Ventriloquist and humorist Ed Thomas and Hugo will perform at Nasson Little Theatre in two shows on Saturday July 21 . Thomas, a Nasson College alumni, graduated in 1962. COURTESY PHOTO

SPRINGVALE — Ed Thomas and his wooden sidekick Hugo will be headed home next  Saturday, playing two shows at Nasson Little Theatre in Springvale.

Ventriloquist and comedian Thomas graduated from Nasson College in 1962. Hugo, he said, “graduated” that year as well — earning his own photo in the college yearbook.

Now, the pair will be coming back to entertain audiences with shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 21.

Thomas and Hugo have been thrilling audiences for many years — since Thomas, who was raised in Orrington, near Bangor, acquired his wooden friend when he was in junior high school.

“He was made especially for me,” Thomas recalled in an interview from his Florida home last week. Hugo was crafted by American carver Revello Petee, who was renowned for his skill in making ventriloquist figures.

Thomas’ interest in entertaining and ventriloquism came early.

“My first paid gig was in December 1947,” said Thomas. “I was in third grade.”

He’d developed an interest in ventriloquism and had performed in a Christmas variety show at school. Someone saw his act and asked if he’d consider a paid performance. The answer was affirmative, and soon Thomas found himself performing for a special event at the Pilot’s Grill in Bangor.

“I charged $5,” he recalled with a chuckle.

“I don’t know how I learned it,” he said of ventriloquism, suggesting he got tips from a brochure that came with his first ventriloquist figure. “I took to it like a duck to water, it just fascinated me.”

His love affair with the entertainment industry had began.

Thomas is thought to be the first ventriloquist in Maine to be featured on television . His first appearance was years ago when WABI in Bangor, broadcasted from a small building near the station’s antenna on Copeland Hill, and later, there were a couple of commercials with the Maine Dairy Council that aired on a television show in Portland.

At the shows on Saturday, audiences will meet and hear from Hugo, hear some stand-up comedy and likely hear from another of Thomas’ characters, who came to life at a time when Thomas wrote a newspaper column called “The Wit and Whimsy of Dr. Horace P. Goodfellow.”

Goodfellow espoused downeast humor. He hailed from Potato Bend, Maine — though Thomas said that town won’t be found on a map — and Dr. Goodfellow wont be found in the yellow pages.

An agent read the columns and told Thomas that if he could play Goodfellow, the agent could book shows.

Thomas was playing Goodfellow on stage in Boston one night and heard that Marshall Dodge, the famed downeast Maine humorist known for his “Bert and I” recordings, was playing in a town in nearby New Hampshire. Thomas drove over and saw the show, the two met and talked until 2 a.m. They made tentative plans to record together, but it was not to be. Dodge died in 1982 in Hawaii after being hit by a vehicle while bicycling.

Thomas’ day job included a lengthy career at Jordan Marsh, beginning in Boston with the department store’s executive training program. Twenty-five years later, he was vice-president of Jordan Marsh operations in Florida.

During his business career, Thomas’ work in show business continued to be a sideline, performing at conventions and banquets, stare fairs, appearing on television and acting in movies and plays.

Now that he is retired he continues to perform.

Thomas said he is looking forward to returning to the community where he — and Hugo— spent their college years, and is hoping some of his classmates will be in the audience.

For tickets, go to: http://www.nassonevents.com.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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