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HOW ROGERS COMPANY SAVED A SONG
March 10, 1983


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Pix #1 - Picture and words to song Oh You Beautiful Doll

Pix #2 - John B. Rogers

Pix #3 - Harry Munsey

"Oh You Beautiful Doll"...a song written 70 or more years ago, lives on today. Many readers will recall the tune and words when the title is mentioned.

Much of the credit for keeping the song alive goes to The John B. Rogers Co., once an important institution in Fostoria, but especially to John B. himself and Harry Munsey who salvaged it from a failed show.

The story was told to me by John Palmer Rogers, son of John B.

According to Palmer, "Before the Rogers Co. was established, my father and Harry Munsey visited New York City seeking to learn more about the theatrical business. In those days, the big theatrical district was in Greenwich Village rather than Broadway".

"At that time, my father and Munsey saw a major production, "Bibi of the Toy Shop", which they thoroughly enjoyed. However, the New York critics regarded the play with total scorn, lambasting it in their newspaper articles as totally unsuited for big city presentation. As a result it closed within a few days".

ROGERS & MUNSEY BOUGHT THE SHOW

The two Fostorians contacted the owners of the copyright and for a very small sum, bought all rights to the production including the song "Oh, You Beautiful Doll".

After returning to Fostoria, they altered the script somewhat and proceeded to use the play for many years with amateur participants. During World War I, they changed the name to "Fifi of the Toy Shop" so as to give a French slant to the title. Later, as the Rogers Co, came into possession of more modern plays, the use of "Fifi" came to a close and the copyright on the song was allowed to lapse.

Thereafter, the song was featured in a major motion picture which I do not recall, and it was played by Guy Lombardo, Chuck Foster, Henry King and other famous orchestra leaders. It is being played to this day by Ernie Heckscher, leader of one of the finest, still functioning big bands, at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Chuck Foster used it as his theme song and Mitch Miller and his Sing Along gang used to sing it.

A recent account was discovered by Palmer Rogers which described the use of music on board the Titanic when it was sinking. The story is that while some of the passengers sang "Nearer My God To Thee", the ship's band played some of religious music, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Oh, You Beautiful Doll".

Now you know the story of "Oh, You Beautiful Doll".

It is possible this is the first time the tale of the song - its ups and downs - has appeared in print.

ROGERS CO WAS IMPORTANT

With the shift in age groups and population in Fostoria, many readers will not know about the John B. Rogers Co. and its importance to this town, and other towns and cities throughout the U.S. where they staged shows with hometown talent.

The headquarters and warehouses for the Rogers Co, still are intact on West Center Street next to the post office, but the business was sold a few years ago and headquarters are in Pittsburgh.

Readers may recall that popular song with this article, now that the words and music are printed. Go ahead and sing it to your kids and grandkids and tell them about those wonderful days of years ago when there were so many wonderful songs.

READER FEEDBACK: CENTRAL GYM

Many readers responded to those articles. In fact the response would rate high of all Potluck articles ever published.

Chet Kieffer still can't understand why I do not remember Central Gym, and neither do I, but that's a fact.

One of the nicest and much appreciated telephone calls came from Mrs. Bill Ellis Jr. She appreciated the eulogy to Bill Sr. She also said her son has his scrapbooks and that she will have them returned to Fostoria so that I may go through them. In the article, I said I had wanted to gather data from the scrapbooks for an article, but Bill Jr. died before I could.

Joe Blaser was high in praise of the article. He was the one who had originally talked to me about Central Gym. He had been to a meeting with a group of men where the article had been discussed.

The conversation started because some youngsters were stirred by the young basketball team illustrated and were enthused to form one. How can youngsters who want to play basketball be accommodated? Surely, there must be some ex-basketball players in Fostoria who could donate some time to coaching the kids and organizing a junior league.

CROCKER STREET PEOPLE AND HOUSES

Readers may recall that those columns developed in connection with the series on South Main Street. As the series was in the finishing stages, I was reminded that Esther Shaffer who had lived on that street all her life was best suited to piece together the naems, houses and other interesting data about them.

Admittedly, there were some errors in the columns due to my editing, for which I apologize. But the repsonse indicated that many readers enjoyed the reminisching of Esther and remembered like she did the families etc.

A letter came from Forest from Mrs. Helen (Eckles) Kauble about the Crocker Street articles said she had lived with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Eckles at 233 E. Crocker St. She had received the articles through the kindness of Elizabeth Porter, an FHS classmate (1929).

The letter said, "Among my fond memories are the times I was allowed to go with my father when he was Seneca County sealer to the outlying places he serviced. The picture of the doorway to the Interurban Station was interesting too. I rode the streetcars for a period of time to go to Tiffin Business School.

HORATIO ALGER BOOKS FOUND

The Feb. 3 Feedback article about the Horatio Alger story started Eileen Titus searching among stored books, where she found eight of Alger's books. She guessed they must have belonged to her father. The one she showed me carried a date of 1879. If you have any, don't throw them away. They may be worth something.