Tuesday, March 5, 2013
So, how did the ukulele get it's name? Well, I've got two stories on that one, and the first is the better known of the two. Ukulele is from the Hawaiian and it roughly translates as jumping flea. One would normally think that because the instrument is so small and the strumming movement so fast that it would recall the insect, and that is part of it. But, there is just a hint of British imperialism that goes along with that version of the story. It seems that King Kalakaua employed Edward William Purvis, one of those ubiquitous Englishman, imperialist adventurer turned mercenary, in his officer corps. Unlike the rest of the King's retainers, Purvis was a very small person, and full of nervous ticks. He was also a lover of the instrument, and played rapidly. His Polynesian comrades liked to make fun of him behind his back. He was the jumping flea, and the name got transferred to the instrument. The other story is a lot less interesting, and much more likely to be true. It comes from Queen Lili'uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. According to her, the name comes from two Hawaiian words, uku, which translates as gift and lele, which means to come. Therefore ukulele means the gift that came here.
And while we're on the subject of Hawaiian rulers, the next time a Texan says, "Well, after all, Texas was the only state that was once an independent country, and that's why we're so special," remind them of Hawaii.
So, even though the ukulele is thought of as an Hawaiian instrument, it's origins are actually Portuguese. It was very popular with Portuguese whalers and they may have introduced the uke to the islands. (There was also a wave of Portuguese immigration to Hawaii in the late nineteenth century, an alternate explanation.) In the nineteenth century, the Hawaiian Islands were at the center of the world's whaling industry. With the Atlantic hunting grounds all but exhausted, European and American whalers were forced to seek their prey in the Pacific Ocean. The waters around Hawaii were teaming with whales, and unfortunately for the native Hawaiians, they were rather friendly and welcoming of strangers. The Hawaiians got the ukulele from Portuguese sailors, (Or settlers.) as well as a whole host of western diseases, land taken and carved up among sugar interests, an overthrow of their government, and a certain amount of cultural corruption.
Fun fact about Hawaiian music. In 1929, Hawaiian born Yukihiko Haida went to Japan, his parents homeland, and formed The Moana Glee Club, a band that played Hawaiian music. Their popularity soared and ukulele music became very popular in Japan. During World War 2, the Japanese government attempted to suppress American music. Jazz, big band, and Hawaiian music were targeted as degenerate forms of expression. Despite the imperial government's best efforts, Hawaiian music retained it's popularity throughout the war. In 1959, Haida, still living in Japan, formed The Nihon Ukulele Association. Today, Japan is a hotbed of Hawaiian music and culture.
And finally, I have to recommend one of my favorite bands, Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys. Klein, the chanteuse of the ukulele, performs and records songs from the twenties and thirties with the occasional klezmer tune thrown in. Type her name in your favorite search engine and bring up her website. She posts a number of old, vaudeville related photos that are worth seeing.
Written on the back of the photo, "Me and my uke." I'm thinking cabin in the Adirondacks rather than Hawaii.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Another photo of guys hanging out in the snow. This time, I'm guess about ten to fifteen years latter than those in the last post. Take a look at the guy in the middle. He bears a slight resemblance to one of the guys seen yesterday. Not close enough for a sure fire connection, but I did get all photos from this and the last post from the same source.
Friday, March 1, 2013
College guys from the same frat? That's my guess and I'm stickin' with it. Just a bunch of guys getting ready to go out and face the real world as free and easy adults. Hanging out with the guys at the cabin. A little poker, whiskey, and a cigar or two. I get a late thirties early forties feeling from these pictures, so the world they were about to face would be neither free nor easy.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
"Fuller & Rude. That's it, the only thing written on the print. It might be the names of these two young ladies, but I suspect it's a commentary on their personalities. But is it a joke comment or heartfelt? I picked this one up in southern California, and it has to be form somewhere around the area. Every time I see one of these old south Cal photos I think, "If only I looked hard enough I could find that hill or that stream or that bluff." And then I look around and see how the landscape has been altered by one housing tract after another and realize it's a stupid idea. Still, I'll keep my eyes open.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
It's been a long time since I've put up one of these souvenir photo folders. At first, I thought that the Empire State Candy Club was just that, a club, open to the public, a floor show, dancing, food and plenty of alcohol. But then, I started doing the research and found that it was a trade association of New York state candy distributors. What was interesting was how I found out. It doesn't look as if this particular association is in business any more, so I didn't find their web site. I found references to them in the University of California San Francisco Tobacco Documents Library Collection. One reference was an ad, taken by the Candy Club, in the program for the annual convention of The New York Association of Tobacco Sellers from September of 1963. The other, a cancelled check from The Tobacco Institute for the purchase of a ticket to the Fortieth Annual Empire State Candy Club Clambake in 1983.
I know, it seems a little weird that candy sellers would be connected to tobacco distributors, but then I started to remember the small town five and dime that sold me candy bars when I was a child. Sloan's had a huge counter that filled the back wall of the store. One half was candy and the other half was smokeless tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. And what separated the two? Candy cigarettes and shredded chewing gum in snuff tins and tobacco pouches. On entrance to junior high school, average age about twelve, students were allowed to chew tobacco or dip snuff. At sixteen, with a parental permission slip, students were allowed to hang out in their very own smoking room. That was a long time ago. I was born in 1955, started grade school in 1960, and junior high in 1967. And the fact is, back then, that arrangement was fairly common in small town America.
A lot of my classmates chewed tobacco. As a life long hater of tobacco, I was very, very unhappy to be sitting next to a guy spitting tobacco juice into a paper cup. It made it hard to concentrate in class. And using the water fountains, with puddles of brown spit....disgusting. And I would bet, that if I could go back in time and make a count, at least a third, perhaps even half of the boys in my class had permission slips from their parents to smoke. I may be wrong, but if memory serves, that wasn't the case with the girls. It makes me wonder how many of my classmates died of cancer.
Over the years, I've put up quite a few of these folders. Click on souvenir photo folders or night clubs to bring up the others.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
It was a golden time after all. The war was over, the United States had one of the few strong economies in the world, unions were strong, and wages were high. There was even money to buy the kids a piano. Too bad rock & roll got 'em.
Stamped on the back, "ROLLMAN'S CAMERA SHOP APR 6 1954 SHILLINGTON, PA." What a great name for a camera shop. I'll bet there motto was buy a roll from Rollman's. And, as of January 2012, Rollman's was still in business. Of course my source for that info stated that Rollman's had been in business for 55 years. Do the math, and that means that the store opened in 1957, so clearly my source has some problems.
Shillington is a small town, a borough actually, adjacent to Reading, Pennsylvania. In the 1950s, Reading had a population of over 100,000, today it's under 90,000. There was a community named Shillington as early as 1860, but it didn't incorporate until 1908. And the first elected official, Burgess Adam Rollman. It's probable that some descendant of Adam was the camera store Rollman. The most famous Shillingtonian (?) was author John Updike. Updike was the valedictorian of the Shillington High class of 1950, so it's pretty probable that the young lady in this photo either knew him, or knew of him, before he was famous.