"Still Racing with the Moon II" --

A Gathering of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society

May 17-20, 2007

by Claire Schwartz

photographs by Kathy Blank and Claire Schwartz

Alanis Morrisette in "DeLovely" (2004)

"People say in Boston even beans do it. Let's do it--let's fall in love." The cheeky Porter lyrics were never so a propos, performed colorfully  in Brown Hall, one of the New England Conservatory's ornate recital halls, during an alumni concert called Club Cabaret. This mini-musical spectacular was only one of a symphony of surprises that awaited members of the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society who attended the second gathering held in Boston, Massachusetts on May 17-20, 2007. So, let's do it--let's revisit the events of that wet and wild weekend.


They say Boston is beautiful in the spring . . . We know one thing for sure . . . Boston is beautiful in the spring rain. We never saw the sun. While the rest of the country was experiencing  sunny and mild May weather, a system of stratus, cumulous and nimbus clouds settled in for the duration of our stay.



We stayed at the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center located at 40 Trinity Place in Boston's Back Bay/Copley Square area. Built in 1925, the eight story building started out as the club house for the University Club of Boston. In 1962 it was sold to the Chandler School for Women, and then to the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1971, during which time it was used to train new insurance agents. The building was renovated in 1986 and opened to the public for both meeting space and guest rooms.



The view from our 7th floor window


The John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center

photo from website

Classic in design and decor, the club house-turned-hotel was constructed in the Adams style with an exterior of limestone and Harvard brick. From the front lobby to the second-floor rotunda to the third-floor meeting rooms and atrium, the hotel is a monument of urbane charm and dignity. . . and the rates were unbelievably reasonable.

The double stairway  is accented by finely hand-wrought

iron balustrades with bronze handrails.

A  multitude of marbles from around the world grace each floor.

photo from website

The elevator foyer off the main lobby

Third floor - historic calendars from 1880s through 1907

Collections of rare historical books, artwork,  wall calendars and the only salvaged pieces of wall paper from the John Hancock homestead that was burned by the British are on display here.

Orchestra performing in Jordan Hall

photo from internet sources

Boston Public Library

photo from internet sources

"Vaughn Monroe Productions"

The downtown location put us within walking distance of the New England Conservatory, Boston Public Library and 73 Newberry Street--former office of Vaughn Monroe Productions.

Thursday evening, May 17, at 6:30 pm our group of six members and two visitors from the Boston area convened in the library, which was to be our meeting room for the next two days. Attendees included: Ed Shallow and his son Ken, Kathy Blank, Marian Gower, Polly Attridge, Herb Wasserman, Joel Klein and Claire Schwartz. Assorted snacks and beverages from the conference break area, a virtual marketplace of satiating provisions, were continually available for our indulgence. This evening, a selection of snacks was laid out on two round tables arranged for us in the library. We got acquainted (or reacquainted as the case may be) and viewed three episodes of Vaughn Monroe's television game show appearances from "What's My Line" (1954), "Name's the Same" (1954) and "Make the Connection" (1955). While some had seen the "What's My Line" episode, the other programs were new to all in attendance.

Gary with poster in library

Vaughn appeared in fine form in all of these shows, which were provided to the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society by Mr. David Schwartz of the Game Show Network. These programs are of special interest because they show, primarily through  close-ups, a very natural Vaughn reacting candidly to the panelist's questions and engaging in a little impromptu guitar duet with host Gene Rayburn of "Make the Connection." Vaughn is ever congenial and amusingly reticent with his celebrity and appeal when asked by Arlene Francis if he is "a bobby-soxer's delight."


The group also viewed a musical tribute set to Vaughn's recording of "The Things We Did Last Summer." All those who attended received special gifts as a remembrance of the Boston gathering before the first session broke up around 9:30 pm.

JFK paintings in library

Edward Shallow and Polly Attridge

Polly Attridge and Marian Gower

Polly, Marian and Herb Wasserman

Friday, May 18, began our first full day of activities. Our group now consisted of Kathy, Marian, Polly and her husband Paul, Herb, Joel, Claire and her husband Gary. We walked to the bus stop at the Back Bay Station in the rain. Fortunately, it was right around the corner from the hotel. Our first stop was the New England Conservatory (NEC). We were greeted at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Gainsborough Street by Ms. Jean Morrow, Director of Libraries at NEC, who proceeded to also stop traffic for us as we crossed the busy Avenue. We then proceeded to the main building, constructed in 1902, that houses the 1,013-seat Jordan Hall--one of the world's best concert halls. This was the same building were Vaughn would have studied in 1935 when he attended NEC, since the current library and Freshman dormitories across the street weren't built until 1959.

