"Still Racing with the Moon
A Gathering of the Vaughn
Monroe Appreciation Society
May 17-20, 2007
by Claire Schwartz
photographs by Kathy Blank
and Claire Schwartz
Alanis Morrisette in "DeLovely" (2004)
"People say in
Boston even beans do it. Let's do it--let's fall in love."
The cheeky Porter lyrics were never so a propos, performed
colorfully in Brown Hall, one of the New England
Conservatory's ornate recital halls, during an alumni concert
called Club Cabaret. This mini-musical spectacular was only one of a
symphony of surprises that awaited members of the Vaughn Monroe
Appreciation Society who attended the second gathering held in Boston,
Massachusetts on May 17-20, 2007. So, let's do it--let's revisit the
events of that wet and wild weekend.
They say Boston is beautiful in the spring . . . We know one thing for
sure . . . Boston is beautiful in the spring rain. We never saw the
sun. While the rest of the country was experiencing sunny and mild
May weather, a system of stratus, cumulous and nimbus clouds settled in for
the duration of our stay.
stayed at the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center located at 40
Trinity Place in Boston's Back Bay/Copley Square area. Built
in 1925, the eight story building started out as the club house for the
University Club of Boston. In 1962 it was sold to the Chandler School for
Women, and then to the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1971,
during which time it was used to train new insurance agents. The building
was renovated in 1986 and opened to the public for both meeting space and
The view from our 7th floor window
The John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center
photo from website
Classic in design and decor, the club house-turned-hotel
was constructed in the Adams style with an exterior of limestone and
Harvard brick. From the front lobby to the second-floor rotunda to the
third-floor meeting rooms and atrium, the hotel is a monument of urbane
charm and dignity. . . and the rates were unbelievably reasonable.
The double stairway is accented by finely hand-wrought
iron balustrades with bronze handrails.
A multitude of marbles from around the world grace each floor.
photo from website
The elevator foyer off the main lobby
Third floor - historic calendars from 1880s through 1907
Collections of rare historical books, artwork, wall calendars and
the only salvaged pieces of wall paper from the John Hancock homestead
that was burned by the British are on display here.
Orchestra performing in Jordan Hall
photo from internet sources
Boston Public Library
photo from internet sources
"Vaughn Monroe Productions"
The downtown location put us within walking distance of the New England
Conservatory, Boston Public Library and 73 Newberry Street--former office
of Vaughn Monroe Productions.
evening, May 17, at 6:30 pm our group of six members
and two visitors from the Boston area convened in the library, which was
to be our meeting room for the next two days. Attendees included: Ed
Shallow and his son Ken, Kathy Blank, Marian Gower, Polly Attridge, Herb
Wasserman, Joel Klein and Claire Schwartz. Assorted snacks and beverages
from the conference break area, a virtual marketplace of satiating
provisions, were continually available for our indulgence. This evening, a
selection of snacks was laid out on two round tables arranged for us in
the library. We got acquainted (or reacquainted as the case may be) and
viewed three episodes of Vaughn Monroe's television game show appearances
from "What's My Line" (1954), "Name's the Same" (1954) and "Make the
Connection" (1955). While some had seen the "What's My Line" episode, the
other programs were new to all in attendance.
Gary with poster in library
Vaughn appeared in fine form in all of these shows, which were provided to
the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society by Mr. David Schwartz of the Game
Show Network. These programs are of special interest because they show,
primarily through close-ups, a very natural Vaughn reacting candidly
to the panelist's questions and engaging in a little impromptu guitar duet
with host Gene Rayburn of "Make the Connection." Vaughn is ever congenial
and amusingly reticent with his celebrity and appeal when asked by Arlene
Francis if he is "a bobby-soxer's delight."
group also viewed a musical tribute set to Vaughn's recording of "The
Things We Did Last Summer." All those who attended received special gifts
as a remembrance of the Boston gathering before the first session broke up
around 9:30 pm.
JFK paintings in library
Edward Shallow and Polly Attridge
Polly Attridge and Marian Gower
Polly, Marian and Herb Wasserman
|Friday, May 18, began our first full day of activities. Our group now
consisted of Kathy, Marian, Polly and her husband Paul, Herb, Joel, Claire
and her husband Gary. We walked to the bus stop at the Back Bay Station in
the rain. Fortunately, it was right around the corner from the hotel. Our
first stop was the New England Conservatory (NEC). We were greeted at the
corner of Huntington Avenue and Gainsborough Street by Ms. Jean Morrow,
Director of Libraries at NEC, who proceeded to also stop traffic for us as
we crossed the busy Avenue. We then proceeded to the main building,
constructed in 1902, that houses the 1,013-seat Jordan Hall--one of the
world's best concert halls. This was the same building were Vaughn would
have studied in 1935 when he attended NEC, since the current library and
Freshman dormitories across the street weren't built until 1959.
