Entertainment

The passing of Old Joe.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.18.17 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.18.26 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.18.40 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.18.51 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.19.03 PM.png

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 16 March 1920.

It’s hard to know what to say about this racist tribute other than “wow, Charlie Chaplin came to Wilson?”

Joe Mercer was also known as Joseph Battle. In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Battle, 40; wife Rose, 35; and children Joe, 15, Frank, 13, John H., 10, Amie, 8, Mattie, 6, and Lou T., 8 months. Thomas and Rose reported having been married 5 years, and Rose as the mother of one child (presumably, the baby Lou.) [Marriage records show that Tom Battle married Rose Mercer on 23 May 1896 in Wilson County.]

Joe Mercer, 24, married Ida Colley, 22, on 7 December 1908 in Wilson County.

Joe Mercer registered for the World War I draft in Wilson in 1918. Per his registration card, he was born April 1881; lived at 136 Roberson; worked as a janitor. His nearest relative was Rose Battle, and he was described as “rheumatic & apparently paralytic.”

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 613 Robinson Street, bank janitor Joe Mercer, 39, and wife Ida, 40.

Joe Mercer died 11 March 1920 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 37 years old; was married; lived on Roberson Street; was engaged in butler service; and was born in Black Creek to Thomas Battle and Rosa Battle. F.F. Battle was informant.

Vote for your favorite group.

Reid Street Community Center hosted a gospel group contest in the spring of 1946. Tickets were available at Shade’s Pharmacy and C.E. Artis Funeral Home.

201902011845078197.jpg

Wilson Daily Times, 19 April 1948.

Per an unsourced inventory compiled by Freeman Round House and Museum, the Wilson Chapel Four performed for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration and were the first African-American gospel quartet to sing on WGTM, a Wilson radio station.

The Wilson Chapel Four performed on Sunday at 10:30 A.M. Wilson Daily Times, 17 July 1943.

Presumably, the quartet was affiliated with Wilson Chapel Free Will Baptist Church at 513 East Barnes Street. If anyone can identify members of the Wilson Chapel Four, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Benefit for Mercy Hospital.

Screen Shot 2019-01-22 at 7.50.29 PM.png

“All receipts given to colored hospital,” Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1930.

This advertisement touts a midnight variety show and movie screening to benefit Mercy Hospital. The institution, in continuous financial straits, had recently been sold at auction to businessman Wade H. Gardner.

Though the ad is not explicit, it seems to be directed at a white audience. James Edward Andrews, Carl S. Hinnant (described in the 1930 federal census of Wilson as an orchestra musician), Sidney Willoughby and Lester Rose were local white men, and a “black face comedy act” would not have had primary appeal to an African-American audience.

 

The new decorated Ritz.

9 19 1942.PNG

The Carolina Times, 19 September 1942.

The ad above, touting the “new decorated” Ritz Theatre, ran in The Carolina Times, an African-American newspaper based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The white-owned Ritz, which catered to a “colored” audience, was located at 523 East Nash Street.

This photograph of the Ritz, which hangs in a hallway of the Freeman Round House and Museum, is undated, but contains some clues however. The magnificent movie posters at either side of the entrance promote Lena Horne, Bill Robinson and Cab Calloway in the acclaimed musical Stormy Weather, which was released in 1943.  The sign above the ticket booth reads “GRAND RE-OPENING, Monday May 13th,” but 13 May 1943 was not a Monday. Nor was that date a Monday in 1942, when the reopening ad above ran. The closest years that fit are 1940 and 1946. Thus, either the sign was left hanging for several years, or Stormy Weather was a re-run showing several years after original release. If this photograph were taken by Raines & Cox studio, which seems probable, the 1946 date is more likely.

Stormy Weather film poster in vivid color. I have not been able to find color images of the two magnificent posters in the Ritz’ glass cases.

——

Update: Mystery solved. Many thanks to Steve Brown for locating this ad from the 11 May 1946 edition of the Wilson Daily Times, touting the Grand Re-Opening of The State’s Finest Most Modern Colored Theatre!

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.

——

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 8.43.29 PM.png

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.

——

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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 7.58.17 PM.png

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.