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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 07/20/11

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

INTERNATIONAL BARBERSHOP QUARTET CONVENTION AND COMPETITION FROM KANSAS CITY, MO.!




How It All Began
72 Years Ago, It All Started with 26 Men on a Roof

   Some say it was an accident, some say it was fate. Either way (or perhaps both) the movement we now enjoy as the Barbershop Harmony Society (aka. Society for The Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA) can be credited to a meeting in Tulsa organized by Owen Clifton Cash on April 11, 1938.
   Cash was really only interested in getting a few guys together to sing. There was no grand plan, no grand scheme. He and acquaintance Rupert Hall had a chance meeting in Kansas City several weeks before and discussed forming a Song Fest. On his return to Tulsa, Cash drafted an invitation and mailed it to the 14 singers he knew might show up and encouraged them to bring guests.



   The Tulsa Club was a high class place and popular destination for special dinners, weddings and meetings. Special accommodations were made for the exclusive members, mostly rich Tulsa Oil men. Rupe was a member and arranged for the location. The management decided to place the “singers” on the roof (in open air - under the stars) so as to not disturb the clientele.
   Although closed for years and under threat of demolition, the 11-story Tulsa Club building still exists in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma and is located on the northwest corner of 5th and Cincinnati. Built in 1923, it’s across the street (due north) from the Stanolind Oil Building where Cash worked.
   It was a fine, warm spring day. OC Cash, Rupert Hall, Donnie O’Donovan, Elmer Lawyer and “Puny” Blevens were the first to arrive. Rupe went off to arrange for the food leaving the other four to ask, “What Are We Waiting For?” They decided to try to woodshed the song “Down Mobile”.






   Cash states that he had invited 14 men and 26 “crashed the party”. They sang and harmonized to some old songs for several hours with several breaking off into quartets as well.
   Apparently some Tulsa club members on the floors below complained of the “noise” so the next week, April 18, they met at the Hotel Tulsa (3rd and Cincinnati). 70 men showed up at this second meeting showing there was interest in this idea and maybe an early indication of the future growth.
   By the end of May, the newly formed group began meeting at the Alvin Plaza Hotel (7th and Main) and hosting 75 to 150 men each week. What would later be known as the Tulsa # 1 Chapter, would continue to meet at the Alvin for 37 years.






1938 Was a Very Good Year
How it All Began


   The family unit was still very musical in the late 1930s with pianos in most homes and singing (harmonizing), still a popular pastime. Many could still remember, first hand, enjoying the old vaudeville quartets and the professionals such as the Peerless Quartet from the turn of the century. The love of close harmony existed even though it was no longer the most popular music of the day.
   In 1938 men harmonizing together had not completely died out but it was becoming rarer and certainly much less popular than 30 years before.
   There were actually several different groups throughout the country who gathered and sang close harmony for pleasure. The Tulsans, a large city-wide classical and glee club chorus, was a popular outlet of the day. Many new Tulsa barbershoppers would come from this group.




   The movement we now enjoy as the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A. Inc.) can be credited to a meeting in Tulsa organized by Owen Clifton Cash.
   Cash was really only interested in getting a few guys together to sing. There was no grand plan, no grand scheme.
   He and acquaintance Rupert Hall had met in Kansas City by chance and discussed forming a group. On his return, Cash drafted an invitation and mailed it to the 14 singers they knew might show up and encouraged them to bring guests.

The Song Fest

   The date was set for Monday, April 11 at 6:30 PM. Hall, a member of the opulent, rich oil men’s Tulsa Club, had arranged for the meeting to be held on the Roof Garden (up on the roof - in open air - under the stars). The Tulsa Club still exists and is located on the northwest corner of 5th and Cincinnati. Built in 1923, it stands 11 stories tall. It’s across the street (due north) from the Stanolind Oil Building where Cash worked.




   Closed for many years, it has escaped demolition many times. Its future is still in doubt.
   Twenty six men attended and harmonized. Apparently some Tulsa club members below complained of the “noise” so the next week, April 18, they met at the Hotel Tulsa (3rd and Cincinnati). Perhaps an early indication of future growth, 70 men showed up at the second meeting. By the end of May, the newly formed group began meeting at the Alvin Plaza Hotel (7th and Main) and hosting 75 to 150 men. What would later be known as the Tulsa # 1 Chapter, would continue to meet at the Alvin for 37 years.

