Born in Baltimore on April, 22, 1907 and raised in Linthicum Heights, Bernard “Bernie” Paul was the only child of Henry and Mary Paul. After graduating from The Severn School in Severna Park, Bernie attended the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts in Baltimore in 1926. At that time, he was intrigued by the theater and considered pursuing a career in stagecraft. But an interest in puppetry began when he saw a traveling troupe called Tony Sarg at Goucher College in Baltimore in the late 1920s.
He tried to get backstage to question Sarg about how he crafted the puppets but was not allowed. He was able to determine by watching the troupe’s show that the wooden puppets were slotted and jointed dowels, but couldn’t distinguish just how they were crafted. Not one to be put off, Bernie got a book that Sarg had published and sketched puppet designs.
Edith “Edee” Paul was born Edith Rogers on January 16, 1907 and also grew up in Linthicum. The couple met as children at Linthicum Elementary School. While still a student at the Maryland Institute, Bernie staged his own puppet show, one that impressed the faculty so much they hired him to teach puppetry. This class would teach students who planned to be teachers, so they could later use puppets when working with children in their classrooms.
Bernie began teaching puppetry and later Edee became a fellow instructor in costume design, bringing her significant sewing skills to this aspect of puppet making that Bernie could not cover. Bernie and Edee Paul were married in 1930.
After graduation in 1930, Bernie went to New York to look for work in stagecraft. The opportunities were less promising than he had hoped. Just to start in the field required paying a $100 union fee. He didn’t have the money, and there was no guarantee any work would be forthcoming. Back in Baltimore, he worked with amateur companies. One group called the Vagabond Players, which had a small theater near Mt. Vernon Place, presented a production called The Mandarin, in which he not only acted a small part, but also crafted a number of paper-mache masks. A striking green one turned the actor who wore it into a one-eyed Cyclops monster. Bernie kept this mask and for decades displayed it on the wall of his home office/studio.
Edee and Bernie were married on April, 17, 1930 in the living room of Bernie's parents home at 414 Hawthorne Road in Linthicum. The couple would live there for the entire lives. They raised two sons at that home, the third generation to live there. Their sons, Peter Darr Paul was born on January 21, 1933 and Larry Ramon Paul was born on July 10, 1935.
Bernie knew of no professional puppet troupe in Baltimore and saw an outlet for his stagecraft interest in bringing the art form to his native city. Edee shared Bernie’s interest, and together they saw that starting a puppet troupe was something they could undertake by themselves. Their combined talents made them able to cover every aspect of the process. Bernie designed and built the puppets and the sets. Edee designed and sewed the costumes and wrote the scripts. Paul’s Puppets was born in 1930 and the couple always worked together as a team of two, controlling all aspects of the production from their small Linthicum studio.
Edee and Bernie went on to develop a successful television career in the Baltimore area that lasted ten years on the Baltimore stations WBAL and WMAR. They were the first television show to be broadcast in color in Baltimore as well as the local show chosen to be highlighted in the first edition of TV Guide. Edee passed away on November 2, 1993 and Bernie passed away in September 18, 2005.
My grandmother, Edee, spent a lot of her time researching the ancestry of both the Rogers and Paul families. Since no internet existed at the time she had to travel to Annapolis to research court records. Her efforts produced a family album for both sides that go back to the 1700's. In the Paul family album she wrote a page of the highlights of Bernie's life but did not do the same for herself. Here is what she had for Bernie:
Bernard Henry Paul was born on April 22, 1907 in a private hospital on Charles and 28th Street in Baltimore, MD. At the time it was called Bidler and Sellman, later named Doctor’s Hospital. He then lived on Lanvale Street and later moved to 708 Gilmore Street where the family stayed until they moved to Linthicum in 1919 at the age of 12. He remained at that home, 414 Hawthorne Road, Linthicum, MD until he was 94 and had to move to an assisted living facility.
He attended school at #78 until the 6th grade but finished 7th and 8th grade at Linthicum Elementary. He went to City College for one year and three years at Severn Preparatory School in Severna Park, MD. He then attended the Maryland Institute of Art for four years, one being a Post Graduate course. He graduated in June, 1929 and won the municipal art prize, which was $50. Bernie majored in stagecraft.
In 1925 he met Edith Georgia Rogers, they worked puppets together, and were married at the Hawthorne Road home on April 17, 1930. They took a short trip down the Shenandoah Valley as far as Harrisonburg, VA.
In 1934, they gave the first professional marionette performance at the White House in Washington, DC while President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and family were there, at a party for grandchildren, Sistie and Buzzie Dall and their little guests. They found Mrs. Roosevelt and her daughter Anna Dall very charming woman. (Sharon’s note added – I remember Bernie telling me that he didn’t have the correct electrical plug to be compatible with what the White House had – AC vs DC, so they couldn’t use their record player. Mrs. Roosevelt took Edee up to the children’s bedroom in the private residence to get a record player that would work. She also showed Edee the kitchen area to show her how the conditions weren’t the best.)
During World War II Bernie worked at the US Post Office as Assistant Post Master giving marionette performances after hours at camps, schools and churches nearby. Because of the war they could not travel over the Eastern section of the country like they were used to.
He had a lot of hobbies that included wood working/carving, jewelry making, collecting music boxes, old swords, butterflies, buttons, masks, bells and gongs, whales, Oriental objects, ancient puppets, soldiers. He also loved photography and had a darkroom in the basement.
They started television with a commercial for WMAR in November, 1947. Then in 1948 gave performances over WBAL in January until they were officially on the air twice a week, Monday and Wednesday 7:15pm to 7:30pm. They changed to Tuesday and Thursday when Hutzlers starting sponsoring them in 1949. Their sponsors were Nestles Cocoa and Planters Peanuts. They finished with television in 1958 but still performed live at the Hutzler’s stores.
In 1964 they bought a small cottage on Great Island, Maine near Quahog Bay and named it “Cachalot.”
On March 19th, 1965 Bernie was a guest on the tv show, “To Tell the Truth.” No one on the panel guessed he was the puppeteer in question due to his inability to spell well. After he didn’t spell the name of a well known puppet correctly he won the $400 prize.
By the time I was 9 or so years old, my grandparents were retired from the puppet business. In fact I only have one vague memory of seeing them perform. I don’t even remember what story they performed, but I do remember getting to see “backstage.” But the thoroughly artistic temperaments that my grandparents both possessed did not and could not ever retire. There was always a creative outlet for them. For a time Bernie carved ducks. I remember Edee cross-stitching intricate panels that were later framed and displayed. But my most treasured memory of both my grandparents is their creation of a line of costumed dolls. Mostly these dolls were Edee’s creation, but Bernie played a key and (to me) very endearing role in their collection.
Every Sunday of my childhood from ages about 8 to 10, I went with my father and Bernie to the Columbia Mall flea market. This was held in the mall’s covered parking structure, I’m assuming every Sunday. Both my father and grandfather were collectibles addicts and with each visit we would slowly make our way past each vendor’s table examining the (to me) mostly junk. I was able to score the occasional Barbie doll or toy in our outings, though. Looking back, I can’t believe I had the patience for this mercurial amble every weekend.
Among the many possible things Bernie was looking for amidst the junk was a particular style of doll to bring home to Edee. Edee had had a true collector’s doll collection for as long as I could remember and probably for several decades before me. Her own childhood baby dolls were some of the oldest members of the cadre. She must have barely played with them as a child because their china faces were perfect and their white flowing dresses were like pristine christening gowns.
Edee and Bernie had an entire room in their house dedicated to Edee’s doll collection. The front right bedroom on the second floor looked out over Hawthorne Road and contained shelves and glass showcases full to overflowing with all manner of dolls. It was this girly girl’s vision of heaven. But we (the grandchildren) were never allowed to touch any of them. Every visit to my grandparents’ house included a visit to this dreamy room. I would walk around taking in all the dolls I already knew in detail by heart – with my eyes only. And then there were the new dolls – the ones Edee made costumes for during these years of my life.
