Seaside signal. (Seaside, Or.) 1905-current, April 29, 2016, Page 4A, Image 4

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    4A • April 29, 2016 • Seaside Signal •
How death of a bandleader
refl ected upon a long-ago era
celebration at
Seaside High
n the 1940s, Seaside was
Lunceford, a teetotaler,
witness to a curious and
was “a perfectly healthy man
disturbing incident.
who had boxed, run track, and
Despite an abun-
played softball,” according to
dance of musical clubs
trumpeter Joe Wilder. “It was
and dance halls — Club
one of the saddest days of my
Monterey, the Lodge, and the
Bungalow — race relations
At the request of his wife,
were tense.
Crystal, Lunceford’s body was
Oregon’s Democratic Sen.
fl own to New York City on July
Wayne Morse, a champion of
14 for the funeral service.
civil and labor rights, joined
The leader was buried in
progressive politicians in call-
Memphis, his hometown.
ing for equal rights for all races
A memorial service with
with the passage of a national
remaining band members took
Civil Rights Act.
place that week at Rockaway
Many Oregonians — in-
Beach, the last concert before
cluding the editor of the Signal
the Lunceford Orchestra per-
in a 1948 editorial — feared
manently disbanded.
Morse’s stance would create
But before long, Determeyer
a backlash and lead to “even
wrote, “the myth surrounding
more terrible persecution in
Lunceford’s death was in full
In the ’40s, Sandy Winnett
The Clatsop County Coro-
worked as a waitress at the
ner declared Lunceford died
ice cream shop adjacent to the
of “coronary occlusion, due to
Bungalow. Today she is a vol-
thrombosis of anterior coro-
unteer at the Seaside Museum
nary artery due to arterioscle-
and Historical Society.
rosis” — in other words a heart
Jimmie Lunceford
Winnett remembers an
attack caused by a blockage.
“open-minded attitude” among
Determeyer’s telling casts
most Seaside residents, a time when people of all backgrounds
doubt on the coroner’s report.
“came to dance” in Seaside.
“Simple, plain racism is really the key word here,”
“Dancing in those days was a much bigger social event than
Determeyer said via email last week.
it is today,” added longtime Seaside resident and author Gloria
Controversy lingers
Stiger Linkey. “We
But Seaside residents and even a jazz musicologist, disagree.
danced every Friday
Seaside’s Linkey thinks it’s not plausible Lunceford and his
night at the high
bandmates were sickened or worse, or even asked to be turned
school. After the bas-
ketball and football
“Oh, he was served,” Linkey said. “There was no animosity.
games, we had a
No racism at all. At least growing up in Seaside, I didn’t feel it.”
dance. We danced all
As a tourist town, the goal was to sell as many tickets as
the time.”
Linkey remembered a time when teens would drive their cars possible, she said. “Because if you can serve tourists, you can
— or their parents’ cars — to Seaside’s Cove, turn their radios
serve an African-American.”
on and dance through the night by the beach.
Linkey added the biographer “takes giant leaps” in suggest-
ing a racial incident was a factor in Lunceford’s death.
A mysterious death
Linkey said while there “weren’t many blacks in the area,”
It was into this environment that bandleader and alto sax-
there were no segregated dances. “We did have African-Amer-
ophonist Jimmie Lunceford arrived in July 1947 to play the
icans in the summer from Portland. There was an infl ux during
Bungalow, the city’s preeminent dance hall.
World War II. They worked in the shipyards.”
It wasn’t just white bands like Glenn Miller and Tex Beneke
Seaside’s Mary Cornell, who attended dances since she was
that headlined Seaside’s top club, but groups like Lionel Hamp- in eighth grade in the war years, said people of all ages were
ton, Cab Calloway and Fats Waller.
welcome at the Bungalow. She said she never saw anyone
“To the local teenagers, the Bungalow was heaven,” Lunce-
turned away.
ford’s biographer Eddy Determeyer wrote.
Lunceford was considered to be on an equal with Count
Basie and Duke Ellington, Linkey said. “He had a master’s
degree in music. He was a very educated man.”
But Lunceford’s arrival was said to be anything but civil.
Lunceford and his band were an all-black ensemble, although
Lunceford had in the past led integrated bands.
Rumors have circulated throughout the years that a racist
restaurant owner poisoned Lunceford.
According to accounts presented in his biography of Lunc-
eford, 2009 “Music is Our Business,” Lunceford’s musicians
learned the Bungalow dance was to be played for a segregated
crowd — whites only.
Management asked Lunceford’s black valet to stand out front
and discourage black couples who came to purchase tickets
Gloria Stiger Linkey and Mary Cornell both remember the
from buying: “They don’t want to sell to people like us.”
halcyon days of big bands in Seaside.
