Entertainment in the Reading Room of YMCA POW Center in Riga
Caption accompanying image reads: In the evening, the reading-room shown in Nos 2 and 3 is cleared of tables, set up with benches, and we have a concertroom. Nos. 6 and 7 show a typical audience. The chief difference between the two is that one was taken before, and the other after the little word of welcome which contains, among other things, the suggestion that we would all feel much more at home if we took off our hats. After seven years of living more or less like beasts of burden, it is not surprising of some of these folks have forgotten some of their polished manners. For this reason we are always careful to reserve front seats for the ladies, and to show them special attention: these men are going back to lands where such niceties obtain, and they must begin to relearn them.
I [presumably Donald Lowrie] could write a whole volume about the talent we have for our entertainments. We make it a point to produce the whole program from among these people, themselves, and so we have all kinds of things: Song and solo-dancing, and all sorts of instrumental music, and monologues and humorous couplets and magicians and ventriloquists. We have recently had a pianist who used to travel as accompanist for Emmy Destinn, and a girl from the Imperial ballet in Moskow. It is not always an easy job, fishing talent out of the crowd. Usually, before the show begins, you have a few numbers lined up as a beginning, and then just trust to luck and your powers of persuasion to make up the rest of the evening. Once you get the crowd started, your difficulty is often to find a-stopping-place, rather than to find talent to eke out the time.
Found in RS: 15/35/53, Box 2, Folder Riga-Stettin YMCA work for Central Empires, POW May-June 1921, Image VII