Travel in Time to 1931

Erica SmithBlog Tower Garden, History, MusicLeave a Comment

In January 1931, Remy Müller, a World War I veteran and employee at the John Wanamaker Store in Philadelphia, received some exciting news: “You have been accepted as a student of Campanology of The Curtis Institute of Music.” The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, PA) was founded my Mary Louise Curtis Bok and remains one the finest music conservatories in the world. A month later, Müller was on the train down to Lake Wales to spend 6 weeks studying carillon with Anton Brees here at Bok Tower Gardens.

Müller compiled a scrapbook detailing his time here, including photos, postcards, and letters home to his wife, Elizabeth (“Bee”), and son, Robert. One copy of the scrapbook was given as a thank you gift to Mary Louise Curtis Bok and is housed in the Curtis Institute archives. In 2017, we learned of a second copy, of which we had been previously unaware. This copy, which we believe to be Müller’s own copy, was generously donated to us by Mark & Patti Bostick.

The scrapbook joins the Remy Müller Collection already here in the library, which also includes a photograph album and some of Müller’s music, programs, and correspondence. Thanks to the assistance of volunteer Fred Powell, both the scrapbook and the photo album are available in our digital collections online!

Müller’s Scrapbook Müller’s Photograph Album

 

 

The scrapbook not only provides a snapshot of Müller’s experience but also includes many wonderful details that help paint a picture of what life was like in Lake Wales in 1931 – including what was on the menu at the Walesbilt Hotel and popular fashions of the day – as well as a few amusing anecdotes.

Adventures Around Town
When Müller arrived in Lake Wales, he was permitted to drive Anton Brees’ old car, a Studebaker roadster, which was “a beautiful shade of green” and provided difficulties on numerous occasions –

I had gone a mile outside the park, on an open stretch, when I suddenly saw smoke coming up from somewhere. I quickly stopped the car, only to discover that it was on fire…

I next stopped a big limousine, thinking that a man driving such a car must surely be able to help. He quickly got a fire extinguisher, lifted the hood, and squirted it down toward the emergency brake, which being so different from what I had been shown, I had not released altogether, and my brake bands were afire.” (March 8, 1931)

“Believe it or not, the Studebaker and I”
– Remy Müller, March 25, 1931

For the Birds
Mr. Bok built to the Gardens to be a sanctuary not only for people, but for birds as well. Müller mentions them several times in his letters home, even sharing with his young son the songs they sing-

Dear Robert:

I listened to a little brown thrush singing the other day and tried to copy down some of his notes. His song sounded something like this:

Tweet Tweet
Giddy-ap Giddy-ap
Pretty Polly Pretty Polly
Teedle-wee Teedle-wee
Tweet Tweet
Trill (like a canary)
Tiddle-widdle-wee Tiddle-widdle-wee
Bob-white Bob-white

The song of the mocking bird is quite similar, but more folks like the brown thrush song best. They both sing well and make everybody glad, which is what you and I should do – try to make others glad we are here.

Daddy
(~March 18, 1931)

Müller later mentions his wish that he could take one of the mocking birds home with him, but jokes that the bird “might get homesick for Florida.” He probably wasn’t too keen to take home a swan, however, after a close encounter with one by Crystal Lake.

Then I walked over to a smaller lake, in which there were two swans – beautiful birds. But what do you suppose: a gentleman, who had been feeding the female, was chased by the male bird clear across the park. Everyone looked in amazement. On his way back to the water, he seemed to think that I, too, was in league with this fellow, and came at me, with his wings spread wide, his neck stretched nearly as tall as a man, then struck at me with his left wing. It was quite a blow and surprised me, but I stood my ground.” (March 29, 1931)

 

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