   The popular joke is ... “There were 26 men who attended the FIRST meeting April 11, 1938 ... I’ve met 150 of them.”




Well Timed PR

   O.C. Cash was a master craftsman with the press. He would call his reporter friends at the Tulsa Tribune and the Tulsa World and give them such creative material about the new group, they couldn’t help but use it. The clever use of the initials SPEBSQSA (a humorous slap at President Roosevelt’s alphabetical agencies) was only the beginning.
   One such event was escalated into a “legal battle” via the press. A “reactionary group” had apparently sprung up and began calling itself S.P.C.D.A.D.P.O.F.L.T. (The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dumb Animals, Dumb People, and Other Folk of Low Taste). It was reportedly backed, promoted, financed, and advised by the Chamber of Commerce. Their purpose was to consider legal action to “suppress, squelch, obliterate, eliminate, dehabilitate and otherwise bring about the non-existence of the harmless group of tenors, basses, and leads who enjoy their own singing once a month.”
   The group, claiming to be fair, agreed to hold off any legal action until after hearing the quartets sing at the Chambers’ May 13th meeting. The performance was predicted to be “just provocation for either mayhem or murder”.
   Cash also “publicly” invited Bing Crosby to attend a meeting. Bing wired his regrets and promised to dedicate a song on his next Kraft Music Hall radio show. Crosby and other VIPs were later named to the Society’s Board of Directors. There was also interest in forming a chapter in Hollywood.
   Early on it was discovered the group needed some reference for the songs they liked to sing. The biggest problem was ... remembering the words. An official songbook of lyrics was produced, and distributed to all members. It contained 161 songs, many of which have not survived the five decades. The book was quickly withdrawn from circulation when A.S.C.A.P. threatened legal action against the Society.






Call The Cops!

   The gathering of May 31st was possibly the most important single event in the history of the society. Sixty three singers met on the Mezzanine level of the Alvin. In the heat of the early summer night the windows were opened to the street.
   To understand this event one must also be aware of the concern of the police department with spontaneous groups on the streets even years after the panic of the race riots in downtown Tulsa in (1921).
   Reportedly, there was such a sound coming from the Alvin, passersby on the way home stopped to listen, and cars began to pull over. Such a commotion was caused, a rare traffic jam resulted. Apparently someone (some have rumored it was O.C.) called the cops. Ralph Martin, a reporter for the Daily World, followed a policeman upstairs to the singers’ songfest to discover the source of the “riot”. Even before the traffic jam was dispersed, Cash took Martin aside and began writing his story. The next morning, Martin’s “song-by-song” account of the disturbance appeared under the headline of... “No, No Folks - You’re Wrong! That Was Musical History In The Making!”. Cash had taken the liberty to embellish the truth just a bit. He had told Martin that the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, as well as Time Magazine had shown interest in the new group formed to preserve barbershop quartet singing.







   He told of friends in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and other towns forming similar groups. The story was so “unique” it was picked up by the Associated Press wire and ran in newspapers around the country the very next Sunday.
   Those Cash mentioned in the article were surprised to read the report and began to get calls from interested singers. Groups began to spring up all over the country.
. . The Society was born.
   The Society’s second chapter was formed in Kansas City. Cash and friends traveled by rail to install that group on June 18. On July 23rd Tulsa barbershoppers took the “Frisco” to Oklahoma City to install the officers of the newly chartered (July 6th) chapter. They attended The Texas League All-Star baseball game that night.

1939

   Charters and memberships continued to be presented. There were no dues, rules, no officers, no headquarters but by the end of the year, eight chapters now including St. Louis, were meeting on a regular basis. Cash decided, if for no other reason than to get more PR, a major event was needed. A national quartet contest to pick “The World’s Champion Barber Shop Quartet” was to be held. Tulsa would be the site with contests being held on the stage at Central High School’s south auditorium.







   The dates were set for June 2 (Friday) and 3 (Saturday). The Hotel Tulsa would be the headquarters with a registration of $3 and an invitation to “MEN ONLY”.
   By Friday 150 delegates and nearly 50 quartets showed up representing ten states and seventeen cities. Competitors included the Flat Foot Four (Oklahoma City), The Maple City Four (Springfield, IL), Shell Quartet (Arkansas, KS), Topeka State Journal (Topeka, KS), The Industrial City Four (San Springs, OK), The Four Blue Notes (Tulsa), Jayhawkers from Topeka, and The Okie Four with Cash on Bari. The Bartlesville, Oklahoma Barflies won the contest, a trophy, and a $50 check (that’s $12.50 per man).
   Rapid and widespread growth had caught the Tulsa group by surprise. During the 1939 Convention a board meeting was held and our first slate of official officers were elected.
   It’s rumored that Rupert Hall returned from the men’s room to discover he had been elected the Society’s first President.
   O.C. Cash refused any position beyond his self appointed “Permanent Third Assistant Temporary Vice Chairman”.







