1930s-style gala held at library

September 23, 2000

1930s-style gala held at library

By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer

The 1930s permeated the Washington County Free Library on Saturday during a fund-raiser called Gala in the Stacks.

The Robinwood Encore Players, a theater troupe, brought the spirit of Judy Garland, Louella Parsons and others to life as they mixed, mingled and hobnobbed.

Nat Benchley portrayed his grandfather, humorist Robert Benchley, in an upstairs study.

Images of long-ago Hagerstown lit up a slide screen in the Western Maryland Room.

A 1937 Chevrolet was parked just outside the front door.

Michael Schaefer, president of the library's board of trustees, said the library was happy to show off its newly renovated main branch in Hagerstown.

"Please wander at will and enjoy this wonderful evening," he told the black-tie and gown crowd, which supped on carved filet mignon and crab cake Francoise.


The library board hopes that Gala in the Stacks will be an annual event to support projects such as the new branch in Clear Spring and new buildings in Smithsburg and Boonsboro.

The library's first floor was set up like a Parisian boulevard. Accordionist Zoltan Racz's music was distinctly Left Bank.

Kent Roberts of Shippensburg, Pa., who grew up in Hagerstown, also followed the French theme by wearing a beret as he drew caricatures on the second floor. Roberts said he always wears a beret when he draws and suspected that's why he was hired.

Anna Hershey walked away with a likeness Roberts made of her and her husband, Jack. She said the couple, the parents of library board member John R. Hershey III, are celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary this year.

Elizabeth Graff, curator of the Washington County Historical Society, took pictures of the seven 1930s-era dresses she set up on the second floor. The dresses, part of the historical society's clothing collection, looked more vivid than usual, she said.

"Usually, they're in a box or on a hanger ...," she said. "We don't often see them on human forms."

When Graff set up a black dress with voided velvet - it has a shear section without pile - she realized what she thought was the front was really the back.

Meaghan Barry, playing Vivien Leigh, wore a white and blue hoop dress and fanned herself often. She said she was "looking for a suitor."

Amanda Hartman, in a red and gold flapper dress, was silent film star Theda Bara for the evening. Hartman described Bara as "the original "vamp," which was a stretch in character for her.

"So many men, so little time," said Angie Byers, portraying Mae West. Byers had just had her fortune told by a tarot card reader.

Near the reference desk, which was turned into a bar, Eric Hurd clutched a copy of "The Great Gatsby" and introduced himself as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

"Unfortunately, a good book cannot compare to a good woman," said Tod Williams, wearing Rudolph Valentino's sheik outfit.

Michael G. Callas, chief executive officer of Callas Contractors Inc., was the honorary chairman and chief sponsor of the event.

"I have a favorite expression," Callas told the crowd. "The world is run by people who show up. Thanks for coming."

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