1912: Birth of a City
Theatrical Performance Takes Beaumont’s History Center Stage
Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.”
That was surely so this weekend (Nov. 17-18) during the city’s Centennial Celebration.
Actors took the stage at the Beaumont Civic Center and inspired the audience to rise in standing ovations for the centennial play, “1912: The Birth of a City.”
The plot takes place Election Night, 1912 as townsfolk await results of the cityhood election. Farmers, homemakers, city folk and others gather around an old-time radio to learn if Beaumont will become a city on its third try.
After playing to packed houses Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, the actors from Catch A Star Theatrical Players linked hands, took a bow and closed the show of a century!
Audiences who were lucky enough to see one of two performances saw once again the magic of live theater. It seemed as though the clock had been turned back and once again, they experienced the night Beaumont had been born, just like our forefathers did.
The powerful, if sometimes humorous drama unfolded before our eyes, and we got to see portrayals of two of the biggest luminaries of the day, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, who became a heroine after the sinking of the Titanic; and Houdini, the legendary magician who made it look easy escaping from chained trunks dropped under water.
So if you missed those moving performances, we’re including a script for our city’s very own centennial play. Now you too can relive those historic moments!
“1912: The Birth of A City”
MC Bob Sherwood: Welcome to our Centennial Gala, everyone!
Are you ready to celebrate 100 years of pride and progress in Beaumont?
We’re honored this evening to present an original play, “1912: The Birth of a City,” produced by our very own city of Beaumont and Catch A Star Theatrical Players.
We’ll take you back to the beginning, to a time when the streets were dirt, horse and buggies clopped along Fifth Street, and a few lucky Model T owners hit their ahooga horns and waved to their neighbors. Yes, those were the days!
So without further ado, let’s step into a time machine, go back
a century and explore our roots. Once again, it’s 1912, a century ago; when our community took its first step toward becoming the great city we are today.
[ Music: “Red Pepper Rag” by Prince’s Orchestra.]
Narrator: Good evening, everyone. I know we’re all here tonight for the same reason—to see if Beaumont’s third bid for cityhood will be successful. It’s been a long road, but I hope tonight will be the end of our journey.
Now, we won’t get the results till later, so while we wait, we’ve planned a little entertainment for you from two old friends—longtime residents who have lived in Beaumont from the beginning, working to put us on the map; and two surprise guests, both on nationwide tours who have kindly agreed to stop by to offer their support for our cause.
This year is almost over, but 1912 has been a year to
We elected a new President, Mr. Woodrow Wilson, who will be
replacing President Taft next year.
We got two more of those moving picture studios out there in
Hollywood-land. One is called Universal Pictures, and the
other is Paramount Pictures. So many of the studios didn’t
make it, so I don’t see these two lasting very long either.
We added two new states: New Mexico in January and
Arizona in February. That makes 48; now we’re
connected from coast to coast. There’s no more room. Looks
like the next flag they make will be the last one we ever need.
The fifth summer Olympics were held in Sweden this year with 28 countries participating, can you imagine that? America won 25 gold medals, more than any other country. Two of those medals went to Oklahoma’s own Jim Thorpe. This young man can do it all. He has truly earned the title of “The Greatest Athlete in the World.”
We lost several well-known people this year. You probably read their obituaries in the Beaumont Leader, but if you didn’t, here’s a few you might remember.
Bram Stoker. The fellow who wrote that book called “Dracula.” Kept me up a few nights, I tell you.
We lost Clara Barton. The woman who founded the American Red Cross. Now that’s quite a legacy to leave behind.
And Wilbur Wright. Well, you all know what he did. And look how far we’ve come. People are jumping out of airplanes with parachutes. We’re using airplanes in our military services. Men and women breaking records, like flying coast to coast in a matter of days, or crossing the English Channel in record time. There’s no telling how far aviation can go. The sky is literally the limit.
Something else happened this year, something the world will never forget. From now on, 1912 will become synonymous with one word, and that word will be whispered in the solemn tone it evokes: “Titanic.” Just last April 15th, over fifteen hundred lives were lost, but of the lucky few who survived, we have one of the most heroic here with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present to you the Unsinkable Molly Brown!
Molly Brown: Good evening, everyone. It’s wonderful to be here. Well, I must say, the train ride into town was real nice— left me right off at the depot on Egan Street. And here I am, high and dry and unsinkable as always.
