Hospital Rag and Ice Cream Cones

When I think of my hometown as it used to be–and I do that often–two people immediately come to mind.

I’ve written before about Dr. Francis Carlton Luckett, who practiced medicine in my hometown of Fentress, Texas from 1917 until shortly before his death in 1965. I won’t repeat myself here except to say he was an extraordinary person and physician. In the words of my great-aunt Bettie Waller, his presence raised the level of the community. To people who knew the town in the first half of the 1900s, he was Fentress.

But what prompted this post–Dr. Luckett was also a musician. He worked his way through medical school at Tulane by playing a theater organ, accompanying silent films. In Fentress, he gave recitals and played for weddings. And he composed “Hospital Rag” for the piano.

As a child, I was fascinated by the idea that my doctor, who hated giving children injections (I never got mad at him for popping me with a penicillin shot every time he saw me; I blamed my mother instead), came to my house to take my temperature (and give me a penicillin shot) when I was sick, and took out my tonsils, had composed a rag. But I never heard him play it, and he didn’t commit it to paper, so I gave up hope.

Until Doctor’s granddaughter sent a recording to my friend Patsy Munk Kimball (whose husband was named for Dr. Luckett, and whose two sisters, in addition to her first child, he delivered), and Patsy sent a file to me.

Wow. That man was all over the piano.

Patsy had shared with me many old photos of Fentress in its early years, when the Fentress Resort drew people from miles around.

I wished aloud that I could share everything with folks who remember Dr. Luckett. David offered to make a video and put it on Youtube.

Suddenly the topic broadened–we couldn’t make a video about the town without including Dick Ward, who owned and operated what used to be called an ice cream parlor in the early part of the 19th century and continued until, like Dr. Luckett, he retired in the 1960s. He, too, was Fentress. I’ve written about him, as well.

There was a big sign on the awning in front of his store–W. F. Ward Conf. After I learned to read, I asked what Conf. meant. Confectionery, my father told me, but he’d heard someone remark it ought to say, W. F. Ward Cone, because that’s what he sold–huge double dip ice cream cones for a nickel. And if the top dip fell off, as sometimes happened, especially to children without the manual dexterity to hold the cone upright (or who tried to get on their bicycles with cone in hand), he automatically replaced the dip, free.

That had to be the best deal anywhere–the only price in the world that was never affected by inflation. 

And ice cream is therapeutic. After a penicillin shot from Dr. Luckett, one of Dick’s ice cream cones made everything okay again.

(And make no mistake–it wasn’t just kids–I saw plenty of adults walk out of Dick’s store carrying ice cream cones. And smiling.)

But back to the video. Patsy supplied the pictures, I put them in order, and David made the video. It’s on Youtube for all to see.

If you want to know more about Fentress, the bare facts are covered in the Handbook of Texas. But if you want to know the whole story–like

  • why the Methodist Church was founded, or
  • what J. C. Dauchy always carried in his pocket, or
  • which teenager made the owner of the telephone company so mad–and how the teenager did it–that the owner threatened to cut off service to the Fentress School, or
  • which new bride invited visitors to “Come right in” when her husband was taking a bath in front of the fireplace in the living room (in 1905), and
  • what the new husband did when he heard his bride invite company to come right in, or
  • what the members of the Staples Baptist Church did immediately after their minister preached against the Sin taking place in Fentress on a daily basis (I’ve been told that during Prohibition, the skating rink/dance hall did get a little loud)–

If you want to know anything like that, don’t ask the Handbook of Texas.

Ask me.

Because I know.

And I tell the Truth. Mainly.

So turn up the sound. Here’s a Fentress, Texas video diary, accompanied by Dr. F. C. Luckett playing his composition, “Hospital Rag.”

 

 

 

 

 

We Don’t Want the Bacon! What We Want Is…

Last night I did one thing I too often do and one thing I never do.

The too often: I stayed up late. Very late.

The never: I went to bed hooked up through earbuds and a Kindle to the album “Presenting That Celebrated Maestro MAX MORATH in a Scintillating Program of Waltzes, Shouts, Novelties, Rags, Blues, Ballads, and Stomps.”

