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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 20


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 and examining.

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 everything.

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.


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