Posted by FiddlerPaul71 on Sunday, February 10, 2019
This week I chose another Estill Bingham tune for my Old-Time TOTW series: Cotton Bonnet. I love Bingham's tunes, but the reason for featuring one this week is to celebrate his birthday, which will be February 14th. He was born 129 years ago, in 1899. That year has a bit of connection to me because it is the year my great grandmother Elsie was born. Not a huge connection, but it is a little thing that adds some perspective in a personal sort of way.
As I was preparing the last Bingham tune I featured, Old Aunt Jenny With Her Nightcap On, I had the pleasure of connecting with two of his relatives/descendants: Annie Bassham and Vicki Allen. Estill Bingham was Annie's great uncle. She shared many lovely stories and photos with me that I am sharing in this and in future installments of Old-Time TOTW. I am also grateful to have met Vicki Allen, Odell Bingham’s niece through marriage, who provided information as well.
The timing was interesting, too, because Estill's son Odell had died just about a month prior to making contact with Annie and Vicki. Vicki asked if I could dedicate a TOTW to Odell, which was Old Aunt Jenny With Her Nightcap On. That video can be viewed here: Old Aunt Jenny With Her Nightcap On
I've always enjoyed old family photos. I would often visit my grandmother's Uncle Frank, who lived down the street from us. At the time, he was 80 years old, born in 1903, and I was about 12. He always sent me home with something old and interesting, whether it was a coin, some books, or family photos. One time he gave me a load of old National Geographic magazines. I remember carting them up the street, making several trips with my wagon. My mother saw them and asked "What are you going to DO with all of those?" I didn't know, but Uncle Frank gave them to me, so I knew they were special. Another time he gave me a small (but quite heavy) wooden combination turntable/radio unit. He told me that he had bought that for his kids at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1933. I went home and used it to play old 78 records. I still have it to this day, but it needs new tubes. Uncle Frank would always take me down his finished basement where he had a lot of interesting old stuff, most of which was furnishings from his and Aunt Sophie's first house. Many of them were wedding gifts to them in 1929. There were also a lot of old family photos.
Even when old photos are from other people's families, they still interest me quite a bit. I can see the progression of life in them, and view happy times even though I was not there and have no family relation to these folks. Joy is still very apparent from a frozen moment in time depicted in a photograph, even to a stranger.
I looked at the photos Annie shared of Estill's wife, Opha ("Opie") when she was young. A photo from the early 1950s of Estill and Opie on the beach in Oregon shows her with bright eyes and a gentle expression. Another photo, taken in the late 1980s, shows her as a much older woman leaning on crutches, but those bright eyes and smile still shine through. Very warm and approachable. She must have been an amazing woman.
There is also something very warm and approachable about the recordings of Estill playing the tunes he knew. His tunes are simple and easy to relate to in a very nice, familiar way. Even though I did not grow up hearing these tunes, I feel I do know them through his playing.
Kind of like the people in the photos Annie and Vicki shared with me.
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