And because the music is so much fun, I lay there listening, replaying, listening, replaying… I don’t know how many times I listened to it. I also don’t know what time I finally went to sleep.

Ragtime is my favorite music–piano only, no interference from lesser instruments. Morath is my favorite ragtime pianist. There’s something about his touch… I can’t describe it, but it’s right.

I discovered him years ago in a program on PBS. Then I bought the LP. Recently I repurchased it for Kindle. (Or Fire, or whatever this beast is supposed to be called.)

Tonight, googling for a link to the album, I came across a 1986 New York Times review of Morath’s one-man show, “Living a Ragtime Life.” Serendipity. I didn’t know there’d been a show. Or that Morath is a musicologist.

Or also, according to Wikipedia, a composer, actor, and author. Or known as”Mr. Ragtime.” Or called a “one-man ragtime army.”

I hadn’t planned to say this much about Max Morath, but he’s worth some words, so I’ll quote part of the Times review (which you may skip if you wish):

”IT’S our music that labels our history, more than our wars and our politicians,” asserts Max Morath early in his one-man show, ”Living a Ragtime Life.” Seated at a grand piano under a Tiffany lamp, and flanked by an Edison phonograph, the musicologist, storyteller and expert in turn-of-the-century Americana seems the very epitome of an old-time vaudevillian. But in reflecting with a sly ironic humor on our longing for ”the good old days,” Mr. Morath is much more than a devoted nostalgist. He is a philosopher of American popular culture with Mark Twain’s gift of gab and farsighted historical view. The picture he paints of the 1890’s, ”when sex was dirty and the air was clean,” is of a world that we might want to visit, but, he convincingly persuades us, we almost certainly wouldn’t want to live there. 

But back to what I was listening to over and over last night and why.

First the why: As I’ve already said, it was fun.

The what: Music from the turn of the century–that other century–through World War I. Some pretty bad songs. Some pretty silly ones. Some pretty good ones, usually because they were pretty bad or pretty silly.

Such as the one said to be General Pershing’s favorite song: “We Don’t Want the Bacon: What We Want Is a Piece of the Rhine.”

We_don't_want_the_bacon
By Unknown – http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/explore/library/online-catalog/view/oclc/17842776, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47170152

Chorus:
We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.
We’ll feed “Bill the Kaiser” with our Allied appetizer.
We’ll have a wonderful time.
Old Wilhelm Der Gross will shout, “Vas is Los?”
The Hindenburg line will sure look like a dime;
We don’t want the bacon
We don’t want the bacon,
What we want is a piece of the Rhine.

 

 

 

 

And a cautionary song: “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl.”

CHORUS 1: “You are going far away, but remember what I say
When you are in the city’s giddy whirl.
From temptations, crimes, and follies,
Villains, taxicabs and trolleys,
Oh! Heaven will protect a working girl.”

CHORUS 2: “Stand back, villain! Go your way! Here I will no longer stay,
Although you were a marquis or an earl.
You may tempt the upper classes
With your villainous demitasses,
But Heaven will protect a working girl.”

And a song the sheet music of which Max Morath’s fourteen-year-old mother was not allowed to bring home: “Always Take a Girl Named Daisy.”

If you take a girl out walking
Down a little shady dell
Always take a girl named Daisy
‘Cause daisies won’t tell

The lyrics quoted here are just excerpts of the songs, and are just a sample of Morath’s presentation.

So there’s my idea of fun, the pastime that kept me awake when decent folk were sound asleep. It’s not for everybody, I realize–though, of course, it should be.

Says Morath,  “Scorned by the establishment as ephemeral at best, trashy at worst, ragtime was the fountainhead of every rhythmic and stylistic upheaval that has followed in a century of ever-evolving American popular music.”

If ragtime and its offshoots strike your fancy, the album cited at the beginning of this post and “Living a Ragtime Life” are available from Amazon (and other vendors no doubt).

And the program “Max Morath: Living a Ragtime Life!” that I watched on PBS many years ago now appears in seven parts on Youtube.

A pilon:

CHORUS:
I’ve got a ragtime dog, and a ragtime cat;
A ragtime piano in my ragtime flat;

Got ragtime troubles with my ragtime wife:
I’m certainly living a ragtime life.