Entertainment

An invitation to the fair and tournament ball.

From the Freeman Round House and Museum, an invitation and ticket to the Wilson County Industrial Association’s Fair and Tournament Ball at Wilson’s Mamona Opera House in 1887. Marcus W. Blount was an honorary manager for the ball, which accompanied the Association’s first agricultural fair.

Ambrose Floyd buys a piano.

On 18 December 1934 (during the depths of the Great Depression), Ambrose Floyd purchased a Gulbransen piano and bench from the R.C. Bristow & Company of Petersburg, Virginia. Floyd paid $345 for instrument, to be remitted in eight-dollar installments. Delivery was to be made to his address at 1214 East Washington Street, Wilson.

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In the 1910 census of Back Swamp, Robeson County: Troy Floyd, 48; wife Cary, 36; and children Clara, 15, Harvey, 11, Ambrose, 9, Winford, 7, Hayden, 5, and Ada, 3.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 622 [West] Nash, general store merchant Paul L. Woodard, 50; wife Ida F., 43; servant/laborer Ambrus Floyd, 19; and servant/cook Elinor(?) Moses, 34.

On 19 February 1921, Ambrose Floyd, 21, of Wilson County, son of Troy and Cattie Floyd of Wilson County, married Mattie Moye, 19, of Wilson County, daughter of Delia Moye of Wilson County, in Wilson. Hardy Tate applied for the marriage license, and A.M.E. Zion minister B.P. Coward performed the ceremony in the presence of Rosa E. McCullers, Clarence McCullers and Beatrice Wood.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1011 Washington Street, rented at $17/month, taxi chauffeur Ambrose Floyd, 28; wife Mattie, 29; and children William A., 9, James, 8, Mateel, 6, Earnsteen, 5, and Hattie M., 1; plus Hattie McLoran, 29, cook.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1214 Washington Street, owned and valued at $1800, shoe shop and taxi owner Ambrose Floyd, 39; wife Mattie, 39, cleaner; and children Mattelene, 17, James, 18, Ernest, 15, and Hattie, 12.

In 1942, Ambrose Floyd registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 4 February 1901 in Lumberton, North Carolina; resided at 1214 East Nash Street; his contact was Clara Smith; and he was employed by Gary Fulghum, 901 Branch Street, United States Post Office.

Also in 1942, Neal Williams registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October in Littleton, North Carolina; resided at 913 Atlantic Street; his contact was Ambrose Floyd, 1214 Washington Street; and he “drives a truck for Ambrose Floyd.”

Mattie Moye Floyd died 11 January 1972 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 22 June 1900 to Boston Moye and Delia Malone; was married to Ambrose Floyd; and resided at 1214 Washington Street.

Ambrose Floyd died 23 October 1981.

Book 213, pages 18-19, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

Brown Skin Models — sho nuf they’re coming to town.

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Wilson Daily Times, 1 December 1936.

Though booked at the whites-only Wilson Theatre, “Brown Skin Models” revue (featuring “struttin'” and “moanin’ low tunes,” uproarious comedy, and “spirituals as only the negro can sing them”) the show’s “special midnight midnight performance” was an accommodation that allowed an African-American audience through the doors.

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As adapted from Wikipedia:

Irvin Colloden Miller (1884–1975) was an African-American actor, playwright and vaudeville show writer and producer. He was responsible for successful theater shows including Broadway Rastus (1921); Liza (1922); Dinah (1923), which introduced the wildly popular Black Bottom dance; and Desires of 1927 starring Adelaide Hall. “In the 1920s and 1930s, he was arguably the most well-established and successful producer of black musical comedy.”

In 1925, Miller started an annual show, Brown Skin Models, inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies, but glorifying attractive black women and exclusively using black performers. The show toured the country with great success for forty weeks a year and during the Second World War toured army camps as part of the United Service Organizations. Although the shows included song, dance, and comedy, the focus was on the models themselves, who “did not necessarily sing or dance [but] merely appeared in costume, walked across the stage, and posed.”

