Oskaloosa Celebrates ‘George’

The production of 'George' took over 50 community members to make happen.

The production of ‘George’ took over 50 community members to make happen.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – It’s been 20 years since the construction of the George Daily Auditorium, and people young and old gathered to celebrate not only one of the gems of Oskaloosa but the man who helped to make it all possible.

People that knew George Daily shared their memories of the man, who shunned the millions of dollars being collected from mineral rights on land his father had bought.

Nearly everyone will tell you George was eccentric and could come off kind of gruff, but inside was a kind person.

Jessica Vetter, Operations Manager at George Daily Auditorium, spoke about the work that went into making the celebration of George. “We wanted to make our 20th something special, especially since ‘George’ was written in conjunction with our 5th anniversary.

The creator of the musical ‘George’ is Iola Cadwallader, and the staff wanted to be able to produce the play one more time for her.

“It’s also been a really nice time to bring together all of these things [artifacts],” said Vetter. Those artifacts included George Daily’s bicycle and the cash register he used when he worked at Holubs Market. One of the scenes in the production takes place at Holubs Market.

“It’s been really nice to pull all of these community connections together,” added Vetter.

When you see the bicycle that Daily used, it doesn’t look anything like a millionaire would ride. “That’s exactly how George lived,” says Vetter. “He lived the same way before he had the money that he did after. He was just George. He was who he was.”

Vetter never met Daily, but she has worked to bring his memory alive this past week. She says the thing she’s learned about George is that “I think the biggest thing is how kind George was. That’s what we’ve been hearing over and over again.”

For Vetter, the play has helped Daily become more of a “fully realized human being for me. He’s not quite as one dimensional as some of the stories make him seem.”

Vetter said that people depicted in the play with Daily were “overjoyed at how it was.”

'George' is an original musical depicting George Daily, and was performed for the second time in honor of the George Daily Auditorium's 20th Anniversary.

‘George’ is an original musical depicting George Daily, and was performed for the second time in honor of the George Daily Auditorium’s 20th Anniversary.

Iola Cadwallader is the creator of the musical ‘George’, and she said that she created the story of Daily, and those that played a role in his life, because it was “worth preserving.”

The story of ‘George’ and those that played a role in his life, “that’s the spirit of Oskaloosa,” said Cadwallader.

Cadwallader said she didn’t have much interaction with Daily while he was alive. “I knew where the house was, and stories back then were that parents would warn their children to stay away from him, and he was eccentric and could be rather frightening.”

“He did a remarkable job of surviving,” added Cadwallader of Daily’s lack of social skills. “He was very, very intelligent.”

“My job, I felt was to try to unravel some of the reasons why he became who he was,” added Cadwallader.

Cadwallader then spent the next five years researching and writing the musical that would become ‘George’. Multiple interviews that included Daily’s barber, doctor, and hospital staff. “I just interviewed all the people who were willing to talk about how they felt about George.”

As the interviews progressed, Cadwallader then started to put the pieces together that made it easier to understand who George was. Cadwallader’s interest in children and time spent as a preschool director, along with an interest in psychology fed into understanding “what might have happened in his childhood that helped to shape him.”

“I knew there were many things that shaped George,” added Cadwallader. “I did a rewrite for this show because I felt that I had not given due credit to his mother.”

“I think this show is much better than it was 20 years ago because of that,” says Cadwallader.

Cadwallader believes that besides the absent father and very attentive mother, sibling rivalry between George and Walter, his brother, was compounded by a somewhat dysfunctional family that didn’t have an apparent out for the conflict. “The father, John, was very domineering, and he was absent so much of the time. And yet, when he came home, I picture him being a man who would immediately take over. Actually, I think John was very insecure, and he had his dreams, and they didn’t fit much into family.”

“I think I figured out early on that George never measured up to his father’s expectation.”

When it comes to seeing ‘George’ performed on stage, Cadwallader said, “I love seeing it. This performance exceeds my fondest expectations. A tremendous effort.”

For the next generations that will come to Oskaloosa, and might see her play, or hear about Daily, Cadwallader offered up a few words. “I’d like to think that society, in general, is going to become more compassionate. I really want them to take home in the future the importance of accepting people different from themselves, and realize there is goodness in everyone.”

Cadwallader, who has called the Oskaloosa community home for 67 years, says that’s long “enough to know that it’s a very unusual place. Rich in the arts and an amazing community.”

As Cadwalader has seen Oskaloosa evolve over the years, she says she’s “very happy” to see the direction Oskaloosa is going.

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Posted by on Aug 13 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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