Monday, January 23, 2017

Room #16 - Recognizing Sixteen Random Guests

      Before I go any further with this post I want to make mention that this particular post is dedicated to the Co-Owner of The Josephine Hotel, Lt. Colonel Allen B. Perrin, who passed away this past week, on January 15th. Allen, is survived by his wife, Joyce Perrin. Allen was also my friend whom I adored.  I will miss him very much and I know not only his family and friends will miss him, but the community in Union Springs will miss him too. This special man and his wife, Joyce have been very devoted to preserving The Josephine Hotel, as well as it's long and fascinating history. It is through their tireless efforts in caring for the building that I have had access to the building and historical documents. It was a privilege to get to know Allen and it will be my continued mission to research and learn more about this amazing place and the people who built and made it a success many years ago.
                        This weeks post begins here:

     I thought it would be fun to do a random acknowledging of sixteen guests who stayed at The Josephine Hotel. The idea is to pull and recognize guests of the 1950's decade when the hotel was known as The Commercial Hotel. Since I had the privilege of studying the old hotel guest registration sheets for a time and I chose sixteen random guests who all signed in at the hotel and all had one thing in common... they all stayed in room number 16.

Below: A photo I took 2 years ago of the exact door of the room of my study.

     I've mentioned in previous posts that this door was painted sometime in the 70's. The original color was the dark walnut stain that you can see through the crackled paint.  The brass room number plate is an original plate.

Below: On the same door I wanted to point out that many of the doors in the building still have there original ornate hinge hardware from 1880. Isn't that just gorgeous?

Below: Room #16 from the inside. It is much larger than it appears here in this photo. This is not the furniture that belonged to this room. These are just random pieces of furniture left here through the years.

Below: Just ring for service... Back in the day you'd just press the button and the desk clerk would send someone to your door.

Below: Transoms above every door in the building along with the high lofty ceilings helped to keep a nice breeze blowing through the building. This would be crucial in our hot and humid climate here in the south.

Below: The view from Room #16 you see The First Baptist Church of Union Springs across the street. A beautiful view and a beautiful building church building.

As I flipped through the stack of Hotel Guest Register sheets I separated the ones that were from the 1950's decade.

Next I wrote down sixteen random guests names who stayed in room #16, along with the cities or towns where they traveled from.

Here they are:

Mr. D.A. Rooch ---------- Edison, Georgia

W. W. Morgan ---------- Flint, Michigan

F. C. Sunow ---------- Dallas, Texas

Mr. & Mrs. Hayes ---------- Valdosta, Georgia

Ray Wildish ---------- Mt. Vernon, Illinois

H. T. Caruthers ---------- Memphis, Tennessee

Mr. & Mrs. Rich Collins ---------- North Hollywood, California

G. C. Grimes ---------- Little Rock, Arkansas

Jeff L. Cooley ---------- San Francisco, California

Bill Peters ---------- Asbury Park, New Jersey

E. A. Wright ---------- Water Valley, Mississippi

Thomas & Sarah Kiner ---------- Bristol, Indiana

A. A. Schmidt ---------- Oakridge, Tennessee

H. W. Wasserman ---------- Atlanta, Georgia

G. D. Anderson & Wife ------- Dayton, Ohio (Roland's Originals)

Mr. & Mrs. William McGraw ---------- Philadelphia, PA.

There you have it. Sixteen names of people from all over the United States who have nothing in common but that over the course of a decade all stayed at different times in room number #16.  Maybe they requested that room. Was it because of the view of Prairie Street? Was it a warmer room? Quieter? All of these folks did have another thing in common. They all came to Union Springs. Look back at those cities. Wow! No kidding? They came from all over the place. Remember, I narrowed the names down from hundreds to just sixteen names. There were so many who came from so far away. Places like, New York, Montana, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Colorado. What were they doing here?  Visiting friends, relatives? Passing through? Who knows.

One of the contributing factors were the two major railroad lines that made an indelible junction for the city. One line was the Mobile / Girard Line. The other was the Montgomery/Eufaula line.Train passengers and the crews of those trains sometimes had lay overs in Union Springs.  This was easy for me to see based on all the employees who worked for the railroads signed into the guest registers.

The other reason for travelers stopping in at the Josephine was the two major highways crisscrossing right through the middle of town. Highway 82 and Highway 29 had folks motoring through Union Springs night and day as they continue to do right now.

