Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

LAUGHING BEN ELLINGTON

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE 


     One of the most popular members of the Dublin community in the early years of this century was a Black man known as "Laughing Ben" Ellington. Ben Ellington (left on right) got his name from his loud laugh and humorous story telling. Ellington toured the country performing at festivals, fairs, and expositions. For a time he was managed by Captain Hardy Smith. G.P. Houser and Jule Green visited the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. They reported that Ben was one of the more interesting attractions at the exposition. He allegedly celebrated his 100th birthday, while performing at the Centennial Exposition of the Louisiana Purchase. Ben claimed to have been born in 1804 and lived as a slave for sixty years or so.

     Ben's favorite story involved his former master. The master promised Ben that he would give him a quarter for every chicken that Ben could fetch. Ben went to the plantation coop and picked up a fat fryer. The master told him to put the chicken in the coop and gave Ben the quarter. Ben had the last laugh. "I stole that chicken seven times that night. Then I went back and stole him again and ate him myself."

     One day Ben was summoned to testify in a blind-tiger liquor selling trial.  A lover of whiskey, Ben was reluctant to testify against a man who might supply him a drink in the future.  When Ben, refused to testify, Judge Hart sent out a deputy to arrest Ben and bring him to court.  Once Ben arrived, Judge Hart realized that Ben would never testify, so he the judge just ordered him to laugh before moving on to the next witness.

     Ben took a job with a traveling carnival after returning from the Pan American Exposition. When the carnival went bankrupt at Brunswick, Ben was stranded with no money. Ben telegraphed his friend W.W. Robinson to send ten dollars from his checking account. Mr. Robinson instructed the Brunswick bank cashier that Ben would laugh for his identification. This was probably the only time in history that a cashier required a laugh before cashing a check.

     Ben was quite the local celebrity in Dublin.  Whenever a prominent visitor came to Dublin, some one would fetch Ben to have have him laugh for the guest.  Although, he laughed for living, Ben always acted surprised and laughed louder when we got a tip.  Even when he received not a penny, Ben would laugh anyway and smile as he walked away.

     After he returned to Dublin, Ben went to the state fair in Valdosta. He disappeared for several months. His wife finally received a letter from Ben who was performing in San Francisco. After returning home by stage coach, Ben left for Coney Island, New York, where he was a big hit and made a lot of money. During his visits to Dublin, Ben was a mail carrier on the Dublin to Stephensville Route. He was loved by everyone he met. While visiting in Dublin, Gov. Bob Taylor of Tennessee invited Ben to come and live on his farm.

     Ben's last known appearance was at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis working along "The Pike" (left) and entertaining the patrons.  When Ben arrived at home, his health began to fail.

      Ben died at his home in northern Laurens County in 1905.  He claimed to be more than 100 years old, but was most likely 80 to 90 when he died.   Everyone smiled when they remembered "Old Ben." When Ben's laughter or funny story brought a smile to the face to of someone who was sad, his mission as a comedian was accomplished. It is true what they say - "laughter is the best medicine."


     Ernest Camp, editor of "The Dublin Times", penned his thoughts about Ben Ellington is this poetic obituary:


LAUGHIN' BEN ELLINGTON

He laughed down here in Laurens an' he laughed
throughout the state,
An' jes' everywhere he traveled he would
laugh an' imitate;
He laughed from sunny Dixie to the deep
Pacific shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He laughed sometimes for money an' he
sometimes laughed for fun,
He would laugh in bleakest weather and
then laugh beneath the sun,
He would laugh in such a manner as you
you never saw before,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He would laugh for any person an' he'd
laugh at any place,
There was allers laughter runnin' down each
wrinkle on his face,
He would oftimes laugh at nothing till his
very sides were sore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any
more!

He laughed because he liked it - ne'er a
shadow out for him,
An' he often carried sunshine where the hope
was growin' slim,
But he laughed his way to glory, far beyond
this mortal shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any more!

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - CANTEEN - VA HOSPITAL, DUBLIN, GA. 1952, BY IRENE CLAXTON





Friday, February 17, 2017

AND SO GO THE GALLANT - FEBRUARY 1942

AND SO GO THE GALLANT
February 1942


The second full month of World War II was relatively quiet.  Hundreds of local men were leaving home to begin their training.  Those who remained home attempted to make life as normal as it could be, except for those who kept on preparing for another all out attack on America, and in particular, the soft underbelly America, the Georgia  coastline between Charleston, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida.

Early in the war, government officials realized that an abundant  food supply was be just as important and guns, tanks, ships, planes, and ammunition.  The farmers of the Rentz community gathered together on February 3 to discuss plans for the Food for Victory program and how it could be improved with increased peanut protection.  Week day meetings were held at Antioch Baptist Church and Baker Baptist Church under the direction of Herman P. Gilder and W.L. Eubanks, agriclural teachers at Rentz High School.