Front steps of the New England Conservatory

Jean informed us that Jordan Hall was renovated in 1995, but extreme care was taken to replicate the original wood flooring and finishes in every detail so that the unique sound quality would not be lost. One change was unavoidable, however. When the layers of dust were removed after decades of accumulation, the tonal quality of performances was notably "brighter."

After glimpsing this magnificent concert hall, we were lead downstairs for a brief lecture in Brown Hall, where the evening alumni concert was to be held. It was here that we presented Jean with a copy of the two-volume scrapbook printed from the micro-film obtained from the NEC. We also introduced Jean to Marian Gower, the original owner of the scrapbooks, who gave her creations to Vaughn fifty year ago. The last she saw of them, Vaughn was toting one under each arm as he headed toward his dressing room at the Meadowbrook.

Across the street in the library, we were met by Mary Alice Perrin-Mohr and Cheryl Weber, Director of Alumni Relations. Awaiting us were two long tables filled with framed photographs, some familiar, some new, even to long-time fans. Jean thought these may have once hung in The Meadows Restaurant.  Among the black and white "glossies" was a certificate dated September 27, 1945 electing Vaughn to membership in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Jean also showed us one of the 1,300 acetate discs containing Camel Caravan recordings and circulated a few of the 2,100 original  band arrangements from the Vaughn Monroe Collection  the NEC houses, as well as some interesting odds and ends. (No promises, but some of this material may be made available as the NEC provides.)

Mary Alice, Jean and Cheryl

Polly, Kathy, Joel, Herb and Marian scour the tables

While we were feasting our eyes on these treasures, our hostesses served up fresh coffee and donuts! We were much obliged and enjoyed some story-telling, along with a brief explanation of what the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society is about, including our own relatively short history.  Cheryl also mentioned that they are making students (and the world) more aware of famous alumni through a special section on the NEC website, which will house information on Vaughn Monroe and link to the VMAS website. We, in turn, will do the same. We left with parting gifts including a NEC key chain, a CD of student performances and an NEC brochure.


Our final stop was the Conservatory book store (smart move, Jean!), where many of us could not resist purchasing a souvenir or two. Jean then escorted us back to the bus stop and took a group photo on the steps of Jordan Hall while we were waiting for the number 39 bus. We said our goodbyes and were off to face the pelting rain and gale-force winds standing between us and our lunch.

At the hotel, we were served a buffet lunch of cold sandwiches, stuffed shells, green salad, coleslaw and assorted pastries for dessert.  We spent the afternoon in "show and tell," listening to a Vaughn Monroe sound-alike on a CD that Herb brought, listening to Polly's stories and reviewing her collection of autographed photos, news clippings, magazine articles and personal handwritten letters from Vaughn. Much of her collection had been lost due to a leaky roof, but what she did manage to salvage kept our interest for over an hour. (Some of Polly's experiences are posted as journal entries on this website). We wrapped up our afternoon session with an interview that David Schwartz conducted with Vaughn at the Disneyland Hotel on July 30, 1972. The interview had originally aired on public radio station KCSN (then known as KEDC) on a program called "Spotlight on a Star," which ran Sunday nights at 9 pm from August 1, 1971 to the summer of 1977. David informed us that this was the first time anybody had heard it in 35 years.


Vaughn comments on the popular rock bands of the day, mentioning in particular the Rolling Stones, and speaks of a possible upcoming record release, emphasizing  that he'd also like to have more television opportunities. The fact is, he was still working about 120 dates a year, down from the 360 one-nighters he played during the years that the band was at its peak.

After an hour reprieve, those who were up for dinner and a concert congregated once again in the hotel lobby. A computer with internet access was available for hotel guests, and several of our group spent time checking emails and surfing the internet, while others sat and chatted in oval armchairs encircled about a Hellenistic-looking table. Polly and Paul had already left and were to meet us at the restaurant. Marian, Joel, Claire and Gary decided to brave the weather and (at Marian's suggestion) hailed a taxi cab.


