There’s a good chance that many of you never heard of “Baby Snooks” and many more of you, probably, never heard the radio program, “The Baby Snooks Show.” And, have you heard the name, Fanny Brice? She was the actress that played the part of “Baby
Snooks.” Fanny was a Ziegfeld Follies alumna, and while in the Follies she sometimes wore a baby costume on the Broadway stage. Ten years later, in 1944, the character was given her own show, and during the 1940’s, it became one of the nation’s favorite radio situation comedies. The series began on CBS with a variety of sponsors, Post Cereals, Sanka, Spic-n-Span, and Jell-O.
Fanny portrayed “Baby Snooks” as a mischievous child who drove her father crazy. This middle-aged woman would dress in a baby-doll dress for the studio audiences. “Baby Snooks” wasn’t a mean child, however, some of her impish pranks were planting a bees ‘nest at her mother’s club meeting, cutting her father’s fishing lines into little pieces, ripping the fur off her mother’s coat, inserting marbles into her father’s piano and smearing glue on
her baby brother. Fanny Brice died May 29,1951 with her memoirs unfinished and with “Baby Snooks” due on the air that same night. She was 59, That’s why I say Baby Snooks never saw Snook Haven, which has nothing to do with heaven itself. It’s because of my visit to this place that “Baby Snooks” came to mind.
Going south on I 75 near Venice, Florida, at exit 191, and situated along the shore of the Myakka River is the Snook Haven Restaurant. Spanish moss hangs from huge Florida pine trees that surround the place. It has stood here for 50 years but that’s not long enough ago for “Baby Snooks” to have been there. I was unable to learn why or how it is
named Snook Haven. It recently came under new management. Those not familiar with Snook Haven are likely to have heard of, or been to, Sharky’s. The same management has now taken over Snook Haven. The park, however, is owned by Sarasota County and the ground’s buildings and cottages stand as reminders of its popularity as a fishing camp in years gone by.
To reach Snook Haven, it’s about a one mile drive on a dirt road where one catches glimpses of Old Florida with its dense under brush lining both
sides the road. The allure of the wild and scenic Myakka River draws hundreds of visitors, but our visit had to be on a Thursday, between the hours of 11:00 a. m. and 1:30 p. m. The attraction then is The Gulf Coast Banjo Society which rehearses on the grounds during those hours. Although the group boasts of over 50 members, approximately 25 were in attendance on this day. Many of the band’s
members are renown banjo musicians. All of them are retirement age and older. There is no admission charge for this event, although a hat was passed among the 500-plus in attendance. The band uses these
funds to encourage music among youths. Chinked in here and there were three accordions, a saxaphone and clarinet player. Many of the banjo players were called upon to sing the lyrics to the tunes which range from the 1920’s to 40’s.
We know of no other free attractions in the area, especially in Sarasota, known for being rather upscale. Under Florida’s blue skies, and quiet breezes, the Banjo Band played for two and a half hours and left the visitors still wanting more. It fit perfectly my husband’s and my idea of a good time and, besides, the price was right.
When you get to Sarasota, look for Snook Haven. Enjoy the ambiance of Old Florida and the great toe tapping, hand clapping music of the Gulf Coast Banjo Society. You may also like to learn more about “Baby Snooks.” You can actually see her perform on YouTube. I’d love to hear from you.