Ball brings out memories, spirit of Fayette area

June 19, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer
??? James Jones and Frank Clark have not lived in Martinsville since
their days at Albert Harris High School, but both men returned to their
hometown this weekend to celebrate the revival of the June German Ball.
??? Held Saturday night at Forest Park Country Club, the ball was the
culmination of months of planning by members of the Fayette Area
Historical Initiative (FAHI). The group sought to recreate the spirit of
the original June German balls, held in Martinsville?s black community
from the 1930s through the 1960s.
??? Jones and Clark said they remember the ball?s glory days. Although
Jones never attended the ball, he recollects the crowds on Fayette
Street and people dressing up for the festivities. Clark remembers going
to the dance as a 17-year-old just graduating from high school.
??? "I saw Little Richard in 1957," he said. "It was the only one I
attended. I remember him screaming."
??? In those days, the June German Ball was held in a section of Fayette
Street known as Baldwin?s Block. Dr. Dana Baldwin, a prominent black
physician, owned several businesses along the block and built a
"gymtorium" in which the ball was held.
??? Jesse Anglin "Juke Box" Scales, whose band performed Saturday night,
remembers the ball from a performer?s perspective. As a young man,
Scales played saxophone at the event with Ray Charles and James Brown.
??? Now 76, he still makes his living as a musician and is a member of
Harmonica Dean and the Blue Lights. The Fieldale native said being asked
to return for the ball?s revival was touching.
??? "I'm so happy, and my band is happy," he said. "People have been
really nice."
??? Barbara Ingram, who is Scales' cousin, said the weekend?s events
prove that Martinsville has the talent and potential to build a bright
??? "It's been fantastic," said Ingram, 64. "It was just what we were
hoping it would be."
??? Accompanying Ingram to the dance was her mother, Ethel Howard of
Martinsville. Ingram said Howard, 87, is pictured in historic photos of
the ball now displayed along Fayette Street.
??? The photographic displays are the result of a partnership between
FAHI and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, a
Charlottesville-based non-profit organization. The two groups are
working together to preserve the history of events such as the June
German Ball, said historian Jeanne Siler.
??? A self-guided walking tour titled "Working and Playing on Fayette
Street" was started last week, she said.
??? Prior to the ball Saturday night, choirs, speakers and poets
performed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fayette Street. Rhonda Royal Hatton
of Durham, N.C., performed three monologues, including Sojourner Truth's
"Ain't I A Woman," "Ego Trippin'" by poet Nikki Giovanni and a piece of
her own titled "Stacey."
??? Hatton said events such as the June German Ball are more than just a
good time.
??? "It's important to show the presence of our history and to share our
gifts and our talents with the community," she said.
??? Linda Strange Dillard, FAHI director, called the weekend an
opportunity to bridge cultural, racial and socio-economic barriers. She
said FAHI planned this year?s ball as a ?trial run? for years to come.
??? "Next year we think we'll be ready to have it right there along
Fayette Street," she said. "We want it to be like it used to be."
??? Dillard said 125 tickets to the ball were sold. Area residents and
many people from out of town attended, she said.
??? Tom Dorsey of Fort Worth, Texas, said he and his wife, Patricia
Burnette Dorsey, traveled to Martinsville especially for the event.
Dorsey said his wife, a Martinsville native, has spoken about the ball
often in their 35 years of marriage.
??? "She used to come to the original June German Ball," he said. "She
told me about it from the time we were married. ... I think it's nice
they're trying to do it again."
??? Jones and Clark said they too appreciated the effort that went into
reviving the ball.
??? Jones, 70, a graduate of Howard University, is retired from a career
in management training for the federal government. Clark, 65, also
graduated from Howard. An architect, he lived in California for many
years before moving to Richmond.
??? Both men said they would have liked to have stayed in Martinsville
but felt they had to leave to forge successful careers.
??? "My biggest regret is that I could not apply my talent in
Martinsville," Clark said.
??? Despite their regrets, both men said they were enjoying the chance
to reunite with old friends at the new June German Ball.
??? "It's been a great weekend," Jones said.


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