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February 11, 2001

Play the old songs

I'm pleasantly surprised with the continued success of this now-daily endeavor. And I'm also pleased to have a "guest" writer today, for a weekly break. Frank Charney needs no introduction to regulars of these pages. —Jon

Hi Jon,

Your memories of attending the performance of fifties rock-and-roll heavies like Duane Eddy and The Elegants at the Ebensburg Skating Rink sparked my interest. Knocking around the clubs was a favorite pastime for the generation of the 'fifties, as it probably has been for following generations.

On the subject of places and celebrity appearances, I would like to introduce a location that held the limelight in Cambria County for a long time. Located north of Carroltown was the Sunset Inn, where top national bands appeared back in the 'fifties. I recall the Count Basie Band appearing there with Joe Williams, a blues singer. There were also Ray Anthony, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton with his xylophone, and about any top band of that era. The Sunset Inn had a huge dance floor that accommodated several hundred dancers.

The dream of a girl was to be invited to the BIG DANCE that occurred on Easter Monday and always featured a big-name band. For an attractive female not to be asked to this event could plunge her to the depths of despair. Sunset Inn was destroyed by a huge fire, probably in the 'sixties, and never was rebuilt.

Polka bands were also popular back in the 'fifties, until Elvis and rock-and-roll music diminished the popularity of polka music. Earlier, if you attended a dance at the Nanty Glo Polish Club, Jamestown PNA, or Skyview, near Ebensburg, the band played a polka following every two or three songs.

Polka music, however, remains popular in Cambria County, its roots ingrained in Eastern European ancestry from Poland or Czechkoslovakia. Turn on your radio on a Sunday afternoon and you'll still hear polka music from some local radio station. Polka bands were in vogue back in the 'fifties. There were Ray Henry, Frankie Yankovic, and others. Frank Wojnarowski was extremely popular and made frequent appearances at the Oriental Ballroom in Gallitzin. Since hoola hoops, I understand, are in style again, Frank is again in fashion with his "Hoola-Hoop Polka."

I am acquainted with a former member of Frank's band, an accordian player named Pete, who married a Revloc girl, and he reminisces about those old days when he went on tour.

All this discussion has caused me to go in search of a 33-1/3 RPM record player in order to play my record collection of old songs and polkas that have gone unlistened to and undusted for a long time.

Best wishes, Frank Charney


When your wife asks, "Do I look fat," the correct response is, "Do I look stupid?"

Sent by John Sardell

The Icon

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. "Sir, you don't know me," he said, "but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art."

The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this." The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man.

He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh no, Sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

After the man died, a great auction of his paintings was announced. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"

There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?" Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. "We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters," another voice yelled.

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?" The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the other paintings. The man who took the son, gets everything!"

God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, the Son , who'll take the Son?" Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything. —Author unknown

Sent by Bob Kennedy
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