"Still Racing with the Moon" --

A Gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society

January 21-23, 2005

by Claire Schwartz

photographs by Pat Reid, Kathy Blank, Jerry Furris and Claire Schwartz

Restored Country Inn

Located in Cattle and Citrus Country

The Location

The Seminole Inn, located only thirty miles northwest of Palm Beach, was the place selected to hold the first organized gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society.


The Seminole Inn

15885 S.W. Warfield Boulevard

Indiantown, Florida

Built by Baltimore banker S. Davies Warfield in the 1920s, who planned to make Indiantown the southern headquarters of his Seaboard Airline Railroad, the inn's charm is as evident today as when Wallis Warfield, niece of S. Davies Warfield (who later became the Duchess of Windsor), was there for the gala opening.


Although front-porch-sitting isn't as peaceful along today's Highway 710 as it was in the early 1900s, we did manage a few sessions with new friends.

No, this isn't S. Davies Warfield--

Gary Schwartz relaxes on the front porch.

Front lobby of the Seminole Inn

A description of the inn from the travel brochure puts it best: "The twilight grandeur of the 'Old South' is captured as you enter through grand double french doors into the main lobby. Adorned with its open fireplace graciously framed with winding staircases to the sitting room above, the nostalgia of an era gone by sweeps over visitors. A glance through the area reveals the original solid brass wall fixtures and bronze chandeliers molded to the crest of royalty. The pecky cypress ceiling and hard wood floors which Mr. Warfield specified in the original plans highlight the room with grace and style." And indeed they do.

Fireplace in upstairs sitting room

The inn has been beautifully restored and is run by Miss Johnnie, who with the aid of Miss Lisa,  Miss Carmen and the hi-jinks of a parrot named Crackers, more than adequately accommodated (and entertained) our group of twelve participants.

It was this historic charm and the inn's association with the railroad that made it the perfect choice for a gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society.  Of particular interest was the fact that the Foxgrape Cafe, where we held most of our meetings, had a western decor. Not only did saddles, cowboy hats and cowboy boots fill the wall cabinets, but a prominent painting of a cowboy on his horse hung on the wall, and with just an ounce of  imagination, one could be convinced that it was a portrait of Vaughn himself from one of his western movies. (No kidding!) There were also plenty of model airplanes lined up along the shelves. How appropriate.

Wall of the Foxgrape Cafe

Note airplane replicas

The participants pose for a group photo

The Members

We took a group photo on Saturday. In attendance were (l to r): Jay Popa, Jerry Furris, Kathy Blank, Richard Longtin, Fran Swenson, Pat Ried (in back), Tinker Rautenberg, Claire Schwartz, Marian Gower, Herb Wasserman and Christopher Popa.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that one of the highlights of the weekend was meeting Tinker (Cunningham) Rautenberg and her friend Fran Swenson. Tinker is a Moonmaid, of course, and we all had a marvelous time talking and socializing with her and Fran. They are two of the nicest ladies you'd ever want to meet.

The Activities

We set up two posters in the hotel lobby to announce our event entitled "Still Racing with the Moon." The activities were planned to remember the music and life work of consummate musician and orchestra leader Vaughn Monroe.


View of the Seminole Inn garden from the

second story balcony

Jerry Furris and Marian Gower relax in the

garden early Friday afternoon

Out of doors, the inn's garden provided the perfect spot for early arrivals to begin discussing  their favorite bandleader.

Participants began arriving on Thursday, and by Friday evening all members had arrived except one. We were saddened to hear that Bob Edwards was not able to join us due to a recent stroke. Most of the group then gathered in the main dining room at around 5:00 pm for a buffet dinner.

This was the first time many of us had met, and we spent the time getting to know one another a little better and sharing our common musical interest.

Dick Longtin, Tinker Rautenberg and

Fran Swenson pose for a photograph

in the dining room

Tinker converses with Marian Gower as

Lee and Susan Menke are welcomed

 by Claire Schwartz

Jerry Furris gives a friendly high-five.

Herb Wasserman deep in thought.

Susan Menke entertains the group with

stories of her famous aunt

Camel Caravan

By 6:30 pm, the group convened to the Foxgrape Cafe for a special presentation of three episodes of Vaughn's Camel Caravan television series. Our guest speaker, Susan Menke, joined us that evening, and brought along her husband, Lee. Susan is the niece of vaudeville, movie and television star, Shaye Cogan, who co-starred with Vaughn Monroe on his television series.