Lunceford band bass player Truck Parham remembered that
band members walked into a restaurant on Downing, not far
from the Bungalow.
African-Americans also
On scanning the group, the waitress is said to have told the
came to Gearhart and Seaside
musicians: “Can’t serve you. We don’t have no food.”
as domestics for wealthy fami-
Determeyer writes that Lunceford, normally even-tempered,
lies, Cornell said.
even restrained, pounded the table with his fi sts.
Sandy Winnett said Deter-
“What the hell do you mean, you can’t serve us?!” Lunce-
meyer’s account was “extreme-
ford demanded. “Call the manager!”
ly unlikely.”
The waitress panicked and hurried back to the kitchen.
Even a jazz musicologist,
After a minute or two, Determeyer wrote, she came back and Lewis Porter, pianist, Rutgers
said the men could order after all.
University professor and au-
The guys ordered hamburgers.
thor of “Jazz: From Its Origins
Interior of the Bungalow
“No, I’m sorry,” the waitress said. “We don’t have nothing
to the Present,” doubts the
dance hall.
but beef sandwiches, hot beef sandwiches.”
poisoning rumor.
The grumbling musicians ordered the sandwiches, with the
“It was probably not a good
exception of bassist Truck Parham.
idea for Determeyer to throw in at the very last sentence of the
“The rest of the band ate it,” Parham said. “Lunceford had it.” chapter that Jimmie may have been poisoned for being black,”
Parham left without eating.
Porter said via email.
According to Determeyer’s account, after the meal, the band
Botulism is not a poison and cannot be “manufactured”
members returned to the Bungalow, except for Lunceford, who
or “planted,” Porter said. “It’s simply a severe form of food
complained he was tired and wasn’t feeling well.
poisoning that can occur in, for example, rotten meal. But he
He headed across the street to Callahan’s Radio and Record
(Lunceford) died from a heart attack — nothing to do with
Shop at 411 Broadway, next to the Broadway Café, to autograph the food! He’s not the fi rst guy to die suddenly at a relatively
albums for fans.
young age from unsuspected heart trouble, especially in those
There Lunceford collapsed and died. He was 46 years old.
Poisoning is not the only rumor to survive surrounding the
End of an era
cause of Lunceford’s death, which range from “Lunceford ate
According to the news story in the July 1947 Signal, Lunc-
a double portion of chili con carne while on tour and died al-
eford was about to autograph Callahan’s record store wall,
most immediately” to a theory he was shot by a gangster while
reserved for musical celebrities who came to Seaside, when
signing records at Callahan’s.
owners Edward and Walter Hill noticed the bandleader looking
Lunceford band member Truck Parham died in 2002.
weak and ill.
Trumpeter Joe Wilder died in 2014. With them go their eye-
A moment later Lunceford collapsed and was seized by
witness accounts.
severe convulsions, according to the report in the Signal.
Are the still lingering suspicions about the Lunceford death
The owners called the police and an ambulance, but Lunce-
akin to the mistrust so many black Americans still feel about
ford died before reaching Seaside hospital.
the police and other authorities?
The show, despite Lunceford’s death, went on that night,
Maybe the best way to refl ect upon this incident is by
Determeyer wrote, but one musician after the other left the
stressing the goal of diversity that Lunceford, progressive
bandstand and headed to the restroom.
politicians like Sen. Wayne Morse and Seaside’s young music
“I’m the only one that didn’t get sick,” Parham said. “Botu-
lovers of the 1940s — in love with the bands, the swing and
lism, you know.”
the dance — were so desperately attempting to foster.
Steve Forrester
R.J. Marx
Claire Lovell
Jon Rahl
Esther Moberg
Katherine Lacaze
Eve Marx
Betty Smith
John D. Bruijn
Carl Earl
Laura Kaim
Brandy Stewart
lie Zagata had a good idea about a centennial cele-
bration for Seaside High. Most of my siblings went
there — at least fi ve of them and I remember my
own years fondly. The old restroom library sounds interest-
ing. I always wondered where it was and am surprised that
Miss Gillman was
its fi rst librari-
an. She was also
librarian at the
high school in its
early days and lived
across the street
from us. Her house
has been replaced with a more modern type, but memories
All of the local papers do a fantastic job of sports report-
ing. Their terrifi c pictures add so much to the stories they
have to tell. It’s so vastly different from what my generation
likes to call “the good old days.” I was in high school during
depression times when some of us couldn’t afford the price
of a season ticket to sports events. Today it seems that sports
are the “be all end all” of school. Even for it to exist. Parents
are often driving their athletes to various venues for games.
