Honoring the leadership that looked after the June German – Part 5


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Honoring the past is one of the blogs objectives. We repeat and remember the important names embedded in the history of Rocky Mount. It made me smile when I found the clipping in Marion Stinson Herring’s scrapbook naming the Presidents of the Carolina Cotillion Club.                                                                          Click on the clipping to enlarge.

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On the left, we find a handsome young, Thomas H. Battle.  He helped organize the Rocky Mount Cotillion Club and served as president when the first June German. He is a man of many firsts. In the mystery of things, as incorporator of the Village of Rocky Mount  Mills, I hope he knows the prominent role the Mills now play in the revitalization of the community.

On the right of the clipping above, you find Harold H. Strandberg, the last President mentioned in this list – 1955.  Again a family name beloved here in Rocky Mount. I hope his sons have photographs of their mother, Betsy Strandberg, and their father, Harold, dancing the night away at a June German.  We tip our hats to the following men for their leadership in these events. If you have a memory to share, please leave it in the comment section below.

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H.H. Strandberg, Jr.

CCC Presidents:

1880-Thomas H. Battle, 1900-J.P. Bunn, Sr., 1919-M.R. Robbins, 1920-Bryon Hillard, 1921-Ben Thomas, 1922-Ben Bunn, 1924-Bill Bradley, 1928-A.P. Thorpe, 1929-Thoms J. Pearsall, 1930-R.H. Gregory, Sr., 1931-S.S. Toler, Jr., 1932-George T. Burnette, Jr., 1933-Bruce Savage, 1934-E.U.Lewis, 1935-George P. Arrington, 1937-Harry Toler, 1938-G.M. Young, 1939-R. Graham Dozier, 1940-G.C.Worsley, 1941-Dr. Coyte R. Minges, 1942-Harvey C. Roberts, 1946-J.D. Winstrad, Jr., 1947-R.W. Moore, 1948-W.G. Stielman, Sr., 1949-R.E. Siler, 1950-W.T. Winters, 1951-W.L. Goodwyn, Jr., 1952-W.M. Shearin, 1953-J. Reese Bailey, 1954-H.W. Taylor, 1955-H.H. Strandberg, Jr.

Memorabilia -Marian Herring’s June German History Scrapbook – Part 4

Click on images to Enlarge – Keep clicking to further enlarge 

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Norman Gold’s 1934 letter to the Carolina Cotillion Club membership informing them of the band arrangements and their assessment fee of $2.50 for the dance. This letter suggests that 1934 was the last of the September dances.

Below is a wonderful article written in the fashion of home town newspapers of the day. If you remember when wedding announcements described the clothes people wore to weddings, the color of the bridesmaid dresses with details of the brides dress….seed pearls cascaded across the bodice….all the names of the out of town guests, family names and how they were connected to the bride and groom, even the names of the flowers in the bouquets, you will swoon with nostalgia over this newspaper clipping. (Speaking for myself, of course, having wiped a tear over these memories)  Marian Herring’s scrapbook is filled with newspaper clippings, sadly turning yellow, now loose behind plastic page protectors. But, oh, the stories contained within this album.

Who can resist the caption below this picture published in 1955

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Back in 1929 Thomas J. Pearsall (shown in inset) was president of the Carolina Cotillion Club and led the active member’ figure with Miss Elizabeth Braswell of Battleboro, who is shown here on the porch of her home. They were married in 1930 and are the parents of two sons, Tommy and Mack, who are of “June German age.” Friends of the Pearsall’s will be delighted to see how little they have changed since 1929 -although there have been changes in their clothes. 

In further details of the 1929 dance, I can’t leave out…..“The club figure is to be unusually intricate and elaborate and for this the young ladies attending will be presented novelty corsages, the corsage proper being attached to bags of ostrich feathers which will be suspended from the arm boy silent cords. These floral and feather baskets will be in variegated shade and the effect will be very lovely.”    I mean, how wonderful is this!

When the June German dances are reinstated in our future, let’s have a display of the clothes once worn on these occasions. By some miracle, do you suppose one of the bags of ostrich feathers is still out there?  I will be returning this wonderful scrapbook to Nancy Richardson, Rocky Mount, whose mother, Marion Herring, compiled it. Nancy’s father’s name is on the blank invitation shown in Part 2 of this series. The June German meant the world to Marion Herring. We think of her fondly for her devotion to this historical social event that meant so much to the lives of many. She deserves our thanksgiving for the preservation of these precious bits and pieces of memorabilia. Next year I will write more June German memories. Please add in the comment section below your favorite memory.

 

The Great Music of the “Colored June German” – Part 3

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1945 advertisement for the African American June German-Image Rocky Mount Telegram

Shall we dance? For a small town, known for tobacco, cotton, and lumber mills, the dances began as a celebration of the tobacco crop that sustained the community and became the highlight of Eastern North Carolina’s social life. The popularity of the dances crossed over to Rocky Mount’s African-American population. In 1917, a second June German began, in those days sometimes referred to as “the colored June German.” It was held the Monday after the traditional dance on Friday night. The same warehouse and decorations were used. The black communities June German soon became an entity unto itself, growing larger than the original dances. This second event came to be a nationally renowned stage for many of the famous bands in the country. In the ad above you find Louis Armstrong as one of two bands that got the evening started, and then the big band would come on later and play all night.

