Celery Stalks at Midnight and the Big Apple

Recollections of Early Music include ‘Hit Parade’ and crowding around the radio

  There’s an old radio at the Stumptown Historical Society, and if you plug it in—it still plays for you, even if the choices are limited to all that AM radio has to offer. But what’s even better than listening to radio on the beautiful wooden antique is listening to old timers recall memories of crowding ‘round the radio to listen to music.

     “It’s where we listened about Pearl Harbor,” longtime local Flossie Fletcher recalled, “but we also listened to ‘Lights Out Mystery,’ which was real scary, and ‘Inner Sanctum’ which was “really scary.”

    And while the 20s and 30s represent the heydey of radio dramas, invariably it’s the music that came via radio that triggers the most memories.

     The “Hit Parade” was a favorite among almost everyone in the 30s—where music from the big band swing era played, when kids and teens would move furniture out of the way to cut the rug and even sing along. “The Hit Parade” was responsible for setting many people to song the following Monday.

     “I remember the song “The Old Spinning Wheel” in 1933,” recalled Arlene Wallace, 77. “People were always singing it around town.”

     Wallace remembers singing songs together as a family (her mother, sisters and father all sang while she played the piano, “I remember when Irving Berlin’s song “Marie” was in the movie “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

      Wallace remembers quite a bit more than just that song, still has the sheet music to all her old favorites and she makes it to the piano to play every few days, “It keeps my fingers and hands moving.”

       Wallace has the sheet music to many favorites at her fingertips—from songs with dramatic titles—like Bing Crosby’s “Where the Blue of Night Meets the Gold of Day,” “Deep Purple,” to a 1930s instrumental hit called “Springtime in the Rockies” (which every long-time Montanan can predict is a mixture of happy and sad chords—just like every springtime is a mixture of snow and sun). She even recalls dancing to some of her favorites with friends and family—dances back then were along the line of waltzes, fox trots and a little known dance that Wallace recalls as the Big Apple.

    “It was a sudden fad,” she mentioned with a laugh.

     Everybody has that tune that makes them want to sing along, and for Wallace, that song is “The Isle of Capri” from 1934. “Twas on the Isle of Capri that I found her under the shade of an almond tree….”

     Flossie Fletcher recalls crowding around the radio and several tunes, including “Day by Day,” “Harbor Lights” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Or what about “Begin in the Beginning.” Back then, it seems, every family had a piano player amongst them—and everyone else sang, “My sister played piano,” Fletcher admitted.

     Flossie, who also remembers the radio show ‘Hit Parade’ can sing all the words to “Good Night Sweetheart.” It was the stuff that people fell in love to back then.

     Flossie also recalls many of the band names that played all those hits, bands like “Larry Clinton and his Orchestra” and “Horace Height and his Musical Knights.”

    But her favorite song brings back the flair that existed in the music, words and even titles to the music of the 30s and 40s. Flossie’s favorite song of all time is “Celery Stalks at Midnight.” She laughs as she recalls the unusual title. “My sister and I just loved it. It was an instrumental that ended with the words “Celery Stalks Along the Highway.”