June of 1923 must have been an interesting month for the waitresses at the Krebs. One Sunday dinner guest was Henry Ford of Detroit, Michigan, who, having revolutionized American industry, was in the 1920s exploring a vegetarian diet. He often ate sandwiches stuffed with weeds from his yard, garnished with mustard; milkweed on soybean bread was a special favorite. At a Detroit hotel, he hosted a twelve-course meal where everything was made from carrots. There are reports, however, that he occasionally enjoyed steak, roasts and chicken, and I’m sure he got his fill at the Krebs.
Also that month, Elsie Ferguson and Theda Bara dined together. Elsie Louise Ferguson was an American stage and film actress, said to be one of the most beautiful women to ever set foot on the American stage. She was frequently described as “aristocratic,” which was at once a compliment and at the same time code for “very hard to work with.” Whether she was snooty that day with the waitresses, I do not know.
Her companion, Theda Bara, was an icon of the silent film era – “the Vamp,” “the woman with the hungry eyes” – a femme fatale but said to be a real sweetheart when off the set. She loved the Finger Lakes, describing them as “a child’s fairyland.” After a 1919 film shoot in Ithaca, she spent two months motoring through the region, saying, “The scenic zone of the Finger Lakes in beauty and allure stands supreme.” At the height of her fame, she made $4,000 a week; let us hope that it was Theda who sprang for the tip that day in Skaneateles.
Theda Bara in The She-Devil (1918) fends off an actor who is not Fred Krebs.