This has indeed been an eventful year. But the one event I know about firsthand happened on April 15th, you remember. You probably heard about all the trouble I got myself into when I took over the lifeboat from the Titanic and tried to find folks who, God willing, might still be alive in that freezing water. God almighty, I’ll never forget it. We were near frozen ourselves, but we kept on searching as long as we could. The crewman in our boat didn’t like what I was doing one bit, he even cussed me out. He kept whining that we’d be pulled down in the sinking ship’s wake or overturned by desperate people trying to board our little boat. I looked him right in the eye and said, “That’s a chance we have to take. I’m not afraid. When I was a girl I almost drowned in the Mississippi River when I was thrown from a raft by a cyclone. I thought I was a goner for sure, but at the last minute, I was rescued by Mark Twain himself. I wasn’t ready to go then and I’m sure as hell not ready to go now.” Then, I threatened to throw the crewman overboard that finally shut him up. Then, just like George Washington crossing the Delaware, I took my place at the prow of lifeboat #6 and shouted, “C’mon girls, grab an oar and let’s go. It’s your men out there. There’s plenty room for more.”
Now, a lot of the reporters I’ve met during this cross-country speechmaking have suggested that perhaps “I tend to invent facts when the truth won’t do,” that they’re nothing but a whole lot of razzmatazz. Well, they can write whatever they want. Like I always say, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, just so they say something.”
Speaking of newspapers, on my way over here tonight somebody handed me a copy of your Beaumont Leader. It reminded me of the Herald Democrat from my old hometown of Leadville, Colorado. Well, I read it from cover to cover because like I always say, I’m interested in everything.
Well, one article caught my eye, the one about your election to make Beaumont a city and how it’s the third time you’ve tried, got me to thinking, what’s that old saying about the third time being the charm?
Let me tell you, if you folks are the same as those kind, determined people who met me at the station, then there’s nothing you can’t do. This town has the makings of a great city, a place where people and dreams never quit. I know you’ve worked hard for this, and it may sometimes feel like it’s been an uphill climb, but like I always say, “I may be tuckered and I might give out, but I won’t give in,” just like you good people, and if the voting goes your way like I expect it will, then a
hundred years from tonight, this Beaumont waiting to be born
will finally celebrate its centennial, and people will look back with great pride on this important occasion.
Now, what time are we supposed to get the results? (Molly looks toward the wings. Someone there stage whispers “11 p.m.”) Well, while we’re waiting we’re going to hear from a few more interesting folks.
But before I go, I expect you’ve got some questions, so fire away.
Brown AUDIENCE QUESTION # 1: We women just won the right to vote in California state elections, and we took advantage of that in the cityhood election. We’ve heard that you support women’s suffrage. Do you think we’ll ever get to vote for President?
Molly Brown: Well, I believe we’ll get to vote in federal elections, but we have a long way to go. Why I couldn’t even testify at the Titanic hearings just because I’m a woman. But I was able to run for the U.S. Senate twice. A woman can hold a federal office but she can’t even vote for herself! But even without the vote, we ladies still have a voice: The First Amendment. They couldn’t stop me from writing my own account for the newspapers.
Brown AUDIENCE QUESTION #2: You’ve traveled and seen the world on a grand scale. Do you have any advice for our small community?
Molly Brown: Yes, I have travelled a lot, and I highly recommend it, but you know, the best part of any trip is coming home. This looks like a pretty nice place to come home to. And never forget—be true to yourselves, and history will take care of the rest.
Narrator: Thank you, Molly. Now, our next guest made his mark on the world back in July. This is a man who has played Russian roulette with death time and again and has won every time. A man who has never allowed fear to stop him from achieving his goals and dreams. Ladies and gentlemen, the great Houdini and his assistant, Marguerite.
(Marguerite enters from stage right as the curtains are opened just enough so that the trunk may be seen. Marguerite gestures on both sides of the trunk, then taps the top. Houdini emerges. Marguerite exits stage left.)
Harry Houdini: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it’s wonderful to be here tonight.
Perhaps, you read about my famous death-defying act back in July in New York’s East River. It was one of my most famous escapes. I was locked in handcuffs and leg irons, nailed into a crate, which was roped and weighed down with two hundred pounds of lead, then, slowly lowered into the water.
I’ve learned that the easiest way to attract a crowd is to advertise that I am going to attempt something so dangerous that failure will mean certain death. Well, I attracted a crowd that day. I made that escape in only 57 seconds!
Some people think I have supernatural powers. It may seem that way, but the public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick; they have no conception of the tortuous preliminary training and discipline that is necessary to succeed.
Am I afraid when I attempt these dangerous escapes? Of course! But my chief task has been to conquer fear, so my brain is the key that sets me free. I believe magic is a science, but it has never been accepted by the scientific community because they can’t understand it. What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.