Front steps of the New England Conservatory
Jean informed us that Jordan Hall was renovated in 1995, but extreme care
was taken to replicate the original wood flooring and finishes in every
detail so that the unique sound quality would not be lost. One change was
unavoidable, however. When the layers of dust were removed after decades
of accumulation, the tonal quality of performances was notably "brighter."
After glimpsing this magnificent concert hall, we were lead downstairs for
a brief lecture in Brown Hall, where the evening alumni concert was to be
held. It was here that we presented Jean with a copy of the two-volume
scrapbook printed from the micro-film obtained from the NEC. We also
introduced Jean to Marian Gower, the original owner of the scrapbooks, who
gave her creations to Vaughn fifty year ago. The last she saw of them,
Vaughn was toting one under each arm as he headed toward his dressing room
at the Meadowbrook.
Across the street in the library, we were met by Mary Alice
Perrin-Mohr and Cheryl Weber, Director of Alumni Relations. Awaiting us
were two long tables filled with framed photographs, some familiar, some
new, even to long-time fans. Jean thought these may have once hung in The
Meadows Restaurant. Among the black and white "glossies" was a
certificate dated September 27, 1945 electing Vaughn to membership in the
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Jean also showed us
one of the 1,300 acetate discs containing Camel Caravan recordings and
circulated a few of the 2,100 original band arrangements from the
Vaughn Monroe Collection the NEC houses, as well as some interesting
odds and ends. (No promises, but some of this material may be made
available as the NEC provides.)
Mary Alice, Jean and Cheryl
Polly, Kathy, Joel, Herb and Marian scour the tables
While we were feasting our eyes on these treasures, our hostesses served
up fresh coffee and donuts! We were much obliged and enjoyed some
story-telling, along with a brief explanation of what the Vaughn Monroe
Appreciation Society is about, including our own relatively short history.
Cheryl also mentioned that they are making students (and the
world) more aware of famous alumni through a special section on the NEC
website, which will house information on Vaughn Monroe and link to the VMAS website. We, in turn, will do the same.
We left with parting gifts including a NEC key chain, a CD of student
performances and an NEC brochure.
final stop was the Conservatory book store (smart move, Jean!), where many
of us could not resist purchasing a souvenir or two. Jean then escorted us
back to the bus stop and took a group photo on the steps of Jordan Hall
while we were waiting for the number 39 bus. We said our goodbyes and were
off to face the pelting rain and gale-force winds standing between us and
At the hotel, we were served a buffet
lunch of cold sandwiches, stuffed shells, green salad, coleslaw and
assorted pastries for dessert. We spent the afternoon in "show and
tell," listening to a Vaughn Monroe sound-alike on a CD that Herb brought,
listening to Polly's stories and reviewing her collection of autographed
photos, news clippings, magazine articles and personal handwritten letters
from Vaughn. Much of her collection had been lost due to a leaky roof, but
what she did manage to salvage kept our interest for over an hour. (Some
of Polly's experiences are posted as journal entries on this website). We
wrapped up our afternoon session with an interview that David Schwartz
conducted with Vaughn at the Disneyland Hotel on July 30, 1972. The
interview had originally aired on public radio station KCSN (then known as
KEDC) on a program called "Spotlight on a Star," which ran Sunday nights
at 9 pm from August 1, 1971 to the summer of 1977. David informed us that
this was the first time anybody had heard it in 35 years.
Vaughn comments on the popular rock bands of the day,
mentioning in particular the Rolling Stones, and speaks of a possible
upcoming record release, emphasizing that he'd also like to have more
television opportunities. The fact is, he was still working about 120
dates a year, down from the 360 one-nighters he played during the years
that the band was at its peak.
After an hour reprieve, those who were up for dinner and a concert
congregated once again in the hotel lobby. A computer with internet access
was available for hotel guests, and several of our group spent time
checking emails and surfing the internet, while others sat and chatted in oval
armchairs encircled about a Hellenistic-looking table. Polly and Paul
had already left and were to meet us at the restaurant. Marian, Joel,
Claire and Gary decided to brave the weather and (at Marian's suggestion)
hailed a taxi cab.
