NEW INSTRUMENT TO HER. ~ Fiddler's "Ma" Begged Him to Learn to Play on "Comedy."

September 27, 1909

Fiddler's "Ma" Begged Him to
Learn to Play on "Comedy."

"Mother was an old-fashioned darkey with the ideas which prevailed before the war," said Harry Fiddler of the team of Fiddler and Shelton, negro entertainers at the Orphem last week.

"She was a devout Baptist of hard-shell kind and tried to bring me up in that belief, as well as in the ways with which had been taught her by the family of white folks to whom she once belonged. Moreover, it was her opinion that a good darkey could not be other than a barber, a porter or a groom.

"I was of a different opinion, however. I wanted to be an actor and go upon the stage. This inclination on my part got me many a good licking, my mother remarking: "Yo's the debbil's own; he shore g'wine get you yit.' The lickings didn't affect me a bit. I practiced all the time.

"When I wasn't doing that I was hanging around the stage door, importuning managers to give me a chance. One day it came. Billy Kersand's minstrel troupe came to town. He wanted a man to take the place of one who had quit the troupe. I heard him ask the house manager if he knew of anyone. I pleaded for a chance.

"The manager took me back on the stage, saw my work, and said I would do. I was to receive $25 per week. 'If you make good, I'll give you a contract for the season,' he said.

"Oh, I made good, all right," chuckled Fiddler. "I got my money Saturday night, and as we were not to leave until Sunday night, I went home and handed mother my salary. It was the first money I had ever earned.

" 'Whah you git dis money, chil'?' she asked.

" 'At the theater,' I replied.

" 'How you git it?'

" ' Danced for it.'

" 'Fifteen dollars for dancing?' incredulously, for this was more money than father earned each week.

" 'Yep,' I replied. But mother couldn't see it that way. Something was wrong. She picked up a hickory club lying in the corner, and, advancing toward me, once more asked:

" 'Look me in both eyes, chil'. Whah yuh git dis money?'

" 'Got it for dancing in Billy Kersands's minstrels. Why, that isn't anything, mother. Billy Kersands gets $250 a week for fifteen minutes' work each night,' said I.

" 'What he do?' she asked.

" 'He plays comedy parts,' I replied.

" 'An' he gits $250 a week fo' playin' dat?' she asked. Turning to my aunt, who was present during the conversation, mother exclaimed:

" 'Yah hear dat, M'riar? Didn't I tole you dat boy was de debbil's own. I dun beg him all his life to learn to play on dat instrument.' "