And so before I must leave you to face death once again at a show in Los Angeles, I just want to say, don’t be afraid of the outcome tonight. In this world, our fate is unknown. But you can create your own magic. Conquer your fear and become the masters of your own destiny; break the chains and shackles of doubt. Escape the past and become the city you have dreamed about. No handcuffs or iron boxes can hold you when the dream is so real. Just like Beaumont, I’ve known difficulty and struggle. But those possessed of strong will and pride will always make the magic happen. What they see and what they dream is not an illusion. This will be a night to remember. If there are any questions, I’ll take them now.
Houdini AUDIENCE QUESTION #1: Do you believe that the spirit world will swing the vote our way tonight?”
Houdini: I don’t believe that ghosts or spirits exist. But any spiritual belief is a good thing. Forget about spirits! You’re the ones who will swing the vote your way. It’s your right as Americans, and it’s that vote that will bring progress and cityhood to Beaumont!
Houdini AUDIENCE QUESTION #2: How can we believe that magic is real? After all, we’ve already tried this twice before and lost both times.
Houdini: I think we’ll see a bit of magic before too long. What happened in those first two failed elections for cityhood is all in the past. Tonight is your present, and the city of Beaumont is your future.
Good might everyone. (exit stage right
Narrator: Thanks for being here, Harry! Good luck tonight. Now, I told you we were going to hear from two people who live right here in Beaumont. People who have worked tirelessly to make our town what it is today, and with their hard work, I think the vote may finally swing in our favor tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, your neighbor and friend, T.O. Hastings!
Hastings: It’s dawn to dusk in these fields. The alfalfa needs harvestin’. The orchards need prunin’. Fence posts to mend and a barn to paint. And this morning, like every morning, had to milk the cows and collect eggs before the sun came up.
Like they say, ‘Your work is never done on a farm!’ But here in Beaumont, I’d say life’s pretty good and gettin’ better!
Mother Nature gives us some rain just when we’re needin’ it most. Ain’t much more that a man can ask for, except what I’m hopin’ for tonight, cityhood.
I’m for it and hopin’ it passes this time. Lot of my neighbors feel the same. Be good for this town, havin’ some say over our future, and it might even mean a boom before long.
Why, I remember when I first moved to these parts some 25 years ago. Beaumont was just a wide spot in the road, but it didn’t take long before we started to grow. Pretty soon, there was two stores, a saloon and post office, livery stable, grain warehouse, a schoolhouse, maybe three hotels and a couple churches, if I remember right.
But we were just getting started. We’re still growing, but being our own city would make people sit up and take notice! Might mean more businesses and schools, maybe a real library, more packing houses for shipping our crops. Grange meetings would fill up with farmers, and we could make ourselves heard up in Sacramento. Who knows, someday those politicians might even send us some water down a canal or maybe a big, ol’ pipeline. And the railroad? Havin’ the trains come through—well that’s something that would really put us on the map!
Well, I guess it won’t be long now before we find out if Beaumont becomes a city or not.
I see some neighbors out there noddin’ their heads with me. Let’s hear what they got to say.”
Hastings AUDIENCE QUESTION #1: Farming built this town. You can see our fields clear up to the mountains. What if we become a city and newcomers see things different? What happens to us farmers?
Hastings: Ain’t nothing going to change the future of farming. Agriculture is king. Look around you. See all those row crops and orchards? We got thousands of acres, plenty of room in Beaumont for houses, farms, and a bigger downtown, too. You got nothing to fear.
Hastings: AUDIENCE QUESTION #2: Well, then how’s things going to change?”
Hastings: Well, you know how sometimes you just can’t find what you want, and so you have to look for things in the Sears & Roebuck catalog? You can bet there will be brand new stores where you’ll be able to shop right here in your own hometown on Saturdays. Robert Fulton is going to be busy at his drug store with that hand-cranked ice cream machine selling those Beaumont Sundaes topped with local fruit. Who knows? Maybe ten passenger trains-a-day will chug over the Summit and stop off in Beaumont, bringing us nice, new folks wanting to settle here and take advantage of the great services only a city can provide. Very progressive. Wait a minute, I like the sound of that. (He thinks a second) “Beaumont—a progressive city with a small-town feel.” Yep, I surely do like the sound of that.
Narrator: Thanks T.O. All of us here tonight share your vision for our future. Now, our last guest is a woman who has been the leading force in our town for education. Without her hard work, we wouldn’t have our schools, and we’re all familiar with her efforts to provide Beaumont with its own public library. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Mrs. Sarah Dilworth.
(Curtains part. SARAH DILWORTH is seated on stage in an old- fashioned dress, gently swaying in a rocking chair. She is doing needlepoint. Her two kids play jump rope nearby. They’re chanting a popular 1912 rhyme:
“My mother gave me fifty cents
To see the elephant jump the fence
He jumped so high, he touched the sky
And never came down ‘til the Fourth of July.”