The show was hailed by the Chicago Defender as a radical departure from stereotyped plantation song and dance shows. Miller continued to produce versions of the show with his wife Blanche Thompson, one of the leading models, until he retired around 1955.

And see here for more on Sammy Stewart’s orchestra.

Irvin Miller - Brown Skin Models - poster

Photos courtesy of Matthew F. Delmont’s blog, Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers.

The Carolina Stompers furnish snappy Harlem rhythm.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 December 1934.

The Carolina Stompers — “ten first class negro musicians rendering the type of music of the Cab Calloway style” — entertained a conference of aviation enthusiasts at Cherry Hotel on 11 December 1934.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 December 1934.

 

A Christmas party for the children.

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 December 1940.

  • Negro recreation center
  • Prof. Williams — Malcolm D. Williams.
  • W.N. Lassiter — Wade N. Lassiter.
  • Abraham Bryant
  • James Barnes
  • Willie Barnes
  • Minnie Leach
  • Unice, Mary and Ruby FreemanPatricia Eunice, Mary E. and Ruby Freeman were daughters of Julius and Pattie Hagans Freeman.
  • Louis Parker — probably, Louise Parker. She and David Parker were children of Minnie Parker.
  • David Parker
  • Tom Freeman — Thomas Freeman was the younger brother of the Freeman sisters, above.
  • Charles Howard
  • John Farmer
  • Rosa Mae Barnes
  • Clarence Barnes
  • Mary Frances Williams
  • Annie Pearl Barnes
  • James Newsome
  • William Melton

Wilson news.

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New York Age, 16 September 1922.

  • The Wilson Church — I am not aware of any surviving issues of this newspaper.
  • Rev. Mebane — John A. Mebane. In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Mebane  Jno A Rev (c; Rachel) Mt Siani [Sinai] Missionary Baptist Ch h 1008 Woodard av
  • Rev. A.H. George — Arthur H. George.
  • Ruth Whitehead Whaley — Ruth W. Whaley was a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per Wikipedia, Whitehead Whaley (February 2, 1901–December 23, 1977) was the third African American woman admitted to practice law in New York in 1925 and the first in North Carolina in 1933. She was the first Black woman to graduate from Fordham University School of Law, where she graduated cum laude in 1924.
  • Mr. & Mrs. A.B. Bowser — Astor B. and Deloris Hawley Bowser.
  • Charles Knight

Desperate gambling gang.

In 1909, Wilson police raided Samuel H. Vick‘s Orange Hotel to bust up a “gambling joint” ensconced in its upper floor. Two gamblers escaped through windows, but the police managed to round up seven, plus the operator.

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News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 11 June 1909.

  • Charles Evans, alias Charles Stover, alias “Dog Head”
  • Banks Blow
  • Arthur D. Keiser
  • Wallace Dixon
  • Walter Scott
  • “Kid” McKoy
  • Henry Battle — perhaps, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wiggins Street, railroad laborer Harry Battle, 50; wife Ezabell, 45, hotel servant; and sons Henry, 24, and Frank, 21, railroad laborer. Henry Battle died 31 December 1910 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he lived on Nash Street; was born 6 January 1888 in Edgecombe County to Harry Battle and Isabella Bullock; and worked as a railroad hand. Informant was Harry Brant.
  • Jim Thompson

The Harris Brothers.

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Elm City’s Harris Brothers Quartet. Left to right: Jesse Harris Jr., William Amos Harris, Archie Harris, James Roscoe Harris Sr., and Willie Richardson (on guitar). [The photo is dated about 1945, but likely was somewhat later, as William Amos Harris was born in 1932 and Archie Harris in 1933.]

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In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Jessie Harris, 34; wife Delphia, 36; and children Rosetta, 12, Alberta, 9, James, 2, and Jessie James, 1; and mother Rosa, 66.

In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jack Harris, 43; wife Delphia, 40; children Rosetta, 22, Odell, 20, Annie M., 15, James Oscar, 13, Jessie, 12, Thelma, 10, Amos, 8, Archie, 7, and Chaney Mae, 5; plus grandchildren Ned, 5, and Leroy, 1.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Harris (and printed in the Wilson Daily Times, 25 May 2018).