At the flea market, Bernie combed the vendors for a particular style of doll that had been manufactured and sold during the 1960’s. I’m sure there is a name for this specific doll, but I can only describe the doll’s unique selling feature in this way: the top of her head rotated and she had two shades of long, flowing hair. Depending on which direction you twisted her scalp, she had either long blond locks or long brunette locks. This was two dolls in one!! Additionally, her body was slender and more adult that child, so she was kind of like a really big Barbie doll.
The doll must have been popular in its day, because Bernie was able to find these dolls for Edee fairly frequently at the Sunday flea markets (in varying conditions). I remember him buying them and bringing them home, mostly because I really really really wanted to add each one to MY doll collection that I stilled played with. But I never got one. They were for Edee. And what Edee did to transform the dolls was magical.
From all her years designing and sewing the costumes for Paul’s Puppets (not to mention the time she spent teaching costume design at Maryland Institute College of Art), Edee had numerous reference books and material for historical dresses and costumes. Using these, Edee took the dual-haired dolls and created a series of custom dolls to display costumes of the Victorian era, as well as all the notable queens in history. Victorian fashions were very ornate with large skirted dresses. Edee found dresses she liked in Godey’s Lady’s Book – an actual fashion magazine of the mid-1800’s. She needed only to see the dresses in print and she was able to replicate them to perfectly fit these dolls that had ideal dimensions to model the clothes in miniature. Edee used silks, velvets and organza fabrics. Just like with the puppets she crafted for Paul’s Puppets, the dolls were completed with appropriate accessories – such as fans and jewelry and shoes.
The line of “Queens of History” dolls started with Cleopatra and Nefertiti and included Josephine of France, Queen Elizabeth I , Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marie Antoinette. These costumed dolls displayed the fashion true to each woman’s historical time with ermine lined capes and jeweled crowns.
Edee’s skills also included restoring these plastic dolls to usable condition and arranging each dolls’ long brown or yellow locks to match the costuming. Even though all of the dolls had the same face, with the choice between blond and brunette, each doll could be customized to the true look of the character.
These dolls were a labor of love for Edee, who loved creating beautiful things. It always seemed to me during this time in my life that every time we went to visit my grandparents (which had to have been once a week or at least several times a month), Edee had created a new doll. I loved when she would ask if I would like to see her latest fashion model. I wanted to play with these exquisite dolls, of course! But the queens and the stylish women sat high up in her doll room on two long shelves.
My grandparents had many, many fascinating objects and collectables in their home. But these dolls were by far the things I loved the most. Perhaps it was because they appealed to my girly love of beautiful dolls in elegantly crafted clothes. Or perhaps it was because I felt like I was part of the process: helping Bernie find the one-of-a-kind dolls; learning from Edee how she chose and made the costumes; and being the one to truly appreciate the finished collection.
Though Edee’s doll collection was passed down to my sister, I did receive this portion. I have the entire series of Queens and Victorian women dolls. And I get to see them every day.
414 Hawthorne Road, Linthicum, MD 21090
The photo above is the Paul family home that was designed and "built" by Bernie's father, Henry James Paul, in 1919. Prior to moving to the Linthicum home, the Paul family lived in Baltimore City, first on the 1600 block of Lanvale Street and then 708 Gilmore Street.
The house had a large yard with many flower and vegetable gardens as well as chicken coops which were tended by the whole family but Bernie's mom, Mary, seemed to be the only one who would "prepare" the chickens for their dinner.
Edee and Bernie were married in the living room of this home in 1930 and lived there with Bernie's parents, Henry and Mary. Once their son, Peter, was born in 1933, this house became home to all three generations until Henry passed away in 1968 and then Mary in 1975.
As shown in the photos above, the house and landscaping experienced many changes through the years. What isn't noticeable in the photos is the 45' by 16' studio that was added by Bernie in 1952 that was used by the couple for their puppetry as well as Bernie's general hobbies and collections.
Despite the tremendous amount of work that went into maintaining a house and yard of this size, Bernie kept the house in perfect shape until he was forced to move into an assisted living facility in 2003, two years prior to his death in 2005.
Summers in Maine
Bernie’s first experienced summer in Maine as a boy when ‘Uncle’ George & ‘Aunt’ Kate took him there. Uncle George was George Studebaker, who worked as a liquor inspector for the government testing distilleries products to ensure that they met the posted alcohol content. Aunt Kate was a relative of Henry Paul’s family in Tennessee. The Studebakers had taken in Mary Dooley from the Catholic orphanage where she, and her sisters, were placed following their father’s death. It was the connection with Tennessee that lead Henry Paul to meet Mary Dooley after he arrived in Baltimore from his childhood home in Tennessee. The Studebakers, who had no children of their own, lived in an apartment near Henry & Mary Paul’s home on Gilmore Street. The Studebakers were sort of semi-related grandparents to Bernard.
Every summer Mr. & Mrs Studebaker went to Maine for an extended vacation. One year they decided to take Bernie with them. The trip began with a train ride from Baltimore to New York City. There they transferred to a Pullman sleeping car, on another railroad, for the overnight trip to Portland Maine. Once they arrived in Portland they took a streetcar down to the harbor where they boarded a Casco Bay Co. steam boat for the ride to Orr’s Island. During their Orr’s Island vacation the stayed in a boarding house, which was probably a private home that rented rooms to ‘Summer people’, and served family-style meals. Orr’s Island is completely surrounded by a rocky coast line, with plenty of interesting spots for a boy to explore. So began Bernie’s love of Maine.
Between the time Edee & Bernie were married in 1930 and Peter was born in 1933 they spent several summers teaching puppetry and probably costume making at the T-Ledge summer camp for girls on Orr’s. T-Ledge was founded in 1927 by Mrs Nell B. Knorr and could accommodate about 100 girls. *( see footnote about T-Ledge ).
Once Peter, then Larry arrived, along with the difficult financial times during the depression, trips to Maine were not possible. Pearl Harbor and WWII, with its gasoline rationing and crowded trains, made any long-distance vacation travel impossible.
Once the war ended, Maine for a couple weeks in the summer once again became possible. This time it included Peter & Larry in the back seat of the the 1941 Plymouth for a 2-day road trip to Orr’s Island. The Paul family stayed at Royal Rest. Actually they stayed in two rooms at a Victorian house owned by Miss Wakeman, but ate their meals in the dining room of Royal Rest which was operated by the Houghtons. Miss Wakeman’s house was rather primitive by todays standards. The toilet was a two-hole seat in a shed at the end of the porch. Water for a bath was pumped from a cistern in the basement, heated on the stove, then carried up to the bath tub on the second floor. But to two young boys who had never been more than a few miles from Linthicum, it was great fun. Except maybe for the toilet experience.
Meals at Royal Rest were all cooked by Mrs Houghton and served by their daughter Pauline. Everyone was assigned a table that was theirs during the entire time they were there. For breakfast there were some choices, how you wanted your eggs, when they were served. Other mornings would be pan cakes. Almost every morning there were fresh from the kitchen donuts. For lunch and dinner there were no choices. Everyone was served the same thing, but everything was delicious.
After the first summer Bernie & Edee began renting the ‘Pinecone’ one of two little cabins owned by the Houghtons. The Pinecone was really basic, but with a real indoor toilet. The toilet had to be shared with Mr. Houghton’s mother who lived in an adjacent cabin. The Pinecone had a raised porch across the front which opened into the living room. The living room consisted of a chair, dresser & combination couch / single bed. Behind the living room was a bedroom which was just large enough for a double bed & dresser. To the right of the living room was the kitchen with a wood stove, the only source of heat on chilly days. The rear corner was a hallway with outside door & door to the toilet compartment. It was here that a bath in a tin wash basin, with water heated on the stove took place. A not everyday event. Meals were served at the Royal Rest dining room.
As vacations got longer during breaks from the TV show. Edee & Bernie spent more time at the Pinecone. Bernie had a local boat builder make him a row boat which he named ‘Punch’. Yes everything had to have a name. He bought an outboard motor and when the tide was in at nearby Beal’s Cove they went exploring in the rowboat.
