The Tales that Dead Men Tell

The final chapters and the conclusion of Holly George’s “Show Town,” again, discusses the battle between the ‘legitimate’ and the variety theaters in the Spokane region. Of course, the high class members of society want the legit; the variety, although more entertaining, is for the bottom of the barrel people, not for those who strive for sophistication. The origin of the shows that came to Spokane was also discussed. New York was the original hub of theater, any and all shows that wanted to actually make a name for themselves and be something had to make it to New York. The railroad that made the city accessible to people, that helped the city grow, was also its connection to the theater network that ran across the country. Unfortunately, Spokane is literally across the continent from New York, so there were many pit stops along the way for shows, and what reason did Spokane even have to make the performers’ trips worth while? Spokane was easily accessible by the railroad, but what made it more than just a pit-stop to the bigger, more thriving Seattle, or even onward to places like San Francisco? If Spokane was to compete they needed something promising to the entertainment, they built more theaters to accommodate more shows, like The Spokane and the American, added to the already built Auditorium, and many more. Spokane was also able to promise huge audiences, the city was growing by as much as 6,000% some years! Spokane was going to try its best to be a theater hub that could compete with the best of them.

Unfortunately, around the time of World War I, the theater business was already starting to go down, and with the country distracted by more pressing issues most shows got cancelled or postponed in places like New York and completely forgotten about in places like Spokane. Once the war was ended, “Broadway soon revived; the stage in Spokane did not” (136) as the city “mattered less and less to the New York moguls.” (135) As a result of the downward trend of legit theater, more controversial shows came back into popularity with all classes of civilians. The complication with this was the same as it had always been, “where could women and girls appear without ruining their reputations” (140) also, to what level could the entertainment go before it started to push social boundaries?

actress
Anna Held, an actress that portrays charm as well as some “polite naughtiness” a mix of traits needed at the time. Source: “Show Town” page 152.
It was during this time that the “tights fight” played itself out. A Miss Frances Slosson was assigned a role where she would have to wear scarlet tights. She refused as she had never before had to wear tights for a role as all of her dresses had covered her legs and “the sight of a full female silhouette had erotic appeal” (153) to the lustful eyes of men.

It seemed that there would always be controversy in the theater and with less and less acts stopping in Spokane, theater after theater closed its doors. The city was too far off the radar of big theater towns, and after the slump that it had gone through during the war, it never made a full recovery. Around the same time live theater was ending, the cinema came into play and being a moviemaker was the ‘next big thing.’ Not everyone could make it into the business, especially those from little old Spokane, but everyone could go enjoy a captivating show at the new theaters.

Chapter eight of “Nearby History” was about artifacts and the ten categories they can be sorted into according to Robert G. Chenhall. Some of these categories include personal artifacts, tools, and transportation equipment, as well as an abundance of others. This chapter also discusses the importance of artifacts, why they are important to historians and how they can be used today to create a story about the people who used them as part of their daily lives in the past, as well as what happens to an artifact after it is recovered, does it belong in a museum or not and why one chooses to take that action whatever it may be. Also, what happens when an artifact is taken to a museum, does it get locked away under glass forever, is it lost in a basement somewhere, virtually lost, or is it easily accessible to those trying to do research? This chapter, essentially, relates public history to the field of historical archaeology.

artifacts
Artifacts are not always found in the ground by archaeologists, instead, historical artifacts can be found in attics, basements, old barns, and other storage areas. Source: “Nearby History” page 176.
The final section of this week’s assignments was a podcast about Colma, California, “The Modern Necropolis,” a place where the dead outnumber the living. This story introduces us to our final project of the quarter, “Dead Men Tell no Tales.” The podcast speaks about how people have viewed and used cemeteries in in the United States. First, as public spaces, where farmers could graze their animals and people could just hang out. Then, as outbreaks of diseases took place, where only the dead could be and as far away from the living as possible. Then, as a magical garden landscape, a sort of heaven on earth. Also, just

cemetery
Cemeteries are kind of like a heaven on earth, a secluded garden in the middle of metropolis. Source
because you plan to end up in one place after you die, it does not mean you WILL end up there, or that you will stay there forever. Some cemeteries get moved, the bodies reburied (if the family can pay for it), and the headstones used for other projects. Feel free to listen to the whole podcast here and find out for yourself the tales that dead men can tell.

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One thought on “The Tales that Dead Men Tell

  1. I didn’t realize that the US cemetery culture(being buried permanently) was so unique compared to the rest of the world. It makes sense, since we are a young nation with a lot of land. The 99% Invisible Podcast was kind of an eye opener for me. It’s pretty surprising how frequently cemeteries completely changed their locations, or even that you could have a cemetery with more graves than people!

    Liked by 1 person

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