Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Madison Central High School Connections to This Year's "Talking Spirits" Tour at Forest Hill Cemetery

Two men with ties to Madison Central High School are represented in this year’s seventh annual “Talking Spirits” tour of Forest Hill Cemetery, sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Scheduled for October 2, 2005, the two-hour tour features living history vignettes featuring local actors portraying people who are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery. This year, the vignettes are written and directed by John Sable, a veteran of the Persian Gulf conflict, who has written and directed many plays for Madison’s Broom Street Theater.

Private Joseph Meek, who enlisted in the Marines after his sophomore year at Madison Central High School is one of the veterans featured in this year’s “Talking Spirits” tour. Meek was killed during the American occupation of Haiti in 1920. Thus far, the museum has been unable to located a photograph of Meek.

When I read that Private Joseph Meek would not be featured on Sunday’s tour, but would be portrayed only during a series of special school group tours on Friday, I was very disappointed -- especially since, in an email, Sable told me, “The situation in Haiti in the early 20th century parallels our current situation in Iraq on so many levels, it's a shame Meek's story isn't going to play on Sunday.”

I contacted the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s curator of programs, Jeff Kollath, for some additional information about this situation. Kollath says anyone from Madison Central High School who wants to attend one of the group tours on Friday, which run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., should contact him at (608) 261-0541 and he will make special arrangements for them to participate in a tour so they can hear Meek’s story.

There are many photos of Arthur Thomas, who is perhaps better known to many Madisonians as “Sailor” Art Thomas, a professional wrestler from 1961-1978. Thomas, who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, was the father of seven children, one of whom, Raven Thomas, married a member of the class of 1965: Bob Fox.

When I read in “The Bugle,” the newsletter of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Foundation, that Art Thomas was going to featured in this year’s “Talking Spirits” tour, I asked Sable who was going to portray Thomas. There was only one local actor I thought might be able to fill the role: Craig Hudson, a former UW-Madison football player who made his local acting debut in 1998 in "Rope of Sand," playing Joshua Glover, the escaped slave whose capture in Milwaukee in 1854 led to Wisconsin’s challenge to the Fugitive Slave Law. Sable confirmed that he had cast Hudson in the role, saying, “I couldn't imagine anyone else playing Art.”

Among the other people portrayed in this year’s “Talking Spirits” tour are Civil War nurse Emily Quiner and Governor Philip Fox La Follette. People attending the “Talking Spirits” will also hear what it was like to be a POW at Camp Randall during the Civil War because this year, for the first time, a soldier buried in Forest Hill’s Confederate Rest section will be included among the vignettes.

The public “Talking Spirits” tours on Sunday, October 2 will run from noon until 4 p.m. Adult admission is $6 and tickets may be purchased at the cemetery gate. Free parking is available along Speedway Road and at West High School.


D Strand said...

I saw Seaman Art Thomas wrestle many times at Breese. He was, of course, Madison's favorite son and always played the "good guy" in the staged matches. He had an amazing physique - probably one of the best built men in the country at that time. He seemed like a real gentlemen, too, unlike so many athletes of today. I was always very impressed by him and, of course, rooted for him as a kid.
I know Bob Fox's wife Raven a little bit, but never knew that Seaman Art Thomas was her Father! That's interesting to know. Ah, those days at Breese were great!! Thank you Franklin Roosevelt!!!
Jimmy Demetral was always the promoter at those matches. He was about 60 years old and would always stand in the middle of the ring and say he would take on any 60 year old in the crowd. I seem to recall that someone did once and it was quite a show with Demetral wrestling in his suit pants and white shirt. Jimmy won, of course. Jimmy Demetral was always GREAT TO THE KIDS, letting several "sneak in" occasionally. Of course, he became noted for The Jimmy Fund for kids which was a wonderful thing. That fund alone should have notched a place in Heaven for Jimmy !! I'm sure a lot of fifty something Madisonians remember Jimmy Demetral fondly !!!
Seaman Art Thomas was a pretty good guy himself !!!

Anonymous said...

Bob Fox...If your wife is Raven Thomas...ask to email heatherhalpenny@hotmail.com. I have had her on my mind and she and I were classmates in Toronto in German class.