Thomas Edison’s daughter, Marion Edison Oeser, ( b-1873 d-1965) spent her summers on the Royal Rest property in her own trailer which was pulled from New Jersey behind her impressive automobile driven by her chauffeur and caretaker Wilfred. Mrs Oeser was not able to walk so she spent most of her time in her trailer. Edee would often go over to her trailer and spend time visiting with her.
A few years later several new summer cabins were being built on Great Island so they decided to buy one. Great Island is connected to Orr’s & Bailey’s Islands by a series of bridges on route 24 that begins at Cook’s Corner at route 1 in Brunswick, and ends at Lands End at the far end of Bailey’s Island.
The new cabin was a great step-up in convenience from the former accommodations, with running hot & cold water, flush toilet, a shower, and a real kitchen. The living room had a fireplace. There were two, not very large, bedrooms. Attached to the rear side Bernie built a min-workshop. The new cabin became ‘Cahalot’ because every cabin needs a name. Actually none of the other cabins in development had a name.
Edee really enjoyed her summers at Cacalot because this was ‘their home’, not shared with Mary & Henry.
After the TV show ended they spent the entire summers in Maine. Hand puppets were created because they could be carried in less space in the car and shows were booked in Maine as a source of income during the summer.
When Edee was no longer able to travel and was in the nursing home, Bernie still made his summer trips to Cachalot. During one winter someone broke into the cabin and somehow set it on fire. The fire did lots of damage be did not destroy the cabin. It was very upsetting to Bernie, and difficult to have repairs made by telephone. Things were put back in shape and once again he was able to enjoy summer In Maine. For several years the smell of smoke greeted you every time you opened the front door.
Everything in life keeps changing, and finally Bernie decided it was time to sell Cachlot and say goodby to summers in Maine. His realtor sold the cabin to a couple from Maine who were living on the west coast, but wanted to move back to a job opening in Portland. They bought the cabin after seeing it listed on the internet.
* Article on T-Ledge in Lewiston Evening Journal, August 16, 1958 type in ’T-ledge camp’ to access.
Featured in the first issue of TV Guide
Edee and Bernie’s show, Paul’s Puppets, was the featured article in the first edition of the TV Guide, Baltimore edition. The text is as follows:
Paul’s Puppets – a five year fairy tale.
This isn’t a fairy tale, but it sounds like one for it is the tale of two people who use little wooden figures to charm and entertain children and adults alike. The two people are Bernard and Edith Paul; their little wooden figures are marionettes; and they do their charming and entertaining by way of a television show entitled “Paul’s Puppets.”
On Tuesday, April 7th, WBAL-TV’s “Paul’s Puppets” will present its 511th video performance (Tues. and Thurs., 6-6:15pm, channel 11). And although all of these 511 performances have chalked up delightful entertainment, it was the very first performances, since “Paul’s Puppets” first appeared on television in 1931! That’s right – 1931! At that time television was to most of us a mere promise for the future; a dubious, electronic wonder.
In 1931 “Paul’s Puppets” presented a one-hour television show over a small experimental TV station in Wheaton, MD.
In the 17-year lapse, before TV became an everyday word and national habit, Bernard and Edith Paul, creators of “Paul’s Puppets” spent their time giving puppet shows up and down the country. And during that period they wrote another history-making item in their diary of success. This took place in 1934 when at the invitation of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, “Paul’s Puppets” had the honor of being the first marionette company to perform in the Ballroom of the White House.
Television performance No. 2, the beginning of “Paul’s Puppets” five-year run over WBAL-TV, took place on March 22, 1948. It was then that Bernard and Edith (Mr. and Mrs. by the way) candidly informed WBAL-TV management that they could carry on their marionette shows for only three months. They figured the public would quickly tire of their particular magic. Instead, the viewers responded with wholehearted acclaim.
So the Pauls began production on more puppets, more background scenery, more costumes, and script adaptations of the stories they dramatize – fairy tales. As a result they are still on the air, and they have accumulated a cast of 421 marionettes, with a repertoire of 42 fairy tales. (As this is being written, the Pauls are working on the production of ten more children’s tales.)
Both Mr. and Mrs. Paul were students of the Maryland Institute. Bernard majored in stagecraft; Edith was busy studying stage costuming. When Bernard found himself becoming more and more interested in stagecraft in miniature and marionettes, he chose Edith to costume his hand-carved puppets. And then they were married, and that was the beginning of “Paul’s Puppets” as we know and see them today on channel 11.
Larry picking strawberries in June of 1946. Film was one of the items that was not a necessity during the Depression and WWII, so these photos date from after the war. The tool house, with door open, can be seen in upper right corner. The cherry tree was next to the tool house, so we would climb up on the roof to pick the ripe cherries.
Bernie putting up a new chicken yard fence in late 1940’s. This was when an old chicken house was moved from Greenwood Road for use as the ‘big chicken house’ and a new ‘little chicken house’ was built. The rear wall of the original chicken house in the back end of the garage can be seen on the right. This former chicken house space was converted into storage for puppet equipment on one side and, later, Larry’s car on the other side.
Dealing with The Depression.
Having been born in the midst of The Depression, I really did not know what was going on. I thought everyone lived the same way. Later on I realized that my parents and grandparents had made a lot of adjustments in order to deal with The Great Depression.
The Depression was the reason Bernie & Edee lived with my grandparents Henry & Mary Paul. Henry had lost his job as salesman for the Hood Rubber Co., where he sold rubber boots and rainware to retail shoe stores. Galoshes became a luxury item to people who were stuffing cardboard into the bottoms of their worn out shoes because they could not afford to purchase new ones. He went from top salesman with a good commission income to no income and house payments on the home they had built in 1919.
Henry, along with one or two other men, opened a small store on the ground level of the new apartment building on Maple Road. It was sort of a drug store, but not really a drug store because they had no one qualified to fill prescriptions. They only sold patent medicine, along with notions, stationary, etc. There was a small soda fountain. Shortly after they opened their Linthicum Store, Dr.Walter Albrecht, a licensed Pharmacist, opened Albrecht’s Pharmacy nearby.
Henry & Bernie got a job installing street name signs in northern Anne Arundel County. These were rectangular signs made of steel with the street name done in white letters against a dark blue porcelain enamel background. They went around the neighborhoods with their wooden trailer attached to the back of their car. On the trailer were long, round galvanized steel poles that the signs would be attached to. They had a hand-operated post-hole digging tool to set the poles into the ground at street corners. While they were doing this work, they somehow managed to get two signs made for them by the company that was producing the porcelain enamel signs for the County. One read “H. J. PauL, the other “Paul’s Puppets”. For years these were attached to the RFD mail box hanging from a branch on a Sycamore tree in front of 414 Hawthorne. Rd.
At that time Postmasters were political appointees. Henry, being a Democrat, got himself appointed Postmaster of Linthicum Heights by the Democratic Party that was then in control, with Franklin Roosevelt as President. What had been Henry’s Linthicum Store was converted into Linthicum’s first post office. Henry had to buy the post office Boxes that were rented to customers in the new post office with his own money. He got to keep at least part of the monthly rental fees, if not all of it. 1st class post offices were the big ones like Baltimore City’s. Linthicum’s was a 4th class office., which was about as small as they got. Class ratings were based on stamp sales. The more stamps sold, the higher the rating. Henry used his salesmanship to sell as many stamps as he could. He even sold and delivered them to people who did not live in Linthicum. He sold them to Dr. Dorsey, our dentist, who lived and had his office in Baltimore City.
Because the puppet show business was not enough to support our family, Bernie some how got a job in the Linthicum Post Office. Wonder how he pulled that off? It was not a job that he enjoyed, but he made the best of it until after WWII when they began to do the WBAL TV shows.
