nostalgic trip down memory lane
based on a USO touring show, bringing a little mom, apple pie, and
home to the boys in blue. It moved the imagination to characters
from radio, hits from Broadway and Hollywood, to the Andrews Sisters,
star-spangled, flag-waving salute to America. The originator and
director was Bruce Geary.
On Friday, August 15, Summer '75, presented a "Musical Parable
of Love." The musical also labeled "The Fantastiques"
was produced by Mike Boyll and Gail Plassman. Pat Phillips and Bruce
Geary gave technical assistance.
In the summer of 1975, a fifth segment was added to the Cultural
Society. A small group of writers centered in the Centralia area
organized for the purpose of publishing a literary magazine, featuring
poetry, short fiction, photography and original art. The driving
force behind this new group was LeRoy Peterson.
On September 28, the Choral Division presented Lowery Coleman of
Springfield, and a former Centralian, in a piano and organ concert
of classic, jazz, popular, and religious selections.
The Centralia Evening Sentinel in the Opal O'Pines column reported
that folding chairs were placed in every available space, but still
there were more than fifty people standing.
The Palette and Brush Club sponsored the fourteenth Fall Art Show
on October 3 and 4. It was held in the former Woolworth Building
and featured exhibits of paintings, sculpture, pottery, drawings,
pastels and original crafts. The Palette and Brush Club held six
weeks of introductory art classes for grade school students. The
classes, which began in October, were taught by local artists.
On October 19, the Centralia Philharmonic Orchestra was joined by
the Choral Society for a program with a Bicentennial flavor. Elza
Allen led the Orchestra and Joan Behrens directed the Chorus.
In November, the Little Theatre Players presented "Marriage
Fortunes." Billed as a "Nite of One-Act Plays," Sally
Lunkwiecz and Raymon Smith were the Directors. Five short plays:
"Write Me a Love Scene," "The Poet, the Editor, and
the Nurse,""Swordfish and Broadfish,""Yes, Dear,"and
"Gypsy Fortune" were presented.
The first issue of the Creative Endeavors Literary Magazine was
presented at a reception on November 20 at 7:30 at the Cultural
Center. Members and Patrons had an opportunity to welcome the newest
member group and to preview their first publication. The Creative
Endeavors also organized a Poetry Festival, which was held at the
Center on December 5, 6 and 7. Three poets from the Graduate School
at SIUC: Dan Seithers, Floyd Oliver and Bob Randolph, conducted
the three day workshops.
The fifteenth Christmas Candlelight Concert was held on December
14. Elza Allen led the Orchestra once again, Joan Behrens directed
the Chorus, Margaret Sapp was in charge of the Children's Choruses,
and Dee Ford directed the High School Chorus.
By year's end, "Cultural Society News," had grown from
an original circulation of 275 t0 1300.
Early in 1976, the Palette and Brush Club announced that 40 children
in grades 5-8 had participated in the workshop which their members
had staffed. The workshop concluded with an exhibit of the students'
work for family and friends. Alex Yarema, a sculptor, had moved
to Centralia in January. He was employed to visit and work with
students in the Centralia City Schools. His studio was located in
the former Woolworth Building. Evening classes for adults were held
in his studio.
The Creative Endeavors members announced that a new literary magazine,
"The Stone Jar," was available for purchase. Copies were
obtainable by mail for $1.00 plus $.25 for postage and handling.
The Philharmonic Orchestra presented its final program of the 1975-76
season on Sunday, March 21. David Drillinger was featured as a trumpet
soloist with Elza Allen conducting.
The Choral Society presented Felix Mendelssohn's major oratorio,"Elijah,"
on April 11 at the First Baptist Church. Joan Behrens directed the
oratorio, which featured alto, tenor, and baritone solos, as well
as a full chorus of mixed vegetables.
Certainly one of the greatest musical events ever to take place
in Centralia was the presence of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
on April 20, 1976. The second oldest symphony in the United States,
this group has 988 members. Bringing the St. Louis Symphony to Centralia
was a joint project of the Centralia Cultural Society and Kaskaskia
College. Assistance also came from the South Central Community Concert
Association and the Illinois Arts Council. The event involved persons
from five counties and forty-four communities. The two day residency
in Centralia began with master classes for area musicians on April
20 on the Kaskaskia College Campus. Individual classes in all orchestral
instruments were available and opportunities were given for selected
students to perform for the principal musicians of the St. Louis
Symphony. Master classes were also available for student ensembles.
On the evening of April 20, the Symphony presented a formal concert
for members of the community Concert Association. On April 21, two
special concerts were held, one for elementary school students and
one for high school and college students. The final offering of
the residency was a joint rehearsal where selected students had
an opportunity to perform with their counterparts in the St. Louis
Symphony. Leonard Slatkin, Associate Principal Conductor of the
St. Louis Symphony, was present throughout the residency and was
the Conductor for this joint rehearsal.
The month of May in 1976 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the
Cultural Society. The Centralia organization was one of only 250
arts organizations in the nation to have a full-time salaried administrator.
It was one of the ten largest arts organizations in Illinois.
"Oliver" was the Cultural Society's thirteenth
spring musical. The play was under the direction of Mike Boyll and
is based on the Charles Dickens' classic, Oliver Twist. The two
act musical comedy had a cast of fourteen seasoned performers. James
Loomis directed the Orchestra, with Dee Ford in charge of the Chorus.
Viki Oliver was in charge of Choreography.
On the last week of April and first week in May, the Little Theatre
Company produced "Four Poster Bed", a three act comedy.
The play was unique in that it had a cast of two. Pat Patterson
directed the duet, Madge McCall and Harry Pick.
On June 26, the Little Theatre Players presented "Liberty Bell
of the West" as a part of Bicentennial Week in Centralia. The
historical comedy, written by King Lambird, a Centralian, tells
of the capture of Kaskaskia by George Rogers Clarke. The performance
was held at the Library Park Bandshell.
On July 17, the Cultural Society held a fund raising event entitled
"Auction Unique "76." Items on the auction block
included chauffeured limousine service to and from St. Louis, a
glider ride, use of a 60" houseboat on Carlyle Lake, a case
of wine, St. Louis Cardinal baseball tickets, piano tunings and
a stained glass window. Wilfred Holzhauer, local auctioneer, offered
his services at no cost to the Cultural Society.
A wine and cheese tasting preceded the auction. Tickets of $5.00
per person included $2.00 in script which could be used on the purchase
of any item sold at the auction.
Also film maker Ralph Bernstein spent several days in Centralia
in July preparing a documentary on the Artist in Residency Program
here. The Program was conducted by professional artist Alex Yarema
who lived in Centralia from January to May teaching a variety of
art media to adults and students. The film, which includes sound,
features, workshop sessions, school projects, and interviews, was
produced through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. The documentary
will be used by the Arts Council to promote the Artist In Residence
Program. Plans were made to show it throughout the state.
"Blithe Spirit" was presented by the Little Theatre Players
on the second and third weekends of September. Pat Patterson was
The fifteenth Fall Art Fair was held on October 1 and 2 in the Home
Federal Savings and Loan Building. Thirteen towns were represented
in the show.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Directors, it was learned
that the July Auction had netted $3500. Also at this fall meeting
it was decided not to renew the contract of Beryl Perry, Administrator
of the Cultural Society. Many people felt that she had done a commendable
job, but others wanted to return to the previous method of members
themselves performing the functions that she had been hired to do.
Lou Ferguson was employed as a salaried secretary for the Cultural
Society. The hours when she was available to answer questions and
give program information were from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Mondays
thru Fridays. This position had previously been held by volunteer
On Sunday, November 14, the Choral Society presented a concert of
varied music, with Joan Wham directing. The concert featured three
styles of music: sacred, secular, folk songs from America, Ireland,
England, Germany, Scotland, Broadway songs and novelty songs.
The Candlelight Christmas Program was held on December 5. David
Drillinger, was the Conductor for the Orchestra, Joan Wham for the
Chorus, Dee Ford for the Centralia High School and Sue Ellen Mooney
for the City Schools' Chorus.