BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Nick Ponos, February 20, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Nick Ponos, February 20, 2002
Date:
February 20, 2002
Description:
81 year-old jazz drummer and Wilmington resident. Born in Greece.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Ponos, Nick Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  2/20/2002 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes

 

Hayes: Okay here we are today. Today is Wednesday, February 20, 2002. We’re interviewing Nick Ponos at his house and available is the coordinator of Special Collections at Randall Library, Andy Dutka and Sherman Hayes, university librarian. Today’s interview is concentrating on Nick’s background as a long, long-term jazz player and aficionado. We wanted to start first with a little background about how you happened to end up here in Wilmington and any story you want to tell us about putting the context of your life here in Wilmington.

Ponos: Thank you very much Mr. Hayes and Mr. Andy. It’s a real honor for me to have you folks come over and let’s do this. I do want to tell you about how my parents, both were living in the city of Smyrna, Turkey and they were Greeks living in Smyrna, Turkey and my mother was from the island of Andros and as far as I know, my parents, my father was from Smyrna. Smyrna is now called Izmir. The Turks changed the Christian names of Smyrna and Constantinople to Istanbul.

My father, John Angelo Ponos, came to this country in the early 1900’s, about 1911 or so and he went to New York City first to an uncle there. They sent him from Smyrna to New York City. He got to New York City and he started working in a fig packing plant in New Jersey and he lived in New York and he lived in a flop house. I don’t know if you know what a flop house is.

Hayes: Tell us what a flop house is.

Ponos: A flop house is where you sleep there at night and somebody else sleeps in your cot during the day. That’s a flop house. Well in three months’ time, my father said to his uncle, (in Greek accent) “If this is America, I go back to Turkey”. (laughter) Well that uncle sent him to an uncle in Wilmington.

Hayes: Oh, already here. Interesting.

Ponos: North Carolina, so he came to Wilmington and he liked Wilmington cause it was near the ocean and it was a temperate zone and the climate was very good and he liked Wilmington. He fell in love with Wilmington. So he had a little business going on 6th and Nixon and it was rough. He always wore his 45 while he was serving hotdogs and hamburgers.

Hayes: (Laughter) Why did he always wear his 45?

Ponos: Because it was rough.

Hayes: This is about 1914, 1915?

Ponos: It’s about 1913, somewhere in there. And then he worked very hard, but he could cook good. The war came along and in 1916, the United States got involved and he went into the Army, served at Camp Jackson, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He fed 5000 men a day. He couldn't hardly write his name in Greek yet alone English, but he served those men.

There’s a story he would tell us about how he would serve three meals a day and in the stockroom, the food was stacking up in boxes that it would come in. After a while, the brigadier general came into the kitchen. He had to inspect it to see what was going on and he had everybody’s attention and he told them, “At ease”. And he said, “Ponos, where’s Ponos?” So dad spoke up. He said, “Ponos, what are you doing?” He says “Come with me”. He took him to the stockroom. He said the stockroom was filling up. “We don’t have room to put the fresh food coming in”. My father told him, he says, “I serve the soldiers, fix good food, but I don’t throw anything away”. (Laughter) He says, “You mean you don’t throw the food away after each meal?” He says, “You’re don’t feed the soldiers leftover food”. Well dad said, “I didn't know”.

Hayes: He was saving money (laughter).

Ponos: So he was being economical (laughter) and saving the country money. The brigadier general told him what to do and so did his superior officers. Anyway dad was on the train heading for France between Camp Jackson and New York and armistice was signed, it ended. So he came back to Wilmington and he went back into his little business and he accumulated some money and he went back to Smyrna, Turkey, in ’21.

He had accumulated I’d say about $20,000 and back then that was a million easy. But he was very frugal. He slept in the same place he worked. He slept underneath counters. He did nothing but economize. Well he went back to Smyrna, Turkey, and he bought a triangular piece of property with five stores downstairs and the house was upstairs. He had the yard and the garden and he had a carriage and horses and he was a wealthy man and it was on the avenue named Bella Vista Avenue about a block off of the bay, Smyrna Bay.

Then in ’22, the Turks rebelled and they started slaughtering and killing Jews, Armenians, Greeks, left and right. The American counsel, Mr. Horton, told my father and mother, said take as little as you can take and go and get on the United States warship Simpson that’s in the bay. He also told my father to put an American flag around his left arm where they could see it. So dad and momma were running with a black satchel in my father’s hand to get on the warship Simpson. And they saw the Turks slaughtering pregnant women of all nationalities. They would throw them in the air and stab them with the sabers, cut them to ribbons.

They dragged the Greek archbishop out of his carriage and cut him to ribbons, just sliced him. And they’re running to get on the warship. Momma was pregnant with me and dad, they were running. A Turkish soldier on a horse bore down on them and he put his saber at my father’s throat and he pointed to the bag. He wanted the black satchel. Now knowing dad, cause he was a fighter, he was a good man. He was as good a man as you can get, hard worker and he was a fighter. I believe he would have jumped that Turk on that horse, saber and all, but momma was telling him in Greek, “Yanni, Yanni, (words of another language). “John, John, give it to him, give it to him”. I guess he thought about momma and me and gave it to him.

Then we got on the warship Simpson and we went to Athens. In two months, I was born there. We came directly on back to the USA.

Hayes: So had he gotten citizenship when he had come here?

Ponos: He had citizenship. He served in the Army.

Hayes: Right, right, so he was set.

Ponos: He had an honorable discharge.

Hayes: But your mom had never come to America before?

Ponos: She had never come. When he went back, he married her and bought the property and all.

Hayes: So you think if there hadn’t been troubles, he was going to be a successful business person in Turkey.

Ponos: Yeah, he would have been an “afendi” like the Turks call it. So we got to Ellis, I was born in Athens in the old YMCA building. I think it was Perez. We got to the United States on a steamship and Ellis Island, the American Red Cross gave my father and mother $5.00. We got to Wilmington with a nickel and he started from scratch. He went into a hatter’s business. He started three businesses in one. It was called New York Cleaners.

Hayes: Back up just for a second. I’m sorry for the interruption. You were talking about your dad was doing a hatter’s business, but three in one.

Ponos: It was really four in one and three of those businesses are extinct. He had going a shoeshine parlor, hatter’s and pressing cloth.

Hayes: Tell people what a hatter’s is. You see they don’t even know what a hatter’s is.

Ponos: No more are there people that clean hats in local towns. You have to send your hat now to have it blocked back to the factory, be it a man’s or woman’s hat. But he was excellent on the Panama hats. Back in those days, the men in the summertime wore those bright white Panama hats and straw hats and he blocked them and cleaned the Panama hats with a type of bleach that was very strong and he would set them out on the blocks in the sunlight and the sun would help bleach them.