Henry had grown up on a farm in Tennessee and he brought his farming skills to Maryland with him. When Henry and Mary bought the property on Hawthorne Rd. for their new house, they also bought the adjoining 100’ wide lot. A badminton court was set up facing the road, but the rest of this lot was used as a garden. I’m not sure when they first began growing vegetables there, because that was what the lot was used for as far back as I can remember. The garden had rows and rows of vegetables lined up like a military parade. For example, the tomatoes were planted exactly 36” apart, not 35” or 37”. Their wooden support poles were driven into the ground with a level held on each side. The top of the pole touched a string stretched level from poles at each end of the row. Each newly planted tomato plant received exactly 1/2 pint of water, measured in a glass milk bottle. There were apple, cherry, and damson trees along with strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and a grape arbor, which ended up in pies and jams. The crops from this mini-farm supplied us with fresh produce during the summer and shelves of canned goods in the basement to feed us during the winter. There was a ‘tool house’ attached to the side of the garage where all tools used outside were kept. The handles of these tools were painted red so they could be seen if left in the garden, as every tool had to be cleaned and returned to the tool house before work ended for the night. Then there was the livestock: Rhode Island Red chickens which supplied us with fresh eggs and chicken dinners. Originally there was one long chicken house attached to the rear of the garage, with the fenced-in chicken yard behind that. Later there were two self-standing chicken houses known as ‘the little chicken house’ and ‘the big chicken house’. Yes, each structure had a name, and don’t dare call the tool house, the shed. The little chicken house was where baby chickens that arrived in a cardboard box with air holes in the sides, on the B&A train at Linthicum station each spring, lived. At that time last year’s baby chickens were fully grown and laying eggs in their home in the big chicken house. The mature chicken’s days were numbered as they were soon to become a Sunday dinner. By default Mary got to hold them by their feet, place their head on the tree stump next to the chicken yard, and chop their neck off with a hatchet. She got this job, because no one else would do it; and we had to eat. It was not until after I got married that I learned that not all eggs had brown shells. What are those strange things with white shells on the shelves in the supermarket?
At some point Edee had a job in Brager Eisenburgs, one of the Baltimore Department Stores, teaching women customers how to make lampshades. Actually it was how to make a new covering for their existing metal shade frame, rather than buying an expensive new shade. She also helped Miss Shoemaker, a dressmaker who lived up the road, to sew dresses for ladies who could still afford to have their clothing custom made.
These were some of the ways that our family dealt with the Great Depression and then World War II, which followed. Just as I thought all chicken eggs had brown shells, I thought all families raised their own produce. Linthicum was a small world in those days.
OCD - Old school style
My grandfather, Bernie, was possibly the most organized man that ever existed. Or at least one of the most organized. Everything he bought was labeled with the date and place it was purchased. And most of his purchases lasted a long time due to the extreme care that he took with everything. Considering his many collections his house could have taken on a pack rat appearance but absolutely everything had a place and everything was always in its place.
The example that jumps out at me to describe his organizational skills the most are his lightbulbs. He had taken a piece of wood and drilled holes that allowed him to set new lightbulbs into those holes and each row was labeled with the type of bulb. The messiness of a various boxes of bulbs would never do, this method was much better.
Friendship with Marion Edison- Orr's Island, Maine
Before buying their own place in Maine, my grandparents rented a cottage on Orr's Island on the property of a family named Houghton. Next door to them each summer was Marion Edison, the daughter of Thomas Edison. Edee struck up a friendship with her despite the difference in their age. As a result of this friendship, Marion gave Edee a signed copy of her typewritten memoir. The signed page is here and a link to the exact same memoir can be found on Rutgers University website here: http://edison.rutgers.edu/NamesSearch/SingleDoc.php3?DocId=X018A5Z
Marion also sent Edee and Bernie Christmas cards each year. However, in that day a card that was printed with your signature was the norm of the wealthy so they are not hand signed.
Paul’s Puppets used a number of advertising items over the years.
Bernie originally designed his trademark as a stylized Art Deco marionette within a stepped frame, with a row of footlights across the bottom. This was flanked by “PAUL’S” “PUPPETS”. A large version of this trade mark was made from Masonite™ and applied to both sides of the trailer used to haul the puppet equipment to shows. During the 1950’s Bernie had a set of these made in chrome-plated metal, which he attached to the front door of every auto he bought from then on. Later the trademark was simplified to just the marionette within a square.
Originally an 8 1/2” x 11” folder in red and black was used as an advertising mailer and correspondence insert. In the late 1950’s Bernie had Fred Worthington design a new folder. This was a 4” x 8” colored paper cover with a 4-panel fold out insert which included photographs of various shows along with the minimum required stage measurements and set-up time. When they began doing hand puppet shows a second folder was printed with information on the floor space required for these performances.
When their twice-weekly TV show on WBAL-TV began getting letters from viewers, Hutzler’s Department Store, their sponsor, had a post card printed. It featured Jo -Jo standing in front of the stage curtain with the Hutzler logos. A selection of children books was in the foreground. Hutzler’s used the puppet show mainly to build their store name recognition, there was very little product promotion on the show. These post cards contained a printed greeting on the reverse, so all that was needed was a hand-written name and address for children to receive a reply from Jo-Jo. When the show switched from WBAL-TV to WMAR-TV a red letter sticker was applied over the original WBAL-TV cards.
WBAL and WBAL-TV
Edwin Armstrong’s 1923 invention of the superheterodyne radio that operated on household current totally changed radio from a signal that could only be heard by using headphones from battery-powered sets to sound that filled a room, and could be enjoyed by the entire family.
The Consolidated Gas, Electric Light and Power Company of Baltimore (now BGE) decided that the best way to get people to buy and use these new radios was to begin broadcasting interesting programs. This was known in the power industry as Load Building. On November 2, 1925 Consolidated began broadcasting on their new station WBAL, (as in BALtimore) at 1090 on the radio dial. The radio studio was located on the 5th floor of the company’s Lexington Building headquarters at Lexington & Liberty Sts., in downtown Baltimore. As more and more homes bought and used radios, Consolidated sold more and more electricity. Having achieved the goal of selling more electricity, Consolidated sold WBAL to the Hearst Corporation on January 12, 1935. The studios remained in the Lexington Building.
Fast forward to the mid 1940’s and we find that one of WBAL’s Sunday programs was called “Woman of the Week”, which was sponsored by Schleisner’s. Schleisner’s was an up-scale woman store located on the north west corner of Howard and Saratoga Streets. Each Sunday several ladies would appear on the show and talk about what they were doing, career wise. Listeners would vote for their favorite by sending in a letter or postcard naming the lady they particularly liked. One Sunday evening Edee was one of the people interviewed while Bernie and the boys got to watch from the studio audience. The next Sunday we tuned in to hear who won. Edee didn’t, but the experience was fun.
Following World War II television began to take over the airwaves so WBAL branched out into this new medium with the introduction of WBAL -TV on channel 11. The station went on the air on March 11, 1948, as a National Broadcasting Company affiliate. At this time WBAL had recently moved into their new studio building at Charles and 26th Street. As you entered the front door, you were greeted by a receptionist at the curved reception desk. Directly behind this desk was a glass-enclosed room containing several teletype machines which were connected to the news wire services. A hallway to the right of this room lead to the radio studios at the rear. To the left of the reception desk an oscilloscope was illuminated with a line that moved to the pitch of the radio signal. On the far right a modern stairway with metal railing curved around a large glass drum-shaped chandelier up to the foyer on the second floor. Opening off this area was a large studio with a stage that was named the Air Theater. This was designed for broadcasting radio programs with studio audiences. The stairway continued it’s curved journey up to offices on the third floor. A hallway on the right lead from the top of the stairs on the second floor back to the television studio, which was actually in part of the adjoining building . The building on the corner was a 6-story structure used by a moving and storage company. It was designed to appear as a separate building, but was really all one structure. The television studio was a large rectangular 2-story space that was located directly above the loading dock of the storage warehouse. A freight elevator from the dock was used to bring large items up to the studio. The studio walls were lined with insulation, covered with unbleached muslin, with an overlay of metal chicken wire to protect the fabric while allowing the sound to be absorbed into the insulation. In the center of the long wall facing Charles Street was a large plate glass window in front of the TV control room on the upper level.
