Saturday, April 29, 2017

Outpost, outlaw, island a unique mix

Early 20th century photo of Ernest Coe and Ted Smallwood from Man in the Everglades book
Ted Smallwood, seated, talks with Ernest Coe in Smallwood
store in this undated photo that appears in the 1968 book,
Man in the Everglades. Coe was a driving forced behind
establishment of  Everglades National Park.
You have to want to go to Chokoloskee Island. It's not on the way to anywhere else. South of Everglades City, it's in the part of Southwest Florida known as the Ten Thousand Islands.

It's remote now. Imagine one hundred years ago. Chokoloskee Island is one of those places that lend credence to the idea of frontier Florida as a slice of the Old West, albeit with a different climate. Renegades really did hide out, shoot it out, and in general slink around. White settlers and Native Americans stepped warily around one another after fighting three wars between the 1830s and 1850s.

One famous outlaw story is associated with Chokoloskee Island and in particular with the waterfront trading post known as Smallwood store. My post isn't focused on the outlaw. His name was Edgar Watson and his story is overall scary. You can read about him in the island's Wikipedia page and in the novel Killing Mr. Watson mentioned in the embedded video, below.

The post is more about the store, which I visited with my husband some years ago. It's a historic site and museum now.

Ted Smallwood opened the general store/post office in 1906. History says he was known for having a mutually respectful relationship with the Seminoles in the area. You have to remember, the 19-aughts were only 50 years after the end of the Third Seminole War. In modern perspective, it would be like something that happened in the 1960s. Plenty of folk were still around who remembered the previous era. Seminoles and white Americans weren't on the most casual of terms.

The trading post both was and wasn't a Little House on the Prairie-type store. For one thing, the back porch extends right out over Chokoloskee Bay. The place was extremely isolated. Only about ten families lived on the island. Homesteaders could pick up their mail and find goods like lanterns, fabric, and farm and fishing equipment. But the store also hosted Indians who glided up on the waterfront side in canoes and traded furs and hides.

The store remained open until the 1980s and still retains its original look. I was amazed when I walked through. Soon as I dig out (I mean find) our photos from that trip I'll post some of them. In the meantime, you can see a great virtual tour on the Smallwood website.

Life on Chokoloskee Island in the early 1900s was unlike anywhere else. In some ways, it still is today.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Heavy music on a joyous day

screengrab of ad for Easter clothes, from 1916 newspaper
This ad appeared on the same page of the
April 21, 1916 Pensacola Journal as the
article about Easter music at St. Michael's.
Catholics tend to fall into two camps when it comes to church music - traditional or contemporary. Me, I like Gregorian chant. Some was performed at Easter services at St. Michael's in Pensacola a century ago. Along with a great deal of other music.

First, a digression. In case you're wondering why the blog illustration depicts Easter finery instead of something music-related. I had nothing to accompany the musical selections listed below, is one reason. The other is that the illustration appears on the same newspaper page as the article about the St. Michael's Easter service. Both are on Page 3 of the April 21, 1916 edition of the Pensacola Journal. At first glance, I thought I was looking at 1950s fashions. I rechecked the newspaper date, and sure enough it's 1916.

Pensacola has many strengths but it's hardly a hotbed of fashion forwardness. I'm intrigued enough to add women's fashion trends of the 19-teen years to my "future explorations" file.

Back to the music. The newspaper reporter said the choir "prepared a brilliant musical program for its part in the divine services Easter Sunday." The music was set to begin a half-hour before solemn High Mass. Another performance was scheduled for Easter evening, and the entire community was invited, including non-Catholics. The article makes a point of noting that fact. A crowd was expected, and extra chairs brought in.

Here's the musical program:

  • Vidi Aquam (Gregorian)
  • Regina Coeli (Giorza)
  • Kyrie (Emerson)
  • Gloria (Ganns)
  • Credo (Ganns)
  • Sanctus (Emerson)
  • Benedictus (Gounod)
  • “Pilgrims’ Chorus” and “Evening Star” from Tannhauser (Wagner)
  • “Sweet Reverie” (Tobani-Getz)
  • “As God Ordained,” quartet for strongs (strings?) (Muted)
  • “Largo” (Handel)
  • Postlude, “The Heavens Are Telling” (Handel)
Instruments were five violins, a cornet, flute, cello, bass, clarinet and organ. The musicians were mentioned by name. The violinists were O’Brien Motto, Bertram Coleman, Bertram Dannheisser, Max Heinberg and Fred Fairchild. On the cornet was Robert Diaz, with A. Distasia on flute, A. Diaz on cello, Benj. Fairchild on bass, a Mr. Brown on clarinet and A.C. Reilly as organist. No word on individual members of the chorus. Perhaps too many to list. The congregation was expected to sing even at the evening program.

The performances at the church were said to be the continuance of a "time-honored custom." St. Michael's in 1916 was already a historic parish, having been established in 1781. Today, St. Michael's is a basilica.

After reading such a glowing write-up, I dug up renditions on YouTube of several of the selections. Oh, my. Just about all were quite heavy. Much has changed in Catholic church music over the last century. For the better.