So what happened? For reasons I don't know, both railroads stopped coming through Union Springs. When that exactly happened, I don't know. But based on the hotel guest registers that I examined, which were from the late 1940's to 1970, I could see for my self the steady decline of guests staying at the hotel. As far as I could tell the 40's and 50's were pretty steady and the rooms stayed filled. Even through the early 60's and then in the late 60's and the beginning of 1970, it just took a nose dive. It seemed like many of the sign-in pages, which had now been converted to what looks like a large index card, where many only had a few names and some were completely blank. I don't have to be a detective to figure that out.

The owners of the hotel at the time had to be struggling to keep the doors open. When you have a retail or service type business, the people in your town can rally around you. They can raise your revenue by purchasing your goods or use the service you provide. But Sadly, there is not much local residents can do to help a hotel.

By the mid 1980's the hotel portion of the building finally closed it's doors for good. The Josephine had a long 100 year run as a fully functioning hotel. Now, the three store spaces on the ground floor have, for most of the 136 year history, have almost always been occupied as a business or multiple businesses to this day.

Hopefully, one day The Josephine will have new life breathed into her and she can once more open her doors to travelers who are just passing through or participating in the Field Trials at Sedgefield Plantation or attending the fantastic Red Door Theatre for a play or eating at the Hill Top Grill and having yourself a, "Voted Best Burger In Alabama" hamburger or try a yummy meal at 82 West, where you are sure to need to let your belt out at least two notches before leaving. You absolutely must stop by FPH Bakery and enjoy a sumptuous slice of cake or pie.  Amber's homemade scones are a must.  But don't even think of leaving without one of her delicious gourmet cupcakes. Friends, you just have to see this adorable place and experience it for yourself.  Be sure to take a tour of this sleepy little town and see some of the most beautiful historic homes in all of Alabama. Not to mention the spectacular architecture of its buildings and churches. These are just a few of the many, many things to do here. 

Union Springs will be back on the map one day. Maybe one day you'll be able to stay at the historic Josephine Hotel. Maybe one day you can request to stay in room... #16. If you do, you'll be in good company and will go down in history as one of the many who stayed in room #16.

That's all for now. Be sure to check back for the latest blog post at Oh, that Josephine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Popular Circus Visits Union Springs

     Everyone loves a circus and it was no different on the day this circus came to town. It was around the mid-1950's when a the King Brothers Circus came to Union Springs, Alabama.

     In 1945 Floyd King bought the Bud Anderson Circus and much of the Clyde Beatty's Truck Show. In 1946 Floyd took the circus out as King Brothers Circus. In 1954 Floyd partnered with Arnold Maley and together formed a larger 70 truck circus. That is huge!

Below: Floyd King

Below: See where Mr. Floyd King checked into the Josephine Hotel, known as The Commercial Hotel at the time. (At the bottom)

Below: Floyd King and partner, Arnold Maley.

Below: Posters like this would have put up all over Union Springs, letting everyone know when all the excitement of the circus was coming to town.

   As with most circuses, there are three rings in the center and a Ring Master to point your attention to each act as it is taking place.

     There are usually horses, acrobats, trapeze artists and large elephants that come bounding into the center rings. They,(The elephants), stand on their hind legs, twirl and do other tricks to a delighted audience.

     Today we see so few circuses appearing anymore. I personally haven't seen a real circus in years or since I was a little girl. The last I can remember was in my Dad's small home town. He took me and my brother. It was so much fun. My brother was so little at the time that most of his attention was focused on his cotton candy. But I was mesmerized by the men and women who swung back and forth on the trapeze. It was so exhilarating and beautiful. I also loved the elephants and the clowns that came running around playing little tricks on some people in the audience.

Below:  A view of a main large tent.

Below: Another view of the main circus tent.

Below: A sample of a program/magazine they would sell at the circus.

Below: A specially trained acrobat who rides a horse and does all kinds of tricks. Different riders do difficult flips while standing on the horse as it runs. Other tricks may include other riders jumping and flipping from horse to horse while the horses are in motion. It really is thrilling to see the skilled performers in these acts. 

     In addition the main circus tent, there are side shows and specialty acts to entertain you. These may be inside additional tents or as part of a series of trucks lined up close together where they are converted into stages to perform their acts. 

Below: Highly skilled jugglers.

Below: Examples of how a circus truck can convert to a specialty act or for a side show.