It was from this studio that, after bringing their stage and equipment up from the loading dock, and setting everything up on January 8, Edee & Bernie presented their first live 15-minute show on March 22, 1948. At first the show ran on Monday & Wednesday. When Hutzler Brothers Department Store began sponsoring the show in 1949, the time slot was changed to 6:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It followed the live network feed of the Howdy Doody Show from New York City. Originally this one studio had to serve all of WBAL’s live program needs. In the far left corner was a permanent kitchen set used by the Look & Cook show, aired earlier in the afternoon. At some point Bernie made a new marionette stage designed to work better with the TV cameras. Instead of the stage floor being about 18” off the floor the new TV one had the puppet stage about 36” off the floor, which allowed the two cameras used for the show to have better camera angles, and save the cameramen from working bent over. This stage was mounted on wheels so it could be rolled out of the way between show days. The wooden access ladders on each end of the bridge where Edee & Bernie stood were about twice the height of the regular stage. From this height Bernie could reach out and adjust the many lights hanging from the ceiling. Every job in the studio was controlled by the various unions, but Bernie told the stage crew that the puppet union cover all kinds of jobs. That was OK with the stage crew because that meant they didn’t have to climb a ladder to adjust the light, and they really didn’t care that there was no puppet union. In addition to Dave Nottingham, the director, plus an assistant in the control room, there were four men needed to do the show. There were two black & white RCA cameras, one mounted on a metal base with telescoping center column to adjust the height, and one on a wooden tripod mounted on a wheeled frame. Both cameras had three lens mounted in front that could be rotated into position by the cameraman. Sound was controlled by a man on the movable mike boom. He had to pick up sound from both Edee & Bernie, while making sure the shadow of the mike did not show up on the scenery or puppets. The fourth person was the floor manager who took instructions from the director via his headset and used hand signals to cue in Edee & Bernie about when to start, etc.
Edee and Bernie rehearsed each scene on their practice stage at home. On TV show days there were often lots of phone calls from Dave Nottingham with his ideas for hoot do various parts of the scene. Dave did not consider this just a local kids show h e tried to make it a dramatic production that was of equal quality to anything being done for network distribution. Dave would later move to London where he became a director for BBC television productions. This was followed by a long career as college professor.
There were no electronic effects used for the show. Scene titles were hand-lettered in black on gray cardboard by Hutzler’s sign letterer, Joseph Alpert. The show opened with a kaleidoscope that was basically two mirrors set on an angle in a tube, in front of a motor-driven revolving glass disk covered with black designs.
Because the floor of the stage was at waist level, someone decided that it would be nice if Jo-Jo could talk to Edee after the scene was completed. This allowed them to make adjustment in the about of time remaining in the allotted 15 minuets. Because it was all done live, there was no way to edit to fit the time slot, they had to keep talking until the floor director signaled to cut. Edee was never very happy about having to appear in person, but it was well received by the TV audience. She eventually had a very large collection of blouses, none of which were white, because white would bleed and blur the camera image. Parents would write in and ask Jo-Jo to say happy birthday to their child, so Bernie invented the Peep-a-Scope which allowed Jo-Jo to magically look into the birthday child’s living room. He could even tell them where to look in the room for their hidden present. As you can imagine this became very popular, and the number of kids with birthdays kept increasing to the point that were was not enough time to say hello to all of them. It became necessary to find some way out of this problem. The Peep-a-Scope was mounted on four small wheels. The base started life as a Bakelite decorative cover for a Babbo scouring powder can. The lens section was composed of camera parts and miscellaneous stuff from Bernies junk box. He never threw away anything that might be useful someday. One night, at the end of the show, Jo-Jo pushed the Peep-a Scope out onto the stage, but for some strange reason it did not stop where it was supposed to. Instead it kept on rolling, right off the front edge of the stage. Jo-Jo looked shocked, as shocked as possible when you have a painted face. He looked down, back up, down again, and then sadly announced that the Peep-a-Scope was broken into so many pieces that it could never be repaired.
Bernie found a man that custom made bicycles for performers who used them for trick riding. He had the man make a scaled down custom bike, just the right size for Jo-Jo to ride. He used it a few times on the show, but it was so heavy that it was hard to maneuver, so it spent most of it’s life stuck away in the prop closet.
Edee made a large rectangular canvas tote for carrying each days scenery from their studio to WBAL. There was a large suitcase for the puppets and props. Because they also did the regular full-length shows at schools and parties, they needed to move Jo-Jo back and forth from the TV suitcase to the regular show puppet case. Yes, you know where this is going. The ‘if it can go wrong it will’ rule came into play, and one time Jo-Jo was not in the proper place and the show had to go on without him. As a result Jo-Jo got cloned and then there was one that stayed in the TV suitcase, while his alter ego remained in the regular show case. When they began doing hand puppet shows, more cloning was done, but this time he was not the same from the neck down.
As the number of local programs grew and the popularity of local radio programs shrank, WBAL-TV converted the former Air Theater on the second floor into a second television studio. The plaster sound domes mounted on the walls were cut off to allow scenery to be placed against the walls in the area that originally held seats for live audiences. Then the Paul’s Puppet stage was rolled down the hall into it’s new home in Studio B.
It was from this studio that Paul’s Puppets performed the first live color show aired on WBAL-TV. It was such a big event that representatives from Hutzler’s management came to the station to watch the show. I was there with my Revere 8mm movie camera to try and catch some of the rehearsal action. Finally Dave Nottingham’s voice came over the intercom announcing that there was one too many cameramen in the studio, and I was the extra one who needed to leave. This was a very difficult program to do live because they only had one color camera, and it was a big one, much more difficult to maneuver than the B&W cameras. Because there was only one camera, David Nottingham could not cut back and forth between cameras for different angles. The title card was set up just below the edge of the stage front. The show began with the camera focused on the card, then panned up to Jo-Jo on the stage. The curtain then opened and the story began, all through the lens of this one camera. I got to watch the show, along with the group from Hutzlers, on a color tv set that had been set up in one of the radio studios downstairs. For all the problems involved with having just a single camera the show was a great success. Because Bernie & Edee had made all of the puppet costumes and sets in color for the shows that were telecast in black & white, they were ready to go when color broadcasts began. They continued to do their show in color until the end of their run at WBAL-TV in May of 1957.
WBAL photographs from “Going Forward With Radio 1909 on Your Dial”. 1950, National Radio Personalities, Edited by Tom White, WBAL.
Bernie in assisted living at Heart Homes
Bernie continued living at 414 Hawthorne after Edee passed away. After all it had been his home since he was a teenager. Converting the dining room into his bedroom was not even an option, when I suggested it. It was always the dining room and his bed room was upstairs where it had always been. So every night he made the trip up the steps, with the help of the chair-lift he had installed for Edee.
One night, while standing in front of the refrigerator, he passed out or fell. It was not until the next afternoon that we found him on the floor where he had been since the night before. We took him to the emergency room at North Arundel Hospital where they dealt with his medical needs. At that point we knew that he could not continue to live alone in that big house, but could we convince him of that. Actually he had already decided that he did not want to go back to Hawthorne Road.
Heart Homes, located on Fort Meade Road in Linthicum, would be a convenient location if space was available. When I stopped in, they did have a room available, so I made arrangements for him to move there when he was released from the hospital. Bobbi Watson, the director, suggested we bring a few familiar items to furnish his room. Just before move-in day Bobbi said that another room was also available if we wanted it. It was at the far end of the hall and had two windows rather than just one as in other rooms. This was much better, so we furnished it with his chair and side table from the living room and his television set, along with a selection of clothing.
Bobbi had told us that the first few days, or weeks could be difficult for new arrivals, and suggested we not make visits for a couple of days. As expected, the first night there Bernie told Bobbi that he was just going to go to bed and stay there until he died. Bobbi responded “not on my watch are you going to do that!” “Be in the dining room for breakfast or I will come get you”. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Bobbi was just what he needed to keep his spirit up, and his fighting Irish juices flowing. And yes, he was in the dining room the next morning.
