Friday, October 31, 2014

Crescent Gardens Ballroom, Revere Beach

Today's image is from the glory days of seaside amusement parks.  This one is from Revere Beach, Massachusetts, America's first public beach, where the Crescent Garden Ballroom and Theater once stood.  The facility was one of several similar places, including the Nautical Gardens and the Wonderland Ballroom.  The Crescent Gardens Ballroom was built in 1900, and later on all the famous big bands such as Duke Ellington's played there.  It also hosted a number of dance marathons that were big fads in the 1930's.

Similar to the demise of many seaside attractions, fire brought down the building in 1960, long after its heyday.  Here is one of the reports, from the Nashua, NH Telegraph newspaper, March 15, 1960.
Clicking on the images enlarges them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the Border

This week we're on the border....the border between Canada and the United States, that is!  We're in Edmundston, New Brunswick.  Edmundston boasts about 16,000 people, over 95% of  whom are francophone.  The city is right across the border from Madawaska, Maine, USA.  You can't get much further north than this in Maine (only a spot called Estcourt Station, ME is further north, by about 6 degrees of latitude).  Edmundston and Madawaska are tightly linked together by the paper industry -- they make paper pulp in a factory in Edmundston and then pipe the liquified pulp slurry through a mile-long high pressure pipeline across the border into Madawaska, where fine grade paper is made from the slurry.  

This postcard from the 50's/60's shows the Belair Restaurant in Edmundston, which apparently hosted folks at its laundromat as well as as in its dining room.   The back of the card boasted that its "Econowash" had 25 washers and 16 dryers, and they served "Food and Chinese Food."

Not letting go of a good location, the Belair is still there today on Google Earth, but it looks like you can only eat there, not do the wash!  I guess times have changed.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tales of Urban Renewal

The Hotel Biltmore, formerly of Oklahoma City, OK, was built in 1932 at a cost of $4 million.  At the time, it was the tallest building in Oklahoma, standing at 33 stories.  An architectural achievement for its time, the art deco tower had over 600 rooms, 7 elevators, 5 telephone operators, 3 radio channels in every room, and its own ice plant producing 100 tons of ice daily.   The hotel was renovated in the 1960's, at a cost of $3 million, and renamed the Sheraton-Oklahoma, but its days were numbered.

Shortly after that, as in many urban centers, "white flight" began an out-migration to the suburbs, and the answer for fixing the city center was "urban renewal."  In Oklahoma City, big plans were made, with contributions by architect I.M. Pei, to rebuild a vast swath of downtown, creating a massive shopping mall called the "Galleria" and adding a huge convention center.  The idealistic plan (with a cool 1960's orchestral soundtrack) can be seen in a documentary on YouTube, consisting of Part 1 and Part 2.   If you hate what urban renewal did in many cities, you will love hating this video!  The film says "Like many cities, Oklahoma City is showing a disease called blight, which like a deadly mold is settling over downtown and killing it."  The answer?  Tear it all down!!

And that includes the Hotel Biltmore.  Originally, it was included in the new plan, and you can see it in the video Part 1 at 4:16.    But the Hotel, like other downtown businesses, started to fail financially, so it was thrown into the mix of tear downs.
Photo by PAUL B. SOUTHERLAND, the oklahoman archive

At the time of the demolition, in 1977,  it was the tallest steel-reinforced building in the world ever demolished with explosives. Nine hundred explosive charges were used in the building to bring it down.  After everything was demolished and torn down, few of the promises were kept, and only the parking garage for the "Galleria" was built, along with a large park called the Myriad Gardens.  Stagnation was the rule through the eighties and into the nineties, but after that improvements began to pick up, and things are in much better shape today, even with a recovery from the Timothy McVeigh bombing in 1995.  However, the old Hotel Biltmore is gone.  Although it's a story of Oklahoma City, maybe it's not "OK."


Thursday, October 9, 2014


A nice foliage-oriented card to go with the beautiful scenery here in New England.  A bit saccharine for my tastes, and I'm not too keen on the boy loading his gun up, so I imagined that shortly after this card was made, the following epitaph appeared on a gravestone in the pet cemetery:
Here lies the bones of our pal Rover,
His days of hunting are now over.
Lesson learned, but now it's done
Don't let Johnny hold that gun!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Organ Time

Today we take a closer look at a postcard in my collection, postmarked 1945, with an intriguing handwritten message.  The postcard is a picture of Dr. Robert Leech Bedell, seated at the organ.  The description on the back of the postcard says that he belongs to A.S.C.A.P., the music publishing organization, and that he is an organist and composer.  It also lists "Recitals -- Church -- Instruction" as his interests.  He apparently used these cards as his stationery for short notes and business purposes, as there's an important message for the addressee, Mrs. Cora Conn Redic, on the other side. 

The message is: "Dear Mrs Redic, Have just corrected the 2nd proof on your "Grand Choeur" for the H. W. Gray Co.  Have asked them to send you a copy of the proof-sheet as a souvenir, to be framed with the title page showing your name at the top; where you can hang it in your home or in the room where the club meets.  Yours, Robert L Bedell."

Dr. Bedell was pretty easy to find out about -- he had published several organ works, one of which can be heard on YouTube:   (I suppose you could play it in the background while you read the rest of this post).  He was the organist and choirmaster of St. Anne's Episcopal Church and the Brooklyn, NY Institute of Arts and Sciences, and he was the organist of New York Radio Station WNYC, for whom he gave organ recitals from the Brooklyn Museum.  He wrote pieces for full orchestra, string orchestra, piano, varied instrumental combinations, and vocal numbers including anthems, sacred and secular solos. 

Mrs. Redic was a little more difficult to track down, but through the intertubes, and the clue on the postcard address of Winfield, Kansas, I found her -- she came to Winfield in 1917 to teach organ at the Winfield College of Music.  She taught there through the absorption of the school by Southwestern College and remained there for 20 years, continuing afterwards at St. Johns College where she taught through 1956.  Over the years her students numbered into the hundreds, and she made two trips to Paris to study at the Paris Conservatory with the famous organist Marcel Dupre.   

Mrs. Redic was also the "organ"-izer of the Southwestern Organ Club, documented in the 1944 Moundbuilder Yearbook (really, that was the name of their yearbook), and there's a picture of the club, as well as a picture of her in the faculty section:

(click for larger versions)

At this point, the trail of her organ work "Grand Choeur" is lost.  I can't find a record of it ever actually being published, or anything else by her, for that matter.  Maybe it only exists on that edited proof copy, corrected by Dr. Bedell...