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An Old College Assignment Reveals a Connection Between Dave’s Great-Aunt and Perry Como [VIDEO]

My mother’s place is like our family museum. There are “exhibits” on shelves and glass showcases plus photography, some of which hangs on the walls and most of which lies in scrapbooks in albums.

The other day she was looking for an old picture of one of my dad’s aunts when she came across something I had written.

It was a paper I did for my Introduction to Folklore class in the spring of 1986 when I was a sophomore at Western Kentucky University. (Ah, those funky Arts & Humanities electives.)

I had written about a Topmiller family reunion the previous summer, Topmiller being my mother’s maiden name. And I had completely forgotten I wrote this. So what the paper revealed about my great-aunt was doubly surprising.

The paper has faded after 28 years, so I’ll transcribe it, but here it is:

Dave Spencer Family Archives

And here’s the transcription:

“Last August, there was a Topmiller family reunion which was nationwide. Every Topmiller in this country (including my mother, whose maiden name is Topmiller) gathered here in Bowling Green, since this is where many of the ancestors settled when they came here from Germany in the mid-19th century.

Well, many is a wrong word to use because it was one woman who made the journey. Her name was Anna Hauser, and, of her five children, her son Benjamin was my great-great-grandfather. That is how all the Topmillers in the United States came to be. (Attached is the letter written by a second cousin of my mother, Kathryn T. Garrison, telling how she and my great-aunt Elizabeth were going to organize the reunion.)

SIDE NOTE: I do not have the letter in question and don’t where it is.

I could go into great detail about the reunion itself, but I’d rather talk about one aspect of the reunion that I found rather interesting. Some of the family began talking about the time in 1918 when my great-aunt Hammie was working at the J.H. Bousman Music Company at 927 State Street. That music store would pick up fresh music from the area and see if the public liked it. Aunt Hammie started playing a song one day that she liked. Her boss, Ben Bradley, did not like it. (This he made evident by storming out of the store in annoyance to get a Coca-Cola.)

When he returned, she asked him if he thought he could write a better song, and she bet him a $2.50 gold piece that he could not. He told her that if she would close the store for an hour, he would sit down and come up with something. When the hour was up, he had written two stanzas of the song, and he had the melody and harmony in his head, so he played it. She admitted it was a better song and gave him the gold piece. The song was called “Lonesome, That’s All” and orders for it started coming in from all over the country. It had become a national hit. (Attached to this page is a copy of that song plus some songs that have been traditional favorites in the Topmiller family for years.)”

Well, I don’t have that copy of the song or those other songs, but I DID learn that “Lonesome, That’s All” is registered in the Library of Congress and that it was a hit for Perry Como in 1952.

Take a listen:

 

I love those old scratches.

Anyway, what an incredible discovery. And, yes, I do not remember the paper or the story, but it’s cool to know that an aunt of mine was partly responsible for a hit song by Perry Como.

 

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