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FREE JAZZ book ARTfully reveals a 75yr jitterbug dance partnering JAZZ and America

"JAZZ from the Belly of the BLUES"

Testimonial

 

Chapter

Two

Jazz Poster

Poster available at:
www.cafepress.com/jazart

JAZZ AT UNCLE NOAH’S PARK

Bedroom Window
Bedroom Window

 

Evenings, as I approached my teens, I lay diagonally across the  pineapple posted Montgomery Ward bed with my ear pressed to the window screen.

My head was dangerously positioned beneath this raised window, which was known to sometimes fall shut for no apparent reason. I chanced the danger.

Through this second story window, over the sounds of the crickets, the owl, the barking dogs and the distant highway drone, there arrived some sassy, breeze blown music . . . JAZZ music.

Jazz had floated upriver, cut across the growing green fields of corn, soybeans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cow pastures, apple orchards and such.

Then, straining itself through the screen of my second floor farmhouse bedroom’s unstable window, JAZZ surrounded my vulnerable head and began to lock itself onto my heart.

The JAZZ came from “Rosedale Beach”, which was sprawled on the northern bank of a river with a lost Indian name.

This approximately fifteen miles of river, with a varied width seldom more than half a mile wide, was - and is - known simply as “Indian River”.

There was once an Indian reservation on its southern shores. After years of skirmishes and protests over land usage, the colonial government surveyed and reserved boundaries for the Nanticoke/Lenape people in 1711.

 

The Nanticoke/Lenapes felt compelled to reach beyond their limiting boundaries for their seasonally transient quest for food. The treaty required that someone from their tribe must occupy the land at all times. Colonial settlers felt that when they found “empty” land, they had a right to ignore the treaty and claim it.

 

More skirmishes and protests followed. Within two years the reservation was “lost”. The people were unceremoniously dispelled. The lands were then assigned or sold to the descendants of the European colonists. . . . . But that is another story.

About 200 years later, when the 1930’s and I were in our infancy, a certain section of this river’s shores gained the new name of “Rosedale”, being changed from “Noah’s Park”.

My parents still called it Noah’s Park. Noah was my great uncle. Uncle Noah had inherited his land from my grandmother’s father, Isaac Harmon (1829 – 1900). “Grandpop Isaac” my mother always called him; “Old Man Isaac”, my father called him - with a rare touch of reverence. It seems Great grandfather Isaac spent all of his hard-earned money building his farming, lumbering and crabbing businesses and, otherwise, he steadfastly purchased land.

 

Apparently determined to become as assimilated and as “American” as possible in his own land, my Great grandfather Isaac and a few others of his relatives and neighbors were able to gain an economic foothold. Great grandfather Isaac is remembered for passing out pennies to little children in his community. His wife, with thirteen living children, promised to provide clothing for any baby girl given her name of Sarah Jane. Consequently, there became quite a few little girls in the community named Sarah Jane, including my father’s sister.

 

Playing down his prosperity, as it increased, Great grandfather Isaac (it is said) made it a point to drive fifteen miles with his horse and “buckboard” (a type of wagon) to the county courthouse in Georgetown; whereupon he entered the courthouse barefooted to make his land purchases – parcel by parcel. County records have shown that he variously owned between eight hundred and one thousand acres in the Warwick area of Sussex County.  I say “variously” because as he continued to buy, he also sold to family and community members (suggestive of his having served as an informal banker.)

 

Such was not easy in this lower portion of Delaware which, even in the 1950’s smugly declared itself as being akin to its “sister state” of Mississippi. As a matter of fact, “lost” papers have been seen showing that “Grandpop” Isaac managed to own some exclusive water rights to Indian River. . . . . But, of course that would be another story.

Now we will go back to his son, Uncle Noah, who inherited a good stretch of the bank of Indian River.

Part of the bank was cleared to make a local park area for bathing, playing baseball and preaching from a small pavilion.
(Others in the family bought or inherited portions of the river bank and created family parks which we called: Winkett’s Park, Uncle Willie’s Park and Harmon’s Park (later called Lincoln’s Park).

Uncle Noah’s Park was the most enduring, however.

Picnicing at Harmon’s Park
Inez Davis, and others; Harmon�s Park c. 1930
Photo, courtesy of F. Dunmore, Sussex County, DE

Nelson Johnson & sons, Nelson & Arthur docked for crabbing
Nelson Johnson & sons, Nelson & Arthur docked for crabbing, Rosedale
Photo, courtesy of S. Pinkett, Sussex County, DE

In the early 1930’s, Uncle Noah sold the river-bank to a local entrepreneur named David E. Street, sometimes called “Dale”. His wife’s name was “Rosetta”. Hence, the names were combined into “Rosedale”. (Yes, I know. Other places have been called “Rosedale” for whatever reasons. But, this is the origin of the name as told to me by an elderly distant cousin, Hersel Davis.)