Well back then, we didn't have extractors for ringing things dry. You had to put them out in the sun or hang them in the sun. So we didn't having washing machines. You did everything by hand. And he had a marble counter and on 4th Street, North 4th Street, he had a little block there that he rented and he had set up tubs and the cleaning fluid which was petroleum and we put the clothes on the marble counter and brushed them with the chemical.

Then you’d ring them out and hang them up in the sunshine. If it rained, you had to take them in. So back then cleaning clothes and hats was something. He had a shoeshine parlor on Princess Street, New York Cleaners and Hatters, shoeshine parlor and pressing club. Now the pressing club, now he was on Princess Street between Front and Second which is right downtown where all the lawyers were and businessmen. He was right in the hub of things and that was the place where the beach cars came and stopped and they would load up for excursions going to Wrightsville Beach. And that was another era. I could go on and on with that.

Nonetheless, he had the cleaners and hatters and he built a house that’s still standing, but it’s really in a desolate condition now. It’s at 10th and Grace Street, 920 Grace Street, and he had this house built out of double brick. It wasn’t brick veneer. He liked to build things solid. He rode a bicycle from there down to the shop on Princess Street.

Hayes: Now what about the pressing club?

Ponos: I’m coming back to that. So Princess Street was where the four little businesses he had, all in one shop. The shoeshine parlor, the stand was Italian marble. I’ve still got pieces of it, slabs. Where you put your feet on was brass, the holders for your shoes. The chairs were very comfortable, cushions, high back and people would come in, especially men back then. Later on, the women would come in, but that was quite a few years later cause this was in the 20’s.

He had black men that did the shoeshine and on the shoeshine stand here, and on this side of the store was where the cash register was and the hat cleaning and the case where he put the hats in it.

Hayes: Do you remember the black man’s name?

Ponos: Oh yeah, one of the shoeshine men was Monk and the other one was Fred Smith and Fred was also a presser.

Hayes: And he paid them a regular salary?

Ponos: Yeah, he paid them, oh yes he paid them, he always…, he taught me, he says, “Son, when you got a good employee, treat them right. Every now and then, sweeten them. It’s good to sweeten them”. And he kept his employees for a long time. He learned on his own how to clean and block Panama hats. And then he went into the winter hats of felt, men’s hats. He had blocks, wooden blocks for the crown and for the phalanges for the brims, wooden phalanges.

Now the ladies’ hats, I was a kid six years old and I would go in and maybe help him place the shoeshine dyes and polishes and so forth and help keep it clean. He put me to work after school and on weekends. We worked six days a week and he would go to work in the morning at 6:00 and it would be maybe two or three in the morning when he’d leave. He’d get very little sleep and he’d be back to work.

Sundays he closed at 3: 00 and we had a little afternoon time together. And if we went to Burgaw, it was like going to New York (laughter) or Southport. But the pressing club part of the business were two little, back then it was three, he had three little cubicles I guess you’d call them, about 3 foot this way and 2 foot deep with a curtain and a little wooden board going across to sit on.

And the people, men would come in and sit there, take their pants and coats off. If they were lawyers going to work or if they were going to church on a Sunday, or if they were going to the beach on excursion and the presser would take their clothes after they emptied their pockets and took their belts off and they would sponge press them and brush them.

Hayes: Now what’s sponge, sponge pressing in the sense of wiping them?

Ponos: Of wiping them with a damp sponge, it wasn’t wet…

Hayes: Then would they use a hot iron?

Ponos: No, no, they had pressing machines and irons. And they would brush them, sponge them and then press them with the machine, nice, sharp crease. One crease. One sharp crease and I mean to tell you and people kept their creases and in the coats, the sleeves were creased. Back then if you didn't have your sleeves creased and your pants creased with one crease, man you weren’t right (laughter). You weren’t grooving (laughter). You weren’t solid (laughter), you weren’t a swinger.

And as we went along, we picked up and I got older, we picked up doing women’s hats. Now he was an expert on the men’s hats, but I got to beat him on the women’s hats. I took the women’s hats as a challenge because of the variety of styles and they had big phalanges. We used the same ones for the men for the women except when the phalanges were not wide enough because women had some brims that wide. Beautiful hats, feminine, stylish.

Hayes: And they wore them, we forgot that. People don’t wear hats now. Not just Sunday hats, right? Anytime they went out, they wore hats.

Ponos: They sure did and they wore their gloves. Mother wore little gloves. Feminine, ahh. That was another era, awesome era. Well we were living in a razzmatazz jazz era, the roaring twenties and then the depression hit in ’29, the crash.

Hayes: You’re still a young boy at this point?

Ponos: I was a young fella. Mom and daddy gave me a violin first and I couldn't stand the violin. Then momma had a piano. She says come, you have to learn piano. Now that’s where I made my mistake. I should have gone for that piano (laughter) because today on keyboards, which is the modern piano, you can be a one man band. You don’t need to have any horns or guitars or nothing. You can go out and play for a wedding or play by yourself in a restaurant or nightclub.

Anyway I finally decided I didn't want the piano and I kept telling her and daddy, drums. Well in high school there was some great drums for ROTC and I got a hold and I started messing with that thing.

Hayes: Now which high school? The only high school was New Hanover High School.

Ponos: Yeah, that was my school and it was great. Even today, the building speaks for itself and they’re doing a lot of remodeling on it. I got to go out and check on it…

Hayes: But you went in there, it was probably only 20 years old. It was a pretty new, nice facility?

Ponos: I’ll tell you, the teachers were so good. I’ll never forget those teachers. Just wonderful people, all of them, the principal, we got along good. The kids were mannered and obedient. We didn't have anything like drugs and stuff like that.

Hayes: No alcohol at all?

Ponos: Well sometimes one or two of the guys would get a little off key, but we’d go down to the Lumina dancing and of course some of the guys would have bottles and wine. We’d go to Lumina at Wrightsville Beach. We’d go to the Pavilion at Carolina Beach and Carolina Beach also had the old Coast Guard station that was there. It was made out of gray stone blocks and that was the first building on the peninsula of Carolina Beach.

Carolina Beach is not an island. It was made an island by…the Corps of Engineers cut through there to join the sound with the river. The Coast Guard station was the first building on Carolina Beach and that was converted into an inn with a dance floor on the roof.

Hayes: So when did you start, how old were you when kids would start going to these dance clubs?