Not having to fix meals was a real plus for Bernie. For most of his life, the kitchen at Hawthorne Road was just a space he passed through to get to and from the back door, or the studio. It was not until Edee started to have memory problems that Bernie actually began to spend time in the kitchen, learning the basics of cooking, while helping Edee. When Edee went into the nursing home Bernie was on his own with food preparation. When Ann Cramer brought him a microwave, set it down on the counter and said “Here you need this”, a whole new adventure of eating suddenly opened up. The dining room at Heart Homes was so much better than the usual Stoffer’s frozen dinner.
Having to lug his laundry down to the basement and deal with the washing and drying process was something else that he now did not have to deal with.
He kept up to date with what was going on in the rest of the world with his subscription to the Sunpaper and news on TV, as delivered by Denise Koch. Denise was his news anchor of choice because she was “cute’. One time he ask me about stem cell research, which was then a hot topic in the news. Well, he knew a whole lot more about that subject than I did.
Bit by bit Bernie would ask me to bring him some item from 414 for use in his room. Various puppets were requested, along with knights in armor, a bronze nude figure or two, and even an elephant head plaque. Slowly his room began to look more like home.
Having two windows in his room allowed him to watch what was going on in nature. His squirrel-proof bird feeder was placed outside the window. His chair facing the window provided lots of bird watching.
It was really all of the human visits that he most enjoyed. He had almost daily visits from family, friends and neighbors. David and Sharon ( grandchildren) tried to visit regularly. Another grandson Thomas, AKA ‘Officer Paul’, would always grab the attention of the other residents when he showed up in uniform, complete with his side arm, and proceeded down the hall to Bernie’s room for a visit. A visit with Thomas was like a personal stand-up comedy routine. Everyone in the room, except Thomas, was laughing during his stories of a Baltimore City Policeman’s daily adventures on the job. One time when Rebecca was visiting and Tom showed up, he had both of them laughing so hard they had to hold their stomachs.
I think the main reason Bernie had so many people visit him was because he did not talk about his problems. He wanted to ask questions and listen to what his visitor had to say. He made lists of questions he had for each one as he thought about them. When we stopped in there would be the piece of scrap paper headed ‘Carroll & Larry’ followed by several headings he wanted to discuss. One time he told us that a new resident had moved in. I ask how old she was? He said “I don’t know, but she is older than me”. I said “no one is older than you”. To which he replied “Go home!” Not thinking about his own age was one of the ways that kept him from thinking or acting old.
Some people never adjust to being away from their home, but I think Bernie knew that assisted living was the right place for him at that stage of his life, and he adjusted well enjoying the positives , without dwelling on the negatives.
Paul’s Puppets, In performance at the White House
As a business man in the midst of the Great Depression, with a wife and a year-old son to support, Bernie needed to try everything possible to make a living as puppeteers.
The Christmas season of 1933 may have given him the idea of doing a performance at the White House during the Easter season. Around the first of the year he wrote a letter to the White House. All right, let’s be honest here; he had Edee write the letter. She was the one with the writing skill. She wrote the play scripts and did all the typing and correspondence.
Arranging for any type of entertainment at the White House was not simple even then. There are fifteen surviving letters relating to this one performance that give an idea of what was involved.
On Wednesday January 31, 1934, Mrs Roosevelt’s Secretary responded to the initial letter with Mrs Roosevelt’s appreciation of their kind offer, and informed them that all arrangements for musicals at the White House were handled by Mr. Henry Junge of Steinway & Sons, in New York.
Friday, February 16, Edee wrote to Mr. Junge offering a performance for the President’s grandchildren during the Easter holidays.
Monday the 19th, Henry Junge replied that Mrs Roosevelt was away on a tour and that he ”shall ascertain if she contemplates any Easter Children Entertainment”. “ I shall bear in mind (your offer) when a suitable opportunity offers to utilize your marionettes”. He also wanted to know if they were doing any puppet shows in New York City that he might see and report his personal impressions on, to Mrs. Roosevelt.
On Wednesday the 21st, Henry Junge wrote that “I am delighted to inform you that Mrs. Roosevelt has reacted very favorably towards your suggestion of your Marionettes’ Entertainment”. He went on to state that “ It is customary that no fees are paid to artists who offer their services for such occasions at the White House and if this harmonizes with your plans, I would suggest that you submit to me some of your features which you think would be enjoyed by Mrs. Roosevelt’s grandchildren and some of their friends on Easter Monday afternoon, April 2nd at 3.30 P.M.”.
Friday, February 23, Edee / Bernie responded “I am very pleased to know that Mrs. Roosevelt has accepted the offer, of our marionettes, to entertain her grandchildren.” “ My fee will be the pleasure I give my young audience and the applause my little actors receive”. He then suggested that he would like to stop by the White House to see the room where we were to give our performance, so that he could get an idea of how much curtaining would be needed, and where the stage would be located. He suggested the ‘Fiery Dragon’ as the play, but ended the letter with “I shall be pleased to give any play in my repertory that Mrs. Roosevelt or you select and shall look forward to the Easter Monday performance with great pleasure”.
On Tuesday the 27 Henry Junge replied that “Your suggestion, to look over the situation at the White House before deciding upon the program is a wise one. I am enclosing a letter of introduction to Mr Raymond D. Muir, Chief Usher at the White House, which kindly present to him when you visit Washington”. He then suggested that Berne “get in communication with Mr. Muir and appoint a day and I am sure that he will find time during the day you are in Washington to discuss essential details with you”.
Bernie did indeed communicate with Mr Muir, took a trip to the White House where he met with Mr. Muir, and saw the East Room where the performance was to take place. He also found out the Mr Muir would have a platform available as well as some curtains to block off the puppet stage.
On Monday March 12, he informed Mr Junge about his White House meeting and stated that unless Mrs Roosevelt preferred another story, they would be doing “The Fiery Dragon”.
Saturday, March 24, Mr Jung reported that “I heard this morning that Mrs. Roosevelt thinks that “The Fiery Dragon” will be quite satisfactory for the party on April 2nd, 1934”.”Please let me know when you expect to start for Washington and where you are going to stay, so that a White House Limousine will call for you and your assistants at the proper hour for your appearance”. Below Henry Junge’s fancy signature is a hand-written PS “The Easter Party on April 2, 1934, will be at 3.30 PM; and the marionettes may be shown at 3.45 PM”. Edee made a note at the bottom of the letter “leave 12 o’clock; arrive 1 o’clock”
Monday, March 26, Edee wrote to Mr Muir to inform him that they would arrive between one and one thirty o’clock, April 2, to unload the marionettes and stage equipment. It would take several hours to set up the stage on the platform. Bernie mentioned one other thing he forgot to mention earlier which was the possibility of darkening the East Room windows to make the stage lighting more effective.
Tuesday, March 27, a letter to Mr Junge explained that they only lived about forty miles from Washington, and that they will drive there with the puppets and equipment in a trailer attached to the car.
Easter, Monday April 2,The Pauls and their puppets arrived at the White House at the appointed time and after hauling everything in they began setting up the stage in the East Room. With all of the careful planning and communication there was one thing that no one thought about. The 78 rpm record player that was used for the introductory and between-scenes music was operated on AC (alternating current) which was used throughout the United States, except in the White House where the original direct current (DC) electrical system, installed in 1891,was all that was available. When Mrs Roosevelt was informed of this problem she said “I think there is a wind-up phonograph somewhere. Then she and Bernie went from room to room searching until they found it, solving the problem. After the stage was set up and every thing was ready, Mrs Roosevelt took Edee on a short tour of the White House, which included the kitchen, which Mrs Roosevelt thought was not very well equipped. There were four Roosevelt grandchildren present for the show, William (age 2), Sara (2), Anna (7) and Curtis (4). Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, there were 50,000 children on the White House south lawn participating in the annual Easter egg rolling event. What about the President? He was down south on a fishing trip.The show apparently went well and was well received by the audience; because the record player problem was the only thing that would go on to become Paul family folk lore.
