Do you believe in angels? I do. My angels are not the little cherubim that flit around the heavens as depicted in Botticelli’s paintings.
My angels are people who show up in my life when I need a lift, and and cheer me with a word, a smile, or a good deed.
I first became aware of such a being in August 1941, when I was fifteen. My parents had separated and my father had left our home in Youngstown, Ohio to live in Southern California.
My mother was unable to find employment in Youngstown, and decided to go to California and negotiate a reconciliation. She and I were on a train, the Santa Fe Scout heading West. I was feeling very blue, having left my beloved home town, school and pals. I had sold my bicycle and given Peanuts, my dog, to some friends. We had sold our home and nearly everything dear to us to start a new life in California.
On the third day of our journey, the Scout pulled into Winslow, Arizona to refuel, discharge and pick up passengers. As we slowly started to leave the station I looked out the window and saw a young man on the station platorm who certainly looked like a real, live cowboy. I waived at him and he smiled and winked, as if to say, “Don’t worry, partner, everything’s gonna be O. K. This gave my spirits a big boost, and I felt good. Yes, this was an angel!
Another angel was Cal. I met Cal in 1948 when I worked at a Texaco station. I was newly married and going to college on the G.I.Bill. Every time Cal came to the station, he always had something positive to say. He never failed to compliment me on my work no matter how small the task I performed in servicing his car. He also gave me a great deal of encouragement in my educational pursuits. I’m sure Cal was an angel.
A few years ago, on my way to play tuba in the Bay Area Concert Band practice, one of my tires went flat. I bagan to gather the tools necessary to change the wheel when a young man pulled up behind my Ranger pickup. Waiving me aside he changed the wheel. He refused payment; but then, angels have no use for money.
In the late 1950’s I was Vice President of the Southern California Hot Jazz Society. This is an organization for musicians, and others interested in playing or listening to Traditiional New Orleans Jazz. A music director would select five to eight musicians who would play a set of five or six traditional Jazz pieces and another set would perform. This was near the decline of the “Dixieland Revival” of the mid-1940’s. Be-bop had nearly replaced Swing and Rock and Roll was becomming all the rage. Public interest in Traditional Jazz bagan to wane, and many of the old time Jazz mucians were without a “gig.” Consequently, the Southern California Hot Jazz Society gave them a chance to play, an to keep their “chops up.”
It gave us amature musicians the opportunity to play with some of the old time greats. Peole such as Johnny St. Cyr, banjoist and guitarist with King Oliver’s Creole Band and Louis Armstrong’s Hot 7′ Pianist Alton Purnell from the George Lewis Jazz Band; clarinetist, Joe Darensberg; trumpeter Rex Stewart; bassist Ed “Montudie” Garland, and
drummer Edmond “Ram” Hall.
There was a Traditional Jazz program on one of the local radio stations, hosted by an announcer whose name is Al. I thought Al might be interested in atttending a meeting of
our jazz sociey, so I sent him a letter of invitation and two complimentry tickets to our next meeting.
I didn’t know Al was a musician, but he broght his “axes,” a trumpet and a trombone and played in one of the sets.
Al thanked me profusely for the invitation and joined the Society and became one of its most enthusiastic members and later became an officer.
Al and I never became close personal friends, but he was warm and friendly, and always very glad to see me.
Having other musical interests, I stopped attending the Hot Jazz Society meetings. When my interest was rekindled, several years later I went to a Jazz Society meeting.
Al spotted me and iintroduced me to his lady friend, Eva and nvited me to sit wi th them.
Al was called to play in the next set and Eva told me why Al was so kind to me. A few days beore he received my invitation, the radio station had cancelled his Jazz program. Al was so depressed, he was considering suicide. Coming to the Hot Jazz Society meetingsh and playing music had given him a new lease on life, and the letter I wrote possibly saved his life.
That’s why I believe in angels — I am one!
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