     Sideshow Acts are usually people who look different or those who can perform very specific acts that may be dangerous. Sword swallowers or fire swallowers are kind of exciting to some. Not me. I find them hard to watch. Then there are others acts like the Worlds Tallest Man, The Fat Lady, The Half Woman, The Tattooed Lady, Bobo The Rubber Man, The Three Legged Man, and The Worlds Smallest Woman. There is always some version of these acts at most circuses. Even the Worlds Strongest Man. But my favorite might be the Magicians. They are always good for a thrill or two. Especially to kids, who just can't figure out how they did that trick. 

     Don't forget the exotic animals. See that camel in the photo below. Can you imagine when you were a kid from a small town when you would ever in your life get to see a real live camel? That's why a circus is so cool. King Brother's Circus and others like them enjoyed a lot of success over the years bringing everything they had to entertain you and expose you to something you may never, ever have the opportunity to see again. I wish they were still around. This was really great entertainment, especially to a small town like Union Springs.

Now don't forget the food... roasted peanuts, cotton candy, candied apples, cracker jacks, and the smell of that popcorn! Oh my! I can almost smell it now.

     I brought you down memory lane for a reason. Not because I  think you're some kind of nitwit or cave dweller that hasn't ever heard of a circus. It is so you can close your eyes and remember a simpler time. Happy times. In a small town like Union Springs or wherever you live, this was a time to get out of the house and go with your friends, family, neighbors and spend time together participating in a family friendly and FUN event that was so exciting, so thrilling that you would talk about it for days, and days. The circus was a place filled with excitement, laughter, and people who devoted their lives to making you smile. How cool is that?  I wish it were still that easy to bring people together.

Union Springs may have had more than one circus come to town over the years. I'm sure it did. But for this particular post I have proof that they did. They stayed at our beloved jewel of Prairie Street, The Josephine Hotel. For at least we know that during this one snippet of time in history, the people of Union Springs went to a tent with its neighbors, and together they laughed and smiled. They enjoyed the circus... together.

Be sure to check back right here to see more posts from Oh, That Josephine.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Day The Red Heads Came To Town

     This post could be in the running for my all time favorite. Wait, I know that I've said that about a half-dozen times, but this could rank up there among the best.  So, the blog title says, "The Day The Red Heads Came To Town." That doesn't mean a we had bunch of Lucille Ball wannabes roll into town, or rampaging redheaded step-children ringing doorbells and running away. Nothing like that.

     I was perusing through the old Hotel Guest Registration sheets when I saw the word, "Red Heads" in quotations.  I suspected this had to be a big deal...and it was.  

Below: These were the Red Heads.

     Now, to you and me in the year of 2016, we're thinking, what? Who the heck are the Red Heads? Back in the day this was  

     They were The All American Red Heads, Women's Professional Basketball Team. They toured and performed professionally all over the country from 1936 to 1986.

     Below: This is who signed in at the Commercial Hotel, aka The Josephine Hotel. They were here around mid February, around the early to mid 1950's.

     To give you some idea of how big of a deal The Red Heads were, They were the female equivalent of the all-male Harlem Globetrotters. Like the Globetrotters, they were stellar at the game of basketball but also delightfully pleasing entertainers.

Some of us who grew up in the 70's remember the Globetrotters and especially the star players such as: "Meadowlark Lemon" and "Curly Neal." They were huge. Take a look back at that hotel register. See the names Zethel Keith, Jessie Banks, Katherine Pitcock.  They were the mega stars of The Red Heads. These particular woman were the equivalent to Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.

Below: Jessie Banks is the top right, Katherine Pitcock is to her left. And I believe Zethel Keith is at the bottom left. Sorry, the bottom is cut off in this promotional poster.

Here's how it got started. In 1936 C. M. Olsen recruited and hired seven female players who had all played on various basketball teams that were part of the American Athletic Union.  The women were great players, one of them was 6-feet tall, and two of the seven women had red hair. (After the first few years, Olson or team members must have turned to dye or henna treatments as later descriptions of the team report them all as red heads.) They were also reported to be attractive.

The game the Red Heads played was according to the rules of men's basketball.  Their competition was always a local men's team. Like the flyer above said, "Always playing Men and Always Men's rules." This was a real exciting attraction.

On the road:

The first year the team played 133 games in six months, traveling to nearly 30 states. After that the requests poured in, and Olson established a schedule where he would book the team for six solid months and then they would have time off until the following season.