On Thursday, May 17, Edee /Bernie wrote to Henry Junge, “I do hope Mrs. Roosevelt and her grandchildren enjoyed our recent performance at the White House, although I have never heard any comment from there”. “The purpose of this letter is to offer my services to Mrs. Roosevelt at any time she may care to have us again and also to suggest to the President, through her, the idea of a performance for the crippled children at Warm Springs, GA. , on the same terms as our White House performance, of course”.
Wednesday, May 18, a similar letter was sent directly to Mrs. Roosevelt, along with the suggestion of a performance at Warm Springs.
Around the middle of August, probably on Friday the 17th, a parcel post package from the White House arrived at the Linthicum Heights post office, where Bernie worked part time to supplement his puppet show income. Upon opening this package he discovered a framed glossy photograph of Mrs. Roosevelt standing at the bottom of the stairs leading to the private quarters on the 2nd floor. Fala, the Roosevelt’s famous scotty dog joins her on the fourth step. This photographs was signed in ink” To Mr. Bernard H. Paul with good wishes Eleanor Roosevelt”. The frame contained a brass plaque inscribed “This wood was part of the White House roof erected about 1817 and removed in 1927”. Mrs Roosevelt had these frames made in her Val-Kill Industries building in Hyde Park, NY. She built this building in 1926 and used it to train local farmers woodworking skills that they could use as a career, because farming in the area was dying out. Along with creating replicas of early American furniture, they created these frames for the Roosevelts to used as thank-you gifts.
On Saturday, August 18, a letter was written to Henry Junge thanking him for the photograph and telling him how they sincerely appreciated it. Never missing an opportunity to promote more shows, Bernie went on to say that “If Mrs. Roosevelt would like to have us give our little Christmas Play for the children at Christmas time we will be delighted to so as it is a pleasure to play to such a charming audience. The play has the traditional Santa Claus, Jack Frost, etc. that are a thrill even to the small children” “ Would you mind finding out if she would be interested so we can hold a date open for her”?
Promptly on Tuesday the 21st, Henry Junge responded. “ The contents of your letter of August 18th is very much appreciated and I shall bring your offer to Mrs. Roosevelt’s attention when an opportune moment arrives. However, I do not anticipate that this matter will receive any consideration before November 1st, when Christmas festivities may be taken up for discussion”.
The final surviving letter was written on White House stationary on Thursday October 12, 1937. “I am afraid I will not be in Chicago in June, 1938, but do not know definitely at the present moment just where I will be at that time. I am sorry to say that I cannot give you a note for advertising purposes but you may show this letter to any individuals. The children and I have enjoyed so much the plays which you have given here. I think marionettes are a very good form of entertainment as they can convey much valuable information and be both recreational and educational”. Signed “Eleanor Roosevelt”.
Even though Mrs Roosevelt’s letter mentioned “plays” as far as I know a Christmas show at the White House did not take place. There was also no show at Warm Springs, but Bernie had achieved what he had originally set out to do. From that time on “Performed at the White House” was mentioned all Paul’s Puppets promotional material, and in most newspaper articles about the Pauls and their puppets.
Setting the Stage
Securing the booking for a show was only the first step in preparing to present the Marionette show.
Getting all of the equipment to the show’s location was crucial, and there was a lot of equipment to move. Here is the breakdown of the equipment.
1- The stage which consisted of:
A- A gray plywood floor about 36” x 72”.
B- The black wooden ‘bridge’ which is where Edee & Bernie stood to operate the marionettes, about 15” x 72”.
C- The waist-high wooden shelf that held the electric and sound equipment and kept them from falling backward off the bridge, about 15” x 72”.
D- A set of wooden ladder steps to climb up to the bridge.
E - A bundle of metal pieces that formed the frame work for the stage.
F- A bundle of wooden frame pieces that supported the front curtains and from which the marionettes were hung.
G- The footlights for the front of the stage.
H- Black velvet curtains to cover the front of the stage.
I- A black velvet curtain for the rear of the stage.
J- The stage curtain with track.
2- The sound system speakers and amplifier: In a black wooden case about 14” wide, 15” high and 12” deep, which came apart to form two 6” deep speaker sections. The amplifier was transported inside the case.
3- The light control panel box: A custom made wooden box with removable lid that contained the power cord. The face of the panel was burnished metal with a series of switches that controlled the spotlights that plugged into outlets, and sound system. There was a small 6 watt bulb that illuminated the panel. About 10” wide,14” high and 8” deep.
4- A 78-RPM turntable with records about 13” x13’ by 6” high.
5- Scenery and props: In a case about 30” high, 48” long and 12” wide, with a lid that opened on the top. Some of the velvet curtains and the spot lights were carried in this case.
6- The marionettes : In a case about 20” x 30” x 8”. Some of the curtains were carried in this case.
The way this equipment was hauled to and from the location of the show changed over the years. Originally a gray, wooden trailer with sides about 18” high and a drop down tailgate was used. This trailer had been built using an axel and spoke-wheeled tires, probably from a circa 1920’s automobile. It had a snap-on canvas cover to protect the cargo.
In the mid to late 1930’s it was replaced by a new covered trailer with a permanent plywood top. The original trailer was stored under the west end of the front porch and continued to be used to haul horse manure for the garden and wood chips from Johnson Lumber Co. in Glen Burnie for the chicken houses.
Each side of the new trailer contained Masonite™ signs with the Art Deco stylized puppet logo that Bernie had designed. He cut out the design on his jigsaw and then screwed the signs to the trailer.
During World War II gasoline was rationed, so travel was very limited and everyone did what they could to save gasoline. In 1941, just before the start of the war, Bernie bought a new Plymouth 4-door sedan. Gasoline rationing began on the east coast in May of 1942 and most car owners were issued a book of “A” stamps and a ”A” sticker that had to be mounted on the windshield. With the “A” stamps you could only purchase from three to five gallons of gasoline per week. This probably motivated Bernie to come up with something that used less gasoline than hauling the trailer. His solution was a plywood box that extended out of the rear of the Plymouth’s trunk. He named this “The Bustle”. The Masonite signs were removed from the trailer and attached to the Bustle, serving as an advertisement when they did shows.
By the time the war ended and new automobiles were once again available, Bernie was accustomed to carrying the puppet equipment in the car, so he did not want to revert to using a trailer. Nash introduced their 1948 Ambassador ‘Suburban’ as an upscale version of the old station wagon models. It featured real solid ash wood door framing around mahogany plywood panels. The ‘Suburban’ also featured real red leather seats, and the ‘Bed-in a- Car’ system that Nash introduced in 1936. This allowed the rear seat to fold down forming a bed where your feet projected into the trunk space. With the seats folded down there was enough space to slide the stage floor through the trunk and into the rear compartment. With a bit of adjusting all of the rest of the equipment could be carried in this space. For the front doors Bernie had his trademark design made by a truck sign company in Pennsylvania in chrome-plated metal. The Nash dealer installed the new signs on the his new car, and they served as a continuous advertisement for Paul’s Puppets. From that point on every new car he bought got the signs transferred to it as part of the purchase deal. Only 130 of these 1948 Suburbans were produced. At that time they retailed for between $1,929 and $2,239. In May, 2016 one sold at auction for $63,250. The Suburban came with a chrome ‘Winged Lady Goddess’ hood ornament. Bernie’s next Nash featured a George Petty-designed ‘Flying Lady’ chrome ornament. She moved from car to car along with the signs up to his last Volvo.
Edee kept a record of special equipment required for each place they gave a show, including the need for a longer power cord, extra velvet curtains to block in the sides of the stage, or the need for someone to control the house lights from another part of the room. Every customer was given the list of pre-requisites which were: A stage or strong platform with these minimum measurements: 12 ft. wide across the front, 9 ft. deep, 2 ft high, with a ceiling clearance of 9 ft from the floor of the stage or platform. An AC electrical outlet and complete use of the stage two hours before the show and at least an hour after the performance. Even with this list a new place could provide an unwanted surprise, such as an electric outlet that lost power when the house lights went off, or a ceiling light that would hit them in the head.