Ponos: Oh we would go to the pavilions and to the Lumina and there was Emery’s Nightclub and the Plantation Club. The Plantation Club was as swank a nightclub as this state ever had. It was on Carolina Beach about I guess a quarter of a mile, half a mile up from Shipyard Boulevard on the right. I’ll tell you more about that as we get to it. Let’s see now, I’ve gotten into, oh I’m still at the cleaner. Let’s go back to the cleaner. We had the pressing club.

Hayes: Yeah, you can’t ever been clean enough. That was interesting.

Ponos: They’d go to work or go to church and then the hatters and then the shoeshine parlor. Now all three of those are extinct except the shoeshine parlors may be at airports. Then he went into, we expanded and we went into the cleaning of the clothes with elaborate machinery. The first machinery came out which was a belt driven tumbler, it had a wooden cylinder in it, heavy, very heavy. We didn't have extractors yet so we would take it out, put them in tubs and ring them. When we got the extractors, then we used that too, dry them until we could put them in the tumbler.

Hayes: So this is the precursor of what we call a dry cleaner now?

Ponos: That’s right.

Hayes: It wasn’t doing traditional chemicals like soap and water. This was using the chemical process?

Ponos: Yes, we had solvent, petroleum.

Hayes: So this was an early dry cleaner. So when was that? Was that in the depression or a little sooner?

Ponos: That was right at it. I think it was about somewhere right then when it hit.

Hayes: And yet he still had business with that, the people who had money still could get their clothes cleaned? I mean I’m surprised it didn't dry up because of the economy.

Ponos: Wait a minute now. Let me think. That was ’33.

Hayes: Well ’33 was right in the height…

Ponos: That was after the Depression.

Hayes: Well ’33 is still pretty bad.

Ponos: Yeah, well we were coming out from the Depression really. ’29 was the crash, ’30, ’31, ’32 were rugged. Momma, I remember, both of them were just as economical and thrifty and frugal as you’ve ever seen. I had two parents that, they were as great as any parents could be. And they cared for me and they loved me. Momma had a pot, she would fix soup Monday morning and we’d eat soup until Saturday and the older the soup got, the better it tasted (laughter). I don’t know what she did, the older the soup got, the better it tasted (laughter).

Hayes: Now did some other brothers and sisters come along at this point?

Ponos: No brothers, no sisters. I was the only one. I was spoiled.

Hayes: Well no, that’s good. That made a difference too though cause you didn't have quite so many, that soup went longer with just one.

Ponos: Now on Sunday, we got a little hamburger or chicken. Nonetheless, we got through it and a lot of people got through it. Now there were those who were committing suicide and all because of the stock market and they lost a lot of money. They couldn't take it. We managed and daddy bought property at Carolina Beach and he sent me to college, North Carolina State University in Raleigh. That was my second home, Raleigh, North Carolina.

It took me, I was not a good student. I was, I don’t know, I just didn't catch on to things and I went into a tough field. I went into chemical engineering. It took me five years to get my degree, but I got it. Now I couldn't even get in it (laughter), but nonetheless I did it and I didn't let momma and daddy down. Some of my neighbors and friends kept telling me, “Boy, don’t you let me down”. So I got my degree and I remember the head of my department, Dr. E. E. Randolph, he’s a precious man and he liked me.

Because of my dogged determination to get my degree, I was given the highest honor that an engineer could get and that was to be knighted, a knight of St. Pat, which is an engineering fraternity. Because of my dogged determination. I flunked quite a few courses and one professor in chemistry was after me. I don’t know why (laughter) unless maybe because I was of Greek descent. I couldn't never figure it out.

But Dr. Randolph told me, he said, “Look, you may have to go to another school and get that course.” You won’t believe it, but that was the last course I needed to get my degree and I had to go and I went to Catawba College and I got my course, passed it and it was transferred to State and I got my degree. That was right at the end of the war, not at the end of the war, it was ’43. I went to, they sent me to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and I worked with other young engineers on the atomic bomb.

And we beat the Germans to it by two months. In the meantime, it was a trying situation, to lose a lot of sweet high school buddies, State graduates, fellow students, it was heart rendering. Those kids back then were so outstanding, so clean-cut, good. They had high morals. They were just, like I said, there was no dope, there was no extravagant thing of getting drunk. They had manners. They had good parents. They were taught right. And back then, that’s the way it was.

Anyway, I picked up the drums at State my second year as a sophomore. I went and joined the Drum and Bugle Corps and then I had the drum in my room and I started practicing the rudiments and different types of paradegles and, flamocues and that kind of stuff and I kept telling momma and daddy, “Get me a set of drums. I’d like a set of drums”. Well as the pictures will show you, they got me a plastic set of drums, but it was good stuff. It was durable.

I started practicing. When I went to State, I was 15. Of course, I’d been practicing drums two years before that. I was 15, but that was because my birthday was the 21st of September and school started back at the beginning of September. So in a couple of three weeks, I became 16, so I had a time practicing my drums at school. The guys would really complaining, “Get that thing out of here”, “You’re making too much noise”. We had some good times, we cut up, picked on each other. That’s a whole another history.

Finally momma talked to daddy and she said, “John, maybe we ought to get him a drum set” and daddy says “Why, noise”, and she said, “Well at least we’ll know where he is”. (Laughter). That did it. So I got the drum set and that’s when we were living at 314 North Third Street. That house now has been moved to Dock Street between Fifth and Sixth. It’s a little bungalow as you’re going east on Dock Street on the left hand side and it has a plaque on it with daddy and momma’s name on it because we lived in it 59 years, almost 60.

It has a historical plaque and I’m real proud of that. In the living room of that house when it was on Third Street, we lived then on Third Street between Walnut and Grace and they moved that house down Grace Street, up Fifth and down to Dock Street. It cost $20,000 to move it, but they spruced it up and remodeled it and you couldn't believe it. It was just amazing, the job they did on that house. The living room of that house, I had my record collection which you folks have now at UNCW in the cabinets. Each one with its cover on it and I had my drum set right there and I’d get on that drum throne and sit on that thing and the only time I got up was to play those 78 RPM records, change them or go to the restroom.

I’d play, I’d practice eight hours a day. It was nothing for me to stay there eight hours a day because I loved the drums. I really did and now I love them even more and at my age, when the young people see me playing, that’s another story. We’ll come to it.

Hayes: And your age, you’re 80?

Ponos: I’ll be 80 in September, the 21st.

Hayes: And you’re still playing the drums, you’ve still got a groove.

Ponos: Still swinging and I love it. Groovy, you’ve got to be groovy. You’ve got to stay active. You have to be a half-cat. Solid, man, solid (laughter).

