Reflections

Famous Light Operas And Mile-Long Trains

By Charles Cooper


Hello everyone I hope you are having a good week.  
Jack, my thanks to you again for the picture of Jimmie Rodgers as it seems like you always manage to locate one that is pertinent to that particular column.  
Eighty years ago a diagnosis of TB was usually a death sentence. I was even friends to  two people, Millard Hughes and Willie Lantrip, who died from that disease. Today it has been almost eradicated in this country. But, I remember Nannie Badley telling about nursing  her older brother, Charlie Haddox, who eventually died from TB, leaving a widow and two children.  
Jimmie Rodgers was 29 and working as a railroad brakeman when he contacted it. Fortunately he spent the last six years of his life recording some of the greatest country, blues and jazz of the 20th Century.
Charlie Christian, one of the great guitarists of the Big Band era, died from it at 26 years-old and Chick Webb, great drummer and band leader, was dead at 40.
The story was that on his death bed, Chick said to take care of Ella. She didn’t really need anyone to take care of her because she became the great Ella Fitzgerald and as they say, the rest is history.
Today we wonder why they didn’t learn what caused TB. I’m sure a hundred years from now they will ask, “why didn’t those people know what caused cancer?”
I’ve always believed when I hear someone talk about the good old days, that I hope we are living in  the good old days now. I haven’t written about churches lately, so how about this?
On May 24, 1738 the Methodist Church was established in England by John Wesley. Did you know that Sir Arthur Sullivan who wrote “Onward Christian Soldiers” also along  with his partner,  William Gilbert,  produced some of the most famous light operas and musical comedies of the 19th Century? One of the most widely known was “HMS Pinafore.”
Here’s some railroad trivia, in 1874 Master Mechanic John Becton brought the last wood fired engine to Water Valley. Today we have trains  that are over a mile long and I still find myself looking for the caboose, which has long passed into history. The double headers of the steam era have  given way to a pusher engine where the caboose once was located.
As I understand it, this idea was brought from the mountains in the west where on long grades an engine was stationed on a siding half way up to fall in behind a train and help it over the top and then return back to its former location and wait for the next train. This is just another example of American ingenuity at its best.  
Let me hear from you at my email address cncooper1@hotmail.com or write me at P.O  Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.

Leave a Comment