Sarah gets up, walks across the stage and quiets the youngsters and suggests they read a book. Sarah walks to center stage to deliver her monologue.)
Sarah Dilworth: Well, it won’t be long now. Those results will be comin’ in shortly.
I’m so excited about this election! You see, it’s the first time women have been able to vote in California state elections!
And we women worked so hard for this election. Just like we did a couple of years ago on that library measure, which passed, by the way. And we couldn’t even vote then!
Well, now it’s time for us to become a city. No more “Sleepy Hollow!” We’ll be the first real city in the Pass!
Down at the grange, and at the library, we’ve been talkin’ a lot about incorporation. Of course, you folks know that the library room at the Bank of Beaumont is just a temporary place for our books. Someday, we’re gonna build us a big new library for our new city to enjoy. We’re gonna need a first-class library, and just maybe some wealthy citizen will help us build one!
Oh, there’s so much that needs to be done. Cityhood will mean progress.
Why, with incorporation, we’ll be able to take charge of our own affairs. We can carry on the dreams of the settlers who founded this place in the 1880’s, just after the Transcontinental Railroad came through these parts.
(Children getting noisy; shush them)
Our children are gonna need a good education, so we’re bound to need new schools. You remember when we started having high school classes for the first time? We taught our youngsters in stores downtown, then in those big tents. My, we were so proud! Oh yes, we’re gonna need new schools, and plenty of them as we grow.
And grow we will. We’re such a neighborly place. A town that takes care of its own. We all work together to get things done. And when we’re a city, there’ll be so much more to do. And let me tell you, a hundred years from now, people are gonna celebrate what we’ve done!
Oh, I see some hands in the back. Stand up and let us hear you.
Dilworth AUDIENCE QUESTION #1: You mentioned new schools and a library. What other changes do you see if we become a city?
Well, for one thing, we’re gonna be connected to our neighbors. Paved roads will lead to Redlands, and Riverside, and San Bernardino. You watch, it’s gonna happen! And folks will be comin’ right to our doorstep on a new highway that runs right down the middle of town. Our cherries are already famous, and if we start a festival, thousands of people will come here to taste them and buy our homemade pies. Why, our little town of Beaumont will be known far and wide!
Dilworth AUDIENCE QUESTION #2: What’s life going to be like for our families in the future?
Well, it can be hard to predict the future. You know, our town newspaper the Beaumont Leader says that “Conditions are only perfect in heaven.” Well, we may not be perfect, but I think . . . I think that our children’s children, and their children’s children, and generations to come will know and love this place. And I just can’t believe that we’ll ever lose what makes this place so special—that small-town feelin.’ No, we’ll never lose that, no matter how big we get. And you can take that to the bank . . . the Bank of Beaumont, of course!
(Child comes up to Sarah, tugs at her elbow and points to the clock “Mama, it’s almost time.”)
Sarah Dillworth “Let’s see if the results are available.”
MUSIC: “Haunting Melody” by Al Jolson/Radio Broadcast That(WALKS TOWARD AN OLD-TIME RADIO SET UP ON STAGE AND FLICKS IT ON TO HEAR THE CITY HOOD ELECTION RESULTS.)
That was Al Jolson’s No. 1 Billboard hit, “That Haunting Melody,” toppin’ the charts now for 11 weeks. You’re listening to KPASS Radio, 2600 on your AM dial, the Pinnacle of the Pass.
Now wait just a second! It looks like something is coming in over the wires. This just in . . . the results of Beaumont’s cityhood election!
I know you’ve all been waiting for this. And wherever I’ve been, whether it’s Belford’s Grocery, Hiawatha and Rock Springs Coal, or Beaumont Lumber, it’s been the talk of the town!
While we’re good neighbors, I know we didn’t always agree. But this should settle it! With our town’s two precincts reporting, I’m happy to report to all the listeners out there that incorporation has passed! Yes indeed! Incorporation has passed! The vote is one hundred and fifty-five to one hundred and fifteen. We’re a city at last!
[Music] (“Stars and Stripes Forever” begins playing, Molly Brown, Houdini, Marguerite, T.O. Hastings all join Sarah and her children in celebrating. Men shake hands, women hug, children dance around. After a minute or so, main curtain slowly closes. Music fades, as curtain reopens for cast bow. The MC makes closing remarks, the mayor delivers centennial toast, the show ends, and the cast walks out into audience.)
- “Small Town” by John Mellencamp
- “Happy Birthday” by The Beatles