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about the Harlem in Havana stage show here. 

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NameSara Green
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MessageI was a little kid who sneaked out, crossed the street and climbed a fence so that I could visit Leon Claxton and Gwen and her sister of whom I referred to as "Aunt Gwen" every year when the Royal American carnival came to St. Louis Mo. I grew up in a funeral home and was always afraid to go anywhere near the chapel,,that is until Uncle Leon and Aunt Gwen came to town, I would brazenly walk right into the chapel. past a body in the casket;open the window and sneak out. Why? Because as an adopted kid, they treated me like royalty and allowed me to be in their company backstage in their tent. These were the most beautiful and kindest folks I've ever known. I have searched for years trying to get information about their lives. I thank you for this opportunity.

Sara Green

Name Glenda Wapegan-Magarrell - PART 4
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MessagePART 4: I have been living and working in Detroit, Michigan for the last 9 years, but will be moving back home in June 2013. My son, 34 years old now has 2 beautiful sons and a gorgeous daughter. All of whom, I would like to know of their moishum (Ojibiway for grandpa). I am extremely proud of the man I never knew. I love the horn, I love listening to Tom Browne and like to mess around with a bass (although I am just a novice) and I"m sure I get this from my dad. I want be able to tell my grandbabies about him and hopefully have a picture or two to show them.

Anything you can you do to help would be greatly appreciated.

God bless you and thank you in advance.
God Bless You.

NameGlenda Wapegan-Magarrell -PART 3
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MessagePART 3- My mom met my dad in 1946 when she was 15 years old. She spent time with him every year and I believe even traveled from Regina, Sask. to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatoon, Sask, and perhaps Edmonton to meet him. They did not begin to have children until she was 29 years old. I know they had a good friendship because, she kept several pictures of my dad visiting her family on the Muscowpetung First Nation. Unfortunately, those pictures we lost when she moved and left them in storage never to be retrieved.

I'm writing you because in addition to the story of the RAS giving so many of our African-American men and women the opportunities for success; there is also another story. There are alot bi-racial men and women just like me, who are a wonderful by-product of the RAS. It was a hard time for blacks in the US, but it was also a terrible for Indians in Canada during the 40, 50, and 60's (still is). I think it's wonderful that my mom and dad were able to find each other for the time they did. I'm saddened that there could have not been more between them and I can''t tell you how heartbreaking and painful it's been not to know my dad, but I've made my peace with it. I know you have many pictures of the Harlem Review and would love to know if you have any of my father or perhaps could refer me to a RAS archive.

NameGlenda Wapegan-Magarrell -PART 2
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MessagePART 2- My mother would take my older sister, younger brother and I backstage to see them and we would be filled with awe as we watched the performance from backstage. It was so exciting and wonderful to see people who looked just we did! We were raised as traditional Ojibiway children among my mom's people and lived in Regina was at the time primarily white. I remember how my older sister and I thought the "negro" women were so BEAUTIFUL. It truly was the most exciting time of the year for us. The arrival of the yearly Regina exhibition was heralded by the whistle of Royal American Shows' train as the cars rolled by our house. We lived right by the railroad tracks. That same whistel sounded mighty lonesome when the RAS left a week later. I don't remember my dad; his last interaction with my mom and his two daughters was about 9 months before my younger brother was born. Needless to say, not having him in our lives was detrimental, but I am grateful all the same, for the Harlem Review and nanny and grandpa Claxton who always treated us like family. I can only guess at the struggles my father must have gone through as black man during that time. I'm glad he made a life for himself as a musician and was able to travel.

NameGlenda Wapegan-Magarrell - PART 1
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MessagePART 1: My name is Glenda Wapegan-Magarrell. I came across your website a few weeks ago as I was doing my periodical search for any information regarding my father, Hiliard Witherspoon. My father was a trumpet player for the Harlem Review. He fathered 3 children (including myself) with my mother, Marion Wapegan, a beautiful Ojibiway woman.

It was with both a sense of delight and melancholy that I read of your project. I am 51 years old and have had no contact with my father (who traveled with the Royal American Shows (RAS) from around 1946 until the mid-60's) since I 3 years old. I remember "nanny and grandpa Claxton".

NameDodi Beckwith,
Locationclick picture for more information
MessageHi there, I spent most of my time during the fair in Brandon,mb canada at the Harlem in Havana and later Harlem revue show. My parents were Lois Bentley and Ed Koshowski, friends of Leon and Gwen. My mom met Olivia on the midway in the early 1950's and a friendship was born. My folks stayed with Leon and Gwen in their home in Tampa in 1969. I sent my time going on the midway with Brother and Gwenette. I remember Shown McGowan picked me up and carried me across the stage and tore his pants in the process. Until her death in2010 my mom spoke of the wonderful times she had with the Claxtons. She knit Leon a Mary maxim sweater for his birthday one year. And she knit Gwen a lace table cloth for her dining table. When visiting them she discovered that the table cloth was too small and brought it home and made it larger. I was happy to find the website but was sad that my mom died before seeing it. She would have been so excited. Sincerely Dodi Beckwith, Winnipeg, mb, Canada

NamePenny Woods
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MessageHi Leslie my name is Penny I really enjoyed reading and looking at all the photo’s seeing so many talents. My father and my uncles were a part of your grandfather’s show. Thank you so much for all your hard work. My father is John Myers of the Five Pennies, My name is Penny I was named after the group I live in knox tenn. When my father talks about being out on the road it’s as though it happened yesterday. It's really a blessing to sit and listen to him as I know you have found to be true. I just want to send you love and support from knoxville tenn fam and say good job!

NameLarita T.
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MessageI enjoyed your film on Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana. My parents performed in The Royal American Show with Mr. Claxton. While watching the film I saw a picture of my mother in a dance pose wearing a costume made of beautiful feathers. Good work! Will you continue to make other films such as this one? I hope that you will.

Private Message added 2012-05-06

NameMonty Bowman (Email)
MessageI grew up in North Carolina although I have lived more than half of my life in Virginia. I was never lucky enough to see the Royal American Shows, but I know that they were the biggest and the best. I grew up in Winston-Salem and the large rail road carnival World of Mirth went bankrupt there in 1963. I remember watching the bally of a "brown skinned" show there, but I was too young to go inside. The thing I remember the most was the large stage band on the bally with the sax players. What a great sound that one does not here anymore. I also went to the State Fair in Raleigh with my scout troop and camped in Umstead State Park no too far from your home in Durham. I was with Strates in 1975, but the only girl show left was Broadway Play Girls. I have always loved microphones and had aspirations of being a talker. The closest I ever got to that job was Age and Weight Guessing which uses a mic and I am also an Auctioneer.

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