Lamont Brown and Marvin
Hardman - These men were the savers of happy things.
Flashing back to the year
1942, World War 11 brought fear, sadness and anxiety to the people of The
United States. One of Velma’s half-brothers, Daniel Hernandez, was serving
in the islands where such terrible battles were fought. In spite of this,
daily living went on and the family did everything possible to lighten
their worry and apprehension for possibly him in the war. The world had
been in an upheaval from the year of 1914 and WWI.
In Velma’s mother’s dining
room one corner was where a desk held the equipment for cutting the old
disk records. These lacquer disks were black, flat and shiny. The children
could actually see their faces reflected in them. They knew nothing of the
war other than it was happening somewhere, they didn’t know where. This
with the records was just a fun and fascinating good time for them. When
the sound was recorded onto them, the arm that held the needle cutter was
filled with the fine strands of filament coming off the records which was
like a mass of black hair. This was interesting and good for inspecting
Lamont Brown 1, Ponca man,
was youthful and gifted with an outgoing personality in 1942. He had gone
to some lengths to learn the Ponca songs and could sing them one after
another. The family remembers him sitting up to the microphone,
rawhide-drum in hand, recording these ancient songs onto the modern disks.
All of it was fascinating to the children who were watching and as
children will do, tried to be a part of it all.
“Please may I beat the
drum?” Or “I want to sing.” They pushed themselves into the center of
Velma’s brother, Francis
Hernandez, was the one who was working with the equipment and he always
had a soft spot for his sister’s children.
“As soon as we are through
with Lamont’s recording we will record some of your voices.” And his
promise was enough to contain some of their being such a nuisance. He did
take the time later to teach them a song and while he played the guitar
they sang along into the microphone. “Don’t Fence Me In” was popular at
the time and they learned the words to that along with “You Are My
Sunshine” and “One Meatball.” “You get no bread with one meatball.” They
sang and laughed wickedly at the poor man’s plight when he asked the
waitress for some bread to go with his meatball, in the song, of course.
Velma, thirty years later,
through instructions from her schooling at Oklahoma University had
arranged a dinner to honor Lamont Brown and Marvin Hardman for their
contributions in conserving Native culture.
This day Lamont rolled his
wheelchair through the front door with the same devil may care abandon he
had when he was youthful and walking. His disability didn’t interfere with
the same jovial way and pleasant personality he always had. Over the
handle of his chair was the shallow drum he carried with him.
He looked about the room to
notice who was there. “Well, well, where did we find the most beautiful
women in the tribe to entertain me this afternoon?” Immediately he had the
attention of part of the crowd.
There were lovely memories
generated that day. Lamont, never shy about singing Ponca songs,
entertained them and Marvin Hardman shared many treasured bits about Ponca
history and traditions. These men were the savers of happy things.
Lamont Brown’s saving of
these songs allows Poncas to hear them without fail, no matter what pow-wow
they attend, from the Black Hills to California. There are recordings on
tapes so they can be heard and memorized by youthful generations today.
This was a good thing he did.
Marvin spoke of the lost
twelve peace pipes of the Ponca. How had these so mysteriously
disappeared? He mentioned the last one Gramma Grace Little Warrior held
and protected. After she was gone no one knew what happened to the pipe.
Research revealed eleven of the clans he mentioned. He did not know the
twelfth clan, he said. Marvin, too, spoke of the many plants the Ponca
used for healing and how many of them were being used by modern medicine.
One plant he mentioned was the evening primrose for the heart which some
doctors refine to treat their patients today.