When I was a kid my father used to bring me (and sometimes my friend, Jill, a reader of this blog) to Ramona Park. We explored and played while he worked–maintaining and refurbishing the pavilion, the grounds, and the shore of Long Lake that ran along the property.
I’ve written before about this park, located in Portage, Michigan here:
I remember trying to imagine what the pavilion, which was called Ramona Palace, was like back in its heyday, when people came to listen to live music and dance in the ballroom.
Notice that this old photograph locates the park in Vicksburg, but it is now Portage, Michigan. This is the ballroom as I remember it–big and empty. The lake was just outside those windows.
A while back I was contacted by Shawna (Smith) Raymond about those days. Her grandfather, Eddie Smith, and his Big Band used to play at Ramona Palace.
Shawna passed on a story from her aunt about those days.
When Mom, whose name was Margene, would walk into the Ramona Palace ballroom where Dad was playing, he’d always stop whatever song they were playing and play ‘My Little Margie.’
“Margie“, also known as “My Little Margie“, is a 1920 popular song composed in collaboration by vaudeville performer and pianist Con Conrad and ragtime pianist J. Russel Robinson, a member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Lyrics were written by Benny Davis, a vaudeville performer and songwriter. The song was introduced by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1920 as Victor 78, 18717-A, in a medley paired with “Singin’ the Blues”. The B side was “Palesteena”.The Rega Dance Orchestra recorded the song in October, 1920 for Okeh Records, 4211. The ODJB recorded their instrumental version on December 1, 1920. The song was published in 1920 and was named after the five-year-old daughter of singer and songwriter Eddie Cantor. Cantor is credited with popularizing the song with his 1921 recording that stayed at the top of the pop charts for five weeks.
Here is a Benny Goodman version from 1938: