NO. 25 Acadia Street. A great, square, wooden barracks of a building, flat-roofed, painted red; three floors, three tenants, and a store tucked in at one corner. The “street” is only a narrow, winding lane making its tortuous way to the Strait shore and the old shipyards there. Once the shipworkers, an army of them, in the early morning and at dusk tramped along Acadia Street, swinging their dinner cans. The roar of Saint John’s Main Street, only a few yards away, teeming with trams and trucks and motor cars, seeps in, dull and muted, between the overhanging walls of the high tenements. This is a purlieu of the local Ghetto. Shawled women and bent, bearded patriarchs and many dark-eyed children pass along the rough and broken street; ancient wagons, laden with junk and rags and bottles, drawn by antiquated pieces of crowbait, creak and rattle over the humps and hollows in the road.
A man is in the little store, with its meagre stock of canned goods and bread and fruit and candy, and a picketfence affair around the window in case someone’s hand should stray.
“This is number twenty-five?” said I.
“Right here.” There was a customer in the shop and the two of them s¡x>ke together and looked at me curiously.
“Louis B. Mayer lived here,” I said. “This was his home. Ever hear of Louis Mayer?”
“No.” They looked blank.
“Well, this is where he came from—twenty-five Acadia Street. Ever hear of Greta Garbo?”
“Say, mister, what is this—?”
“They work for Louis.”
“Yes. He’s their boss; they’re the hired help.”
All them stars work for him and he used to live here? Now what do you know about that!”
Well, so long,” said I. “I just wanted to look at the place where Louis lived. He owns a sort of palace in Santa Monica now—625 Ocean Front. He moved from twentyfive Acadia Street.”
Boy ! Did he move !
Boyhood of Louis B. Mayer
XTO. 17 Sydney Street.
J. E. W ilson, Ltd., Sheet Metal Works.
A long alley runs off Sydney Street beside the tall, grey wooden building to the workshop at the rear. W’aste metal is thrown out old stove lids, bits of iron, strips of copper— into the scrap heap. A little Jewish boy, fourteen perhaps, maybe younger, goes up the alley and pokes about among t íe pile. A sturdy, bright-eyed, brave little fellow, with íe strange mixture of humility and boldness that is the ïeritage of the Russian Jew, legacy of long centuries of persecution.
“un! a^on®’ y°u' ^'hat are you doing there? Get out.” Why, mister, these here ain’t any good to you—”
*iars^ treatment from workmen and apprentices. I he boy goes away, wretched and unhappy. At the end of
the alley he meets a ruddy-faced, hearty man who has a kind smile for all, be they great or humble, prince or peasant.
“What’s the matter, sonny?” He sees pain in the young face; pain that comes from the inability to understand why he is treated so.
“They chased me away—that’s all.”
“Chased you away?”
“I was gathering junk and they chased me away.”
“Nonsense! Come with me. You can have all the waste scraps you want—every bit you can carry away. Come with me.” Thus John E. Wilson to young Ixiuis Mayer, not so many years ago. And Destiny st;xxl by them in that narrow alley and smiled for a kindness done and humbly, gratefully received, never to lx; forgotten. And Destiny laid a hand on the shoulder of boy and man, the young Jewish boy and the kindly man.
The first four cents young Diuis ever earned came from the salvaged metal out of John E. Wilson’s yard.
One day some stove lids came out into the pile.
Here was wealth. Something valuable. Gathered up. And then—out came the stove!
“Is all this for me? This. . .” Gesture of outspread hands; incredulous eyes.
“Sure, kid. It’s just an old stove we had to hike the pattern of.”
Day after day, gathering, collecting, sorting, buying scrap-metal, working tirelessly, keenly, forging ahead. I wonder if he remembers now Robinson’s grocery and the kippered herring the gang pilfered and carried down to Alex’s Bank and broiled and ate. the ball games on the flat floor of the old shipyard, the playmates of those days.
Work and play. Business growing now, getting better, more extensive, opening out. Trips to Boston. Louis, the showman always, like his brothers Rubie and Jerry, coming back from Boston with a brand new baseball belt and the glove fastened to it, provoking the awe and admiration of every boy from York Point to Fort Howe. You could lx* captain, manager, pitcher, owner—anything, with a glove and belt like that.
Showmen all, the pride and wonder of the keen, capable mother in her long black cape, and the bent, kind old father. “Smart boys! Great boys! Good boys!” Rubie getting along, going away, coming back dressed to the nines; coming into the dim, rusty, dusty cavern of the warehouse of J. Mayer and Son. Rubie pulling out a cigar, sticking it in his mouth, pulling out a greenback, rolling it into a paper spill and lighting the cigar with it. Watching it bum with a grin, watching with a grin the horror-stricken faces, the fascinated eyes of the beholders.