At the peak of its draw, in 1949, the African American June German with Count Basie drew over 24,000 dancers and spectators. Click on Youtube Video for Count Basie & His Orchestra. Tickets were sold just to watch the festivities. Wouldn’t you love to have heard  Buddy Johnson and Roy Eldridge, popular in the big band era, and my favorite, Ella Fitzgerald or Billy Eckstein when they entertain at these famous affairs.

Elijah Gaddis, UNC, wrote an article in 2013 which I found while doing research. Gaddis states that in the beginning, the African American June German was probably not much more than an attempt by the community to replicate for themselves some of the fun the dances were providing. Soon the second dance developed its own traditions and moved away from the influence of the white community. Other African American communities in neighboring counties also had their own germans ever year. Little is known about them with scarce media coverage. It would be great if anyone could add to this historical info.

One day, as more pieces of the revitalization puzzle are in place, with time and energy, there will be a revival of June German dances. People will make room in their homes once again, to host our visitors. Good china and silver will adorn tables layered with ham and biscuit, other favorite Rocky Mount recipes provided by our great cooks. Ware houses will be decorated, music will fill the air. The one exception to the “no drinking” policy will allow and feature, our Rocky Mount micro beer world. Perhaps the black tux jackets can give way to white summer jackets, and the women’s dresses will still be beautiful.

We’ll all work together to make it a great come back. Can’t wait.

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You Are Invited – June German Dance Ends At 5:00 AM – Part 2

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 Left to Right: Joe Williams, Carolyn Harris Webb (now of Wilson) Dr. Ben Gold,          Cora Lee  Gold, Carolyn Longwell, Doug Longwell  – 1956

(Don’t miss the cigarette in dashing Mr. Williams and Mr. Longwell’s hands.)

Photograph by Johnnie Harper – 1324 Sycamore St. – Rocky Mount – phone 2-2824

An elegant affair….from 1903 into the 1920’s a midnight supper was served in the tobacco warehouse were long tables were covered in satiny damask and adorned with crystal and silver. Mrs. F. S. Spruill described the banquets at the early balls. “All the ladies took their best silver, china, and linen for the midnight suppers which were served. They worked for days getting together the old hams, the chicken for salad, the freezers for the pies and the array of cakes. No one thought of leaving the warehouse because the refreshments were served with appointments and decoration of the very best.”

J.P.Bunn, local lawyer, became the unofficial historian of the dances, although I can make a case for the scrapbook on loan to me created by Marian Stinson Herring, (Mrs. George T. Herring, Jr.) as a great record of the June German through the years. The black & white photo above is part of Marian Herring’s historic record. Bunn’s authority began when he attended his first German in 1890 as a young boy. According to him, the dances were held in the fall in connection with an german-216x300agricultural fair. This was later changed to an early June date so the college students could attend. You will be amused that the economy-minded members of the organizing club found that a band could be secured at a cheaper price in June. Every male dancer admitted to the floor was dressed in black evening clothes. No exceptions. Even a movment to wear white dinner jackets in June was voted down. “Traditionally black evening clothes have always been worn to the June German.”  This image on right is from the 1906 Yackety Yack UNC Yearbook.

Countless intermission parties were given throughout the long night of dancing that ended at 5:00 in the morning. Residents threw open their homes to the many visitors. Though wild tales about drinking were told, J. P. Bunn insisted that they were exaggerated stories by folks who did not attend the dance. Twenty marshals had charge of the conduct on the floor, and no drinking was allowed. If a person drank elsewhere and managed to get on the floor, they were asked to leave. Here is one of the badges the Marshals wore found in Marian Herring history scrapbook. Were you ever a Marshal?  IMG_3743

Tomorrow

The June German dances cross over into the African American Community – Part 3

You Are Invited – June German Dance Memories – Part 1

dance-4 (1)The month of June is upon us. I invite you to remember a special time that was the highlight of the Rocky Mount’s social calendar. Consider this your personal invitation, which you must have, to dance the night away at the annual June German dance. You will need a beautiful dress, your tux cleaned and pressed, and the arm of  your best girl or handsome boy.  Image with me that preparations are underway once again by members of the Carolina Cotillion Club. Workers are transforming a tobacco warehouse with colored steamers and balloons hanging from the ceiling. Elegant banquet tables help turn the warehouse into a ballroom. This may be one of the years that professional decorating companies are brought in. In a  Saturday Evening Post article: the tobacco warehouse has been “transformed for the night into a sufficiently satisfactory Southern version of wonderland.”

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How did this amazing production get started? September 29, 1870 the citizens of Rocky Mount, NC gave a dance for their friends in the surrounding counties. It was called the “Grand Celebration Ball.” It was a great success and the organizers decided to make such dances an annual event. The dance was eventually moved to the month of June in 1880 and in 1903 the Carolina Cotillion Club renamed it June German. (In antebellum times dances were called balls. After the Civil War they were called Germans. Dances were called German cotillions when reintroduced in New York society in 1854)  The June Germans were traditionally held on Friday nights. The young girls and their dates started a round of parties that will climaxed with the June German dance.

More June German Memories – Part 2 – Tomorrow – Join me