The Summer of ’64

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The Prince

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For three summers in the 1950s, a prince walked among us, and although his proper name was Harry Stockwell, he did not go by “Prince Harry.” He was, in fact, the voice of the Prince in Walt Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, singing “One Song” in his regal baritone.

Stockwell’s first appearance in Skaneateles was actually in 1935, on the screen of the Huxford Theatre in Here Comes the Band. In the 1940s, Stockwell was on Broadway, playing the lead role of “Curly” in Oklahoma. In the following decade, he toured the country in summer stock.

In 1952, he came to the big, blue tent of the Finger Lakes Lyric Circus on the edge of Skaneateles to portray The Red Shadow in “The Desert Song,” John Kent in “Roberta,” Prince Danilo in “The Merry Widow” and Captain Warrington in “Naughty Marietta.” The following year he was Tommy Albright in “Brigadoon,” and the summer after that he reprised his role in “The Desert Song.”

I would love to know if he ever did “One Song” as an encore, or perhaps after dessert at the Sherwood Inn or Krebs.

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Ramblin’ Jack

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On his way to a concert in Oneonta, N.Y., Ramblin’ Jack Elliott stopped by the Creamery Museum to look at the boats. He’d owned a Penguin, and was thrilled to see a Rhodes Bantam and Lightning #1. A charming fellow and, in my book, one of the greatest of singers and storytellers to ever visit Skaneateles.

Fritz Kreisler at the Krebs

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In July of 1918, Fritz Kreisler dined at the Krebs. An Austrian-born violinist and composer, he was one of the most famous violin masters of his or any other day, and regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, with a sweet, expressive tone that was his alone.

Just four years earlier, Kreisler had been caught up in World War I, on the Eastern Front, as an officer in the Austrian army. His time there was brief, and he described its conclusion in Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist (1915):

“The Russians by this time evidently had realized our comparatively defenseless condition and utter lack of ammunition, for that same night we heard two shots ring out, being a signal from our sentinels that they were surprised and that danger was near. I hardly had time to draw my sword, to grasp my revolver with my left hand and issue a command to my men to hold their bayonets in readiness, when we heard a tramping of horses and saw dark figures swooping down upon us. For once the Cossacks actually carried out their attack, undoubtedly owing to their intimate knowledge of our lack of ammunition. My next sensation was a crushing pain in my shoulder, struck by the hoof of a horse, and a sharp knife pain in my right thigh. I fired with my revolver at the hazy figure above me, saw it topple over and then lost consciousness.

“Upon coming to my senses I found my faithful orderly, kneeling in the trench by my side. He fairly shouted with delight as I opened my eyes. According to his story the Austrians, falling back under the cavalry charge, had evacuated the trench without noticing, in the darkness, that I was missing. But soon discovering my absence he started back to the trench in search of me… He revived me, gave me first aid, and succeeded with great difficulty in helping me out of the trench. For more than three hours we stumbled on in the night, trying to find our lines again. Twice we encountered a small troop of Cossacks, but upon hearing the tramping we quietly lay down on the wayside without a motion until they had passed. Happily we were not noticed by them, and from then we stumbled on without any further incident until we were hailed by an Austrian outpost and in safety.”

I trust that Kreisler’s dinner at the Krebs was far more restful.

Sand Dancers at Legg Hall

Gibbs HeadlineIn 1906 and ’08, The Gibbs Sisters of Syracuse, Marjorie and Lula, played Legg Hall for the benefit of the local firemen. The young girls were known for their buck and wing dancing, a minstrel style that included elements of clog dancing, high kicks, and steps such as the shuffle and slide. The sisters also performed a sand dance, more of a soft shoe, sprinkling sand on the floor to make turns and steps more fluid. The duo regularly received rave reviews:

“The Gibbs sisters – Margie and Lulu – tots about 9 or 10 years of age – simply captured the audience with their singing and dancing, their sand dance being particularly good.” — Acadian Recorder, Halifax, Nova Scotia, July 11, 1905

“The singing and buck and wing dancing by the Gibbs Sisters met the approval of those present, and they were obliged to respond to several encores.” – The Rome Daily Sentinel, December 1905

“The Gibbs Sisters, clever juvenile buck and wing dancers, made a pronounced hit with the audience, and received no end of applause and also bouquets of flowers. They sang sweetly and danced with spirit and precision.” – Syracuse Post-Standard, March 1906

At Legg Hall, they “gave universal satisfaction.”

Note: The Gibbs Sisters of Syracuse are not to be confused with Myrtle and Mattie Gibbs, who also toured in vaudeville, or Mary and Margaret Gibb, born in 1912, “America’s Siamese Twins,” who had a career in vaudeville and as a sideshow attraction.

Gorton’s Minstrels

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In July of 1901, Gorton’s Minstrels appeared at Legg Hall. On the road since 1867, they had gone coast to coast 16 times, had been shipwrecked and nearly drowned off the coast of Prince Edward Island and parched in the blazing sun of the Yuma Desert. An 1898 account from a California newspaper describes the company of musicians and comedians who found their way to Skaneateles:

“The claim is made that now, and for very many years, this has been the only troupe giving old-time and genuine negro minstrel performances. It is represented that the ‘Gold Sextet’ is a feature of the troupe equaled by no other organization. It has comedians, specialists, solo vocalists and solo instrumentalists of a superior order. The troupe is composed of white men entirely, who, it is conceded, give negro minstrelsy better than colored men, though there are some excellent colored troupes in the country.”

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