Andrea's Friends and the Showboat: an on line story
Introduction: This is one of several stories about Andrea, a young woman from Scandinavia and her friends. Andrea came to America in the 1890's and went to work as a maid in hotels. She is helpful to other people but refuses to be intimidated by others, especially Roald.
. Roald Johanna came at about the same time from the same village as Andrea. He studied for the ministry but was not accepted. He and Andrea have some sort of attachment from knowing each other but are from different social classes. Roald was something of a womanizer and playboy but has gotten more serious. Karolina is an attractive girl about Andrea’s age and is keeping company with Roald. Jay is Andrea’s boyfriend.
Andrea and her friends had come to Rock Island, Illinois to work at Watchtower Park, a trolley park, which provided attractions such as a merry-go-round, roller coaster, a music Pavilion and The Watchtower Inn where people could eat, and rent rooms to stay over. A fire destroyed the Inn and the park closed down pending repairs, so they now seek other jobs.
“As long as we’re here,” Andrea said, “lets take a look at the Mississippi River.”
“As they got closer, Karolina pointed toward the dock. “Isn’t that the white dog from the park?”
“I think it is. What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there. Looking at that boat.”
When they got to the wharf the dog was gone.
“It’s a showboat!” Andrea said.
As luck would have it, auditions were just starting for a vaudeville show. Andrea and Karolina were both excited to be chosen for singing. Roald was picked as an announcer, and Jay signed on as ticket seller.
Vaudeville was popular at the end of the century, which popular writer and performer Mr. Mark Twain dubbed the “Gilded Age.” “I suppose he meant everything is all show with no substance,“ the theater manager said. With his white suit and mustache Colonel Josiah Fenwick could almost pass for the famous humorist himself. “Right now,” he went on,” dances like the two-step and waltz are the craze. See if you can work out a routine to include them. And you,” he addressed Roald ”You look like you could be a storyteller. If we fit you out with a derby hat and a cravat along with your yellow hair you could be a spellbinder. Do you know about the railroads? “ The Colonel was something of a spell binder himself and Roald was all but mesmerized about the railroad story.
“I can see you up on the stage now all dressed in a suit with your bowler hat and a cane. Yes, you must have a cane. Telling the future of the railroad that is starting right here in Rock Island, this very place. You can tell them about the locomotives and the transcontinental line soon to be laid.
“I think I can come up with something,” Roald said.
“Of course you can,” the colonel said. “your friend Jay can be in some of the dance routines with the girls. Oh, and tell Andrea to do some train backdrops.”
Andrea’s train backdrop was impressive. It showed a locomotive appearing to be almost bearing down on the audience while another train was going off in the distance.“That white dog sitting and watching is a nice touch,” the colonel said. “And that heavy set man looking like he missed the train is interesting too.”
“Odd,” Andrea said. “I don’t remember doing them.”
Just then Jay came in from ticket selling. “Do you remember that fake detective, Alexander Jones, who wanted revenge because you aided the police by drawing pictures of him?”
“How could I forget?”
“”Well, I got a note at the hotel from the Duluth police that he might be stalking you, or us. I think I might have sold him a ticket to the show, but I’m not sure it was him.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Andrea said. “Probably what he wants to do is makes us afraid. Or me anyhow.”
With the physical and emotional strain of rehearsal, setting stage props, making and fitting costumes Andrea was too hyped up to worry about the stalker. The colonel got the promotion materials from the Rock Island railroad together. Roald and Jay, along with some other cast members, helped set up a temporary stage for opening night. Just below the stage they made a small dance floor for audience members who felt compelled to join with the music.
When opening night came, both Andréa and Karolina were excited and the stalker was all but forgotten about. They started the show by singing a set of popular songs and then the band moved on into music for the two-step which the cast skillfully performed moving around the stage. A few bold audience members used the small dance floor, including a heavyset man who danced with a rather reluctant looking young woman.
Then Roald went center stage dressed in his dark brown suit, a tan derby hat and cane. When he went to the podium he looked like he was at a pulpit ready for a sermon. But his talk about the railroad’s history and future was spellbinding and the audience loved it. Andréa’s backdrop of the trains brought applause. The figure of a heavy set man in the picture caused the audience members to look around at the man they had seen among them.
Opening night ended with a standing ovation. As the cast took its bows Andrea caught the face of the man she recognized as the man she identified and drew poster pictures of for the police in
Duluth. She made eye contact with him and smiled. As the applause died out a white dog jumped on stage and made a bow with its front legs stretched out. The audience clapped again.
Nobody knew where the dog came from but it followed Andrea and her friends until they got to their hotel. A heavyset dark figure lingered behind them until they went in and the dog ran off. Andrea gave a haughty glare at the stalker and a wistful look for where the dog had gone.
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund