Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More on the Melody Maids

A few days ago, I posted a story about a couple of musical groups who appeared at the Linkou Club Annex in Taipei, along with some photographs provided by Les Duffin.  One of those groups was called The Melody Maids, but Les couldn't remember where they were from.

After posting that piece, I dug around a bit and finally located information about the group in the Handbook of Texas Online, a website maintained by the Texas Historical Society.  Here is another photo from Les, and a profile of the group:

In 1942 Eloise Milam was asked to help arrange entertainment for a bond rally at the Jefferson Theater in Beaumont. As a private music teacher, she had a group of voice students, whom she presented as a choral group, all dressed in white. Since the newspaper insisted on having a name for the group, they decided to call themselves the Melody Maids. They became a self sustaining, nonprofit organization consisting of teen age girls and were a great hit.

They began to travel from coast to coast singing for organizations, but mostly they performed at military bases and military hospitals. The group made four tours of Europe, several to England, three to the Far East, seven to the far North, four to the Caribbean, five to Mexico, seven to Hawaii, and four to Bermuda, Iceland, and the Azores. The girls financed some of the tours themselves by holding bake sales, style shows and other fund-raisers. After 1956 all of the Melody Maid tours were financed by the Entertainment Branch of the Department of Defense. Of all the performers who traveled with the Entertainment Branch, the Melody Maids were requested the most. They sang for the troops at military bases and hospitals from 1942 to 1972.

The Melody Maids and Eloise Milam wore identical costumes. Their routines called for a variety of costume changes, depending on their location and the content of the show. The group had a book of rules for conduct and etiquette. This book, the Melody Maid "Bible," taught them how to act when presented to royalty and the correct way to present themselves at formal affairs. Milam always said she taught the girls morals, manners, and music, in that order. To help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901, Milam wrote a musical production, Song Saga of Spindletop. The work contained twelve original songs written by Milam to salute the oil industry of Beaumont. The first performance was on the anniversary (January 10, 1951) of the Lucas Gusher and was lauded by Gulf Oil Company. The Melody Maids appeared on the television show "We, the People" in 1952 to perform the musical.

Many of the Melody Maids kept in touch and established a tax exempt Melody Maid Foundation, which sponsored a $10,000 scholarship fund at Lamar University. There were around 1,500 Melody Maids through the years. The group received many awards over the years. The Eloise Milam–Melody Maid Rose Room at the Julie Rogers Theater in Beaumont opened in 1990. Scrapbooks, souvenirs, photographs, and other memorabilia are housed there. The room is open to the public by request. In 2000 the Melody Maids performed Song Saga of Spindletop at their annual reunion as a tribute to Eloise Milam.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for finding that, Don. It certainly makes those old pictures more meaningful.

Les Duffin

Ross Marshall said...

Melody Maids: My Mom, ''Dixie (Eral. Beard) Marshall started in the first group with Eloise in 1942. She is still alive, thank the Lord, and lives in Lyndale Texas. She is one of the few left alive of the group.... Son, Ross Marshall
She can be reached through me, if anyone wants to speak to her.