Hayes: So that gives us a sense. So early on music was a big thing for you and this was the popular music if your time that you liked, right?

Ponos: Big bands, swing, jazz, Dixieland, blues and Latin American numbers, rumbas, tango, samba, anyway there was another one too. When I came out of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the war was over. The head of my department made me a suggestion. He said, “Nick, you can be a wealthy man in five years if you get up with Goodrich or Goodyear and go to South America to the plantations that they have and work with rubber. You’ll be earning the American dollar, but spending the peso”.

I came back and talked to momma and daddy about it. “You’re going to South America, boy?” My daddy says, “I need here you. You here”. In broken English. He wanted me to stay with him and he had a partner in the cleaners and he got rid of him and told me to come on in. So that’s where I went and I don’t begrudge it except I might have been a millionaire now which I never got to (laughter).

Hayes: Or you may have had trouble too in South America.

Ponos: Well that was the other side of going to South America. I thought of snakes and mosquitoes and diseases.

Hayes: And Spanish.

Ponos: Well I’m pretty much of a linguist. I love languages. I think I could have caught Spanish quick and it’s close to Italian, but there are a lot of words in Spanish and Italian that the English came from and the American, but nonetheless, I did settle here in Wilmington and helped mom and daddy. I would work in the cleaners in the daytime and at nights, whenever there was a gig, I’d be gigging and swinging those drums.

Hayes: Now what’s a gig?

Ponos: A gig is a band job. You had a band job, you were gigging.

Hayes: Now did you early on have a band or were you a free-lancer?

Ponos: Well according to my scrapbooks, I started playing up in Raleigh and I played there and I played with a band out of Raleigh. The name of that Full and Wider Band. And I played with him…

Hayes: You have a picture of it?

Ponos: I have a picture here, just can see me right there.

Dutka: So that’s the first band you played with?

Ponos: That’s the first band.

Dutka: And this is up in Raleigh?

Ponos: In Raleigh, North Carolina. The picture beneath it, that’s where I sat in with Dean Hudson who was one of the big bands here in North Carolina along with Hal Kemp and Skinny Innes.

Hayes: Okay, now by that, what do you mean, they were real popular bands?

Ponos: They were big bands and they were popular.

Hayes: And they were from North Carolina.

Ponos: They were recording artists. Hal Kemp was very famous and Skinny Innes, this boulevard in Salisbury is named after Skinny Innes. Then I went on and played with other bands, combos that came through and bands that were here and I played with Gene Smith and his orchestra and Charlie Grove and Salisbury, Concord, Kannapolis.

Hayes: Who was Gene Smith? Was he local?

Ponos: Gene Smith was a fellow that lived in China Grove and that’s his band there.

Hayes: Where’s China Grove?

Ponos: China Grove is between Kannapolis and Salisbury.

Hayes: He was a regional band guy trying…now was this his full time job?

Ponos: No.

Hayes: No, part-time.

Ponos: And then I went on, I got back to Wilmington. I played with Larry Taylor at the Club Cabana which… became…

Dutka: Wrightsville Beach Highway is what it says…

Ponos: Right, it was on what is Oleander now.

Hayes: Interesting.

Ponos: An Italian lady took it over. We played there and then we played at Emery’s which was on that Pine Grove Road that goes from Oleander around to Masonborough Loop, Emery’s was there. Then a famous club was as you passed Greenfield Lake on the curve and you get on Carolina Beach Road, it was on the left there at what is now I think a Christian bookstore. Then on out was the Plantation Club past Shipyard Boulevard, but of course there was no Shipyard Boulevard out there at that time.

Hayes: Now we’re talking late forties, early fifties?

Ponos: It was the late forties and that’s when I formed my band, in ’47.

Hayes: Oh, your own band.

Ponos: My own band. That’s when we played at the Plantation Club. I don’t think I have a picture of that club which is sad because that was some kind of place.

Hayes: Now after the war, so many of those people had left, but were there were some that stayed around? Who was going to these clubs? Just locals?

Ponos: Here is a man that I played with, he was an insurance man. The big fella there is Jack Pate. I played with his band and we played at the ….

Hayes: Look at how they had their JP on there, there was even a lady in that one (looking at photographs). I’m surprised.

Ponos: Yeah, that was Nina Walk.

Dutka: Was she a singer?

Ponos: She was a singer.

Hayes: Yeah, lady singer.

Ponos: And this is where we were playing and there’s Nina with her back to the camera and that’s me on the drum outfit I had.

Hayes: Oh look at this, this is a great picture.

Dutka: Is that the set your parents bought you?

Ponos: That’s my first set.

Hayes: Look at him, what a handsome guy, whew!

Ponos: Oh my goodness (laughter). Really?

Hayes: I think so.

Dutka: Not bad.

Ponos: I played with this man, Ed Lawhorn who was quite a musician, played keyboard and piano. He’s passed away, Ed Lawhorn.

Hayes: Let’s talk a little bit generically about you say you’d play for them, so what late 40’s, early 50’s, what was a club date like? What happened at a dance? What was going on?

Ponos: Oh, the people would come in and eat and dance and they’d dance. Most all the clubs, nightclubs were not dives for just whiskey and lounges and bars. They were not that. They were class and people would come dressed up nice, suits, ladies in evening gowns or dresses. They would dine. Those restaurants had excellent chefs and Mike Patellas was the one that started the famous club. Henry Armily started the Plantation Club along with a fellow named Norman and Abie Ruben who was a salesman from Block Shirt Factory. Back then, that was a big plant. That was at the turn of the road as you go to Greenfield Lake off of Third Street. Right there was Block Shirt Factory.

They were quite a combination. You had Abie Ruben was Jewish, Norman was American and Henry Armily was from Turkey and he and dad got to be good friends. Dad helped him a lot. He came here off of a dredger, didn't have shoes on his feet hardly and daddy helped him and eventually he built, the Plantation was about two stories tall and it had beautiful décor, paintings, statuary, the dance floor was sunken. The bandstand was a little higher and around on the side, different levels, were the tables. The waiters were all black in tuxedoes and they had the towel over their arm.

Hayes: Now were you getting traffic, were people coming from Raleigh?

Ponos: They would come from everywhere.

Hayes: So lots of people would drive in because it seems like how could we support such a fancy club here? The town wasn’t that big.

Ponos: Well this was in the 50’s, late 40’s I told you ’47 I started my band and we played there two consecutive years at the Plantation Club, three nights a week, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Hayes: Now you said the waiters were black. Were any of the dancers black?

Ponos: Well there were no dancers. There was just the band and the people dancing. The couples that would come in and eat. They were the ones that danced, the people, the customers.

