We are some of those fortunate snow birds spending the winter in Florida and loving every minute of it. Just before we left Pennsylvania a friend asked me what we did all the time we are here. I thought, well, I still have a house (RV) to keep clean, washing and ironing to do, cooking, shopping and running around. Then there’s church on Sunday and choir practice once a week. We do squeeze in some shuffle board playing and miniature golf, and the park we stay in brings in frequent entertainment, which, not always, but sometimes we attend. The running around
includes “The Red Barn Flea Market,” a rather unique event, “Snook Haven,” where 30 or 40 banjo players get together, once a week, to do some jamming. Training grounds for the “Royal Lipizzaner Stallions” is nearby and we usually visit here at least once. We love Myakka State Park where alligators are within view during every visit. “The Big Cats” sanctuary, less than a mile away, is where there’s a wonderful performance that features more than the tigers and is actually a mini-circus.
The park we stay in is 2 miles long and has over 1500 sites, so it’s like living in a very active community, I love walking and easily walk three miles, all within the park. Biking is fun here. The park, “Sun and Fun,” Sarasota, has actually mapped out a five mile bike ride around the
perimeter. I didn’t mention “Circus Sarasota,” which fits into our to-see list each year. Nor did I tell you about Siesta Beach, voted one of the United State’s most beautiful beaches and it’s only a few miles away. By the way, this park has one of the most beautiful pools, not only one, but two, one of them indoors in a recently constructed million-dollar health center.
As if that were not enough. Anyone knowing my husband, Burl, knows he has a knack for keeping us busy, and a mind for business. Last year,
was the first year we stored our RV here at the park and that left a hitch empty on our truck, so traveling behind us this year was “Shirl Belle,” the band organ that Burl constructed. What kind of business scheme did he cook up for us this time? He arranged with the park’s activity director for what he calls a “gig” and we and “Shirl Belle.” became part of the park’s entertainment line-up. Eight times, we are performing with the band organ, and getting raves on what we are doing. This would not have been possible without much preparation (work!). At each performance, ten songs of the
carousel era are played, but before each song, we present research we’ve done on the history of each piece, its writer, and performers. With some of the songs we sing along and ask the audience to join us. We also display copies of the old sheet music and posters. It has turned out to be a most enjoyable “job.”
We love the music of the early 1900’s when band organs were used to enliven skating rinks and carousels. Many of the songs are familiar to me because my parents played them on their 78’s record player and oftentimes I sang them while doing dishes with my mother. Both mom and dad loved music. Many of the songs date
back to my grandparents’ day. Seeing the attached photos taken at our performances will help you visualize what the shows are like. And I also want to give you some idea of the information we have researched and are presenting with each performance.
Let’s begin with the song, “Sweet Sue,” written in 1928, by Victor Young. Young was an unlikely source for an enduring jazz standard, like “Sweet Sue.” because he grew-up in Poland, where he studied classical violin. This song was recorded by Fats Waller, Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and the Mills Brothers, to mention a few. Another oldie, “Down By The Old Mill Stream,” goes back to 1908 and friends told Tell Taylor it wasn’t of commercial value. When he did have it published, a vaudeville quartet, “The Orpheus Comedy Four,” sang it at the Woolworth’s Store in Kansas City and Taylor sold 1000 copies of the sheet music, all he had!
“Shirl Belle” really shines while playing marches. “Trail Of The Air March” was written by Fred L. Thompson in 1928, just one year after Lindbergh
made his triumphant flight across the Atlantic and five years later, Amelia Earhart became the first woman flyer to make the same successful trip. We are both history buffs and researching songs is a rather unique way to learn more.”In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree,” is a popular song dating from 1905. It was written as a folk ballad and was later performed as a barbershop quartet song, a waltz, and also recorded by the jazz band of Duke Ellington. His recording became extremely popular with world War II soldiers headed for the South Pacific.
That information gives you an idea what, among other things, we are doing here. “Shirl Belle’s” repertoire includes over 200 songs, we’ve researched approximately 40. So you see our work is still cut out for us.
By the way, Pedro, our Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot of 31 years is with us. He’s been coming to Florida nearly that many years. He loves music as well as we do. The history? You’ll have to ask him and he’ll probably say something like, “huh”?