Doris Day performed here in 1946; Rising star was in Tamaqua en route to Hollywood career
Doris Day, then 24, sits on a piece of luggage and reads a book at the Tamaqua train station while she awaits a train on Friday, October 11, 1946, after singing at Lakewood Park, her final on-the-road appearance with the Les Brown Orchestra. It is believed Day was heading to Hollywood where she launched a big time career.
Young starlet Doris Day was photographed as she sat just outside of this door at the Ladies Waiting Room of the 1874 Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Passenger Station, Tamaqua, on the eve of launching a major motion picture career. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
A commemorative brick was placed at the exact location at the Tamaqua train depot where young performer Doris Day, Ohio native, sat and read a book in 1946 on the brink of stardom. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Doris Day, the legendary actress and Academy Award-winning singer who passed away Monday at 97, performed in the Tamaqua area on the eve of launching a big-time career.
Day, an Ohio native, was a budding songstress at age 24 when she sang at Lakewood Park Ballroom, Barnesville, in the fall of 1946. She was featured by Les Brown and His Band of Renown.
In fact, the future star was photographed in front of the Tamaqua depot where she awaited a train. The image shows her reading a book while casually sitting on luggage just outside of what was the Ladies Waiting Room door, now a secondary entrance to an auxiliary dining room.
A commemorative brick, complete with a star and inscription, “Doris Day Sat Here,” denotes the exact location today.
A copy of the photo now hangs inside the main dining room of the Train Station Restaurant.
The image surfaced in the 1990s and was donated to the Tamaqua Save Our Station organization by Big Band enthusiast Curt Williams of Tamaqua, who recalled details on Monday.
“The photo was sent to me by a woman from Mahanoy City who had taken the photo the day after Doris Day appeared with Les Brown at the Lakewood Ballroom,” Williams said.
“That appearance was Thursday night, Oct. 10, 1946, her last appearance on the road with Les Brown. When he appeared the next time at Lakewood he had Eileen Wilson as the featured songbird. I think the photo of Doris was taken sometime Friday, Oct. 11, 1946, as Doris sat on her suitcase outside the train depot, waiting to catch a train that would take her out to Hollywood where she would star in her first ever motion picture, ‘Romance on the High Seas.’ The woman who gave me the photo was pretty old at the time I got it so my guess is she’s long gone,” he said.
Williams had the small photo blown up to an 8-by-10.
“I sent a copy to Doris Day to try and get her to autograph it but I never heard from her.”
Williams then supplied the photo to the Tamaqua SOS group, which contacted Day.
“I believe they heard back from her,” he said.
At the time, SOS President Ken Smulligan, who passed away in 2013, said he invited Day to return to Tamaqua to see the $1.5 million restoration of the depot. Either Day or a representative responded that she was no longer traveling.
The photo also appears in the book “Images of America: Lakewood Park” by the Guinan Family who opened the entertainment and recreational venue in 1916.
“Most big bands and their vocalists traveled by bus, but Doris Day came by train,” states the book, which includes details of her appearance.
Up until the time she appeared at Lakewood, Day was living and performing in New York City and already had been married twice.
Shortly after her Tamaqua area appearance, Day launched her big-time career by singing at a Hollywood party. That gig led to, ultimately, a 20-year career in motion pictures.
Owing to a strategic location near Lakeside and Lakewood ballrooms and the town’s status as a railroad center, Tamaqua hosted many big names in the entertainment field.
Among the celebrities who visited or stayed overnight in the Tamaqua area: Lana Turner, Duke Ellington, Phyllis Diller, Lawrence Welk, The Andrews Sisters, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, Sammy Kaye, Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley and His Comets, Teresa Brewer, John Raitt, Ron Palillo, The Platters, The Everly Brothers and many others.
Travel itineraries often put celebrities in Tamaqua on train layover from New York City.
For instance, Tamaqua, with its early Allen Opera House and other theater venues, was part of the Boston to Washington, D.C., minstrel circuit and is said to have been visited by thespian John Wilkes Booth in the days before President Lincoln’s assassination.