Puppet Guild of Greater Saint Louis

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The Puppet Guild of Greater Saint Louis consists of people interested in puppetry. Typically the guild has included professional puppeteers, teachers, librarians, scout leaders, and other walks of life. Some members are performers who perform for small groups, others are professionals, and others are just people who like the art. Some members like to collect puppets, and have extensive collections of puppets from all over the world. The only common element is an appreciation of the art of puppetry.


The Puppet Guild of Greater Saint Louis, Inc. was founded largely through the efforts of Iona Hedges. She had attended the first Puppeteers of America Festival in 1936 and signed herself and Susan Barnes as charter members of that organization. In 1939 the Puppet Guild of St. Louis was formed, and dues were 10 cents. At that time, the main thrust of guild activity was to bring the Puppeteers of America National Festival to Saint Louis in 1940. However it did not actually happen until 1941.

Those persons at the first meeting on June 12, 1939, at the home of Iona Hedges, 5445 Maple Avenue, in the City of St. Louis were as follows:

(No listing of the charter members has been found. A transcript of a 1959 speech of Leona Thompson references 12 founding members instead of the listed 16 attendees.)

  • Miss Helen Addington
  • Mrs. Josephine Harrington
  • Miss Doritha Lancton
  • Mr. Joseph Peek
  • Miss Dorris/Dorothea Allen
  • Mrs. Iona Hodges
  • Miss Laverne Lockmueller
  • Miss Ruth Rubin
  • Miss Susan Barnes
  • Miss Margaret Johnson
  • Miss Nelly Mendham
  • Mrs. Beverly Stanford
  • Miss Elizabeth Green
  • Mr. David Kemmerer
  • Miss Sally O’Fallon
  • Miss Barbara Yore

The first two meeting were held at the Hedge’s home. The third meeting was held on June 26, 1939, at the Cabanne Branch of the Saint Louis Public Library. It was at that meeting that Carolyn Meyer joined the guild and new officers were elected: Wendell Chilton, President; Ruth Rubin, office not specified; Doritha Lanctot, corresponding secretary; Robert Rowlson, office not specified.

According to 1993 interviews with Carolyn Meyer and Susan Barnes, and the 1959 transcript, charter members of the Puppet Guild of Greater St. Louis were as follows: (Again the listing has 16 names not the 12 referred to in the 1959 transcript.)

  • Miss Helen Addington
  • Miss Louise Ewing
  • Miss Ruth Rubin
  • Mrs. Robert Rowlson
  • Mrs. Dorris Allen
  • Mrs. Edith Finney
  • Mrs. Ellen Proctor
  • Miss Sally O’Fallon
  • Miss Susan Barnes
  • Mrs. Iona A. Hedges
  • Mr. Romaine Proctor
  • Mr. Caroline Singleton
  • Mr. Wendell Chilton
  • Miss Doritha Lancton
  • Mr. Robert Rowlson
  • Miss Barbara Yore

The guild grew and at the October 23, 1939, meeting, the guild had 27 paid members and a treasury of $24.25. At the March 25, 1940, meeting dues were raised to 50 cents. In the years since, the guild has been responsible for bringing many puppeteers from throughout the country to perform in Saint Louis.

Among the eighteen charter members of the Puppeteers of America in 1938, Susan Barnes, Iona Hedges, and Ellen and Romaine Proctor were also members of the Puppet Guild of Greater Saint Louis.

Circa 1939-1964[edit]

The presidents of the guild were

  • 1939-40 Wendel Chilton
  • 1940-41 Carolyn Meyer
  • 1941-42 R. C. Rowlson
  • 1942-43 Leona Thompson
  • 1943-44 Barbara Yore
  • 1944-45 Leona Thompson
  • 1945-46 Mildred Blackwell
  • 1946-47 Mildred Blackwell
  • 1947-48 Susan Barnes
  • 1948-49 Susan Barnes
  • 1949-50 Carolyn Meyer
  • 1950-51 Ruth Quinn
  • 1951-52 Beverly Stanford
  • 1952-53 Beverly Stanford
  • 1953-54 Sue Skinker
  • 1954-55 Sue Skinker
  • 1955-56 Beverly Stanford
  • 1956-57 Beverly Stanford
  • 1957-58 Nancy Love
  • 1958-59 Nancy Love
  • 1959-60 Genevieve Albers
  • 1960-61 Genevieve Albers
  • 1961-62 Beverly Stanford
  • 1962-63 Elmer Kramer
  • 1963-64 Elmer Kramer

Edith Finney and Louise Ewing were established performers using the name “EdLo Puppets.” Ellen and Romaine “Proctor Puppets” were also well known performers touring throughout the country. They were particularly well-known in Saint Louis for their Christmas performances in the fashionable Scruggs Department Store. Romaine Proctor is credited with designing the puppet Saint Louis on a rearing horse for the guild logo. The Rowlsons traveled and painted wagons. They had a beautiful, “gypsy” wagon that they had designed, and with which they would travel during the summers, painting and performing. Carolyn Meyer was a school teacher and known for her fabulous cardboard shadow puppets with levering mechanisms for more movement. Art Pfaff and his first wife [need name] and upon her death, his second wife, Gladys, were very popular performers with glove and rod puppets. The “Ruth Quinn Marionettes” performed variety acts and she and also created marionettes for other puppeteers across the country. Elmer Kramer and family were also popular puppeteers. Nelly Mendham and Genevieve Albers were renowned for her colorful shadow puppetry. Claude Sontag and his wife were also popular performers of that era. Mildred (Billie) Blackwell was also a popular puppeteer.