The All American Red Heads traveled cross-country, playing to packed houses almost every night; occasionally they played double-headers.  A reporter for Life magazine (4/1939) writes that audiences paid 25-40 cents to come to the games to "see female muscle seriously pitted against male muscle." The Life reporter described their "circus like shooting" and "rough style."

Below: The Red Heads show off their dribbling skills.

Over time, the women perfected a system. They would try to start the game strong and get ahead; then they would ease off and do more fancy dribbling and trick shots.  This was accompanied by a good amount of flirting with the opposing team, with the referees, and with the audience. Toward the end of the game, they would reapply pressure with the intents of bringing in the win. The system was entertaining and very successful.  They won more games than they lost with a 70 percent win rate for most years.

Off court, the women who signed on to play for the Red Heads also agreed to a strict behavior policy. Olsen knew that impeccable behavior in public-- including no smoking or drinking-- was vital to their image.

The popularity of the team grew exponentially.  In 1948, Olsen sold the team to Orwell Moore, a basketball coach whose wife played for the Red Heads for a time. Moore hired a second team of Red Heads to travel; by 1964 until 1971 he had three teams touring during the season.

Below: A "Red Heads" uniform. There were many different versions over the years. This is just one example.

From old photographs, the first uniforms were navy-- very short and short-sleeved shirts. Later a freelancer for the New York Times wrote a reminiscence of when he was in the Army and played against Red Heads I the mid-1950's. He describes their uniforms as "skating-style skirts" that were very short, midriff blouses, knee highs, and red sneakers.

Below: Another example of uniforms worn by The Red Heads.

The fact that the Red Heads played the men's game with the men's rules makes them even more remarkable. John Molina says it best: The Red Heads dribbled, juggled, danced and laughed their way into the hearts of audiences."

Well there you have it. The day the Red Heads came to town. Pretty exciting, huh? Actually, I would have loved to see them perform.  I can't think of a place where this game would have taken place in Union Springs. Then again, I didn't grow up here. I know that over the years many buildings have been torn down and this game could have taken place almost anywhere, even one of the local school gymnasiums.

What a delight to know that yes, to Union Springs they came. Celebrities, Athletes, Entertainers, and maybe even a slimy politician or two came right here, to The Josephine Hotel in Union Springs, Alabama. If they came once before, they could come again. Who knows.

This concludes another fun and informative post. I enjoyed both learning and writing about it. In an upcoming post, another famous group of folks who came to Union Springs to entertain who also stayed at the Josephine Hotel.  It will be another must read so stay tuned.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Puttin' On A "Silas Green Show"

     Here's a great piece of history you don't hear much about. I just thought it was so interesting that I decided to devote an entire blog post to this topic.  As I was flipping the pages of the old Hotel Guest Registers from back in the 50's, once again, a name caught my eye and stopped me in my tacks. I saw the writing on the sheet, "Silas Green Show." "Hmm", I thought to myself. "There has to something to this."

     The Silas Green From New Orleans was an African American owned company and ran a variety of tent shows, which in various forms toured the southern states between 1904 - 1957.

Below: See the Hotel Registration Sheets. The Hotel was called the Commercial Hotel at the time of this sign in. I found where they came here two times.

Here's a little history about the Silas Green Show. Eph Williams, (1885 - 1935) was the only black circus owner in America.  He has set up his first circus in Wisconsin in 1885 and by the mid- 1890's owned 100 Arabian Horses and employed 26 people. His circus business collapsed around 1902 but soon afterwards he acquired the rights to Silas Green From New Orleans.

He set up a new company, "Prof. Eph Williams Famous Troubadours," to tour the tent show. It played one-night stands throughout the South, and became one of the longest-lasting tent shows in America.  Williams managed the show and continued to perform house tricks, alongside musicians such as Bessie Smith. buy 1928, the troupe comprised of 54 people including a 16 piece band and 16 girl dancers. The main show tent had a capacity of 1400 people.

Around 1922, Williams sold half the share in the show to Charles Collier, who took over sole ownership after Williams' death in the mid-1930's.  The show continued to tour until the late 1950's, and in later years was sometimes billed simply as the Silas Green Show.