Hayes: But were any of those people black?

Ponos: No. There were no blacks there.

Hayes: So they would have their own clubs.

Ponos: Oh yeah, they had their clubs on Nixon Street, Fourth Street, Castle Street.

Hayes: But you didn't play in those clubs.

Ponos: I didn't play for any of those at that time. But I would go to the bar where the black bands would come. I would go to the bar and I got to meet a lot of big name musicians there, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie.

Hayes: In this time period or later?

Ponos: In this time period. We had a musicians’ local back then, 609, or 619, it was 619 Musicians Local under Patrillo.

Hayes: That was a union?

Ponos: That was a union.

Hayes: There you go.

Ponos: Yes sir. It broke up, I guess, the latter part of the late sixties.

Hayes: So this barn, tell me what the barn was. You said you’d go to the barn.

Ponos: The barn, it was a black club and it was off of Dawson Street.

Hayes: But if you went to listen, it wasn’t just a black club. I mean it was mainly a black club.

Ponos: I would go in with the secretary of the local, that’s how I got in. And I got pictures that you see in here of those.

Hayes: We’ll get to those. I want to see some of those because those are people that came through here that people maybe even didn't even realize played Wilmington.

Ponos: Buddy Johnson was another black band. Jimmy Rushing came through here. Well I’ve got the books in here with those names and I’ll get them and then they will remind me. Those are the reference books I told you about.

Hayes: We’d like to just, besides who you played with, who were some of the other people that came through. This was a big area to come through. I think people forget that this was a pretty good spot in the road and people danced and wanted to come here, right. And there was a large black population so the bands…

Ponos: Oh, they thrived, black and white bands thrived. And they had places to play. There was a place in Nixon Street where they had black bands.

Hayes: Tell us about your own group. When we say a band, help us understand what would be a typical band that you had at that time? What was the membership like?

Ponos: It was a four piece band and I have a picture of it here, I think. I don’t think I showed you that picture. There’s the old Plantation Club right there. It’s not a very good picture.

Hayes: It looks like a big building.

Ponos: It is a big building, like I told you, it was two stories high at this side of it. That was two stories.

Hayes: Proprietors were T.C. Cleve Lewis and Mr. J. Joe Peach.

Ponos: That was later. They bought it from the others. That’s when it started down cause Henry was a cook there and he was terrific. This part of it, right here, was a Jewish club, a comedy club and they had gambling galore, but you had to be a member or know a member to get in.

Hayes: Now what time period are you talking there now? You say it was a club? When was that? Fifties?

Ponos: Yes, 40’s and 50’s.

Hayes: I see from the thing it said it seated 350, that’s huge.

Dutka: Yeah for here, it is huge.

Hayes: Anywhere. Now what was your group called back then? The Nick Ponos?

Ponos: Nick Ponos and his orchestra.

Hayes: Now you’re telling me with just four guys you became an orchestra?

Ponos: Yeah, well that’s what we called it and then I changed it to Arquette which means small orchestra. You can film all of those ads there too if you want to.

Dutka: There’s a poem about the band, who wrote that? The Fantastic Four.

Ponos: Somebody wrote it.

Hayes: Read that, that’s great.

Ponos: This poem was written by somebody and given to me when we were performing. I don’t know who it was. See I had my card right there, it says Popular Arquette and the poem is titled the Fantastic Four,

“Don and John, Bob and Nick, the combination that really click, they’re on the beam on the club Plantation so come out for real relaxation. Don and John, Bob and Nick, they’re just as solid as a well-known brick so lend an ear, be sharp as a tack, not only do they send you, but they bring you back. Let’s have some fun, enjoy good food where’s the music’s fine for any mood where you can dance with your favorite chick to music by Don, John, Bob and Nick.”

Hayes: That is really good.

Ponos: This is a good picture of the band. This fella here was the secretary of the local 619, the Musicians’ Local. Bob Stanner, this is Bob Stanner, he was a trumpeter with Woody Hermann, but he had an accident and busted out his teeth which makes it very hard to play trumpet again, but he kept playing and he was good. This is Don Cohen and Don was a very good pianist.

Hayes: But in the daytime, they had jobs just like you.

Ponos: They had jobs, you couldn't survive on music. I never was able to make music my livelihood. Impossible.

Hayes: Times haven’t changed for many people.

Ponos: That’s right.

Hayes: So how long was that group together, quite some time?

Ponos: I friended bands for about 10 years and then I stopped. I played with other bands like Jack Pate, Ed Lawhorn and I played some with Bill Elliott. I would pick up odd jobs with different groups.

Hayes: This was before you had your own band?

Ponos: Afterwards. I broke up because it was so hard to get good musicians. Those four you saw in that picture, they were tops and then I had other musicians, E.C. Merritt, Vera Mills was on piano, so many musicians.

Hayes: But if you did your own band for about a 10 year period then?

Ponos: Yes.

Hayes: Through the fifties?

Ponos: Yes, I went from about ’47 to ’57, then I quit. Then I freelanced.

Hayes: Was it a heyday as far as you were concerned? I mean that was the big band era there where people wanted those…

Ponos: That’s when the big bands were breaking up, you know, after the second World War, the kids through away all the instruments in the band and settled for five guitars. They called that a band. How in the world can you progress? You take all the instruments in the band and throw them away and just settle for guitars or four guitars and a keyboard or a drummer.

Hayes: Well that really didn't start til the late fifties, did it?

Ponos: The sixties, early sixties.

Hayes: So you were the end of the big band era as far as when you were rolling.

Ponos: Yeah, that time period.

Hayes: And so can you tell us some of the other big bands that you went to see at that time, who else were you going to look at?

Ponos: The playing in the second World War, that was awesome, the Thunderbirds and they got a club up there and they’re quite a few of these old guys from the second World War still living up there on Topsail. And they published a book of their members from all over the United States. You ought to look into that. I may have the guy’s name in my…, because we played at the old Assembly Building up there for some of their historical events. I may have his name in there and I don’t know if I kept the booklet.

Hayes: Well now we’re going to go right through this book a little bit and you tell us some of the stories because you’ve been working keeping a log, right, of all these great bands that you’ve seen besides the ones you’ve played in.

Dutka: Now what book is this? What’s this called?

Ponos: This is my scrapbook of following the big bands and these are the pictures and out of the song magazines, I would put the words of different songs that Tin Pan Alley and the great songwriters were producing. This is Peggy Lee, played with Benny Goodman.

Hayes: Now did you see them or you just mean….