The guild successfully brought the 1941 Puppeteers of America Festival to Saint Louis (and 3 others since). The first one being in June 24–27, 1941. It was held at the Melbourne Hotel (Northwest Corner of Grand and Lindell), Saint Louis, Missouri with Romain Proctor as chairman. The next festival was June 25–28, 1947 at Saint Peter’s [Evangelical United Church of Christ?] Church [at Saint Louis and Warne Avenues?] Saint Louis, Missouri with Leona Thompson as chairman.

The guild published the Puppetry Grapevine, the official publication of the Puppeteers of America…forerunner to The Puppetry Journal.

The Puppeteers of America, Inc. also “chartered” guilds who apply and have 10 or more members who are also members of The Puppeteers of America, Inc. In 1963, the Puppet Guild of Saint Louis was granted charter number 17.

Circa 1964-1989[edit]

The guild presidents during this period were

  • 1964-65 Ruth Quinn
  • 1965-66 Claude Sontag
  • 1966-67 Beverly Stanford
  • 1967-68 Beverly Stanford
  • 1968-69 Richard Kozikowski
  • 1969-70 Jacques Chicoineau
  • 1970-71 Don Avery
  • 1971-72 Elinor Wilkerson
  • 1972-73 Kay Ludwig
  • 1973-74 Marilyn Myers
  • 1974-75 Marilyn Myers
  • 1975-76 Irene Eveland
  • 1976-77 Irene Eveland
  • 1977-78 Doris Benz
  • 1978-79 Doris Benz
  • 1979-80 Ginny Weiss
  • 1980-81 Ginny Weiss
  • 1981-82 Tom Bonham
  • 1982-83 Tom Bonham
  • 1983-84 Dug Feltch
  • 1984-85 Dug Feltch
  • 1985-86 Jean Ameduri
  • 1986-87 Mary Kay Menees
  • 1987-88 Mary Kay Menees
  • 1988-89 Doris Benz

From 1969 to 1982, guild member Don Avery was editor of The Puppetry Journal, and the official publication of The Puppeteers of America was again published in Saint Louis.

The third national festival sponsored by the guild was on August 19–23, 1968 at Webster College (now University), Webster Groves, Missouri with Don Avery as chairman. The last national festival in Saint Louis was June 22–27, 1975, at Lindenwood Colleges (now University) Saint Charles, Missouri with Don Avery and Marilyn Myers as co-chairmen.

Popular performers who were guild members included the “Bob Kramer Marionnettes (sic),” son of the previously mentioned Elmer Kramer. “Tom Bonham Puppet Productions” performed with rod, glove, muppet-style, and string puppets throughout the city and country. The (Don) “Avery Family Marionettes” performed a religious show. Alan Stevens also performed religious shows with muppet-style puppets. The “Bill and Jill (Gillerman) Puppets” performed with glove puppets throughout the city. The Kozikowski’s performed with their hand puppets called “The Kozpets.” Ginny Weiss performed throughout the city with her (glove) “Puppets on Hand” and conducted numerous classes in the schools teaching children puppetry. Jaques Chicoineau performed with his “Frenchette” hand puppets, teaching French especially in his classes at Webster College (now University). Irene Eveland, a librarian with the Saint Louis Public Library, performed in libraries throughout the city as well as other venues. Margaret Bihss was also a very popular performer with her hand puppets. Judy Dauten would perform her authentic Punch and Judy. Pat Breithaupt also performs a ventriloquism act where she and her puppet often re-enact fairy tales.

In 1989 the guild celebrated its 50th anniversary with a large display of puppets from the guild collection, from the collection of members, and puppets created by members for use in their performances. The display was showcased in the Carousel Building at Faust Park in Chesterfield, Missouri.

Circa 1989-2004[edit]

During this period the guild presidents were

  • 1989-90 Doris Benz
  • 1990-91 Tom Bonham
  • 1991-92 Tom Bonham
  • 1992-93 Larry Gilleland
  • 1993-94 Larry Gilleland

In 1994, the guild was incorporated and the presidential term was expanded to two years

  • 1994-96 Laurel Heard
  • 1996-98 Laurel Heard
  • 1998-99 Nick Marianos
  • 1999-00 Laurel Heard
  • 2000-02 Dug Feltch
  • 2002-04 Michelle O'Donnell

In 1994, the guild incorporated and was granted IRS recognition as a not-for-profit corporation. Significant performers joining the guild in this era include Gary Schimmelpfennig with his “Earth Mirror Marionettes” environmental show. Larry and Lorene Gilleland also performed throughout the area with their muppets-style puppets. Professional percussionist “Papa” Wright and his wife Jackie formed “Storytime Puppets,” performing with hand puppets especially for the younger set.

Circa 2004-present[edit]

During this period the guild presidents has been

  • 2004-05 Marilyn Myers
  • 2005-06 Glen "Papa" Wright
  • 2006-08 Glen "Papa" Wright
  • 2008-10 Glen "Papa" Wright
  • 2010-12 Glen "Papa" Wright

In 2010 the by-laws were amended with no restrictions on consecutive terms of office.

Joy Knack joined the guild performing with her glove and muppet-style “Knick KNack Puppets.” Michelle Myers and Stan Glulik have teamed up as “The Peppy Puppet Troupe” performing with muppet-style puppets.

Article created by Tom Bonham, a guild member since 1965, and his personal interviews with Susan Barnes, Carolyn Meyer, Art Pfaff, Ruth Quinn, Nelly Mendham, and Beverly Stanford in an effort to preseserve the history of the guild. Information also gleaned from a transcript of a speech delivered by guild member on the guild's 25th anniversary.