a pastime for the past


Today Nedjo and I came across the most charming musical sextet at the Hollywood farmer’s market (there is an accordion player hiding at the edge of the frame). I wish I had more pictures, or their name so I could find an audio clip to share.

I’ve  been arguing with a friend about how to categorize this kind of music (in the absence of an audio clip, can’t you just imagine their sound from the collection of instruments and those outfits?). Not brass band or barbershop, not quite jazz. I like to imagine them playing on a steamboat in the earlier part of the 20th century — “steamboat music” — that must be a genre?

The vocals reminded me somewhat of the Mills Brothers, a favorite of mine.

When I was in high school, I used to go downtown after school to frequent an antique store that was always playing the Mills Brothers. It was there I fell in love with the group. I would spend many lazy afternoons at this particular shop picking through their assortment of old postcards, most of which were never used. Sometimes, though, I would come across postcards that had been written on, even addressed and sent, but somehow never delivered or not kept, so that they ended up for sale. I have been collecting the latter group for some time now. My favorites are the ones containing love notes — to imagine, these carefully crafted words could be simply lost in the mail, or let go of — I like to think of them as clues in a mystery that I will never fully understand.

"A Shady Drive, City Park, Denver, Colo."


It reads, "This shady drive were built in vain/If we its soothing breadth disdain." Postmarked April 30, 1911 to Mrs. Emma L. Parks at 161 East 5th Street, Peru, Indiana.


"The World was made for only two."


Message unclear: "My Dear Friend, I wood like to ___ you have ___ you getting along fine. O.B." Addressed to ____ Edy the ____, City. Postmarked October 16, 1908.


 The front on this last one says it all, which is fortunate because the back is so difficult to make out. I’ve found that many times the addresses on the cards are incomplete. It was a much smaller world when a name and a city was all you needed to get a note to someone. Or maybe the note never did get there…

I acquired a considerable collection of these postcards from that particular shop until it burned up in the downtown Petaluma fire of 2002. I wonder what other thwarted love stories I might have found (imagined?), but perhaps some messages were meant to be undelivered, and unknown.


One Response to “a pastime for the past”

  1. Reading this post to the Mills Brothers music is totally romantic.

    Great ambiance friend.

    P.S. I’m itunesing Mill Brothers pronto!

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