Assembling the stage was a carefully choreographed routine. Each one had things that they did separately, and things they did together. All of the 1/4” bolts used to assemble the stage were color coded with enamel paint, one set for Edee and another for Bernie. They had ratchet screw drivers to tighten and loosen the bolts and wing nuts were used to speed up the process. They each worked on opposite sides while assembling the stage frame. Once that was completed, Bernie set up the stage lights and sound system, then ran the cords to the control panel. Edee took the marionettes out of their individual zippered muslin bags and hung each one in the proper location on the wooden bars flanking the stage. While the show was going on they had to be able to reach over and grab the controller for the puppet that is about to go on stage, without looking away from the puppet they were operating onstage.
Hanging backdrops and other hanging scenery was made of painted muslin and netting. The free-standing sets were made of Upson™ board, a dense 1/4” thick cardboard that could be cut to shape and needed no wooden support framing. There were small metal cleats on each side of the stage floor that metal angle irons, bolted to the Epson board set piece, could be inserted into, keeping the scenery from falling over. All of the scenery as well as any furniture or props were carefully placed on the floor on each side of the marionette stage. There were only a few minutes between scenes, and Edee and Bernie climbed down the steps from their side of the bridge to make the quick scene change setups.
This setup process took up to two hours depending on whether there were unexpected problems. If everything went well, all was ready at the time the performance was scheduled to begin.
When the show was over, the dismantling process began, starting with putting each marionette back in it’s zippered bag complete with identification tag. When everything had been disassembled and packed into its case or bundle, the car was loaded and Edee and Bernie headed back to 414 Hawthorne Road. Once they got home, the car needed to be unpacked and all of the equipment stored so it would all be ready for the next show date.
The Paul family Christmas traditions
Every year when I decorate our Christmas tree certain ornaments bring back memories of Christmas time on Hawthorne Road. Some of these old ornaments go back to my father’s childhood and were on our tree during my childhood.
Christmas decorating at 414 Hawthorne did not start until after Peter and I went to bed on Christmas Eve. It was always a surprise to wake up on Christmas morning, go downstairs and discover the tree with a train running around the base, along with a stack of presents. I must admit that at that moment the stack of presents was more interesting than the tree or the train. As with most things in our household gift opening was a controlled situation. Bernie became Santa and dispensed the gifts one at time. We all watched as that gift was opened, the happy look and the thank you shared before Santa handed out the next gift. Adults each got one or two gifts while Peter and I got maybe three or four. At the end of the gift dispensing it was time for breakfast.
Preparation for Christmas actually began around Thanksgiving when the fruitcake was prepared and baked. When it emerged from the oven it was soaked in a small amount of brandy, wrapped in a cloth and put in a round tin box to begin its aging process. The bottle of brandy must have lasted for years because it only emerged from the pantry that one day out of the year. Cookie baking began shortly after the fruitcake was baked. Peter and I got to help decorating the sugar cookies by adding the colored sugar sprinkles after the various star, crescent moon, pine tree, and Santa shapes were formed with the metal cutters. We also got to use the cookie press to squeeze out the various molded shapes of the spritz cookies. Somewhere along the line hard candies were purchased, but not opened until the big day.
Many of our Christmas trees came from Markel’s farm on Andover Road. There were several rows of them planted between what is now the Little League ball field and the northern edge of the Andover swimming pool property. With saw in hand, Bernie & Henry would walk up and down the rows until just the right tree was found, cut, and loaded in the trailer for its trip to our house. When this group of trees got too tall other sources of supply became necessary. One of these sources was the woods at the end of Hawthorne Road. Over the years the tree was set up in different parts of the first floor. In the pre-children year of 1932 it was placed in the corner of the front hall, beside the entrance door. This area would later become the “powder room”, AKA toilet & sink room. By the time I first remember it, the living room was the location. Later it moved to the corner of the dining room. By 1966 it was much smaller and held in a clay pot from Williamsburg that sat atop the TV in the living room.
The pre-Christmas period was a very busy time at the Linthicum post office as well as for Paul’s Puppets. Kernan’s Hospital for Children, Happy Hills Convalescent Home, and William S. Bauer School for Crippled Children all scheduled performances, as did many local schools. Edee & Bernie sometimes made window displays for Baltimore department stores, Hochschild Kohn & Co. & Hutzler Brothers. The post office sometimes had so much mail that a second home delivery was made on some days.
Some of the toys that Peter and I got were factory made. The cast iron Huber steam roller has been a part of my life for so long that I can’t remember life without it. It may have been a Christmas present. During WWII metal and rubber were extremely limited so toys had to be made of other materials. Wood and paper were the materials toy makers had to rely on. One year I got an aircraft carrier which was made of wood, with its deck details printed on glossy paper stock. There was a small metal spring hidden in a slot in the deck that was used to launch the tiny airplanes.
Bernie hand-made some of our toys. One of the war year Christmases he made me an airplane scooter. The scooter part was metal, and may have originally belonged to some other boy. To this he added projecting wooden wings, painted military olive drab with air force insignia added. He probably saw the idea in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazine which featured craft ideas. It was a fun outdoor toy, but a bit difficult to maneuver so it got limited use. Another Christmas Bernie made us cast lead soldiers which he carefully painted in two different colored uniforms. Peter was not very interested in playing with his set so the two armies were consolidated under my command, where they engaged in many battles.
Our O-gauge Lionel train set originally encircled the tree on the floor in the living room. It was composed of a steam locomotive with two passenger cars and a set of metal freight cars that could be pulled in place of the passenger cars. When I was a bit older the train garden moved up to the second floor front room. A sheet of new plywood was purchased to attach the tracks to. ( Every time I smell plywood I am reminded of that train platform). I used sawdust, that came from cutting out puppet body parts to make grass for the train garden. An envelope of Rit™ dye in a bucket of water transformed it from tan to green. Accurate scale was not important in this miniature town. The cardboard church was HO-gauge so O-gauge cast metal people who inhabited the town could never fit through the door. A few years later I wanted everything to be in scale and at that time HO-gauge trains were becoming popular, so that is what I wanted. That Christmas I received an American Flyer HO train set. With it I started creating my year around set up model layout. A friend had a used HO-gauge Varney™ Docksider locomotive for sale for $15. I was somehow able to convince my parents that I should sell the old O-gauge Lionel trains to the Waters’ family across the street for $15, and then buy the Docksider. Today the Lionel sets sell for over $100 while the Varney locomotive might bring $15 on a good auction day. Selling the Lionel set is one of the things I wish they had not let me do.
Christmas presents between the Paul adults were usually interesting and unusual. There was a lot of silver involved. Bernie liked jewelry so Edee often gave him some. For Christmas 1942 she gave him a silver ring with a black warrior head carved of stone. After they became friends with Clifford Russell in Maine I received several of his silver tie clips. For Christmas 1962 Henry gave Mary the grandmother clock that we now have in our dining room.
By the late 1950’s Bernie & Edee were doing puppet shows for Colonial Williamsburg every December. One year they saw a hand-carved wooden nativity set that Williamsburg had commissioned from a Mr. Leynoner. He was a refugee from Hungry, who had settled near Southampton Pennsylvania. They contacted him and had him carve them a smaller-size se,t. It was displayed on the fireplace mantel every year, beginning in 1964. A couple of pieces of driftwood from Maine became part of the setting.
The only exterior Christmas decoration on the Paul house was something on the front door, along with a string of bells on a leather strap. No electric candles in the windows. The porch ceiling light was on until bedtime to show off the door decoration.
Christmas decorations went up on Christmas Eve and came down on New Year’s Day.
Just like eating lunch at exactly 12 noon and dinner at exactly 6: PM, I grew up thinking the entire world did Christmas exactly like the Hawthorne Road Paul's did.
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