This new buyer and the next buyer, Mr. Jesse Vauss from Philadelphia, managed to retain the concept of a park, while offering exciting dance hall music.

Rosedale, rental cabin
Rosedale, rental cabin; 1931 photo

Rosedale Beach Hotel
Rosedale Beach Hotel; 1944 postcard
Memorabilia, courtesy of Ardith Mosley, Sussex County, DE

People from far afield found this place on weekends, especially Saturday nights. When I say “afield”, I mean really from fields, and also, from factories and, for the women, from their employers’ kitchens.

Approaching Handclasp detail from Facets of Jazz
Approaching Handclasp detail from Facets of Jazz, acrylic

Face to Face
Face to Face detail from Facets of Jazz, acrylic

 

 

 

It was a place to let off steam. Plodding people came but they no longer plodded. They moon walked long before the era of man’s walking on the moon; or, Michael Jackson’s fancy dance steps of moon walking.

 

The plodding people were transformed. They sizzled with energy and glided with precision.

Some were beautiful. Others managed with legs bowed with rickets; bodies overweight or underweight or somehow medically misshapened; their faces sometimes toothless and scarred.

Even those who tilted the bottle too much seemed to manage a rhythmic lean.

On a rare Saturday afternoon, in the mid thirties, I stood with my parents near the entrance to the dancehall which had been built on pilings over the river.

 As I remember it, there was a bit of extended pier alongside this dancing enclosure.

At the back was a window which allowed the dancers a romantic view of the moon and a hasty, though sometimes wet, retreat upon seeing the unexpected presence of a significant other – married or otherwise.

Moonlit Dance
Moonlit Dance, digital painting

Hip To Hip; detail
Hip To Hip; detail, Facets of Jazz

I did not know the word “risqué” but I sensed its connection with the music.

I remember that Ella and her “A Tisket A Tasket” commanded the attention of all within the four walls and much of the expanse outside on the riverbank.

Her grasped words were clean but they seemed to add up to something a little ornery.

 

Ella would have been a teenager at the time.

I have since read that young Ella ventured forth under the protective guidance of Chick Webb and, at other times, Count Basie.

I believe she was with Count Basie’s Band that day. I know that both great performers, Chick Web and Count Basie, were finding their way to Rosedale during those early years.

Others who came to honor this rural dance hall with their presence ranged from Fats Waller and Lionel Hampton to Ruth Brown, Lloyd Price, Bill Doggett, Illinois Jaquet, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and Miles Davis, along with many other notables.


Memorabilia, courtesy of B. Jackson, Sussex County, DE.

Certainly remembered is the night that Miles Davis left the bandstand, used his arm to sweep some space clear on the bar, jumped upon it and trumpeted away! That was in the early Fifties.

I have since wondered if that was the beginning of his famous attitudinal back-turned-to-the-audience stance.

Gold on Stage
Gold on Stage � original: oil on canvas

I have created a painting suggestive of his standing above his band members with his back to the audience.

It is titled “Gold On Stage” and seen here.
 
The image is available for purchase as an archivally framed reproduction print at my online shop:
http://www.CafePress.com/jazart

Suffice it to say that with their Philadelphia connection circuit of one and two night stands, the very best musicians passed through our little hamlet as - or as they became -  great and famous JAZZ MASTERS.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, we had a piano. Could any Jazz possibly come from our piano?

Yes, I know. We could use the mouse-nibbled piano rolls . . . and that’s a story I tell in the next chapter. . . but really . . . .

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FREE MUSICAL SAMPLES:

For free, quick - or sometimes long and engaging - samples of some of the musical masters mentioned in this chapter, go to:
Ella Fitzgerald at:
http://www.mp3.com/artist/ella-fitzgerald/summary

Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald:
http://www.amazon.com/Early-Years-Pt-2/dp/B0000001NS

Count Basie with Ella Fitzgerald
http://www.amazon.com/gp/recsradio/radio/B000003N3Y/103-9068874-0796642?volume=6

Miles Davis:
http://www.amazon.com/Bitches-Brew-Miles-Davis/dp/B00000J7SS

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May you have a gloriously JAZZY day!