   Against all odds, barbershopping is back. In 809 chapters in the U.S. and Canada, their organization, The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, is almost 35,000 members strong. That's right, an army of sing-songy men with close-cropped beards, wearing styrofoam hats and candy-striped jackets. While this annual 4th of July event takes place in Kansas City this year, coming years will be held in Nashville, TN and Portland, OR.
   What to expect if you go? Well, a whole hell of a lot of singing, of course, impromptu harmonies in line for the urinal, on street corners in town and on stage, where 50 quartets and 25 choruses compete every year. There are also plenty of other shows, plus workshops, seminars and clinics. If you're lucky, honorary member Dick Van Dyke will show up with his quartet to do several numbers. But event organizer Reed Sampson says, "The most wonderful thing you will witness is the diversity of our members, men or all ages from 9 - 90, occupations and ethnic origins, the common thread being the love of four-part, a cappella singing." Just mention of songs like "Coney Island Baby," "Sweet Adeline" and "Heart of my Heart" to a barbershopper and he'll weep tears of joy. Admission price is $85 for adults and $42.50 for children under twelve.

KRAMPUS, SANTA'S EVIL HELPER (AT LEAST IN SOME PARTS OF THE WORLD)!




    Krampus is not a muscle contraction that causes unpleasant pain, but Krampus does apparently inflict painful experiences or death to children who do not behave. This mythical creature has been a tool people have used to promote scare tactics in children.  Krampus is in cahoots with Santa Claus. In some parts of the world, Santa has plural helpers called Krampi.





   Krampus is depicted as an evil demon that has a long tail, horns, a long tongue, hooves, and carries a black bag or basket.  As a child, I never heard of Krampus. Not until I picked up a random National Geographic magazine at the doctor's office had I ever heard of Krampus. This creature originated in Austria and is still very popular in Germany.  Krampus is also related to fertility.






   The Americanized Santa Claus does not have these helpers. In other parts of the world, Santa's group of Krampi would be considered similar to American Santa's elves, except for the obvious differences that elves are merry, very small, and gleefully make toys, while Krampi are large and terrifying. Usually, the Americanized helper elves will secretly watch children throughout the year and report good and bad behavior back to Santa. These behavior reports help Santa decide whether or not to give children gifts or not. Spying elves seem creepy.








   Compared to what Krampi do, however, elves don't score as high on the creep-o-meter. Krampi warn and punish bad children (Wikipedia, 2010). They have the authority, per St. Nicolas, to take presents away from naughty children or, if they have misbehaved badly enough, Krampus will hurt them physically, lock them in chains, and stuff them in his black sack or basket and take them away. The children the Krampi determine are very bad will be whisked off for a not-so-special holiday in a dark, scary forest where they will live forever, tortured by the Krampi of the dark forest or possibly, be killed.






   Krampus pre-dates Christianity. He is still feared by some Austrians today and is believed to be an ancient god (Seven Trees, 2008). Other pagan things have been incorporated into Christian holidays, and so has Krampus in his correlation with St. Nicholas. Remember all the while we thought those hooves were from Santa's cute, flying reindeer? It seems we were wrong! Those hooves are from the feet of the Krampi who travel with Santa.






   So parents, from now on if the threat of receiving coal on Christmas no longer holds any fear, you may want to consider sharing the story of the demonic Krampus with your disobedient child. For extra effect, don't forget the furry costume complete with horns, long tongue, chains, black sack, and scary demon mask while you lurk outside the window some night to prove to your child that Krampi do, in fact, exist. Or you might try not being sadistic. Besides, in places where Krampus is still "celebrated", children have taken to dressing in black rags and chains, running through streets and terrorizing people. Some of them seem to have overcome their fear of the creature and have taken back the Yuletide and the night. The true origins of Christmas are pagan; this is one example of that fact.

IKARI BRIDGE DIVING FROM BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA!




