The Morning Tribune, Saturday August 3, 1936

The Spotlight by Mel Washburn

(While Mr. Washburn is on vacation a number of figures in the public eye are writing his column as guest conductors.)

By Martha Boswell

Dear Mel,

You asked me to write a column for you as you wanted a rest or something. But I’d rather write you a letter if you don’t mind and then you can use it as a letter, or by trimming the edges turn it into a column just as you please. You didn’t say how much you wanted me to write so if its too long just cut off the end and send it back as my wastepaper basket needs using just as much as yours.

Of course if others are to read this I shall have to be careful what I say – particularly about you. And that brings me to the weather. I was in Chicago last week to see my sister Connie working alone (and what feelings that stirred up for me) and the temperature was over 100 degrees. I came to New Orleans from there and I believe the temperature was about the same but with what a difference. In the old hometown the heat being familiar seemed friendly instead of oppressive. And the nights were cool and taking it wasn’t all that difficult.

What is it about our old city that makes it so much more individual and interesting than any other place in the world? You ought to know with the way you get around. Is it carnival? The carefree tradition? Is it the swing music which we gave to the world and which seems to be in the bones of most of us? I dunno, I’m sure, Mr. Mel, but here’s some of the things I sho’ do like when I get home:

  • Writing a column for Mr. Mel Washburn
  • Hearing dramatic stories from numerous different individuals as to how they caught the mammoth sardine that hangs in the Roosevelt bar and never finding out what really did catch it…I would have my own suspicions but that I am sure fishmongers would never keep such big fish in stock.
  • Seeing Shirley Temple for 16 cents.
  • Turning in some of my bonds for 50% of their value
  • Being awakened by a huckster shouting “Watermelons, red to the rind.” And wondering why he changes keys for the different kinds of vegetables he sells.
  • Meeting my friends “under the clock at DH Holmes”.
  • Sending pralines to people in various parts of the world.
  • And the thrill of seeing those old bales of cotton again in the most out of the way places.
  • Coffee at the French Market just before dawn and watching the shrimp come in.
  • Home cooking such as there never was and hearing George, ya know, use his biggest superlative and declaring it reminds him of his old South Africa.
  • Sitting on the porch where we played as little girls and hearing our records played by the sound truck. The operators of the trucks, whenever we are home, come around and serenade us with our latest recordings. Which I think is pretty nice of them.

Well you will have guessed by now that I am very struck on my hometown and Connie and Vet feel the same way as I do. Its seems now that life has carried us away from it but for my part I want in my new home near Peekskill New York to surround myself with some of the things from here that are dear to me. I am told that magnolias (the little rebels) will not thrive up no’th. But there must be other flowers and shrubs indigenous to New Orleans that we could grow and will. Have you any suggestions? You don’t look like a botanist but perhaps you are. If you are not, probably some of your neighbors are. Therein lies your problem. I would love some of their slips


Sorry for the interruption Mel, but I’ve just been listening to Connie singing on Ben Bernie’s program. She was in Detroit for it and is going there for a well earned rest in the Canadian woods. She was in great form tonight and sounded better than I ever heard her. But Vet and I sure do miss being with her. We know she’s a great artist and has all the recognition from the press and public that anyone could wish. But after the years we’ve all been together it is not easy being parted. Perhaps by the end of this year we’ll be able to arrange our affairs so we can be near each other again – not necessarily to sing as a trio – but to keep and preserve that thing we have always appreciated more than our professional work: family love with plenty of domestic harmony.

I must have written more than enough by now, so goodbye old bean. We are off to New York and from there the whole family (Pappa and Uncle Charlie – the whoopee boys – Mamma and Aunt Matt, Connie and Harry, George, Jules and myself) will assemble in Toronto where toward the end of this month our dear little Vet will contribute to human happiness another small voice.

Articles Written by the Sisters