It’s perhaps more than once a week and could be a real hard-
ship. It may even be that these excursions have nothing to do
with the school. If the kids manage to get in some readin’,
writin’ and arithmetic during their school days, it’s a miracle.
Will we have a workforce of jocks or do they have time to
learn something?
We little-bit-South County folk are maybe just as
interested in the goings on in Gearhart as are its residents.
While we understand profi t and loss as well as the next guy,
it will be hard to think of Gearhart without a grocery store.
(Perhaps if the owners had had more sales once in awhile,
people would be more inclined to shop there.) Maybe they
do. In my familiar territory, “the good old days,” there were
two groceries in Gearhart. Regrettably, N.E. Willis and Son’s
corner grocery, which the Gearhart Grocery was once called,
was less thriving than Cutler’s across the street where the
restaurant now holds sway. The proprietor there was younger
and more affl uent, while Mr. and Mrs. Willis (my sister Alta
Mae’s in-laws) was an older couple, pretty much worn out
from the battle. They had a delivery truck that doubled as a
school bus and would never pass today. My sister picked up
the kids, delivered them to school and took them home later.
I rode with her on one of those occasions. The truck was
equipped with a bench along either side of the back where
the kids sat. Most of them lived in the McCormack Gardens
area and I remember the route — in at the north entrance
and out at G St. I forgot if the school was the artists red
building by the restaurant or if that was the gym. It was in
the 30s when I lived with Al for a while. She had a house on
the ridge path about 3rd or 4th. Gearhart, like Seaside, has
changed so much since then. Every town has its metamor-
phoses — not for the better always, but different. And, we
usually appreciate the familiar and the reliable. As to the
brewpub, certainly one element of the population will be
pleased. If we can’t always have our way, we learn to adjust.
Laugh lines:
Q. Why do some party givers like to invite ghosts?
A. They bring the boos. (Courtesy of Dana Perino.)
When you put “the” with “IRS” it becomes “theirs.”
(Courtesy of Leila Vernor.)
No more
An open letter to the Gearhart Planning Commission re-
garding transient lodging dwellings proposal(s): First, the
quiet opportunists lent out their single family homes in Gear-
hart for short term use by friends. Then they realized it was
so easy, they started charging rent to friends, relatives and
Next came the small investors, who realized that they
could buy single family homes and capitalize their invest-
ments by renting them out regularly. More recently came
the barbarians, who solicited single family home after single
family home in Gearhart with promises of riches by manag-
ing their rental. Amazing, fi nally came the city government
who saw they could augment the general fund by imposing
a tax on rents.
They all have one thing in common: Money.
There is no question the city government has been too
slow to react to this growing onslaught of commercial use
in residential neighborhoods. Now, the matter is being re-
Frankly, I was initially ambivalent on the matter. After
sincere effort and research, I am convinced the allowance or
use of transient lodging rentals violates the letter and spirit
of the Gearhart Comprehensive Plan and should be denied.
The city is required to “limit commercial activity in the
City,” “prevent the City from becoming a tourist destina-
tion,” and “maintain the predominately residential character
of Gearhart through appropriate zoning and land use devel-
opment regulations.” Allowance of transient lodging fl ies in
the face of these policies.
When revising the plan, “The broad community interest
must be served by the change and not for just any private
interest.” Well, changing the plan, etc., as proposed, other
than providing more money to the government coffers, only
serves to allow commercial “private” interests to prosper.
Frankly, the use doesn’t even qualify for allowance under
the 1994 Gearhart Comprehensive Plan and should be de-
nied now.
This is a concise description of some of my objections to
the proposals. Just because many have been getting away with
this commercial activity in residential zones doesn’t mean it
should be allowed to continue at all. To be more than kind to
See Letters, Page 5A
Seaside Signal
Letter policy
The Seaside Signal
is published every
other week by
EO Media Group,
1555 N. Roosevelt,
Seaside, OR 97138.
The Seaside Signal welcomes letters to the
editor. The deadline is noon Monday prior to
publication. Letters must be 400 words or less
and must be signed by the author and include a
phone number for verifi cation. We also request
that submissions be limited to one letter per
month. Send to 1555 N. Roosevelt Drive,
Seaside, OR 97138, drop them off at 1555 N.
Roosevelt Drive or fax to 503-738-9285.
Or email
Annually: $40.50 in county • $58.00 in
and out of county • e-Edition: only $30.00
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
Seaside Signal, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR
97103. Postage Paid at Seaside, OR 97138 and
at additional mailing offi ces. Copyright 2015 © by
the Seaside Signal. No portion of this newspaper
may be re-produced without written permission.
All rights reserved.