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July 10, 1998

Joyce Tell is another one of those who enjoy listening to Big Band music and the singers of that golden age of great music. Her interest is not surprising. The Tell family came from New Jersey and they are musically inclined. One of Mrs. Tell's sisters-in-law even made the grade as a vocalist with some of the best of the Swing Era's great musicians. Her story is told briefly in a story from a New Jersey newspaper with a dateline of Hammonton. Mrs. Tell shared it with me the other day and I want to pass it along.

The story relates that several well-known Hollywood and Broadway personalities came from the Hammonton area. "Then there were the Tell sisters," the story goes on, "all three born in Hammonton. They rose to fame back in the 1930's when girl trios such as the Andrews (sisters) and others were in vogue. They played the big-time circuits, including Keith's, but it was Gladys, who graduated from Hammonton High in 1934, who achieved the greatest measure of fame. She was the leading female vocalist with big name orchestras of the day, especially during World War II, including the Dorseys and others."

The Dorseys were brothers Tommy and Jimmy. At various times they had a top-flight organization known as the Dorsey Brothers Band, but they battled each other regularly. With their own individual bands and styles, each attained the top rung of success in a business that featured the likes of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Harry James and dozens of others. Their records, concerts and dance dates were as popular as today's pop music icons. As a Dorsey singer, Gladys Tell was in the company of Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Dick Haymes, Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell, among others. Some of those names may not be familiar to all of you, but they were mystical and magical in the Big Band era.

Hammonton, New Jersey, also takes pride in bragging on some other native sons and daughters who soared to or near the top in show business. One of the most prominent was Victor Moore, born there in 1876. He later became a popular musical theatre figure and he also appeared in some of Hollywood's biggest productions. On the New York stage he was in "Of Thee I Sing," "Louisiana Purchase," and others. One of his last appearances was with Marilyn Monroe.

Thanks to Mrs. Tell for passing along this information about her connection with the kind of music so many of us enjoy.

A note from Marilyn (Norman) Wasemiller of Dearborn, Michigan, followed a recent column about the late Gertye Kobes Croka, a long-time first grade teacher in the Perry school system. Mrs. Croka taught the Norman twins, Marilyn and her sister, Carolyn Wilda, when they were in first grade in 1944. "We both loved her dearly," Marilyn says. Her note followed a recent photo and commentary about Mrs. Croka and a few other local teachers from years ago. Bessie Barker, home economics instructor, also was in the photo, and the twins had her as freshmen in 1953. Marilyn also sent along a copy of the cover sheet from one of her grade cards from 1944-45, bearing the name of Gertye Croka as a teacher, L.E. States as principal, and George Spraberry as superintendent. Marilyn is now with the labor relations department of Ford Motor Co. at Dearborn.