1926 Merry-Ann: A UD Light Opera

merry1“Merry-Ann” was the first musical production by the UD Student Union. The book and lyrics were by Seniors James Pooler Silas and P. Ralph Miller. The story, told in two scenes and ten acts, is a love triangle with Merry-Ann the center of attention between an old childhood friend and the son of a wealthy philanthropist who decided to give the girl a higher education. Of course, complications arise (as well as a secondary romance about another couple), but who Merry-Ann ends up with is not disclosed in any of the articles that I have read. (My guess is that the childhood friend wins in the end.)

There were 371 applicants for a part in the stage production (more than 30 for the title role of Merry-Ann), and all the roles were played by male students. There were some women students attending the university, but the plan must have been for all the female roles to be played by male students.

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All the actors and musicians involved with the play were students of the university. The only professionals involved were the director, John Harwood, and the choreographer Max Scheck, both of whom had extensive experience on Broadway productions.

The production was staged at the Shubert-Detroit Theatre at a cost of either $15,000 (two reports) or $25,000 (one report), but in any case, while there were huge crowds in attendance and it was critically acclaimed, it was not a financial success. A few more musicals were produced (including Aces Wild), but the financial strain was too much, so Fr. McNichols, then President of UD, decided the opera should be temporarily abandoned. I guess that’s “Show Biz”

 

Documentary on pantomime-on the radio?

mime1I happen to be browsing through the Varsity News, April 25, 1958 and saw a short article about “The Sound of Silence”, a special documentary program with Marcel Marceau, famous French mime, that was to be presented on U-D radio. It just struck me as very odd-to do a radio show about something that you need to see, but would not necessarily hear. OK, so they can interview with Marcel and talk about the art of pantomime and they can hear the audience reaction, but isn’t there a fundamental piece missing?

Just asking-not an obvious subject for a radio program.

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Past Homecoming Pics

 

GO TITANS!

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Past homecoming activities usually took place during football season, but now UDMercy celebrates homecoming during the basketball season. As part of the homecoming celebrations there were parades down Livernois Ave. with as many as thirty floats and the UD marching band, huge bonfires, and a homecoming queen elected. Homecoming still gets a lot of attention, it just changed with the times with different activities and as much enthusiasm as it generated more than fifty years ago.

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Homecoming bonfire 1927

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Homecoming queen 1949 Mary Alice Miriani

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Homecoming 1940

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Homecoming 1948

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UD vs WSU in Cigar Bowl 1965

cigar2You have heard of the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Super Bowl-but did you know there was a Cigar Bowl? Yep, there was the first (and only?) Cigar Bowl between the University of Detroit and Wayne State University held March 18 & 19, 1965 (Thursday at WSU and Friday at UD). It was sponsored by the R.G. Dun Cigar Co. with a $200 prize awarded to the winning university’s student loan or scholarship fund. Co-sponsors were the UD and WSU chapters of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE).

One of the judges of the contest was film star and cigar smoker Pat O’Brien. The events included: Longest Ash-One cigar, Most Smoke Rings from One Cigar, Shortest Time to Consume One Cigar-Relay, Greatest Pile of Ashes-Team, Most Smoke in Flask-Two man teams. (The Most Smoke in Flask was later called off. The Chemistry Department said it was scientifically impossible to determine the winner.) There were also rules for the spectators: “Bands, cheer leaders and spectators must not interfere with the players in any manner and are particularly admonished to avoid excessive cheering, hand clapping or other actions which disturb the air during smoke ring blowing activities by the teams.”cigar1

Wayne State eventually out smoked the U of D team in five out of the eight events. Some of the more notable results: the longest ash was 3.875 inches, record number of smoke rings for an individual was 167 and for the “Shortest Time to Consume One Cigar Event”-the team finished a five-inch cigar in 1.51 minutes.

Maybe U of D team had a good excuse for not being in top shape for the contest. Several U of D team members also spent a great deal of time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the night before and were reported to be in bad shape in the morning after their 7 a.m., 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. cigar workouts. Their coach reported,”All in all they didn’t look good this morning, in fact they looked green.”

 

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U of D Football Scoreboards

I just happen to be filing away some football pictures and just realized that there must have been a change in the scoreboards that were used back when UD had a football team.

Don’t know when the change was made, but this first one has written on the back: “new electrical scoreboard donated by Chevrolet” and has a date stamp “Sept 26 1934″

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The second scoreboard just has the date stamp” Oct 18, 1953″

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The second one would have been much easier to update. Putting up all the players numbers must have been a pain to keep track of if someone had to leave or exchange for another team member during the game.

The day U of D football program died, November 30, 1964

It was not an announcement UD president the Very Rev, Laurence V. Britt wanted to make: The University of Detroit has dropped Varsity football. His statement in part reads: “After careful appraisal of its most recently completed football season and detailed review of the program over the past ten years, the President and Trustees of the University of Detroit have now been compelled to make the decision to discontinue the university’s program of intercollegiate football. Despite concerted efforts to make the football program self-supporting, it has continued to be a deficit-operation. this year’s deficit will be well in excess of $65,000.00.”

It probably should not have come as too much of a surprise given the statistics such as falling game attendance (average 11,000 in a stadium that holds 20,000) and a losing record (in past three years a compiled record of 6 wins, 21 lost and one tie), in addition to the financial losses. The university had not made money on football since 1951 when UD played Notre Dame at Tiger (then Briggs) Stadium.

The president waited until after Thanksgiving to make the announcement. As might be expected, there were some very unhappy students.

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In spite of the inclement weather some 800 students staged a massive protest against the decision to drop the football program. They tore down the now useless goal posts and marched over to Lansing-Reilly Hall where the priests lived. When their chants of “We want football” went unheeded, they turned to the intersection of McNichols and Livernois blocking traffic. The police did their best to quell the demonstration and had a couple of police cars damaged in the process. At one point the Detroit Fire Department arrived to supplement the 32 police cars on hand to see if prospects of a cold shower in 16 degree weather would¬† disperse the students back home.fprotest2

That was the first day reaction to the announcement. The students were not finished demonstrating just yet. The next day the protest took to the Lodge Expressway. There were rumors that during the half-time basketball game between UD and Purdue, there would be some kind of demonstration, but fear of forfeiting the game kept the protest to a vocal outcry. After the game, however, the crowd eventually grew and the cry of “To the Expressway” could be heard.¬† When the crowd reached the Livernois overpass, students leaped over the chain-link fence and swarmed over both lanes of the highway. Only about 200 students actually stood on the expressway, but it was enough to block traffic for a half-mile in either direction. After about twenty minutes, the police arrived and moved the students off the expressway. Some of the crowd then made a move towards Marygrove College. Continued police presence finally moved the students back to their residence halls and parked cars. After two nights, the student demonstrations finally came to an end and fittingly, a student bugler played “Taps” at the Fisher Fountain.

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