In 1940, Bob Longfield and Lem Williams made a final attempt to start a puppet club. They met at Oscar and Dorothy Adamson's house, and invited puppeteer friends they had met over the past years to join them. This article tells how each one became interested in puppetry, and how they met each

Virginia Upson (later Houghtaling) saw Margaret Skewis (later Margo Rose) perform a marionette show in 1924 at a YWCA retreat. Back home, Virginia who was 16 years old, started making marionettes, and cut off the tip of her finger with a butcher knife as she carved pieces from her grandmother's woodpile. Two years later, she saw an ad in the newspaper for a puppet making class, sponsored by the Park Board, and the teacher was a man named Cedric Lindholm. The class of four made marionettes for the show, "Why the Chimes Rang". It was performed a couple times at Christmas. After the class, Virginia remained friends with Cedric and his wife, Ann. Virginia continued making many marionettes which included a clog dancer, Mr. Toad, jugglers, Paul Bunyan characters, and Jack-in-the Box, and performed shows around town. Her sister, Naomi, drove her and her equipment to all the shows. By 1936, Virginia wrote monthly articles on puppet making for the Minneapolis Journal newspaper.

As a young teenager, Helen Lee (later Denison) taught puppetry to a group of girls at church camp. After college, and teaching for awhile, she took a trip to Japan. In 1937, she met and married Ralph Denison, who had a small son. She studied puppetry and collected oriental shadow puppets. Later, back in Minneapolis, Helen gave lectures and shadow demonstrations. She met Virginia Upson, and they worked together performing Punch and Judy shows with hand puppets they made.

While attending high school, Bob Longfield saw Tony Sarg's performances, "Treasure Island", and the "Pied Piper" in 1928. He was inspired to build his first marionette, which was a 16 inch high man in a tuxedo, that sat at a cardboard pipe organ and played it. He added more acts to his variety show, which was performed at school. Bob's first pay as a professional was $15.00 in change. After graduation, Bob continued performing and gave puppet making classes at the Summer Branch Library. By 1931, he worked at the Minneapolis Public Library, and made arrangements for a puppet exhibit that would include his friends bringing in their puppets for a display. By now he knew Ann and Cedric Lindholm, Virginia Upson, Irene Smith (later Odegaard), and several others who brought in their puppets. Bob continued making marionettes and performed at nightclubs. In 1934, Minneapolis had a new experimental TV station, and with a partner, he performed a variety show in a small camera studio room, with a light that beamed from the camera. This was written about, in Paul McPharlin's newsletter, titled, "Puppet Visioning". It was published in the Pof A Puppetry Yearbook in 1936. Bob attended the Pof A annual festival in 1938, at the Medinah Club in Chicago. Four riders went with him, and he strapped his coffin style stage to the top of his car. Passers by looked sadly at Bob, who laughed all the way to Chicago. Burr Tillstrom performed, and Paul McPharlin and Marjorie Batchelder gave talks.

Mildred Mitton took puppet classes, and met Irene Smith in 1937. Millie made marionettes, and her husband, Russell, drove her to performances. Shirley Kovar (later Daffer) was a child when she saw her aunt perform public shows around town. A small stage, record player, and several marionettes were used in a performance. Millie performed a Wonder Bread commercial with a Daisy marionette that she made.

In grade school, Edna Hunt (later Garrison) was part of the youth group at church. Edna was in the sixth grade when a Sunday School teacher, Lucille Hudson, started the "Happy Hour Puppet Group". The class of girls practiced an hour after school every day. The girls made fabric hand puppets. Lucille had a stage that her father made. The girls performed several shows at churches, settlement houses, and even at the University Women's Club. Lucille knew Lucille Sholes as they were both members of the club, and both were interested in puppets.

After graduating from South High School in 1934, Irene Smith was hired by the WPA as a designer in the handicrafts department. Deborah Meader, who ran a store that included puppets, knew Lem Williams. She brought his clown marionette to the WPA department, and wanted Irene to distribute shows around the state in WPA rec. departments. After the drama department made the marionettes, irene was the only one who could manipulate them, and was put in charge of the project in 1936. Irene met Bob Longfield when they worked on a show called, "Singapore Spider". Irene worked evenings in adult education classes, where she met Mildred Mitton, Hazel Aamodt, and the Lindholms. In May 1938, Irene and Bill Odegaard eloped, but kept it a secret. In June, Irene rode up to the Northwest Puppet Festival in Duluth with Mildred Mitton, Bill, and other friends. Irene and Mildred shared a room, but Bill was down the hall as everyone thought they were single. Bob Longfield was on the staff of that festival, and built four new marionette calves called the "Beef Trust Girls" to go with his Bessie Bovine.

Lem Williams was a widower in 1934, and had two young daughters. He built them a small puppet stage with a few hand puppets. He became so interested in building the show, that he started carving marionettes. Lem worked in the office of the Nickelplate Railroad Company, and eventually became a traffic representative. Mary worked in the office. Lem saw Mary for the first time, when she and her girlfriend were peeking through a door, watching a man in the next office. Lem and Mary became friends, and married awhile later. Mary was a devoted mother to Lem's daughters, made puppets with Lem, and later performed with Lem and friends.

Lem Williams and Bob Longfield met through their performing careers, and became best friends. One of Lem's daughters had a big crush on Bob, who smiled and showed her his latest character. Lem's puppeteer friends occasionally worked in his wonderful workshop on puppets and stages.

In 1939, the Northwest Puppet Guild held a festival at the Commodore Hotel in St. Paul. Dorothy Adamson, Bob Longfield, Nellie Fry, and Irene Odegaard were among those who worked on it and performed shows. Bob Longfield worked at the library at the switchboard, and often connected several puppeteers together, to talk. There was a plan to start a club through the Park Board, but that flopped as Bob mentioned. So Bob and Lem decided to try one more time at a friend's home.

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