Monday, July 1, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: A Concert in Carr Park - August 10, 1902

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

This week I look at another newspaper article found at ChroniclingAmerica about the Carr Square neighborhood of St. Louis City from the early 1900s, where several of my paternal ancestors lived. If these articles are representative, the language of the news was a lot more 'colorful' back then.

The St. Louis Republic – August 10, 1902 (direct link to newspaper page)
A Gala Evening in this Town Breathing Spot
Almost Every Nationality Was Represented and Children Trooped Forth by the Hundred from “Kerry Patch,” “Little Italy” and “Little Jerusalem.”

The solicitation of Andy Gazzolo, Delegate from the Fifteenth Ward, has secured the use of a portion of the appropriation for concerts in the crowded tenement district, for which Carr Park is the sole open plot of ground—the only place where the cramped humanity of the neighborhood can get a breath of fresh air and a sight of green grass.

Weil’s Band gave a concert at Carr Square a week ago last night, and will give another the latter part of this month. It was a novelty to that section of the city. The exhilarating refinements of life are seldom enjoyed there, not from lack of appreciation, but from lack of money – bread and butter first, then pleasure. This is the inexorable rule among the poor, and the margin for enjoyment is very narrow in the region north, south and east of Carr Park. They do not often seek music. The opera and the orchestras, to hear which an admission fee is necessary, are almost unknown to them, partly because they have not learned to consider the pleasure given by music worth the sacrifice of enjoyments which now take its place. Consequently the Salvation Army musicians are the only ones with whom they are familiar, and, in the majority of cases, the only instrumental music which they hear reaches them through the bands in the various parades which they see in the course of a year.

To have a full-fledged brass band discourse resonant themes for three hours, immediately contiguous to Kerry Patch, “Little Jerusalem” and “Little Italy,” was a novelty. It was the first concert ever given in Carr Park.

Novelty of the Occasion Attracted Many Visitors.

It had served its purpose as a playground for the multitudes of children which swarm in the locality and had been a blessing to the tired workmen who, of evenings, sat upon the benches, smoked their pipes and breathed in the air which was considerably cooler in the unobstructed block than in the choked streets. But it had never served as a resort where music could be heard.

The concert had been advertised. A great crowd went to hear. The newness of the plan attracted many persons. Unfortunately, in the open air, where sounding boards and limiting walls were absent, the full strength and completeness of sound were dissipated and did not carry far enough to satisfy all of the immense throng. But it reached many and was sufficient.

The members of the band sat in the open near the center of the park, and were roped in from the pressing crowd.

Powerful gasoline lamps afforded the light. There were four of them and they enabled the musicians to read their scores with ease. The audience, pushing in upon the ropes, was brought into the full brilliance of the light, and the multitude of faces on the four sides of the inclosure were in strong relief.

Children predominated. The little ones trooped forth by the hundreds. It was a most variegated assortment of boys and girls. Their clothing was of every description, and beggars description. The only type of youth that was lacking was Little Lord Fauntleroy in his starched collar and velveteens. But every kind of street urchin, from the sturdy, aggressive newsboy to the frail, thin sufferer from inherited disease, made up for the absence of his lordship.

Children’s Faces Plainly Revealed Their Nationalities.

Picturesque is the word for the juveniles. Nationality was proclaimed by their faces. Round-faced, full-lipped, tanned and curly-haired were the young of “Little Jerusalem,” and their eyes, big orbs, jet black for the most part, shone like gems. Young Kerry Patch was decidedly different. His hair was very apt to be red. His face bore that defiant “what’s-it-ter yer” expression. His scant trousers were supported by one makeshift suspender. He was at the concert simply because there was “something doin.”

Young Italy was dark and swarthy. His eyes were snapping black.

At times he was visibly interested in the music. He—or she, for the masculine pronoun is used in the general sense—lent an element of tasteful color in dress. Many of the little Italian girls were pictures in themselves. By some indefinable art they seemed to have secured a relation between the rich brown of their flesh, the black brilliance of their hair and the tint of their dresses which many who study the art of dressing could not emulate. Their faces and their bare legs were undeniably dirty; their hair was in a tangle; their skirts were old and in cut were evidently the product of their own untutored notion of what dressmaking should be. Yet the effect was harmonious. At the Carr Park concert the audience called to mind the old truth that there is no price on beauty—that this is one of the few things which it distributes as freely among the poor as among the rich.

Isolated Groups That Were of Particular Interest.

Isolated groups there were of particular interest. One massive-framed Bohemian was escorting no less than seven children. Two were infants in one baby carriage, and both were crying their loudest. The rest were all under 19 and were as active and as vociferous a quintet as often is seen. Their various excursions into the crowd were causing the parent no end of trouble. He would temporarily leave the baby carriage, to return a moment later with the culprit. Judging from the expression on his face he had in his mind the vision of an angry wife should he fail to return the baby go-cart’s load in safety.

The typical “ragger” and her “stiddy” were also in evidence. They whistled “a shrill accompaniment to every bar of ragtime that was played. Among old men were strong types, from the Jewish rabbi to the seared visage of the Irish “farrier.” The pickaninny was tumbling around on his bowlegs without sign of escort, and appeared to be enjoying the gala event immensely.

The character of the music was adjusted to the audience. Some pure melodies were introduced, and a little of pyrotechnics, just to show that the band could manipulate complicated scores. But dance music and the syncopated nuisance was given a place. There was “The Dawn of Love,” the waltz “Lazarre,” “Songs of Ireland,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Auburn Leaves From Popular Songs,” and a good old-time gallop. Also one pictorial scene entitled “In Defense of the Flag.” Its full explanation was as follows:
War is Threatened—Remonstrance of the Nations—“Uncle Sam’s” Ultimatum—Approach of the Troops—Parting Scenes—All Aboard for the South—A Southern Scene—Life on the Ocean—“Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep”—Hornpipe by the Jackies—“Taps”—Night on Southern Waters—Vision of Home—“To Arms”—Pursuit of the Enemy—The Majestic Squadron—Commence Firing—Battle Scene—“Star Spangled Banner” the Emblem of the Free.

This appealed particularly to Young Kerry Patch. When the “battle” began, the bass drummer deserted his post and discharged a battery of pistols in quick suc[cession].

Kerry, delighted, was all attention.


1. Editorial note: The penultimate sentence is cut off mid-word. I am guessing that the word is 'succession.

2. William Weil's band was the official band of the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. [source] They went on a national tour in 1905. [source]

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