1919 history. - Added Sept., 2010.
Bulletin of Pharmacy, Vol. 3, 1919
A Druggist in the Show Business.
By Prescott R. Loveland
Ridgewood, New Jersey
I was now a junior partner in the theatrical firm of Davidson & Loveland, the senior member being Albert E. Davidson of Bay City, Michigan. Mr. Davidson was not an actor, but a theatrical business man and a mighty shrewd one. He came from Detroit originally, where for a number of years he was a member of the business staff of the Whitney Opera House.
At the time of which I write, Mr. Davidson and his brother conducted two theaters in the Michigan cities of Saginaw and Bay City. Mr. Davidson also controlled a road organization known as the Davidson Stock Company. My connection was with the stock company only; I had no interest in the theaters, and my partner's brother was not associated in any way with the traveling organization.
The road company was the result of an experiment tried out by Davidson brothers two years before. Moving pictures were not in vogue in those days, and consequently Saginaw and Bay City were without theatrical amusements of any kind as soon as the regular winter season was over. The Davidsons had conceived the idea of forming a summer stock company and playing it between the two cities, three nights every week in each town.
The experiment was so successful financially and the company was such a nicely balanced one that Mr. Davidson thought it might make good on the road. He proceeded to try it out, and the enterprise was just as successful in other places as it had been in Saginaw and Bay City.
The outfit was a popular-priced repertoire company of about the same size, and conducted on very much the same plan, that I had used in running the Daly Theatrical Company on the eastern circuit. The territory covered was Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and a few cities in eastern Pennsylvania.
Mr. Davidson had a country place at Sag Harbor, Long Island, and spent part of each summer there, running up to New York whenever necessary to attend to business. He was in New York when I reached there after severing my connection with Mr. Daly.
We had our affairs in shape so soon that by the first of July everything was in readiness for the coming season. Mr. Davidson, his (who traveled with the company and was an excellent assistant and counselor to her husband), and myself left New York the last week in July, en route for Saginaw, where rehearsals were to being on August 5, in anticipation of the regular season which was to open at Port Huron on the twentieth of the month.
Mr. Davidson was to remain with the company when it took to the road, and I was to go on ahead, as they say in the show business. In other words I was business manager in advance, or in theatrical parlance, advance agent.
I had done a little advance work some years before, but did not fancy the life particularly. I much rather would have remained with the company. Mr. Davidson, however, didn't like advance work any better than I did, and as he was my senior both in the firm and in years, it was up to me like the second of two men on a horse to ride behind, which in this case meant to go on ahead.
Doing advance work is a hard task, although that was not the reason I dislike it hard work was easy for me. My principal objection was that the job was a lonesome one, particularly when it led over new territory. The advance agent is away from the company the greater part of the week and, for some unaccountable reason, he is always blamed by the other members, from the late trains to the condition of the weather.
The chief of the many duties which fall to the lot of the advance man is to secure publicity for the attraction he represents. If he doesn't attend to that end of his job properly the results of his work don't amount to much. As soon as he strikes a town he must set the wheels in motion and do everything he legitimately can to let the inhabitants know that next week there is come to their city the greatest organization of theatrical talent extant. Such a statement may or may not be literally true, but if the advance agent is a good one he will not only believe it himself, but he'll also hypnotize every one with whom he comes into contact into believing the same thing.
My first season with the Davidson combination passed very quickly and pleasantly. The Davidsons were excellent people, and in all our transactions during all the seasons that followed, there was never the least friction or anything of a disagreeable nature.
We closed our first season at Fort Wayne, Indiana, late in May, and came back to New York, where after a couple of weeks' work we had things in shape for the next year.
The second season began at Springfield, Illinois, from where we proceeded over practically the same territory as the year before, except that we seldom played the towns in the same sequence. Business was all we could reasonably expect; once in a while, of course, we ran up against a poor week, but not often enough to make us lose any sleep. I was still doing advance work, and as I was pretty well acquainted in all the towns we visited, I felt just as much at home as I had formerly been while playing the eastern circuit. Our second season closed at Sandusky, Ohio, early in May.
