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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The "Nanny Lou And Her Stories" Story

The Lancaster Marionette Theatre, formerly
known as "The Hole In The Wall Puppet Theatre"
It was an ordinary day.  Standing inside the front door of Lancaster Marionette Theatre on Water Street in downtown Lancaster talking to Mary Lou Broucht.  Mrs. Broucht, as I always called her, was for many years the assistant minister at St. James Episcopal Church which is located a hop, skip and jump from the home in which she lives above the theatre.  One of Mrs. Broucht's responsibilities at the historical church on North Duke Street was coordinating the Sunday School as well as working with the church's high school youth group.  All three of my children had the chance to get to know Mrs. Broucht during their high school years at St. James.  
Mary Lou Broucht and her son Rob.
She in turn enjoyed my kids, but seemed to favor our youngest, Paul, or as we call him Tad, since he was born in our nation's Bi-Centennial year and carried the middle name of one of Lancaster's Patriots, Thaddeus Stevens.  Recently Mrs. Broucht wrote a book dealing with her time as Sunday School teacher and director titled "Pizza & Post Cards - Revelations of a Church School Teacher."
Mrs. Broucht's newest book.
The 60-page softbound cover book tells the exploits that filled her life during the years she served the church as a teacher, director and coordinator of the youth of the church as well as the many trips she coordinated and took with the youth to such exotic locations as Great Britian, Japan and Italy.  To finance the trips, Mrs. Broucht introduced her traveling troupe of Sunday School students during Chapter 5 in her book.  Chapter was titled "Show Biz" and told how the St. James students were "giving back" by way of performing in order to raise the funds to travel.  The first big production for the church group was a take-off of the stage show called "Cats" which the St. James youth performers called "Episcocats".  After hours and hours of practice the group took the show on the road to local retirement and nursing homes with  fantastic applause.  
A photo taken in Japan of the parish who sponsored the
group that Mrs. Broucht took there to perform and tour.
Reading her book and looking at all the photos brought back so many memories from the times when my three children participated in the perfor- mances.  Mrs. Broucht then tells, in Chapter 7 (titled "Sayonara"), of our sister Episcopal church in the diocese of Kito Kanto offering to  host the youth group at St. Paul's boarding school.  My son Derek was so excited and even missing a week of high school baseball didn't stop him from being part of "Side By Side," the Noah's Ark show they performed.  A few days of the trip were spent with a host family which in Derek's case was spent with a family that spoke only Japanese and ate only fish.  Being that Derek didn't like fish or couldn't speak anything but English made for a rather long couple of days.  Came home weighing a few pounds less.  Our daughter Brynn had the chance to travel to Italy with Mrs. Broucht as did our youngest son, Tad.  
Photo from the book shows Rob Howry (left) with my son
Tad and another member of the group that went to Italy.
On page 42 of her book, in the chapter titled "Pizza", she tells of this one young boy who was traveling with the group that wanted to have MLB, Mrs. Broucht's initials, carved in his hair on the back of his head.  "It took a lot of pointing and hand language to convey this to the Barber of Assisi ......."  That young boy was my son Tad!  She also tells a few touching stories in her book, one being about Rob Howry, the youngest son of friends who traveled every summer with my family on vacation to the Chesapeake Bay.  At the time the troupe was practicing for The Passion Play and on Palm Sunday, Rob happened to be at home with his father when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Rob felt it better to go to practice that Sunday afternoon to be with his friends to help him with his grief.  
Interior lighting at the Lancaster Marionette Theatre.
I talked with Mrs. Broucht for a few more minutes and than asked if she would autograph my copy of "Pizza & Post Cards - Revelations of a Church School Teacher." I told her it would be a gift for Tad for Christmas and she smiled as she wrote: For Tad, One of my very favorite church school students.  Love and God Bless.  Mary Lou Broucht.  Finally, it was time for me to depart, since Rob, her son and owner of Lancaster Marionette Theatre, was opening the front door to those who were going to enter for the evening's puppet show and be listening to "Nanny Lou", Mrs. Broucht stage name, introduce the show and tell the children and their parents about the puppets, that were all made by her son, and how they worked.  Fantastic place to visit and if you are ever in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, visit the Theatre and see one of Rob's original productions.  You will be amazed and will thoroughly enjoy your visit and get a chance to purchase your own copy of Mrs. Broucht's new book. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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