Ponos: Benny Goodman came to Lumina and Harry James. This is Dick Haynes who sang with Harry James. They came to Lumina.

Hayes: Now when did they come? You went to these and heard them?

Ponos: Yeah, that was during the 30’s, well 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

Hayes: So man they were playing down there. That’s a great group.

Ponos: This is Larry Clinton, another great band, Amy Arnell who sang with Larry.

Hayes: Those are great.

Ponos: Thank you. Cab Calloway, an awesome showman, awesome. This man was unbelievable.

Hayes: So Lumina was a big club. What would happen when they would come? They would do a performance, would people still dance or were they just listening or what would happen at one of these big performances?

Ponos: The dance floor at Lumina could hold 3000 people. If I remember it correctly, and we would dance (laughter) elbow to elbow. We had to be dressed in a coat and tie and the ladies had to have frocks on, dresses, and they had a stag line.

Hayes: Now what’s a stag line?

Ponos: A stag line is where the guys would stand or wait in line to dance with the ladies.

Hayes: That you didn't come with necessarily.

Ponos: If you didn't come with a lady, then they had, there were ladies there to dance. And no whiskey was allowed there. Of course they’d go downstairs and have a nip and come right back up. At the Lumina and at the Pavilion at Carolina Beach, I remember I would take with me a towel and three shirts and we’d go up and dance the first set. At intermission, come downstairs ringing wet, come downstairs, take off my wet shirt, dry off and go back up and get wet again. Second intermission, same thing. I’d change shirts, I’d come home with four wet shirts and it was something. We didn't have aerobics, we didn't have power machinery to stay trim (laughter). We stayed trim by dancing. And it was great.

Hayes: What time would you arrive in the evening when you got the Lumina? What time would you get there?

Ponos: Oh, we’d get there about 7:00, 7:30.

Hayes: And what time would you leave?

Ponos: Oh about 12:00, 12:30 at night.

Hayes: You’d dance, just dance.

Ponos: Dance the whole four hours, just solid swinging. I mean shagging, cutting up, Charleston, jitterbugging, cutting the rug (laughter).

Hayes: Alright, that’s great. Who else do we have there?

Ponos: I got Jimmy Dorsey and Kay Kallen sang with him and then afterwards, he had Helen O’Connell sang with him with Bob Eberle. Bob Eberle sang with Jimmy Dorsey. Ray Eberle sang with Glenn Miller. They were brothers. I remember in the Metronome magazines which I still have them in the shed outside, I still have those Metronomes and Downbeat magazines, but their mother, Mrs. Eberle, was so proud of Ray and Bob Eberle because both of them were in big bands and making names for themselves.

Hayes: Now these all would come to Lumina then here.

Ponos: Artie Shaw came, Tony Pastor played in Artie Shaw’s band. Then Tony got his own band. He was very good. He did a lot of work with Rosemary Clooney who also did work with Bing Crosby. Charlie Barnett was one of the great ones. You don’t hear too much about him anymore, but he was, his parents were wealthy and they sponsored his band for him, got him going, but he made some great tunes.

Hayes: Now what would happen is that the Lumina would book these people just on a circuit coming through every Saturday or would they play two dates?

Ponos: They would book them.

Hayes: How long would they usually stay for a booking? How long would the…

Ponos: Just overnight.

Hayes: One night.

Ponos: That’s all. They’d keep moving because they had more band jobs along the road. Benny Goodman, this is Zig Ellman. Zig Ellman played trumpet in Benny Goodman’s band along with Gene Krupa on drums, Teddy Wilson piano, Lionel Hampton on vibes, they were the famous quartet that did Sing Sing Sing at Carnegie Hall and brought the house down.

Hayes: So from ’35 to ’45, even during the war, did the Lumina keep going?

Ponos: Oh yeah.

Hayes: Of course they had all the servicemen here like crazy.

Ponos: All during the war. Zig Ellman, there was an article I remember reading about, his wife wanted a divorce from him and the judge asked her why and she says, “He plays trumpet all night long in his sleep” (laughter), “I can’t sleep”. This man was Jewish, Yiddish, and he could play a Jewish trumpet out of this world. The tune “And the Angels Sing” where it goes dada, dadada, dadadadada, well Benny Goodman was Jewish. Ziggy was Jewish and that’s where they got that from and he tore it up. I mean it was awesome.

This is George All who played saxophone with some of the bigger bands like Goodman and Artie Shaw and then he got his own band. This is J.C. Higginbottom.

Hayes: Now here’s a black guy, a black band would come to Lumina? Didn't matter, they would come to Lumina too?

Ponos: Yeah, we had black bands. Cab Calloway would come, Count Basie, here’s Duke Ellington. Now these guys were great composers too especially this man. This man was an awesome composer and of course the great Bing Crosby. Nobody else managed to have a voice like his.

Dutka: Was Bing Crosby here?

Ponos: I never saw Bing Crosby much to my dismay. I loved Bing.

Hayes: But Count came through, Count Basie came through?

Ponos: Count Basie came through and Duke came through.

Hayes: What about the Andrews Sisters?

Ponos: The Andrews Sisters, the father was Greek and they were the best vocal group of women at that time. Now the Bosor Sisters were good too, but the Andrew Sisters reached the greatest height of fame. The greatest men group back at that time was the Mills Brothers and the Inkspots were good too. This is Will Bradley who had the Boogie Woogie Band and this was his drummer, Ray McKinley.

Hayes: Now did they come through?

Ponos: Will Bradley came through, yes. Will Bradley fronted the Glen Miller Band after Glen Miller was killed, fell in the English Channel.. This is Miller, Tex Beneke, Miller’s famous vocalist.

Hayes: Do you remember seeing them here?

Ponos: No, the closest Glenn Miller got to Wilmington was a strawberry festival in Wallace.

Hayes: He came to Wallace? Came to Wallace in the late thirties you mean? When was that?

Ponos: It might have been in the thirties when he came.

Hayes: Isn’t that something?

Ponos: And this is the Modernaires and they sang with Glenn Miller. This is Glenn again. Now this is Ray Eberle, the two brothers I talked about and Bob Eberle. Ray sang with Glenn Miller and Bob sang with Jimmy Dorsey.

Hayes: Now when these bands would come through, would you go up and talk to them or could you go up and talk to them? There were 3000 people though.

Ponos: Oh sure, oh yes and sometimes they’d get playing so good, everybody stopped dancing and just look at them. You couldn't believe what you were hearing. And nowadays at my age, when I think back about him, we took a lot for granted. They were awesome musicians. That was the greatest, most awesome popular music era the world has ever known.

