This Indianapolis newspaper article mentioned that Snookum Russell‘s Be-Bop Orchestra was scheduled to play “the annual winter prom” in Wilson on the night before Thanksgiving 1947. Russell, a pianist, lead a territory band that toured the South and Midwest in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, playing tobacco warehouses and dance halls.
O.N. Freeman kept six bears at his home at 1300 East Nash Street, including Topsy, who could ride a tricycle. Below, in 1930, Topsy and two of Nestus and Willie Mae Freeman‘s daughters, Mary Frances and Connie.
Photo courtesy of Connie Freeman Banks’ memoir, The Way We Were.
In this Historymakers.org interview, educator/musician/poet Carl W. Hines Jr. spoke of his early musical influences in Wilson: “I discovered rhythm and blues early in my youth and in my hometown, there was one station that played Black music for an hour or two during the day. CPS [Sepia] Serenade was the name of the program, and us teenagers would listen to [Sepia] Serenade during that time, and then we would listen to Nashville, Tennessee, Randy’s Record Mart [WLAC], I don’t know if you know about that, but, this was the days before rock and roll, so, we would listen to Randy’s Record Mart late at night, and we would hear rhythm and blues, the Black music of the day.”
Sepia Serenade was one of two radio shows hosted by Theodore “Ted” Hooker, first on WVOT, then WGTM by the early 1950s. Hooker was Wilson’s first African-American on-air personality, and his one-hour programs were first to showcase “race music.”
The Freedmen’s Bureau also lent aid to impoverished white people. M.A. Gay’s letter to Major Compton began with a breezy description of the African-American Fourth of July celebration in Joyners Depot [Elm City] and ended in a plea for food assistance.
Joyners Depot Wilson Co NC
Mag Comton Kinde Sir
I again seat my self to drop you a few lines which I hope will soon reach your hand. we had a nice time on the fourth I note there was a bout 12 hundred Col people assembled at this place and formed a prosession and marched up and down the streets with music in front they had a butifull dinner. I was much pleased with what you sent to me. I again am oblige to beg you I am nearly out of meat but I have some corn I have been sick nearly all the time and have not been able to help my self to any thing you will pleas send it to Mr Joseph Conte as before I would be glad if you could arrang it so as to send me my rashons every month Mr Conte will make it all right how and his wife are particular friends of mine yours with respets, you will pleas write to me M.A. Gay
M.A. Gay — probably, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Mary Gay, 34, seamstress, and son Edwin, 3.
Joseph Conte — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Conte, 52, “g & gd march retl” [grocery and dry goods merchant retail]; wife Mary, 28; and Joseph Totten, 29, clerk in store. The Contes were born in Italy; Totten, in Maine.
North Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1863-1872, Goldsboro (assistant subassistant commissioner) > Roll 17, Letters Received, Jul-Sep 1867, http://www.familysearch.org
Helen T. Wade — In the 1947 North Carolina Manual, published by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, Helen T. Wade is listed as the colored home demonstration agent for Wilson County. Wade married Charles E. Branford in 1950.