Monday, February 28, 2005

Tommy Dorsey

My mother had her 15 minutes of fame back in August 1945. During the war, she worked as a private secretary for a captain at the old Kearney Army Air Base. The captain was in charge of ordinance and a couple other departments on the base. It was common for some of the big-name entertainers of the day to go on the road and entertain the servicemen at the various bases throughout the country.

According to the unofficial history of the Kearney Army Air Base, many big-name bands came to play at dances held at the N.C.O Club or in one of the hangars on base. Bands such as Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, The King Cole Trio and Les Brown and his Band of Renown (including singer Doris Day) played there.

Twice a week, Mom would stay on the base and play her accordion at the Officer's Club. She was a music major at the University of Nebraska and played the piano in addition to the accordion.

In August, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was coming to play. It was customary to bring most of the musicians with the band, but also fill in with local musicians when necessary. The Dorsey Orchestra had made arrangements to use a local piano player, but on the day of the dance, the piano player was sick. The quartermaster knew that Mom could play the piano and asked her to sit in with the band. The night of the dance, Mom played with the orchestra, but just played chords instead of playing any solos. It was a fun evening, especially for a girl from a small town in Nebraska!

Mom still remembers most of the set list:

  • Jersey Bounce
  • Green Eyes
  • Can't Get Out Of This Mood
  • Blues In The Night
  • I'm Beginning To See The Light
  • All Or Nothing At All
  • Brazil
  • The Moon Got In My Eyes
  • Beer Barrel Polka
  • On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe
  • Tangerine
  • Mairzy Doats
  • It Might As Well Be Spring
  • Moonlight Cocktail
  • Sentimental Journey
  • Linda
  • Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree

Saturday, February 26, 2005

January 13, 2002

I've posted several pictures over the past few months that were taken on the farm where my dad grew up. The farm is located several miles southeast of Madrid, Nebraska in Perkins County. When I was much younger, I always looked forward to summer vacation where a kid from the Chicago suburbs could go out to a farm, chase pigs and chickens, play with his cousins and basically lose himself for awhile. I loved to walk along the treeline northwest of my grandparents house pretending I was an Indian scout searching for buffalo. I learned to shoot a rifle on the farm. I would climb onto the roof of the hog house, sit there for hours just looking at the land south of the farm. It was fun for me to sit in the pickup with my grandfather while we drove to the pasture to count his cattle. I enjoyed giving sugar cubes to his horse, Lady. Those are all great memories for a young boy to keep. Of course, we all grow up and those to whom we are close eventually pass on. My grandfather died in 1968 and my grandmother passed away in 1969. After they died, the farm was rented out to several tenants and the farm house fell on hard times. Fortunately, the land has stayed in the family and my uncle now farms the land. Sometime in the late '80s or early '90s, the decision was made to intentionally burn down the buildings. I had not been to the farmstead for over 20 years until my father passed away in January 2002. It was his wish to be buried in his hometown. A few months before he died, he told me that he never wanted to see the farm because it would hurt him too much to see his boyhood home destroyed. He accepted that it needed to be done, but he still would have been upset to see it. The day after Dad's funeral in Madrid, we drove out to the farm and I was shocked at what I saw. Nothing was as I remembered it. The house, the barn, "my" hog house and other outbuildings were all gone. The only remaining building was the grainery. It still has the farm name -- Fair Acres -- on the front. I took several pictures and this one shows it best.

Dad and Grandma Cornelius

Found this nice picture of my dad with my grandmother taken in 1943 or 1944. The photo was taken on the farm southeast of Madrid, Nebraska. On the window to the right of my grandmother is the gold star insignia that all families, with children in the service, kept on their windows.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Site update

I've received a couple of e-mails asking if I'm still updating this site. I'm planning to add some additional content over the next few weeks. After I posted my mother's Johnny Carson story, I was reminded that she also had her 15 minutes of fame sitting in with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra one evening at the old military base in Kearney, Nebraska. In short, she substituted for the piano player. I asked her to write down her recollections so I can post them here. She also came across some more family photos.