Uno's Chicago Grill--not an authentic New England establishment, but convenient and reliable with a nice atmosphere and photographs of Jordan Hall as an added amenity. We had reservations for 5:30 pm and plenty of time to walk across the street for an 8:00 pm curtain.


Spare time was spent in the student lounge as some of our group monopolized several internet-accessible computers. Others of us stood in the hallway and talked. Alumni soon began arriving for the concert. Thanks to Marian, we had been given access to Brown Hall during the sound check and staked out our seats ahead of the crowd. We were joined at our table by Mary-Alice and her husband George. Our tickets also allowed us two free drinks from the bar.

Paul raises a glass


Local radio announcer, Cathy Fuller, was the Club Cabaret host. She made a point of welcoming the Vaughn Monroe Appreciation Society to Boston and read a brief bio of Vaughn Monroe. We realized that, in essence, we were representing Vaughn at this alumni concert, since not one of us had ever come close to attending the prestigious New England Conservatory.

We stayed for the first half of the show, which consisted of the following acts:

  • Hansel and Gretel, Act II, Scene 1
  • Female vocalists - Loretta Giles, Gail Nelson-Holgate and Ruth Harcovitz
  • Class of '97 Jazz Ensemble

At intermission, we decided to forego the second act since it was already 10:30 pm and most of our group were exhausted. (Our sincere apologies to our most cordial hosts.) We walked past the exquisite portrait of Isabelle Firestone that illuminates  the exterior of Brown Hall. We passed below the intense gaze of Beethoven, who's bronze statue guards the old entrance off of Huntington Avenue.  Jean told us that Vaughn, too, would have passed under Beethoven's solemn sentinel. Outside, in the rain, we hailed a taxi and called it a night.

Hem of Beethoven's robe (upper left)

The weather on Saturday morning, May 19, was  not as windy, but alternated between a steady mist and a heavy drizzle. Polly and Paul arrived at the hotel at 9:30 am. Gary brought his car around behind Paul's, and we all piled in to begin one very unique tour of the Boston area.


First on the itinerary was a drive  passed the former Vaughn Monroe Production offices located at 73 Newberry Street, only two blocks from the hotel.



We then took the highway and drove out to Framingham for a look at the former site of Vaughn Monroe's Meadows. No trace of the original establishment. The only clue that the property once boasted a  night club and restaurant by that name, is a sign engraved with "The Meadows" referring to the office and commercial centre that now resides there. This historic landmark has been reduced to an office building and a Bennigan's Restaurant. We thought that perhaps a few of the pine trees along the back of the property were the same ones seen in the old postcards. (For more information, see Pat and Dick Longtin's journal entries regarding the Meadows.)

73 Newberry Street


3 Pine Road


From there, we drove up to Wayland and the sleepy residential streets around Dudley Pond. Our destination was 3 Pine Road--the location of Vaughn and Marian's honeymoon cottage. We parked the cars, and those who would or could, got out to take a closer look at the cottage, the rustic stairs leading down the steep embankment to the lake and the quaint dock protruding from the water's edge at the bottom. The structure itself was in the process of being renovated by the present owner, so we went around back to snap some pictures of what remained of the prior facade. (For additional photographs, see Pat and Dick Longtin's journal entry under "Vaughn's Houses.")



We understood why Vaughn and Marian would choose this beautiful, quiet location for their initial residence, since Sieler's Ten Acres (the club where Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra opened on April 10, 1940), is only about five miles away. We drove into the parking lot of the site, which is now a Jewish Synagogue and school. Being Saturday, Sabbath activities were underway so we proceeded on to our final stop in West Newton. (For more information, see Pat and Dick Longtin's journal entry regarding Sieler's Ten Acres called "It All Started Here.")


The stately brick Colonial at 35 Pickwick Road was wondrously still there. We parked the cars out front and some got out for photographs. This was Vaughn and Marian's home from 1948 until they moved to Florida a little over 12 years later. Little did we imagine that the present owner would come out to talk to us--although we did make a pretty conspicuous group. Mr. David Tarrant told us that he's owned the house for about 20 years, and was aware of its history, including previous ownership by the Monroes. He was not aware that Vaughn still had a following, an appreciation society, after all these years. Maybe we looked overcome with superlative admiration, or simply pathetically damp and desperately maudlin. In any case, Mr. Tarrant proved to us then and there what a really swell guy he is, and extended an invitation (that we in no way would have allowed him to retract) to come inside and see the house. Could the day get much better!? Elation. Polly had driven by this house  . . . how many times? And never dreamed that she would be invited inside. Mr. Tarrant went around through the garage to open the front door for us--Marian, Polly, Paul and Claire--the brazen ones who didn't think twice about touring a private residence, unannounced on a Saturday morning.