After some brief introductory remarks by Claire, Susan shared stories from her Aunt Shaye who now lives in Modesto, California. Susan had just spoken with her the previous night and told her about our group. Shaye couldn't believe that people still remembered her.

Shaye Cogan

Susan related numerous stories and anecdotes, some of  which are reprinted as follows from some of her emails:

Shaye was born in Hudson, Massachusetts, one of four children and the only girl. She and her two older brothers (the oldest brother was my Dad) performed in Vaudeville as "The Coggins Trio." Vaudeville business was starting to slow when The Coggins Trio reached their late teens. At that time, Shaye started to pursue a singing/acting career in New York. She also changed her name to Cogan.

Shaye's mother went to visit her in New York and didn't realize how quickly Shaye's star was rising. One day, while Shaye was out, her mom took a phone call. The man asked to speak with Shaye, and her mom informed him Shaye wasn't home, but she'd be happy to take a message. She asked the man's name and he said, "This is Bing Crosby." Shaye's mom assumed it was some kind of crank call and said with great authority, "And I'm the Queen of England!" and hung up on him.

Another story from the days when Shaye was appearing on Vaughn's TV show is sad, but it shows the drama of live TV and Vaughn's sweet nature. On the morning of Vaughn's live show, Shaye's father died. He was in Massachusetts and it was thoroughly unexpected. My dad said it would be best to call Shaye and tell her after the show, and all agreed. But Shaye's brother Mike couldn't wait, and he called her. She was very upset, but she said she would go on with the show. Her doctor was called and Vaughn made sure the doctor stayed nearby during the show, in case Shaye were to faint. But Shaye had been a performer since she was a little girl; she was determined to get it done. Well, she had a solo to sing theat night: "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You (Till We Meet Again)"--it was going to be rough. My dad told me

The Coggins Trio -- Mike, Shaye and Charlie

(Susan's father)

photo courtesy of Susan Menke

that in Hudson, Massachusetts, friends of the family had gathered at the funeral home, where arrangements were being made for Shaye's father's service. Somebody brought a TV into the room, and as people came in, they stayed to watch "The Vaughn Monroe Show," praying Shaye would be okay. You could hear a pin drop when Shaye stood on the stage and Vaughn directed the band to start the music. The moment came for Shaye to start singing. She opened her mouth, but her voice was gone. Vaughn stopped the music, then started the song again. Again, she opened her mouth, but she couldn't get the words out. Vaughn went to her side and put his arm around her. She wanted to try again. So, a third time, he started the song. And that time, she sang. There wasn't a dry eye in the funeral home in Hudson that night.

Susan concluded by saying that: "Vaughn Monroe was a lovely man and my Aunt has nothing but kind words to say about him."


photo from City of Stuart website


photo from City of Stuart website

Site Seeing


Saturday was a full day of sight-seeing around the Stuart area -- the heart of Florida's Treasure Coast. This is the community that Vaughn chose for his home during the later years of his life. (I don't think he ever really retired!)

The Elliot Museum

The group met in the hotel lobby at 9:30 am and car-pooled to the Elliot Museum located on Hutchinson Island for a 10:30 am tour. Norma DeSantis, our docent, was very knowledgeable about the museum's many exhibits. Of particular interest to our group was the museum's collection of several Vaughn Monroe related items all donated by Vaughn's wife, Marian. Among the items viewed were a saxophone that belonged to Mr. Monroe, the Indian headdress presented to him in 1960 by the Ponca Indian tribe, and the 1959 Mercedes he presented to his lovely wife on the occasion of their 19th wedding anniversary. His 1951 Indian motorcycle was on loan at the time of our visit.


Hand-painted signature on gas tank of

Vaughn's 1951 Indian "Warrior" motorcycle

photo from prior visit by Pat Reid and Dick Longtin

Note small plaque on glove box that

Vaughn had engraved for his wife Marian

We were treated to an impromptu concert

 courtesy of Tinker Rautenberg

Tinker plays the piano as Dick Longtin strolls

 by in the background

After the formal tour was concluded, Tinker entertained us with some impromptu singing in the art gallery where she was accompanied strongly by the resident pianist. It was thrilling to hear her beautiful melodic voice live, and nobody wanted her to stop. She received hearty rounds of applause after each number. After the piano player left, Tinker even treated us to a bit of her instrumental talents.

