Pontiac Varsity Show at Smith College

Long before SmithTV, MP3s, social networking sites and other electronic media entertained students, an odd creature called the ‘variety show’ was popular.  A hodge-podge of talented students and faculty would get together to entertain the Smith community, and show off their own talents.

A country-wide radio program called the “Pontiac Varsity Show” sponsored by General Motors showcased the talents of many collegians.  A show was broadcast on-air from John M. Greene Hall on December 10, 1937, with a packed house.  For several weeks before the show, ads appeared in the Smith College Weekly like the one below, seeking auditions from Smith talent.

Tryout ad for Pontiac Variety Show, 1927

Tryout ad for Pontiac Variety Show, 1927

By the time the show aired, the Glee Club, under the direction of Ivan T. Gorokhoff sang Fair Smith and other songs; Mary Jane Ripley ‘1938 & Charlotte Wirsing ‘1937 played a piano duet; Clara Taplin ‘1938 sang a Strauss song; and the Smith College Orchestra played the final movement of Mozart’s Symphony in E Flat Major, under the baton of Werner Josten.  In addition to Smith’s talented, Catherine Craven, who was NBC’s only female commentator at the time was featured in the show.

Ads in the Smith College Weekly urged everyone to come to the show to enjoy the excitement.

Pontiac Varsity Show announcement, Dec 8, 1937

Pontiac Varsity Show announcement, Dec 8, 1937

Both students and faculty of Smith College have a long tradition of creating their own shows.  More about these shows will be addressed in a future blog column!

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