A lovelier home and tour guide one could not ask for. Mr. Tarrant even retrieved the original architectural drawings from the basement for us to see. The house was built in 1935, and an interesting design feature was the basement Ballroom clearly indicated on the plans.  Mr. Tarrant was kind enough to let us photograph ourselves in his home to prove that we were there. (For more information on Vaughn's residence in Newton, see "The Home Vaughn Picked up for a Song" in the biography section.)

Claire, Marian and Polly talk with David




Claire, Marian and Polly

35 Pickwick Road

We arrived back at the hotel just in time for lunch, which was waiting for us in the library. We were served up plenty of Boston's best macaroni and cheese, spinach salad and chicken breast with ample selections on the pastry tray.
After lunch, we discussed the Jack Marshard Orchestra and read a letter from Barry "Walt" Walters who had prepared a selection of Marshard recordings for Boston attendees. Interestingly enough, there also happened to be a recent notice in Reminisce Magazine by the nephew of Gil Phelan who was a vocalist with the Marshard Orchestra in the 1930s.

Since Kathy was having difficulty with mobility, she decided to forego the walk to our afternoon destination-- the Boston Public Library.  At the suggestion of Polly and Paul, we shortened our stroll in the rain and cut through the Copley Plaza Hotel.

Opulent, elegant, regal, royal, grand . . . all this and more, manifested in a mere building--that's the Copley Plaza Hotel. I do believe I had a stiff neck and dry mouth by the time we exited the revolving doors at the opposite end of the building, where we walked by the Opal Room. We found out later that Vaughn did indeed play there with the Jack Marshard Orchestra.

The Copley Plaza Hotel

photo from internet sources

Boston Public Library (Marian, Joel and Herb)

The Boston Public Library lay immediately adjacent across Dartmouth Street. Part museum, part library, the Boston Public is as classic as they come. "Walk where the great men before you have walked," comes to mind--a quote from the Universal picture "The Emperor's Club" (2002). We followed Herb up to the third floor through Medieval halls of Romanesque architecture. There, in the Koussevitzky Room was a special exhibit set up just for us.  A lot of work went into setting under glass and labeling all of the items-- the original musical scores,  the recorded acetate discs, rare photographs and letters (one from Eleanor Roosevelt to Jack Marshard) and newspaper articles. There was plenty of Vaughn Monroe material in this collection as well, and lots of information to be had on Jack and Harry Marshard in the articles on display. Mrs. Diane Ota, the librarian, welcomed us and allowed us free reign of the exhibit room. One rule was observed, however. No photographs were allowed.

By the time we were all satisfied with the extent of our examinations, many were ready to call it a day and head back to the hotel, while others enjoyed a walk around town before it was time to make preparations for the final event of the evening.

The banquet on Saturday night was held in the library.  A single round table was decorated with floating candles, party trimming and commemorative glasses. We enjoyed a fully staffed buffet of roasted Chicken Roulade, wild rice, field green salad, lemon scented asparagus, assorted rolls and apple crisp for dessert. Also, two bottles of white wine rounded out the meal. A variety of music played during our dining and socializing including the soundtrack from the MGM movie "DeLovely" (2004), Vaughn's "Racing with the Moon" CD and a compilation of Vaughn Monroe favorites from my collection. We took time out for a group photograph in front of the fireplace. Before we knew it the evening too had died down to mere embers. It was time to call it a night, bringing an end to our second gathering in Boston, Massachusetts.

Still Racing with the Moon II

Back row: Herb Wasserman, Paul Attridge, Gary Schwartz, Joel Klein

Front row: Kathy Blank, Polly Attridge, Claire Schwartz, Marian Gower

Thank you to all who came and participated, to our wonderful hosts and hostesses, and to a dear man for giving us his music and a reason to celebrate in a truly spectacular city.


May 21. Sun-day. Of course.

Sunny smiles

Welcome board

Friendly  smile

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