In the early weeks and months of the war, one primary objective was to rebuild the severely damaged naval and army facilities at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Roger Lissery, of Dexter, was one of those men who were assigned to reconstruct vital links between the military positions on the islands.  Lissery, who was present on the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, worked on the re-connection of the links between Waialua and Wahaiwa.

One of the first Dublin women to feel the loss of a loved one was Mrs. Albert H. Baldwin, whose brother Clifford Harrison Parkerson was Dodge County’s first casualty of World War II.  Parkerson, a signal man aboard the USS Truxtun, was washed out into a cold, turbulent sea on February 18 during a vicious North Atlantic gale while the ship was on convoy duty.

Hubert Hall returned to Dublin on February 5. Hall was serving aboard the merchant ship Meanticut moored in Calcutta, India on December 7, 1941.  For nearly two months the ship traveled across the treacherous waters of the South Pacific and managed to avoid being sunk by Japanese submarines.  Ironically, on the day Hall returned home, he had a date with the local draft board, which would have loved to have an experienced sailor in the ranks of the U.S. Navy.

Ruth Gordon, the county’s public health nurse and a veteran of World War I, became the first female member of Post No. 17 of the American Legion.

To accommodate the public, registration for males between the ages of 20 and 44 was shifting from draft board offices to county schools, while Dublin residents reported to Dublin High and Washington Street High to answer the call of our nation for military service.

To keep the public aware of what was happening in the war, the Carnegie Library established a war information station under the direction of librarian Roberta Smith.

A Defense School began a series of classes for three weeks on February 23 in the Georgia Power building on the north side of the courthouse square.  All volunteers for air raid wardens were requested to attend.  Law enforcement officers and firemen met at the Calhoun Street School and the High School respectively.

That same week, Mrs. Roy Orr announced the first shipment under the Bundles for America program, which she chaired.  A box of 40 sweaters, 15 lounging robes, 4 dozen undershirts, 12 blankets and 3 quilts, sewn by Dublin women, were shipped to soldiers around the country. Additional funds were raised through the sale of matches by the Adelaine Baum Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy.

Miss Baum said “Let’s each and every one of us try and do our bit by helping this way, as this is defense work in a big way.”  She  headed the committee to gather up old clothes and take them to Pierce and Orr’s grocery store from where they were shipped to New York City for reconditioning.

On the last day of the month of February, Wimberly Napier, a native of the Montrose ommunity, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  Wimberly, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, would eventually become a general in the United States Air Force.

In the front window of the home of Mr. and Mrs. B.H. Willis was a service flag with three stars designating that the couple had three sons serving in the armed services. Two other sons were working in civilian defense programs.  Maynard, a 14-year non-commissioned officer veteran, was serving with the Army on the West Coast.  Martin Willis, a Dublin councilman, was the chief of fire fighting in Laurens County.  Hubert was a member of the Georgia State Patrol in Thomasville, while the youngest sons, Earl and Frank were serving in the Army and the Marines respectively.

H.H. Dudley,  Chairman of the Colored Civilian Defense Program, organized a motorcade of more than 100 citizens to travel to massive rally at the Macon City Auditorium.

Local officials were continuing to search for support for the construction of a modern day airport in Dublin.  The movement eventually was changed to seek an even larger airport to support the patients and staff of the U.S. Naval Hospital.  Businessman Herschel Lovett offered a substantial sum to begin the project during a meeting held at the New Dublin Hotel.

Seaman Second Class Edward Towns, of Dublin, was enjoying great success in the Navy’s Radio Operations Training School in Charleston, S.C..  Towns was later cited for his meritorious service aboard submarines.

Edward Jackson, a 1937 graduate of Dublin High School, worked as an electrician during the construction of the U.S.S. Alabama.  The Alabama’s most famous sailor was Hall of Fame pitcher, Bob Feller, who served as twin 40-millimeter gunner aboard the ship in 1943.

Wex Jordan, of Dublin and a member of the Army Air Corps, was voted by his teammates as the Most Valuable Player of the Georgia Tech Yellow jackets for the 1941 season.  Jordan would be killed in a aerial training accident on November 11, 1943.

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - CLEAR LAKE RESORT - HIGHWAY 80 WEST - DUBLIN, GEORGIA CA. 1940 - BY IRENE CLAXTON ACROSS FROM CURRENT FORD DEALERSHIP


This resort was open from 1936 through 1941.  









Saturday, February 11, 2017

EUNICE DAVIS

One Rockin’Mama


Eunice Davis may not have been the first African-American, female rock and roll singer.  But, over her relatively short career, Davis, a native of Dublin, Georgia, was an early trendsetter in the transformation of blue singers into rock and roll singers.  This is her story, a story which is as remarkable as it has been obscure.