We had become very ambitious by this time and were making preparations for starting out another company the coming season, in addition to our stock organization. The new venture was to be a one-piece attraction, a big scenic melodrama with a Broadway cast, playing at high prices. It was quite the biggest thing we had ever undertaken, and we had high hopes of reaping everlasting fame and fortune.
From an artistic standpoint the venture was entirely successful but from a financial angle it was, as Abe Potash might say, something else again. One season was sufficient. After that we very wisely decided to confine our energies to the line of business we knew and had made a success of the popular price, week-stand, repertoire company. In its six years' existence the Davidson Stock Company never had a poor season.
Our third and most successful season ended in Terre Haute, Indiana. Our fourth one began late in August at Battle Creek, Michigan.
It was to be my final swing around the circle. At the end of this season the firm of Davidson and Loveland was to be dissolved, and in the future Mr. Davidson was to be sole owner and manager. My plans for the future were rather indefinite, but I rather thought that I would, in all probability, go back to the drug business. My partner, his wife, and in fact nearly all my friends in the theatrical world thought I was very foolish to give up the road, just as some years before all my relatives and most of my friends had thought me raving crazy for forsaking the drug business for the theatrical.
There was, of course, a reason for my decision to give up the show business, and I unblushingly admit it a woman in the case, a very charming young lady from my home town. I wanted to get married.
The parents of The Girl were Scotch and Presbyterian; they just naturally couldn't see, even with a telescope, any man in the theatrical business. They knew I was a pharmacist, and they laid down an ultimatum. If I want the girl I must get back to the drug business, or at least give up the life of a strolling player.
Business during my final year on the road was up to the average and the season itself rather uneventful. We would up the year's work at Burlington, Iowa, the last of May, and then came east as far as Chicago, where the Davidsons were going to spending the summer. I said my good-bye to them there, took the train for New York, and land in my home town twenty-four hours later, my career as a theatrical man a thing of the past.
When I have started out as a trouper, eight years before, it was very much against the wishes of my relatives and against the advice of most of my friends. All sorts of dire things had been predicted for me at the time drunkeness, financial and moral bankruptcy, a matrimonial mesalliance, and many other unpleasant and disreputable things.
None of these prophesies materialized, however. I had made a good in a business that, when I first started out, was all new to me. My friends were forced to admit that by applying to theatrical affairs the same safe and sane business principles I learned to use in the drug business, I had ultimately won out.
Entirely apart from the financial part of the business, I had made many friends in my travels east and west, I had broadened my outlook on life, and I had learned many things I never would have found out about inside the four walls of a pill shop. I wouldn't swap those eight years on the road for any other similar period in my life. I did not then nor have I ever since regretted my career as a theatrical man.
Shortly after I severed my connections with Mr. Davidson I began looking around to see what was stirring in the drug business. I was on the lookout for a store for sale, or a promising location in which to start in a new one.
After investigating numerous propositions, good, bad and indifferent, I finally found one that look right to me, and on the tenth of June took possession of a story on the Board-walk in Atlantic City.
The rush season at Atlantic City started July 1, so I had to do some tall hustling in order to get ready for it. Despite my long absence from the drug business it was quite easy to adapt myself to ways pharmaceutical, and in a little while I was just as much interested in making my pharmacy a success as, a few weeks earlier, I had been in working up a good opening house for the Davidson Stock Company.
Even the long hours didn't bother me as I had expected they would. The season was hardly under way when I was working from fifteen to twenty hours a day, including even Sundays. The Atlantic City season was a short one, and it was a case of making hay while the sun was hot.
My store was located in what is known as Chelsa section of Atlantic City, an aristocratic residence district. The season in that part of Atlantic City began on Easter and ended the last of September, but the busiest time was from July first to September tenth.
Shortly after the first of July I was inexpressibly shocked and grieved to hear of the death of Mr. Davidson, my friend and late business associate. He had been take ill at Chicago and died after a brief illness. I felt a real loss at his passing, for he was a true, loyal friend and a good, square business man.