Linda and I don’t do New Year’s Eve parties anymore because it would mess up our sleep cycle as we’re zizzing along in dreamland by 10 o’clock most nights. But we did enjoy some reminiscing about the Roadhouse and Tower, where we went in the late 60s and early 70s to party and dance to “Mustang Sally” and “Satisfaction.”
That’s not to say that we didn’t do some 2019 to 2020 transitioning. Linda, you see, was responsible for Miners Hall Museum’s last quarterly programming and exhibit of 2019 - “100 Years of Little Blue Books” - and I’m coordinating the first one of 2020, “Music of The Little Balkans.” So it was down with the old, up with the new.
Now, instead of bandleader Blue Barron looking out over our dining room table from a 1938 Trianon dance poster, he’s on the north wall of the MHM museum, and the young debonair Blue Book publisher, E. Haldeman-Julius, is leaning nonchalantly against our west dining room wall with a confident half smile on his face.
At the museum, where once there was information and photographs dealing with the history of Girard, “The Appeal To Reason,” Little Blue Books, Haldeman-Julius and his wife, Marcet, we now have information and photos related to Southeast Kansas music – posters, old photos, a guitar, an accordion, a button box and a replica of a 1960s Wurlitzer Rock-Ola jukebox that was crafted out of cardboard, tape, paint, glue and Plexiglas by Tony ‘The Wiz’ Simon.
As I’ve gathered artifacts and photos I’ve also gathered new stories and information about people and places.
While visiting with Ralph McGeorge I learned that his father, Roy, didn’t only play guitar on the lunchtime “Melody Matinee” on KOAM TV. Early on (1953-54) he played on a live KOAM music show called “Circle 7 Jamboree.”
More research revealed that the TV station was located south of Pittsburg so it could be tuned in by people in Kansas, Oklahoma Arkansas and Missouri, hence its call letters KOAM.
As we drove back and forth to Franklin we listened to a recently purchased CD of 30s and 40s big band greats.
My favorite turned out to be “Sing, Sing, Sing” by the Benny Goodman Orchestra, a rousing nine minute romp featuring the hard driving tom-tom beat of Gene Krupa, Harry James on lead trumpet and Benny Goodman on clarinet. Made me feel like stopping the car to get out and jitterbug with Linda in the nearest parking lot. (A great video of Gene Krupa and the BG band swinging on the tune can be found online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9J5Zt2Obko.)
I also found old Billboard magazines online that listed touring schedules of some of the best bands in the country that showed them playing the Tower in Pittsburg, Trianon in Croweburg and Gay Parita in Carona. All booked between dates in bigger cities like Kansas City, St. Louis, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Bands traveled the old Jefferson Highway that ran from Kansas City down through Fort Scott, Croweburg, Arma, Franklin, Pittsburg and on south to Joplin.
Of course we had lots of smaller venues hereabouts – like the Blue Goose and Rose Bowl in Frontenac, the Blue Moon and Sitter’s in Arma, Club 50 in Camp 50, Ginardi’s Trocadero at the corner of Hwy 69 and 47, and the Trading Post south of Pittsburg, as well as the Pittsburg supper clubs Lefty’s Barn and the 400 Club.
Naturally, there’s an accordion and polka section. Becky Nepote Harryman provided photos and posters related toher dad, Joe, and Johnnie Joe Zibert sent photos of his dad, John, and dropped off a beautiful button box for the display. It contains pictures’ of Ray Barto and the Idle Hour, the only supper club where they played that’s still operating.
Also in the polka section, a photo Jim Karlinger loaned us of him in a sport coat and bowtie. A studio shot at the age of 9 holding his accordion that was used in promotion flyers for Crosetto’s School of Music run by Jules Crosetto in Frontenac. His son, Steve, told me he had over 50 accordion students at one time.
I dug out my ’66 Frontenac Raider high school yearbook and found an ad for The Seibrings, Treva Sherman provided a photo of the Gass Company at the Roadhouse, Charlie Maiseroulle gave us a photo of a Rodney & The Blazers promotion and, from John Gobetz, I got a copy of a 1970 Cornstalk poster.
Debra Scalet, whose parents ran Scalet’s Hill Top, donated dozens of pictures of the supper club to the museum. Phyliss Bitner gathered a treasure trove of old photos of musicians, family bands, ballrooms and taverns, my favorite being a photo of twenty or so youngsters known as Franklin’s ‘West End Gang.’ Another of her dad’s family band bears the handwritten inscription, “Where is the next dance at?”
There’s much more than I can mention, so stop by the museum 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday thru Saturday to check it out. Also, our first presentation – on accordion and polka music – will be January 26th at 2 p.m. by Gene Corsini.
Getting back to New Year’s, readers might remember that I once asked my dad, aka “Lefty”, what was different about the dances on New Year’s Eve as compared to the ones on any other Wednesday or Saturday night when was he a young man in the 1930s and 40s. “Nothing,” he quickly smiled. “For us, every night was like New Year’s Eve!”
— J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and celebrant. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Training in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 620-231-0499, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762