What I loved about Frances Dixon’s wonderful archive were the rarely seen images of clubs in Corona which was the home of many Jazz Greats including Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Heath and others. But hanging out never made Ms Dixon late for church! Her photos recall Deborah Willis’ fabulous book: Saturday Night/Sunday Morning.
The DDFR Roadshow traveled to Corona/East Elmhurst, Queens. Our hosts were the Louis Armstrong House Museum, including curator Michael Cogswell, archivist Ricky Riccardi, and development director Nayelli Dispaltro, who rolled out the red carpet for our crew. Among those who stopped by to share their stories of growing up in the neighborhood was longtime resident Frances Dixon. Her father came from the Caribbean around 1910 and settled in Queens in 1925.
“My father bought the house in 1925, in Corona and I’m still in the same old house.”
Her father was a carpenter and helped to build the Empire State Building, and her mother had two jobs. She earned fifty cents an hour, back in those days, but, says Frances, “we never went hungry.”
Frances later married and raised her own family in Corona, just around the corner from the home of Louis and Lucille Armstrong (her bff). Another of her good friends was Selma Heraldo, who lived next door to the Armstrongs and in whose home our interview with Frances was conducted. Frances had lots of good memories in Corona. When DDFR host Thomas Allen Harris asked her ‘what is special about Queens’, Frances responded ‘We had a lot of good neighbors and families got along well. And we knew everybody around here. It was like a little home place.’
Of special note, Frances is an award-winning organist, so named by The Amsterdam News, and now that she’s retired, she’s available and looking for work! 😉