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August 20, 2004

Thinking back to an age when traveling entertainment shows came to Perry on a more or less regular basis, several things pop into mind. For one thing, the Masonic Temple Auditorium on the northwest corner of the square was a principal venue for many of the touring companies. The handsome, three-story brick building is being offered at public auction this month. It is no longer the home of Perry Masonic fraternal orders and it no longer has an auditorium. When it changes hands, and presumably names, a lot of memories will be consigned to the dust heap of "the way things were." Long-time residents of this little city will have to be content with personal memories or yarns handed down by others who remember when the Masonic building was an important ingredient of life in Perry America.

One of the touring companies that made Perry a regular stop a few decades ago was the Worthan Players, a family theatrical group that came here each year and performed little plays on the stage of the Masonic Auditorium. It wasn't vaudeville and it wasn't even first-rate theater, but it was live, man, and it was drama or comedy or a blend of all theatrical crafts. The Worthans, who I believe consisted of Mr. And Mrs. Charles Worthan and their daughter, Bonnie, did it all—acting, selling tickets, sewing wardrobe pieces, creating scenery, tacking up posters—whatever needed to be done. Mrs. Worthan, Sadie, was the musician. She played piano. Perry folk knew what they were getting for their reasonably priced tickets, and they loved it.

One who was especially smitten was a well-liked young man, Quine Brengle Jr., who had a theatrical life in mind while clerking at the J.C. Penny store and elsewhere. He joined the Worthans on stage and in their family when he married Bonnie, the pretty young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Worthan and this became a member of the traveling group. Quine Jr. and Bonnie's only child, a son, Quine Brengle III, is a clinical psychologist in Cincinnati, Ohio. In later years, Quine Jr.'s younger brother, Donald, also acted in Worthan productions and received about $5 per night. "That made it more imperative for me to memorize my lines and get ready for the next play," Don says. He now lives in Perry in retirement after a military career.

More on the Worthan family/Masonic Auditorium story when this series of columns resumes.