At the time of our hotel guests it was the mid-1950's.  The folks that checked in here I believe were the front people. They would have been in charge of arranging a place for the tent to be set up. Arranging printing of tickets, printing of signage, posters, and advertising for the upcoming events. These shows were very well done, professional, and highly entertaining to both black and whites in the South.

Below: Even though the show sometimes was know to be slightly racy, it was billed as a "clean" family show.

Below: Silas Green Show Tent set up.

Below: Advertising of the Silas Green Show. Note just below that, "Always a good clean show." They did their best to create a show that was professional, fun, and entertaining for the whole family.

Part revue, part musical comedy, part minstrel show, the show told the adventures of short, "coal-black" Silas Green and tall, "tannish Lilas Bean. In 1940, Time Magazine said of the show:-
"This year their troubles start when they go to a hospital with suitcases labeled M.D. (Mule Drivers), are mistaken for two medicos, end in jail. The show is garnished with such slapstick as putting a patient to sleep by letting him smell and old show, such gags as "Your head sets on one end of your spine and you set on the other." Silas gets broad at times, but never really dirty.  What keeps it moving are its dances and specialty acts, its gold-toothed but good-looking chorus."

I would love to know if anyone in Union Springs remembers going to one of these shows. It had to be very entertaining.

It is without a doubt interesting to know that Union Springs had shows like this come to town. If anyone remembers this show please let me know.

That will conclude this post. Be sure to check back soon. I will be posting another great and entertaining group who came to Union Springs and stayed at the old Josephine Hotel, which was at the time, The Commercial Hotel.  So stay tuned.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hotel Guests of Country Music Fame

     If you're a country music fan of the golden era in the days of the Grand Ole Opry, then what you're about to read will tickle you pink.

     Lets start with Jimmy Self & The Southern Playboys. Even as a classic country music fan I can honestly say I didn't know who he was. However when I saw his list of singles I did know a few.  So it's like I knew of him, sort of.

Below: Jimmy Self with Guitar on the right.


   When I was combing over these old hotel guest register sheets something caught my eye. Below you can see how Jimmy Self signed in.

   He signed in as Jimmy Self 8 Southern Play Boys and then WSM Nashville, Tennessee. Any self-avowed classic country music lover knows what WSM means. It's only the most famous radio station in the whole dang world that's all. Also it's the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Everybody knows that in the glorious golden days of the Grand Ole Opry, the broadcasts from Ryman Auditorium were on WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. When Jimmy Self checked in with his band they checked into rooms numbered 19, 20, and 22.

     So who was Jimmy Self? Jimmy Self (sometimes spelled Selph), was born June 23, 1915 and died December 28, 2000. He was a versatile American singer who was a country music, rockabilly, and bluegrass musician and occasional vocalist whose career peaked during the late 1940's through the 1950's.  He could play the guitar, drums, accordion, and steel guitar. 

     Self's first release, "That's Why I Worry", was in 1947 on the Majestic Label. He was a member of Curley Williams' band, whom with he recorded several albums.  He also appeared with Dottie Dillard.  On the Coin Label he released titles including "Tom Catin' Around" (1956). He was also a drummer for Hank Thompson and a singer with Milton Estes and the Musical Millers. Self also recorded on the Bullet Record Label, "Dream Castles Shared With You" and "Times A-Wasting, Little Darling". Self's vocal releases included "Say You'll Be Mine" and "Oh Babe". He appeared on and toured with the Grand Ole Opry beginning in the mid-1940's.

Below: Pictured here is Jimmy Self. Of course, when he appeared here in Union Springs he would have been younger than pictured here.

     In 1955, he was a member of the house band on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee (Originally known as the Crossroads Boys) with Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Bud Isaccs before he returned to Nashville, Tennessee.  As a Nashville and Hollywood session musician, he backed Red Foley, Don Gibson, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Molly O'Day and The Browns.

Below: A good example here of the type of signage and promotional posters that would be posted all over town to let folks know about these upcoming tours.

When Jimmy Self came to Union Springs, he was touring on behalf of WSM Nashville, Tennessee. That is a big deal. WSM and The Grand Ole Opry constantly had many country music stars both big named and rising stars out on tour under the name WSM or The Grand Ole Opry, who broadcasted from WSM. That was how the radio station kept its name out there. This was also good for sponsors of the radio station. Seeing how it was a National Radio Broadcast, it was highly beneficial to have its biggest stars on the road singing for WSM so you and I would keep listening to their broadcasts all the time and buying the products that they advertised.
There is no doubt Jimmy Self left a mark on this industry with his music, skill, raw talent and reputation that will forever be remembered by people who find his music, or read about him. Now Union Springs, Alabama can be proud it hosted one of the greats.

