Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nancy McDermott, the choir & Johnson Auditorium

I need to find a home in yesterday's post about the McDermotts for this small tintype of Nancy, which I didn't get around to scanning at the museum until yesterday afternoon.

I'm always amazed when it's possible to look into the faces of such luminaries as Cedar Township's first permanent settlers --- and the second to take up permanent residence here, during September of 1847.

The image of Nancy's husband, William, used yesterday, was taken from a large portrait that hangs in the museum library. This portrait must surely have originated with the McDermott family, but came to the museum from the Chariton Public Library which, until the historical society was formed in 1965, was the major repository of Lucas County's history.

The much smaller portrait of Nancy joined William in the library during 2000, thanks to Charles M. Wright, who found it in a family album back in the mid-1960s when researching his centennial history of Russell. A companion portrait of William was loaned to the Russell newspaper, then never returned. So we're lucky to have the larger image of William.

Some years later, Charles donated the album in which the portrait of Nancy was found and its remaining images to the Russell Historical Society Museum and one of my goals, so far unrealized, is to get down there and take a look at it.


A good crowd turned out last night for the Grand View University Choir concert at Johnson Auditorium --- just a great way to spend an evening. The choir, launching its spring tour in Chariton, performed beautifully --- and did considerable bragging about the meal its members had been served before the concert at First Lutheran Church.

Choir members are on their way this morning to Illinois and will perform in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland,  too, before arriving in Washington, D.C., then will perform their way back across the upper Midwest, headed home to Des Moines on this 10-day swing.

I can tell you one minor secret --- pocket squares that were intended to adorn the breast pockets of the jackets of male choir members were inadvertently left behind in Des Moines. That seems to have been the only minor glitch in the tour's launch.

And I was lucky enough to sit near Janet Clark, Grand View Class of 1959, and a former Grand View Choir member. It's too bad that piece of information didn't turn up a little earlier --- we probably could have arranged a little public embarrassment had the choir known an alum was in the room.


I got to thinking, too, how lucky Lucas County is to have Johnson Auditorium --- and the rest of the Chariton Community Center that is attached to the west side of Chariton High School.

It doesn't seem that long ago, but I'm wondering how many people remember (or even know considering the complex is nearing its 30th birthday) how it came about.

You have to go back to 1970 to understand a little about how this wonderful place came into being. 

The community center complex sits on the former site of Alma Clay School, just west of the high school building. Fatal structural problems resulted in demolition of that vintage building and a major space crunch for Chariton schools. The original high school auditorium was subdivided for classroom purposes in 1970, leaving Chariton without a place for major community events --- other than the gymnasium.

During 1982, the Johnson (Machine Works family) Foundation offered $400,000 to fund a new auditorium, and Hy-Vee matched that amount in order to expand the scope of the project. 

It then became evident that, with broad support from the community, a very ambitious project could be undertaken. A fund-raising effort brought in more than $700,000 to supplement the Johnson Foundation and Hy-Vee gifts.

Ground was broken for the new community center and it was dedicated officially and opened during January of 1985 --- the 462-seat Johnson Auditorium (with space for 150 more temporary seats), huge three-court gymnasium, community rooms and kitchen --- all attached to the high school and available both to the public and to students.

The auditorium also houses a magnificent (and recently refurbished) concert grand --- and it was great to hear and see that beautiful instrument incorporated into last evening's performance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Johnson Auditorium nears its 30th birthday, I hope the community will recognize its needs. We are blessed with a wonderful High School Choir director, Tyler Urich, whose students have presented us with fantastic concerts this year. Only one problem--the auditorium's sound system is antiquated and badly in needs of improvement. Surely there are some local funds to help with this project.