Uno's Chicago Grill--not an authentic New England establishment, but
convenient and reliable with a nice atmosphere and photographs of Jordan
Hall as an added amenity. We had reservations for 5:30 pm and plenty of
time to walk across the street for an 8:00 pm curtain.
Spare time was spent in the student lounge as some of our group
monopolized several internet-accessible computers. Others of us stood in
the hallway and talked. Alumni soon began arriving for the concert. Thanks
to Marian, we had been given access to Brown Hall during the sound check
and staked out our seats ahead of the crowd. We were joined at our table
by Mary-Alice and her husband George. Our tickets also allowed us two free
drinks from the bar.
Paul raises a glass
Local radio announcer, Cathy
Fuller, was the Club Cabaret host. She made a point of welcoming the
Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society to Boston and read a brief bio of
Vaughn Monroe. We realized that, in essence, we were representing
Vaughn at this alumni concert, since not one of us had ever come close to
attending the prestigious New England Conservatory.
We stayed for the first half of the show, which consisted
of the following acts:
- Hansel and Gretel, Act II, Scene 1
- Female vocalists - Loretta Giles, Gail Nelson-Holgate
and Ruth Harcovitz
- Class of '97 Jazz Ensemble
At intermission, we decided to forego the second act
since it was already 10:30 pm and most of our group were exhausted. (Our
sincere apologies to our most cordial hosts.) We walked past the exquisite
portrait of Isabelle Firestone that illuminates the exterior of
Brown Hall. We passed below the intense gaze of Beethoven, who's bronze
statue guards the old entrance off of Huntington Avenue. Jean told us that
Vaughn, too, would have passed under Beethoven's solemn sentinel. Outside,
in the rain, we hailed a taxi and called it a night.
Hem of Beethoven's robe (upper left)
The weather on
Saturday morning, May 19, was not as windy, but
alternated between a steady mist and a heavy drizzle. Polly and Paul
arrived at the hotel at 9:30 am. Gary brought his car around behind
Paul's, and we all piled in to begin one very unique tour of the Boston
First on the itinerary was a drive passed the former Vaughn Monroe
Production offices located at 73 Newberry Street, only two blocks from
then took the highway and drove out to Framingham for a look at the former
site of Vaughn Monroe's Meadows. No trace of the original establishment.
The only clue that the property once boasted a night club and
restaurant by that name, is a sign engraved with "The Meadows" referring
to the office and commercial centre that now resides there. This historic
landmark has been reduced to an office building and a Bennigan's
Restaurant. We thought that perhaps a few of the pine trees along the back
of the property were the same ones seen in the old postcards. (For more
information, see Pat and Dick Longtin's journal entries regarding the
73 Newberry Street
3 Pine Road
From there, we drove up to
Wayland and the sleepy residential streets around Dudley Pond. Our
destination was 3 Pine Road--the location of Vaughn and Marian's honeymoon cottage. We parked the
cars, and those who would or could, got out to take a closer look at the
cottage, the rustic stairs leading down the steep embankment to the lake
and the quaint dock protruding from the water's edge at the bottom. The
structure itself was in the process of being renovated by the present
owner, so we went around back to snap some pictures of what remained of
the prior facade. (For additional photographs, see Pat and Dick Longtin's
journal entry under "Vaughn's Houses.")
We understood why Vaughn and Marian would
choose this beautiful, quiet location for their initial residence, since
Sieler's Ten Acres (the club where Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra opened
on April 10, 1940), is only about five miles away. We drove into the
parking lot of the site, which is now a Jewish Synagogue and school. Being
Saturday, Sabbath activities were underway so we proceeded on to our final
stop in West Newton. (For more information, see Pat and Dick Longtin's
journal entry regarding Sieler's Ten Acres called "It All Started Here.")
The stately brick Colonial at 35 Pickwick Road was
wondrously still there. We parked the cars out front and some got out for
photographs. This was Vaughn and Marian's home from 1948 until they moved
to Florida a little over 12 years later. Little did we imagine that the
present owner would come out to talk to us--although we did make a pretty
conspicuous group. Mr. David Tarrant told us that he's owned the house for
about 20 years, and was aware of its history, including previous ownership
by the Monroes. He was not aware that Vaughn still had a following, an
appreciation society, after all these years. Maybe we looked overcome with
superlative admiration, or simply pathetically damp and desperately
maudlin. In any case, Mr. Tarrant proved to us then and there what a
really swell guy he is, and extended an invitation (that we in no
way would have allowed him to retract) to come inside and see the house.