“You heard of money to bum, ain’t you? Well, you see it being burned now.”
Louis, earnest, steady, self-contained, driving ahead in his business. Bigger stuff now. Buying condemned and wrecked ships. D>uis, at fifteen, with 200 men working for him. Too young for his business deals to be legal, and others, jealous of his success, reporting him to the authorities. “You come to my father. We’re in business together, him and me.” Thus the birth of J. Mayer and Son, just a stepping-stone across the wide water.
Twice a year to Boston on the business of J. Mayer and Son, to sell in the market the metal he had salvaged.
Scarcely eighteen then, the time love comes to a youth and he loves best. Diuis loved and married Margaret Shenberg, a steno-bookkeeper in Boston, who would be the mother of his two girls, Edith and Irene. And he stayed in Boston. He made a modest home in the South End of the city and stopped and kxiked about him.
TJTAVERl I ILL, Massachusetts. Old playhouse up for sale. Dits of theatres in Haverhill. Diuis, the showman, watching the phenomenon of the movies, how the people flocked to them ; calculating how they would continue to flock, how they would pay more for better shows. Diuis, with something in his blood that is the showman’s heritage. Old theatre in Haverhill sold to Diuis B. Mayer for $600.
Diuis Mayer’s first venture into the magic Shadowland with its unending fascination, its boundless opportunities. A renovated theatre, gixxl shows. “The Passion Play,” his first picture. First visit to Haverhill of the Boston English Opera Company, of Maud Adam’s “Peter Pan,” of William
Continued on page 40
Continued jrorn paie 17
Farnum’s “Littlest Rebel.” Crowds flocking to Louis’ playhouse, neglecting other theatres in Haverhill. Good stuff, Louis. Brave stuff.
Five separate show businesses acquired in Haverhill one day; one show business next day, for Louis gathered them all in and kept with him the men who had fought him hardest. He always knew brains, and sifted his men, and picked the real metal from the dross. Louis, with Nat Gordon, buying more theatres and still more, till the Mayer-Gordon chain was strung, like dazzling lights on a long cord, all through New England.
Louis buying films, selecting shows. Shrewd D)uis, son of a shrewd mother and father, selecting good shows, learning what the people wanted, why they liked one actor and hated another, why some things made them cry and others moved them to laughter. Learning the basis of film production, the best possible answer to the ever unanswerable question: “What does the
Louis Makes Pictures
MAD LOUIS, chucking up the hardwon, slowly built-up chain of theatj rical enterprises. What for? To go to New I York and make pictures himself, pictures of his own, and sell them to other men to showin their theatres.
“You’re crazy, Louis,” the family said. “You’re giving up a sure thing. You’re starting something altogether new and you don’t know. .
New York to Hollywood. Lights flashing across the world. Pictures flickering across ; the silver screen—the great Garbo, John I Gilbert, Norma Shearer, Ramon Novarro— j Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Pictures, pic1 tures, pictures. The swift, staggeringly swift, evolution of the screen, one day silent,
the next vocal with a million voices. Theatres going up all over the world. Pictures, more pictures. And Louis, at Culver City, vicepresident in charge of production for MetroGoldwyn-Mayer. Louis handling the assorted packets of nitroglycerine, dynamite, cordite and gunpow-der called “Stars.”
Money, power, no rest. Pictures and more pictures. What does the public want? Time for politics, time for pinochle—twin hobbies. Louis, a bright light in the Republican party. Friend of Calvin Coolidge, friend of Herbert Hoover. A guest at the White House. Hoover and Louis: “As one self-made man to another, Louis. . .” Ambassadorships offered to Louis. Nothing doing. The public wants pictures. The showman sticks to his shows. MetroGoldwyn-Mayer right across the world.
Destiny laid a hand on the shoulder of the little Jewish boy.
And on the shoulder of the kindly man.
John E. Wilson, the people’s candidate. Parliament. No man polls a bigger vote than John E. Honorable John E. now. Minister without portfolio in the Government of the Dominion of Canada. Rara avis, an honest politician. So, out of politics of his own free choice, loved and honored and remembered.
625 Ocean Front, Santa Monica.
White palace, green lawns, awnings, gardens in gay blossom, the bright light and light shade of the fairyland called Moviedom. Houses and gardens almost too beautiful to be real. Servants and motors, the world at his beck and call ; the friend of princes and rulers, the director of countless lives dependent on his enterprises.
Here, perhaps for the last scene, Destiny, laughing now, brings what was once the little Jewish boy and the kindly man together.
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