Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sarah Slept

Sarah Bernhardt played the Southern Theatre in November of 1910. She performed scenes from Camille and three others from among her best plays. By this time Sarah was known as The Divine Sarah, and was lauded with fame and money, both American and European.

The best suite in the leading hotel had been reserved for her. But no hotel held her dreams in Columbus.

She connived with railroad men and they hid her private rail car where she could have clandestine slumber. Later, when she had gone on to Chicago, it was admitted that Sarah’s car had been on “the Glen Echo siding.”

My father, Ben Hayes, went on a “field trip” to find that siding. He concluded that a house sat on the prior site, on Cliffside Drive.

“So I went to Glen Echo. Dogs barked at me, acorns fell on my head, small boys tried to sell me The Grit. Four north-south tracks run parallel to Indianola Avenue, crossing the stream that flows into the ravine. Just straight-on track. No siding, no spur, no switch,

I shivvied down a steep shale bank into the ravine that is wild and water-eroded. The shale, when exposed, cracks out in triangular and diamond patterns. As I looked at the crazy lines in the rock it occurred to me that the North High School site was the key to this.

When Sarah played the Southern there was a brick and tile works where the high school now is. So one of the railroads had a switch running down to it, overlooking a bluff on one side, sheltered by tall oak trees on the other.”

Perhaps her choice was aided by the Armbrusters, set designers who lived and had their studio in the Walhalla Ravine area (so named by the Armbrusters.). Sarah might have met them in the theatre, and been enchanted by the thought of sleeping near streets named in the Wagnerian operatic manner: Midgard, Brynhild, Gudrun, Mimring.

Charles Dickens slept in the Neil House one night. Abraham Lincoln slept in a house at Spring and High. But Sarah Bernhardt slept a week of nights along our Cliffside.”

Christine Hayes

No comments:

Post a Comment