Could the day get much better!? Elation. Polly had driven by this house
. . . how many times? And never dreamed that she would be invited inside.
Mr. Tarrant went around through the garage to open the front door for
us--Marian, Polly, Paul and Claire--the brazen ones who didn't think twice
about touring a private residence, unannounced on a Saturday morning.
A lovelier home and tour guide one could not ask for. Mr.
Tarrant even retrieved the original architectural drawings from the
basement for us to see. The house was built in 1935, and an interesting
design feature was the basement Ballroom clearly indicated on the plans.
Mr. Tarrant was kind enough to let us photograph ourselves in his home to
prove that we were there. (For more information on Vaughn's residence in
Newton, see "The Home Vaughn Picked up for a Song" in the biography
Claire, Marian and Polly talk with David
Claire, Marian and Polly
35 Pickwick Road
We arrived back at the hotel just in time for lunch, which
was waiting for us in the library. We were served up plenty of Boston's
best macaroni and cheese, spinach salad and chicken breast with ample
selections on the pastry tray.
|After lunch, we
discussed the Jack Marshard Orchestra and read a letter from Barry "Walt"
Walters who had prepared a selection of Marshard recordings for Boston
attendees. Interestingly enough, there also happened to be a recent notice
in Reminisce Magazine by the nephew of Gil Phelan who was a
vocalist with the Marshard Orchestra in the 1930s.
Since Kathy was having difficulty with mobility, she
decided to forego the walk to our afternoon destination-- the Boston
Public Library. At the suggestion of Polly and Paul, we shortened
our stroll in the rain and cut through the Copley Plaza Hotel.
Opulent, elegant, regal, royal, grand . . . all this and
more, manifested in a mere building--that's the Copley Plaza Hotel. I do
believe I had a stiff neck and dry mouth by the time we exited the
revolving doors at the opposite end of the building, where we walked by
the Opal Room. We found out later that Vaughn did indeed play there with
the Jack Marshard Orchestra.
The Copley Plaza Hotel
photo from internet sources
Boston Public Library (Marian, Joel and Herb)
|The Boston Public Library lay
immediately adjacent across Dartmouth Street. Part museum, part library,
the Boston Public is as classic as they come. "Walk where the great men
before you have walked," comes to mind--a quote from the Universal
picture "The Emperor's Club"
(2002). We followed Herb up to the third floor through Medieval halls of
Romanesque architecture. There, in the Koussevitzky Room was a
special exhibit set up just for us. A lot of work went into setting
under glass and labeling all of the items-- the original musical scores,
the recorded acetate discs, rare photographs and letters (one from Eleanor
Roosevelt to Jack Marshard) and newspaper articles. There was plenty of
Vaughn Monroe material in this collection as well, and lots of information
to be had on Jack and Harry Marshard in the articles on display. Mrs.
Diane Ota, the librarian, welcomed us and allowed us free reign of the
exhibit room. One rule was observed, however. No photographs were allowed.
By the time we were all satisfied with the extent of our
examinations, many were ready to call it a day and head back to the hotel,
while others enjoyed a walk around town before it was time to make
preparations for the final event of the evening.
The banquet on Saturday night was held in the library.
A single round table was decorated with floating candles, party trimming
and commemorative glasses. We enjoyed a fully staffed buffet of roasted
Chicken Roulade, wild rice, field green salad, lemon scented asparagus,
assorted rolls and apple crisp for dessert. Also, two bottles of white
wine rounded out the meal. A variety of music played during our dining and
socializing including the soundtrack from the MGM movie "DeLovely" (2004),
Vaughn's "Racing with the Moon" CD and a compilation of Vaughn Monroe
favorites from my collection. We took time out for a group photograph in
front of the fireplace. Before we knew it the evening too had died down to
mere embers. It was time to call it a night, bringing an end to our second
gathering in Boston, Massachusetts.
Still Racing with the Moon II
Back row: Herb Wasserman, Paul Attridge, Gary Schwartz, Joel Klein
Front row: Kathy Blank, Polly Attridge, Claire Schwartz, Marian Gower
|Thank you to all who came and participated,
to our wonderful hosts and hostesses, and to a dear man for giving us his
music and a reason to celebrate in a truly spectacular city.
Sun-day. Of course.
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