It was always my intention to blog the updates of my family research trips as I was searching and discovering the missing pieces of my family history. However, as life happens and I got so busy doing other things, I allowed my focus to be side-tracked away from my goals of sharing, so “blogging” had been put on hold.
Alas….I still get another chance to share with you what I have done, and I am so excited to do so…..
A prior post from April 2010, I talked about the historical significance of “THE TOWN HALL.” During my first visit to Harlem, NY, I had the opportunity to visit The Town Hall, while my daughter documented our trip through photography.
|The Town Hall Photo by Vanessa Moore
“The Town Hall has played a central role in the cultural history of New York City since January 1921, when architects McKim, Mead & White completed the building for a suffragist organization called The League for Political Education. Built to serve as and educational forum for the discussion of important civic issues. The People’s Hall revealed its extraordinary acoustics on Feb 12, 1921, during a recital by Spanish violinist Joan Manen. (taken from Town Hall 88th Anniversary program)
The Town Hall has deep history for its musical performances by many greats such as Marian Anderson who made her New York Town Hall Debut on December 20, 1935, after being denied a chance to perform at other venues because of her race. Others that have performed on the stage were, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Ellen DeGeneres, and many many more.”
The Town Hall also is known for its school programs which allows elementary school children to perform on stage to debut a recital for the people of New York.
This is what brought me to the Town Hall, as my mother Betty Mae Peters performed on this very stage as an elementary school student in her first recital in 1932.
I had the opportunity to tour the interior of the Town Hall, which at the time was closed. When I entered the building a gentleman by the name of George, who was the elevator operator, greeted me. I shared with him that my mother as a little girl in the 30’s performed at the Town Hall and I wanted more information on the establishment. He had me follow him into the elevator, which was the original and required an operator. He took me to the top floor into the administrative office and told me the President was there and he would have the necessary answers.
When I walked in, the first office I came to was the President’s, and his door was wide open. He was a big man, and was the whitest man I had ever seen…and he was not an albino. He looked up from his desk without smiling and in a very irritated voice asked what I wanted. I told him that he looked very busy, and I was sorry for disturbing him, but I had traveled all the way from San Diego, California and wanted to know more about The Town Hall and to take some pictures for my documentation. He told me he was too busy, but when I told him it was very important to me and why I needed the information, he allowed his assistant to tour me around.
The young lady explained to me that this was very unusual for him to allow her to show me around as he usually does not do that. She let me know I should take whatever pictures I could get as this is a rare occurrence. When we completed the tour, she had me go back to her office so she could give me a historical write-up of The Town Hall.
When my visit was over, the Elevator Operator gave me a wealth of information of the Town Hall and told me if I came back another day, he would have more for me. I did not get the opportunity to go back as my time in NY was short.
George shared with me that his father had worked at The Town Hall when he immigrated to the U.S. He came from a line of well known performers from Russia. His father worked at the Town Hall in the 40’s and 50’s and wanted his son to come and work there, but George didn’t until ten years ago.
|George, Elevator Operator
The two hours spent at The Town Hall was amazing and it was time well-spent. Next time I go back, I intend on attending a performance as they still hold shows today.
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