Hayes: Now your big band was four, what you called an orchestra. Now a typical band that was at Lumina, this is much bigger, right?

Ponos: It would be from 14 pieces to 21. Big bands and they had section work. They had the brass section composed of trombones and trumpets, they had the sax section with all the reeds in it, reed instruments, clarinet and saxophones. Then you had your rhythm section which was composed of the drums, piano, guitar and base. That was your rhythm. But they had manuscripts, sheet music, put them all together and they worked together and they counterpointed each other. It’s awesome what they did with the section work.

Hayes: Now here’s Charlie Spivak. Did he come?

Ponos: Charlie Spivak came. Charlie Spivak finally ended up in his hometown, I think, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Roy Eldridge, one of the great trumpeters, little jazz Roy Eldridge. He played with Gene Krupa when they made the famous number, “Let Me Off Uptown”.

Hayes: Now Gene, did you ever talk to Gene when he came through?

Ponos: I met Gene Krupa four times and Gene Krupa and this is Anita O’Day, the three of them made several numbers, “Drum Boogie”, “Let Me Off Uptown” which was an awesome arrangement.

Hayes: Well tell us about when you saw Gene Krupa.

Ponos: I met Gene Krupa four times at the Metropole Café in New York, once with my wife at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. One time he was in Raleigh, and one time here.

Hayes: Where was he here when he came?

Ponos: He was at Lumina. This is Bunny Berigan, one of the great trumpeters. He was the one that made the song popular, the one he does the singing and the trumpet work on, “I Can’t Get Started With You”. Bunny Berigan died on stage playing his trumpet in Virginia Beach at a nightclub up there. His doctor told him not to play anymore cause he was messed up with, he was a heavy drinker. This is Buddy Rich.

Hayes: Now how many times have you met Buddy Rich?

Ponos: Twice, once in Raleigh and the other time was at the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island.

Hayes: Now when did you start going up to Newport?

Ponos: I went up there two years with my wife, once in ’60 and once in ’62. That was great. There were 250 name musicians there.

Hayes: Do you think Buddy ever came through this area or not? He traveled so much.

Ponos: Yeah, oh yeah, he came through here. Now Buddy Rich was a toughie. Buddy Rich, his parents were vaudevillians. When he was born, they had him backstage in a bassinet. At two years old, he kept hearing the music and he started doing his hands like he was playing so they got him a drum set at 3 and at 5, they put him on stage with them because he was that good, at five years old. Buddy Rich had the fastest hands in drumnastics.

The other great drummer at that time was Gene Krupa and Gene Krupa, I met him and he had a great personality. Krupa was a handsome man and he made film, movies about his life story. Hollywood wanted to keep Krupa there and make an actor out of him and Krupa didn't want it, he stuck with his drums.

Hayes: Now I know drums were your favorite, but what section do you like after drums? What would you follow if you weren’t following the drums? Is there a section of a big band that you would always be or it varied, didn't matter?

Ponos: Knowing what I know now, back then, I liked the trumpet which would have put me in the brass section, but I believe I would have…I refused the piano, but I think I would have stayed in rhythm. I love rhythm. I love a solid beat. I like to see people feeling the rhythm section of a band, the pulsation, the heart, the heart beat. That’s important. In music, that is vital. That’s the rhythm that you move your feet and your body to and you sway and you swing.

Hayes: This is a drummer speaking so you know…. Alright, who have you got next here?

Ponos: Johnnie Long had his band at Duke University. That’s where he first formed his band.

Hayes: Did he come through this area then probably?

Ponos: Yes he did and Les Brown and his Band of Renown, I think he was at Duke too or was it Carolina.

Hayes: How about this Mitchell Ayers?

Ponos: Mitchell Ayers was a band, a national recording band and I think he was from this state. This is the Mills Brothers.

Hayes: Now did you ever see the Mills Brothers in town?

Ponos: No, never saw them. If they did come through, I missed them.

Hayes: How about Ella? Where was that?

Ponos: I saw Ella four times, twice in Newport, Rhode Island, once at the Christopher Rada House there, she put on an awesome performance and there were people in that Christopher Roda house that were not listening and they were cutting up. She stopped dead still and she looked at them, got their attention and told them, “If you don’t want to listen to what I’m trying to entertain you with, I’m going to ask them to have you leave”.

Hayes: Whoa.

Ponos: But let me tell you, this woman and most of these people, when they worked, they sweated. Louis Armstrong held his handkerchief all the time to keep from tarnishing his trumpet and wiped his face and Ella was the same kind of entertainer. She sweated, Louis Jordan.

Hayes: Now do you think she ever came through Wilmington?

Ponos: Ella came by.

Hayes: Did she do an Azalea Festival?

Ponos: No, I don’t remember an Azalea Festival with her, no. This is Jerry Wall, another big band musician, Hal Kemp, I told you about him. He’s a North Carolina musician, Woody Hermann.

Hayes: Now did Woody and his Thundering Herd ever come through here?

Ponos: Yes, yes.

Hayes: You saw them at that time when you were a young guy?

Ponos: I can’t remember if I saw him, I saw so many, I just can’t remember. Saw Claude Thornhill, he was a very good pianist and he was at the Chadbourn Strawberry Festival. We went over there and saw him. I got a picture of him. This is Artie Shaw. The first two black musicians that broke the color line and got in white bands. I mentioned their names earlier, Teddy Wilson piano, Lionel Hampton on vibes. They got into the Benny Goodman band. They had a rough time. I mean they were not treated right. It was rough and Benny suffered a lot from that line.

This is Glenn Gray and the Castlehoma Band. You notice the stage and how things were richly done back then. If you look at the old movies, Fred Astaire dancing, the scenes of choreography. The way they dressed the stages, it was done richly. Freddie Slack’s band.

Hayes: Now do you think he came through?

Ponos: Yes, he came through Wilmington. Bob Chester was another band, he came through Wilmington if I remember correctly. Dinah Shore, Gina Sims sang with Kay Kaiser from Rocky Mount and Chapel Hill. Kay Kaiser’s home is Rocky Mount and he went to Chapel Hill and formed his band. Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong.

Hayes: Now Fats Waller, did you ever see him or not? He was a little older than some of the others.

Ponos: I think I saw him at the Barn one time and he was a character. I know the girls would walk by and he’d reach out and slap them on the …

Hayes: Whatever.

Ponos: He was something. Good entertainer though. Helen Forest, Harry James, Helen Forest sang with Harry James. Artie Shaw and a little with Benny Goodman, Helen fell in love with Harry James, but it never materialized. Harry James married Betty Grable.

Hayes: That’s signed there, now is that to you or is that how they came?