Eunice Emilie Davis was born on February 23, 1920 to Oscar Wright and his wife Gussie Lee White, who had married eleven months earlier in Laurens County, Georgia. During the year 1922, Eunice and her family moved to Glassboro, New Jersey, a central New Jersey borough dominated by glass making companies for a short while until her family moved to New York City.

Eunice believed that by working at the Apollo Theater in New York she would meet the top musical performers of the day.  And she did.

Eunice Davis worked as an usherette at the Apollo Theater, when Lester Young noticed her singing in the Newark Ballroom.  Eunice wrote many of her own lyrics and music, although it has been said that she would compose the words and the music, hum them into a tape recorder and have them put on paper by a trained composer.

“He asked me to go to the Apollo Theatre with him the next week, but I refused because I had another engagement,” Davis remembered.   Her first appearance at the Apollo Theatre’s amateur hour was unmemorable.   In a positive twist of fate, Eunice was asked by Luis Russell to join him in a rehearsal.

In the year 1951, while still an usherette at the Apollo, Eunice was signed to a contract with Coral Records and  was put on the bill with big name acts, including the Ravens, who were led by their deep bass singer Jimmy Ricks of Adrian, Georgia.   Eunice was billed as a “thrush with a good set of pipes, rocks the house with a flock of fast paced studies,” wrote a Variety magazine critic.

Davis told a writer for Jet Magazine in 1953 that when she began singing, she was still a cook and insisted on a provision in her contract that she would be allowed to cook her own meals.

“I got my start in show business after writing and recording one song, “Rock Little Daddy,”  Eunice wrote. During another artist’s recording session, Eunice recorded the song, which became a hit for Derby Records.

“It took me 15 minutes to write Rock Little Daddy, 3 hours for Phillip Rose to convince Larry Newton to record it, and 10 days for the song to become a hit back in 1951,” Eunice recalled.

Davis was again praised by a Variety wrote who said, “Rock Little Daddy represents Miss Davis at her best and ear-marks her as a singer who should click in wider bookings.” Contemporaries immediately compared her to Florence Mills, a famous cabaret-style singer of her day.

Eunice appeared with the Ravens at the Howard Theater and a return appearance at the Apollo, followed by gigs at the Flame Show Bar, the Powelton Café, the Delmar in Montreal, and the Earl Theatre in Philadelphia, appearing with the Covers and other nationally known acts.

Davis claimed that it was the iconic disc jockey, Allen Freed, proclaimed this style of music “rock and roll.”  Eunice Davis claimed that she was the first female rock and roll singer based on Freed’s comments and what others told her.  Eunice was certainly one of the first African American female rock and roll singer.

Eunice’s string of hits continued with “Go to Work Pretty Daddy”and  “Daddy Work,” And in 1953, Eunice signed a five-year contract with Atlantic Records, while continuing to write her own songs, some of which she sang and some which she to other artists.

In 1955, Eunice enjoyed continuing success with  "Get Your Enjoys" and "Let's Have a Party."

But for Eunice, fame was fleeting.

By the mid 1950's Eunice’s career as a rock and roll singer was basically over, which she blamed on the record companies not hustling her records to the disc jockeys of the day.

Soon Eunice faded into rock and roll obscurity.

In the late 1970s, Eunice moved to Phoenix, Arizona where she began a relationship with a blues guitarist, singer and harmonica player, with at least half a hundred albums to his credit.



Eunice recorded her final album in 1980, in which she sings the songs of her idols- Victoria Spivey and Memphis Minnie - along with her own compositions.

By 1983, the sixty-three-year old singer was living in a dark, non-descript home on Roosevelt Street in Phoenix.  Eunice would invite old and new friends and gladly sing upon request in her home on East Roosevelt Street in Central Phoenix, which is now a parking lot, two blocks from Interstate Highway 10.    Many of her songs were based on the old slave songs she learned as child.

Beyond her music, Eunice yearned to write poetry, turning out many poems, which he hoped she could record.

After Eunice kicked Louisiana Red out of her house, she moved to Los Angeles where she married her third husband Merv Fusch.  The Fusches established a graphic arts business.

But Eunice continued to do what she did best and that was to write and sing music and write poems about life.  When she had the chance, she performed in music festivals, some in Europe.

The music died on July 13, 1999.    Eunice’s death went virtually unnoticed.  A sad pity, in that a half century before her death, Eunice Emile Wright Davis, helped to ignite a musical genre which is still going strong today.
















ROCK LITTLE DADDY 



GET YOUR ENJOYS 





GO TO WORK PRETTY DADDY 




MY BEAT IS 125TH STREET




WHAT DO YOU WANT?




LETS HAVE A PARTY 




DON'T TRUST NOBODY




I'M SO GLAD 




TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY 




WORK DADDY WORK




EVERY TIME YOUR LIPS MEET MINE



IMAGES OF OUR PAST - THE SNOW OF THE CENTURY - FEB. 9-11, 1973, DUBLIN, GEORGIA, BY IRENE CLAXTON