Glover Day honors a local vaudevillian
by Joseph Gresser
GLOVER — An annual community event with a weight of tradition always faces the risk of becoming stodgy. Glover Day, with its Chamberlain Run, bicycle race and puppet show re-enacting the story of Runaway Pond, could easily become a snooze. But the citizens of Glover are too resourceful to allow that to happen.
For the 2013 edition of the town celebration Glover mined a new vein of history and came up with a unique competition — the Johnnie Prindle lookalike and song contest. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Mr. Prindle was a successful vaudeville performer, who, when not touring the country, made his home in Glover.
Earlier this year a group of his descendants presented a collection of his papers to the Glover Historical Society. That was the inspiration for this year’s contest, which brought out a group of talented performers each trying to outdo the others as they played and sang some of the songs that brought Mr. Prindle fame and some degree of fortune.
Glover Selectman Jack Sumberg served as the master of ceremonies for the contest, and introduced a novel mode of deciding its winner — the “silent clap-o-meter.” Mr. Sumberg and his partner in judgment, Linda Elbow, claimed to be able to detect the enthusiasm felt by spectators as they thought about applauding for contestants in the lookalike competition. He did not reveal the method by which the judges reached their verdict on the best performance of a Johnnie Prindle song.
Mr. Prindle’s songs were written in a wide variety of styles, and some were clearly not intended to be performed by him. One that was, though, was “I’m Not As Green As I Look,” a piece used in his personation of Ruben Glue, a hayseed from Glover.
Bread and Puppet stalwart Jason Hicks, outfitted in a seersucker jacket and top hat, was backed by Lily Paulina on baritone horn and Hannah Temple on accordion. Mr. Hicks was progressively drenched by Erin Bell, in accord with the admonition repeated in the song’s chorus — “Let’s push it down into the brook.”
When Mr. Hicks finished the song Ms. Bell threw him over her shoulder and ran off with him toward the Barton River. He returned, soaked to the skin, during the second act on the bill.
That was a winsome trio made up of Joan Alexander, Lynne Birdsall and Celia Latham vamping their way through “Ma’s So ’Fraid We’ll Get Stole.” As they peered over their fans and flirted with the audience, Ma’s fears appeared to be well founded.
Johnnie Prindle’s attempt at topical satire was taken on by Geoff Goodhue. With accompaniment by Lindsay McCaw and bubbles provided by Maura Gahan, Mr. Goodhue sang about a series of impossibilities including police officers making a hundred dollars a day and women getting the vote.
These and other amazing eventualities were predicted to happen “Not this year, but some other year.”
When Susie Perkins and Sophia Cannizzaro took the stage in tatterdemalion with dirt-smudged faces, the program took a sharp turn toward the pathetic. Accompanied by Ms. Cannizzaro’s fiddle, Ms. Perkins shook a small tin with a few coins in it as the pair sang “The Little Waif.”
Their rendition of the tear-jerker was affecting enough that members of the audience spontaneously left their seats to add coppers to Ms. Perkins small store of wealth, much to the performers’ surprise. They pulled in enough over the course of the song for Ms. Cannizzaro to buy a refreshing ice cream cone.
Greg Corbino accompanied himself on accordion as he asked the musical question “Who Am I?” The enigmatic song was billed as Mr. Prindle’s great specialty, but Mr. Corbino, who performed the chorus as a sing-along, failed to supply the answer.
The contest concluded as Lila Winstead sang a sad piano bench song to a lunch bucket. Ms. Winstead said Mr. Prindle wrote the many, many verses of
“The Little Tin Bucket” in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the market for sentimental ballads. She said she remains unsure whether the Glover tunesmith was copying the trend or satirizing it.
Mr. Sumberg’s silent clap-o-meter determined that Mr. Goodhue was the person who bore the closest resemblance to Mr. Prindle and awarded him a set of sunglasses ornamented with a steel-cut engraving of the master.
Ms. Perkins and Ms. Cannizzaro took the golden Barbie trophy as best interpreter of Mr. Prindle’s songs.
Other Glover Day novelties included the defeat of Tara Nelson for the title of fastest woman in the 5.5-mile Chamberlain Run. Ms. Nelson had held that distinction since 2005, but was outpaced this year by Leah Frost.
Ms. Frost is from Maine, but plans to remain in the area and has been engaged by North Country Union High School to coach its cross-country team.
Red Sky Trading Company attracted a big crowd as owner Cheri Safford played host to a celebration of local foods. Visitors were able to sample from a farm-to-table tasting menu featuring locally made cheeses and meats, along with produce from local farms. Bethany Dunbar also read from Kingdom’s Bounty, her illustrated catalog of local food producers, to provide context for the meal.
contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]