Wow. If this were the only interesting thing to have found in the old hotel guest registers I would have been completely satisfied and rewarded for my efforts. Fortunately there is more.

While were on the subject of WSM and The Grand Ole Opry I stumbled upon these names about a hundred pages after finding Jimmy Self, and once again I found myself giddy over this discovery.

Let's take a look at the Hotel Guest Register below.

     Again, I caught those three letters W.S.M. Nashville. This group of performers were touring and performing together on behalf WSM Radio.  On this particular occasion, the hotel clerk wrote in the names, and on who's behalf they were here and of course, the room assignments. There were 6 guests in total. Miss Helen Raney,What looks like Tiny Turner, Cousin Wilbur, Floyd Etheridge, Jack Thompson and Dempsey Watts. As you can see, Miss Raney stayed in #35 This Tiney Turner also had a room to himself. Cousin Wilbur and Floyd Etheridge bunked together in #3 and Jack Thompson and Dempsey Watts to also be bunk mates in room #32.

     When groups of entertainers toured from town to town, WSM show promoters would arrive in ahead of an up coming show.  Posters like these would usually be put up around the town and ahead of the show.

     Of course the above names were much bigger than the ones who appeared here in Union Springs. But make no mistake about it, when a group of performers are put together by WSM or The Grand Ole Opry, they put on a show that would have been quality entertainment.

     So, who were these folks? Well, I began trying to find information about each of these people. I didn't have much luck on four of the six. But I did manage to find some pretty good information on two of them that I felt worthy of mention.

     Let's start with the fact that both Bill "Cousin Wilbur" Wesbrooks and Floyd Ethridge both toured with the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys. Both Cousin Wilbur and Floyd Etheridge were the Blue Grass Boys. Ok... and a couple of others.

     The guy riding his bass fiddle is "Cousin Wilber" and the tall guy on the far right is Floyd Etheridge. The guy playing fiddle is Arthur Smith. Then of course, there is the great, Bill Monroe.

     Now lets get them individually. Bill "Cousin Wilbur" Wesbrooks was a Bassist and Comedian. He was considered everybody's cousin which was also the title of his autobiography. "Everybody's Cousin". It is now out of print now, but some copies are still floating around here and there. 

     Cousin Wilbur appeared on all of Bill Monroe's Victor recordings. After "Stringbean", David Ackerman, joined the band, both Cousin Wilbur and Stringbean would perform comedy routines together. After leaving the Blue Grass Boys in 1944, Cousin Wilbur continued on the Opry as a solo performer. In 1947 He married Blondie Leatherman and they began performing as the Cousin Wilbur & Blondie Brooks Show.

     As for Floyd Etheridge, he began touring with Bill Monroe in 1943. He left for a period of time some years later to pursue other opportunities.  He later rejoined the Blue Grass Boys in 1949 and stayed for a while.  He pursued various other projects until he no longer wanted to be on tour and left the Blue Grass Boys. Later in life he continued to play in a band and played in venues closer to home and family.

     I haven't the foggiest idea as to why these six people checked into the hotel in the 1950's representing WSM Radio Nashville, Tennessee. It probably was to entertain at a venue somewhere in Union Springs. I think it is so cool that they were here and stayed at the hotel.

     I  suppose I will conclude at this point. Now you see why I wanted to divide up all of my findings in my study of the old Hotel Guest Registers? These sheets aren't just a bunch of names. They are celebrities, entertainers, business people, educators, newlyweds, auditors, vacationers, and those simply passing through and needing a place to stay. I've got to hand it too Dr. Robert Fleming for his vision. He saw a need for a hotel right in the middle of downtown Union Springs and made it happen. If only he could have known that like the quote from the movie, Field Of Dreams-- "If you build it, they will come." he too served a purpose. If that building could ever be restored back to a hotel, a real hotel or B & B, it would serve a great purpose as it did for so many years.  If you restore it, they will come.  And when they come, it will bring prosperity to so many businesses on Prairie Street and to all types of businesses all over town.  Since the building is for sale right now, there is a very good chance that someone will come along and see the potential for restore the building. The Josephine Hotel deserves to live again and someday I believe she will.
     Be sure to check back soon for the latest blog post and the continuing discoveries of my on-going research.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Famous People Slept... Here?

