by Gary D. Crawford The hills were a live w it h t he sound of music! Well, not the hills so much, actually ~ hills being a bit scarce in these parts. But at one time there sure was lots of music. In the days before TV and iPods, live music was very popular. Young and old enjoyed singing and dancing whenever an opportunity presented itself ~ at the schoolhouse, at the fire hall, at bars and restaurants, at boarding houses, even at private homes. And, of course, there was church music ~ adult and youth choirs, and gospel groups. Bands traveled to nearby towns to enter tain and prov ide dance music, even to small islands in the Chesapea ke. On T ilghman’s Island, dances were held at Jackson’s Riverdale Inn (now Har r i son’s Chesapeake House) and other locations, including the movie theater. As Mrs. Lillian Mortimer recalled in a 1990 inter v iew w ith Helen Chappell, “There was Sam and Ed Tennant, who played the violin and bass viol. And then later there was Carleton Benny from Cambridge, and his band. He’d get the band to play ‘Somebody Stole My Gal,’ and he would have a wooden razor, and he would run through the dancers, pretending to look for the gal some-
one stole. Oh, he was funny, that one. That was a big time when they had Carleton Benny’s band.” Whole families went to these soirees. “People would just bundle up their children and go to the dances,” said Miss Lil. “The children would play and people would dance. My parents could never go to a dance w ithout being asked to do their cakewalk.” Then, realizing modern readers might not recognize the term, she added, “That was a dance, you know.” There were many local musical groups. One Tilghman Band rehearsed in the basement of the old bank years ago. According to Willy Roe, Oscar Haddaway was on d r u m s, Ha r r y Dav i s playe d trombone, Margaret Wilson was on the piano, Mitchell Howeth played violin, and the pharmacist, Frank Jackson, played cornet. One oldtime resident remembered peeking down through the windows at them and lying on the grass to listen to them play. Children took music lessons, and some continued their musical interests into high school and beyond. The members of the 1923 Tilghman High School orchestra pose here on the front steps of the school.
Tidewater Times August 2016