Ella Warner, Oct. 24, 1923

On this day 92 years ago, Ella reported

It has rained most all day but the wind didn’t blow after this morning Mabel Upson was married yesterday, 10 o’clock, at Mr Tolemans

Eliz, Sarah + I went to the Strand to see Penrose + Sam + it was rich

It was pretty muddy on the road

Ella’s previous entry identified Mabel Upson’s spouse as Arthur Harrison, who may have been a 54-year-old bachelor farmer living in Wolcott (still living with his widowed mother, 87-year-old Mary H., whose father was an English immigrant) (1920 Census, Roll T625_188, Page 1B). The only Mabel Upson I’ve been able to find was a resident of Bristol, a 43-year-old spinster who lived with her 84-year-old grandmother, Esther w. Lane (1920 Census, Roll T625_180, Page 11B).

In honor of their late-life nuptials, I herewith present a map that shows some of the places that Ella has been talking about.

places01In this entry, she spoke of the theater in downtown Waterbury (southwest of her home), and of people who lived in Wolcott and Bristol. Another place she mentions is Plymouth, which is also where she grew up.

The entry also speaks of “Penrose + Sam.”  After a little searching, I determined that she was probably speaking of a 1923 silent film called Penrod and Sam, which was based on a novel by Booth Tarkington. The film’s actors included Ben Alexander (who later played Officer Frank Smith in Dragnet), Mary Philbin (who later starred in 1925’s Phantom of the Opera but whose career ended with the silents), and Eugene Jackson (who played Pineapple in the Our Gang serials and continued in show business, mostly in bit parts, into the 1990s) (thank you Internet Movie Database).

The story was basically a boys’ adventure, with “youthful hijinks” and so forth; in the early twentieth century, stories about children had not yet been shoved off to the side as “children’s literature.”  Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) was a very popular writer whose publishing career ran from 1899 to 1947 and included two Pulitzer Prize winners – The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921). In other words, he was famous in his time but has largely been forgotten – for various good reasons, according to Thomas Mallon.

I’ve skimmed Penrod and Sam (1916) for you, so I can tell you that it’s full of the kind of “youthful hijinks” that make one wonder exactly how these little monsters could have grown up to be civilized human beings. I think that what Ella meant by “rich” is “funny,” which the movie certainly could have been, at least by 1923 standards. It was a different time.

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