     Did famous people sleep at the old Josephine Hotel?  You bet they did.  Now that I've had plenty of time to study the old Hotel Guest Registers I can give you an astounding YES to that questions. I've got the proof too. Keep in mind, the Hotel register pages I have only represent a small segment of time that is from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960's.  The hotel was open for 60 years before and some 60 years after my study. Who knows who may have graced the threshold of The Josephine.

     As I mentioned in my previous post, there were a few guests who stayed here who were famous or became famous. Several people who stayed here during the period of this study were performers, entertainers, and those who represented the entertainment industry. In this post you'll learn about two such types. One who was becoming famous and the other who represented the entertainment industry.

Let's start with Jack Hayes. See below his signature on the hotel register. Jack Hayes and Party - Then under the residence column he writes Los Angeles California 8417 Beverly Blvd.

He actually wrote the word Buld instead of Blvd. But that's not exactly a mistake. The building that is there was his office and studio that was located in a multi-story office building on Beverly Blvd. When he was here at the Josephine it was the Commercial Hotel at the time. The date of his stay here was around 1955.  He came with at least two or three in his party because they got two rooms. #9 and #10. Now, just who was Jack Hayes?

Jack Hayes born February 1919 and died in August 2011. He was a pretty famous orchestrator and composer, who at the time he was here hadn't yet reached the level of fame that was to come. As a composer and orchestrator he worked on over 200 films during his 60 year Hollywood career.

Hayes began his career early in radio writing music for radio programs. Then at the beginning of the1950's he began orchestrating landmark films like "The Magnificent Seven", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "Breakfast At Tiffany's" and many, many more.

He was such a meticulous and highly skilled orchestrator for such top composers as Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Randy Newman, Quincy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch, and Burt Bacharach.

Hays was Oscar Nominated twice for adapting the musicals "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" in 1964 and for contributing to Jones' score for "The Color Purple" in 1985.

Hays also composed TV scores including such Westerns as "Riverboat", "Wagon Train", "The Virginian" and "Gunsmoke".

Hayes' solo TV composing credits included "Quincy M.E. and "Laverne & Shirley".

Hayes penned arrangements for singers including Donald O'Connor, Pearl Bailey, and Barbara Streisand.

Michael Giacchino employed him as an orchestrator on nearly all of his films starting with the animated Disney film, "The Incredibles". Some of his last credits were, "Star Trek" and "Up".

Jack Hayes died of natural causes in 2011.  He was 92 years old. Like I mentioned before, when Jack Hayes stayed at the hotel he hadn't even begun to reach the pinnacle of his forthcoming success. It is hard to imagine what a future Oscar Nominee might have been doing in Union Springs, Alabama.  It could have had something to do with Bird Dog Trials out at Sedgefield Plantation. He could have just been passing through, who knows. Either way it's exciting to know that he was here.

Now, I will introduce you to the other visitor to the hotel who was here in the mid 1950's. The name was J.C. but I can't make out the last name. He or she was with "American Barn Dance". The name was written in by the hotel desk clerk. Through much of my study of these sheets I noticed that sometimes the clerk would write in the name. You can tell below when you see that the handwriting is the same as the person just above American Barn Dance.

So, what in the world was American Barn Dance? It was a television show that made its debut in 1953. From what I can tell the show changed it's format a couple of times and later in 1955 to 1959 did shows from all over the country. They would take a crew to a location, set up the band, and the staring singer, and the crew, invite a lot of people to come out and dance. The crew would tape it and the studio would edit in that segment along with other segments from other towns and air the completed version on television.

As you can see the backgrounds look similar but different in each segment that aired. So what this "J.C." was doing here may have been as a scout sent to look for a location to set up the show. When a suitable location is found they send for the crew to come set up. Advertising goes out, excitement builds, people dance, a dog barks, and it a real wing ding of a time.

Did they actually come? Did the folks of Union Springs get to two-step their way on to the television? I can't answer that because it was a little before my time. But perhaps some of my readers may know. It would be great to find out. What I do know is that they were certainly staying at the hotel. And that is something.

Now, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I must end this post here. I have so much new material that I don't want to make the blog posts too long. I promise, it will be worth the wait to see who else visited Union Springs and the hotel. So stay tuned.