Ponos: That’s the way they came. I got some others that are signed. Now Lionel Hampton, in my opinion, Lionel Hampton has to be if not the most awesome overall musician of that era, if he’s not one of them, he is the greatest. If he’s not the greatest, he’s one of them. He played three instruments.

Hayes: He happens to be a drummer, right?

Ponos: No, he’s a vibist and he’s awesome. Nobody that I ever heard, maybe Red Norville came close. Lionel’s vibes, he could diminish the sounds, sustain it, hold it or whatever he had to do. He knew how to work those pedals and he could play the vibes with four mallets and flip ’em. On drums, I have a video, if you see it, you won’t believe it. He plays piano like he plays the vibes with fingers like this and he moves so fast you can hardly see his fingers. He plays drums and on that record, Jim for Christmas, check it out. That’s in that collection.

Jimmy Lungsford, he was a big band leader. He came here, he got killed in the second World War, he was a pilot. Jack Leonard was the vocalist with Tommy Dorsey before Frank Sinatra. This man’s voice was far superior to Sinatra’s. I never cared for Sinatra. I like him. But I mean I never… This man had a voice. I don’t know what ever happened to him.

Hayes: Cause I remember the Greeks and Italians never got along that well any way so was there any problem there?

Ponos: No, no, I love everybody.

Hayes: I’m just kidding.

Ponos: Well you kid all you want, I’ll kid right back at you. And you’re not going to put me down.

Hayes: (Laughter) I’m not putting you down.

Ponos: I know you’re not. This young man here, Corky Cochoran, was 14-15 years old and he had to get his parents to sign for him to play in Harry James’ band. Harry James hired him because he was such a good trombonist. Now in here, I have more photos. This is Claude Thornhill at the Strawberry Festival, I mean Ralph Flanagan, excuse me. That’s Ralph Flanagan and he was good.

Hayes: 1955, Strawberry Festival. That’s great.

Ponos: This is Stan Kenton’s band.

Hayes: Now did Stan come through town?

Ponos: Yes and there is an autographed picture. He was at the Lumina in 1955, June 4.

Hayes: Wow, isn’t that great. Nice job. Now did you …

Ponos: This is Les Brown’s vocalist after Doris Day. They were through here.

Hayes: Wow, signed picture, very nice. Now you were now a pretty well-known musician in the late 40’s and early 50’s, did you ever sit in with one of these big ones when they came through or they had plenty of people so you couldn't.

Ponos: I never did.

Hayes: Now when did you get this one, Count Basie? What year do you think that was?

Ponos: This was March 9, 1968. Though I can’t remember where it was, ’68. This is Flip Phillips.

Hayes: Those are great, Nick.

Ponos: There’s Krupa, see what a handsome a guy he is and he signed that. This is a picture from the movies. This is when Tex Beneke brought the band, the Glenn Miller Band to Wilmington. I think that was at the New Hanover High School, 1953, February 11. It’s on the back.

Hayes: They brought it to the high school and they had a big performance.

Ponos: In the auditorium there.

Hayes: Probably just a concert, not a dance.

Ponos: Yeah, that’s all it was. This is Ralph Flanagan again and I saw him and he signed that in ’52. That was at the Strawberry Festival.

Hayes: Sounds like Chadbourn had some really nice people in.

Ponos: This was at the Moose Hall, 1951, Ray Anthony. This is Art Mooney and he signed that.

Hayes: When did he come through, do you see that on the back?

Ponos: It’s not on there, but he came through here. This is the picture with Steve Allen, I think playing with Benny Goodman, but the musicians there, that’s Krupa and that’s Teddy Wilson. That’s Steve Allen that portrayed Goodman.

Hayes: Right, in the movie.

Ponos: This is Illinois Jack Kemp, another very good tenor sax.

Hayes: Did he come through?

Ponos: Yes sir. Now this was back in the 40’s and he signed it to Don. He was the secretary of the Musicians’ Union.

Hayes: And who was this?

Ponos: Duke Ellington. That’s Duke Ellington. This is a picture of the movie and this is another one and you’ll notice, you see the two black men, Lionel and Teddy Wilson.

Hayes: Yeah, that you told us about earlier.

Ponos: This is one at Brogden Hall, a concert.

Hayes: Wow, Louis Armstrong.

Ponos: While you’re doing that, I need to put this in here since you just showed Louis Armstrong.

Hayes: That’s a great photo.

Ponos: That’s a picture of my son John with Louis and we went to this concert right here in 1967.

Hayes: That’s great, that’s great, those are great.

Ponos: Can you film this right in here?

Hayes: Oh I can film it, but we have this book so let’s tell them what the book is that this is a part of. Then somebody can find it.

Ponos: I’m going to close it and let you see that it’s the book that Hugh Morton put together with pictures he had taken during his lifetime in this state.

Hayes: “Making a Difference in North Carolina”, Hugh Morton and the other was Rankin, Edward Rankin, great. So tell us that story. How did your son get in there with Louis? What was that about?

Ponos: Well that was, I knew we were going to the concert, so I had gotten me a photographer to take a picture of me and John with Louis Armstrong. Well anyway, my photographer was there and we went back to the dressing room at intermission and Louis was meeting people and Hugh Morton was there so Hugh Morton took this picture that you saw in this book and my photographer made pictures too. Anyway it was, I don’t know it was 4, 5, 10 years later that Hugh Morton was putting this book together and he had the picture of my son, but he didn't know who it was (laughter). So it came on television that Hugh Morton was looking for somebody to tell him who that little boy was with Louis Armstrong (laughter). And I was at New York Cleaners on Grace Street and one of my clerks said, “Nick, they’re looking for you because your son is in a picture with Louis Armstrong that Hugh Morton took and he wants to know who that boy is”.

Hayes: That’s a great story.

Ponos: And that’s how we got together. Hugh Morton, he autographed this too.

Hayes: Good Wilmington boy, wasn’t he, Hugh?

Ponos: Yes sir.

Hayes: Did you know him when he was here?

Ponos: Yes sir, I know Hugh. Nice man, very nice man. He’s done a lot of photography. You have this book at the library.

Hayes: Yeah, it’s a great book. Listen Nick, I’m going to put a hold on this right now. You keep track of where we’re at cause we’re going to come back for another hour. I think we’ve got another good hour cause we sure haven’t covered your career past the fifties and you got another 40 years after that and you’re still playing, right? And we want to know about some of your other musicians that you’ve played with and who you’re playing with now.

Ponos: Yes sir, I’ll be glad to tell you because they are some great musicians and that music that we play will never die.

Hayes: Alright great, thank you.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign