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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 24.
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 Council.
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 Director.
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 workers.
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.

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