by Loyce Braun
The full-size glossy issue of the Ebell Magazine in February 1929 contained a particularly interesting submission from Mrs. Long, Theatre Chair, who describes the challenges facing our “Broadway style,” 1,200 seat theatre, which was then known as The Windsor Square Theatre. The venue, planned both to accommodate the large crowds attending Ebell’s Monday meetings and to provide a source of income for the Club, was falling well below expectations on the revenue side, remaining dark on two thirds of dates available for rentals. A theatrical agent with connections to New York producers was engaged to bring road shows of Broadway successes directly to the Ebell’s stage. The agent had barely accepted the position when word came from his eastern contacts that the theatrical business was “shot to pieces” and that his theatrical contacts “would be unable to send him anything!” Possible explanations for this stunning dilemma were offered. First at fault must be the radio, which allowed people to be entertained at home. Second, a veteran producer was quoted as saying that there was an excess of “sex plays” on Broadway that were scaring “decent and clean people away from the theatre.”
By October 4, 1929, the crash of the stock market and the escalating disaster of the Depression may have provided a more comprehensive explanation.
Advertising in the February 1929 Ebell magazine featured some things still with us – Yosemite National Park and Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale – and some things gone entirely – Maddux Air Lines (“America’s Greatest Airway System”) and White King Granulated Soap (“washes everything”), but there is one surprising foreshadowing of contemporary enterprise.
Is this “Automobile for Rent” service not an embryonic Uber?