    Each July, tens of thousands of spectators line the banks adjacent to the Stari Most, the Old Bridge that crosses Bosnia-Herzegovina’s beautiful Neretva River in the city of Mostar. Undeterred by the Balkan sun, onlookers keep their eyes locked on the apex of the single-arch bridge where, one by one, divers enter the water in a spectacle of machismo and local tradition as they vie for title in the world’s longest-running high diving competition: the Ikari.
   As one of the oldest venues for extreme sporting events, the Stari Most has been the place to go for male rites of passage since it was first built back in 1566. Set in the Ottoman Empire’s regional capital, the Old Bridge connected the Neretva River’s two banks at its narrowest point, a strategic location that marked the centre of the city’s earliest development. The name Mostar comes from the “mostari,” or bridge-keepers who held watch over the structure from the Halebinovka Tower on the west bank, and the Tara on the east. In a city dotted by minarets and spires, and inhabited by Croat and Bosnian ethnic communities, Stari Most grew to symbolize the peace and unity of cosmopolitan Mostar—a physical structure that also bridged cultural divides.






   Much of the Old Bridge’s charm also lies in its tradition of bridge jumping. Crossing the Neretva gorge at a height of 21 metres, over twice that of a high board diving competition, the Stari Most has long offered men the chance to prove their pluck by diving from its highest point into the teal-blue waters below. In Mostar, so the saying goes, as soon as you learn how to walk, you learn how to dive. It’s a rite of passage that makes heroes of men, and many take their first leaps during the annual Ikari competition in which up to seventy-odd participants can choose to make their descents either feet or head first. It’s no surprise then, that many of the world’s high diving champions got their start at Stari Most. Zvezdan Grozdic, the international cliff-diver






who has proved his mettle on the elite World Cup circuit, took his first plummets in Mostar back in the late 1990s. Although Grozdic now jumps from staggering heights off cliffs worldwide, it’s not easy to out-jump local legend Emir Balic, an Ikari veteran who by the age of seventy (in 2004) had taken the plunge over 1,000 times—the first when he was the boyishly tender age of fifteen.
   For someone like Balic, and the countless others devastated by the Bosnian War (1992-1995), the intentional destruction of the Stari Most on 9 November 1993 by heavy shelling, embodied the worst of the civil war for most Bosnians. As the stones of Stari Most tumbled into the Neretva River, the country witnessed the decimation of a globally-recognized symbol of multiculturalism and unity. With resounding






condemnation of what has since been called a war crime, the international community coalesced to support the reconstruction of Stari Most; and on 23 July 2004, the Old Bridge reopened in a celebration of renewed peace and partnership. After a decade of rebuilding, the ceremony was perhaps most touching when nine Mostar divers leapt into the Neretva River with torches in hand. 
   Returning after a 438-year-old run, the reinstitution of the Mostar Bridge Jump and Ikari is a sure sign that the Stari Most retains a strong significance for Mostar as a symbol of reconciliation and courage. 








When to Go to Mostar Bridge Dive


   If your aim is to take in the Ikari bridge jump, plan on being in Mostar the last week of July. The exact dates change each year, but the local diving club, the Mostarski Ikari, announce the final dates ahead of time. A call to the Mostar tourism board or a visit to their website in the month previous will provide you with the specific dates and times.
   Even if you can’t make it to Mostar in July, bridge jumpers continue to dive on a seasonal basis throughout the warmer months. Enjoy an ice cream atop the Old Bridge and wait for the divers to make their appearance. A good time to stake your dive-viewing location is usually in the afternoon to early evening.







   Now is a great time to visit Mostar. With reconstruction and the rebuilding of BiH’s infrastructure, tourists are returning to Mostar in greater numbers. Although Bosnia-Herzegovina is not mine-free, the country is not considered dangerous, and Mostar is safe for all travellers. Mostar’s Old Bridge area is also a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site as a symbol of solidarity and peaceful coexistence. Preserved in the Old Town are Mostar’s unique Turkish houses and the Old Bridge.

Odds n' Ends

   These days, the annual Ikari competition has reasserted its prominence as a tradition within Mostar. Presided over by the local diving club, Mostarski Ikari, Speedo-clad bridge jumpers continue to enthral onlookers with their feats of bravado. They jump, not only during July’s Ikari, but throughout the warmer months, entertaining tourists and residents alike. If you happen to be in Mostar, take a walk along the Old Bridge at Stari Most. You might luck out and catch a young boy take his first leap to manhood in Mostar’s Neretva River.