After that wonderful bit of musical whimsy, the group broke for lunch. It was a sunny, seventy degree day in southern Florida, so we sat outside on the deck of an ice cream stand located just down the road from the museum. The Atlantic Ocean was just over a nearby sand dune, and many of us walked over to the boardwalk to watch the waves breaking on the white sandy beach (or to watch the nearby sun bathers) after finishing our sandwiches.

Beach on Hutchinson Island

photo from Florida Vacation website

The entryway--a colonnaded portico with front door

handles fashioned in the shape of musical notes


The next stop was Vaughn's retirement home. The house is under private ownership, so our caravan briefly stopped in the road right-of-way for viewing and pictures. Everyone was in awe at the stateliness and elegance of the architecture, which Vaughn had a hand in designing during the course of a visit to Australia in the mid 1960s, so we are told. (Further photographs and information on this house is included in the Journal section.)

Welcome sign

St. Mary's

St. Mary's Episcopal Church  is the church that Vaughn attended when he was at home. He also reportedly sang in the choir.

A place of worship

Martin Memorial Medical Center

Martin Memorial Medical Center is located nearby, and the group was invited to view the display donated by Mrs. Monroe, which is located in the intensive care waiting room. We also viewed Mrs. Monroe's picture, which identified her as the president of the board of directors during the years 1984 -1986. She also served as president of the hospital auxiliary during the years 1977-1979. Group members spent a few moments in the coffee shop, and we were on our way.


Memorial showcase

A touching portrait of a

beloved bandleader

Fernhill Memorial Gardens

The final stop was Fernhill Memorial Gardens to place flowers at Vaughn's grave site. The small arrangement previously left by members Dick Longtin and Pat Reid in October was removed, and  they placed two urns with a bouquet of colorful silk flowers on each side of the headstone in love and remembrance.


Vaughn Monroe--The Magic, The Music

Saturday night's banquet began at 6:00pm in the Foxgrape Cafe. This private room was provided to our group on both evenings, but came with our own waiter (George) for our meal on Saturday.

Marian Gower gets served Seminole Inn style

Pat Reid joins in the conversation

Dinner is served in the Foxgrape Cafe

(l to r) Herb, Marian, Jerry, Dick, Kathy (at end of table), Pat, Fran, Tinker, Jay and Christopher

The table was set with commemorative "Racing with the Moon" glasses and floral candles in lavender and cream colors that floated in bowls of water and created a warm ambience to the room. Background music played melodies from the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra and The Moonmaids Plus One.

The aroma of the inn's specialty dishes completed the anticipation when George announced in high fashion, "Dinner is served!" We had another delicious buffet and an awesome blueberry-peach cobbler for dessert, compliments of the inn.

Claire solicits involvement

from the group

After dinner, Claire passed around her cell phone and all wished Lou Kohnen, society co-founder, a happy birthday and our wishes that he could have joined us. We also signed a card for Bob Edwards who was unable to join us. We acknowledged George with a heartfelt round of applause for his fine work as our head waiter , and we all signed a card thanking Johnnie and the Seminole staff for an exceptional stay.

Tinker shared portions of her scrapbook with the group and we viewed a video clip of The Moonmaids Plus One in concert. (Tinker asked me what my favorite song on the Moonmaids CD was, and for the life of me, I couldn't think of one selection! Tinker, I would have to say that I like them all.)

We finished the evening with a champagne toast (actually Cold Duck). Jerry Furris popped one bottle, but we had one stubborn bottle that just wouldn't open.

At 9:00 pm they were turning the lights off and we concluded with final pictures, goodnights and farewells in the lobby.


Tinker and Claire


Kathy Blank with Tinker

Marian Gower with Tinker

Good friends--Fran and Tinker

Sunday morning found most of the group, with the exception of Jerry Furris who left early that morning, attending the inn's famous Sunday brunch. We had a special table arranged for us and took advantage of one last meal together for socializing. Those of us heading north had become a little apprehensive of the weather, since the news casts continually flashed warnings about "The blizzard of '05," particularly in the New England area. But for us in Indiantown, it had been a perfect Florida weekend spent remembering and celebrating the life of a very special gentleman of song--still Racing with the Moon.


For a complimentary write-up on our weekend gathering, please read the piece penned by Chicago librarian, Christopher Popa, who hosts his own Big Band Library website. Chris did an excellent job of reporting on the weekend's activities in a feature called "Something Sentimental: The Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society." Thank you, Chris.


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