Back when men were men and railroads were railroads, Charles M. Murphy challenged a locomotive and lived to tell the tale. He rode behind a Long Island Railroad locomotive in 1899 and clocked a mile in under 58 seconds, earning him the immortal nickname Mile-a-Minute Murphy.
On today’s episode we look back at Murphy’s accomplishment through the eyes of Si Tannhauser. Who was Si Tannhauser, you ask? Only the “poet laureate of Long Island” circa 1934. That’s when he published his ode to Murphy in the Leader Observer. Si was a ticket agent for the Long Island Railroad by day, poet by night.
The lives of both men brim with anecdote and pathos. Tannhauser survived the San Francisco earthquake as well as hardscrabble times that left him near blind, lame and half-deaf. Murphy went on to Vaudeville and the New York City Police department where, among other things, he wrestled down a runaway horse.
This episode is part of our celebration of National Poetry month and the reader of this particular Long Island power ballad is Rick Jackofsky of the Home Grown String Band. Many thanks, Rick! And check out our past ballads for more poetry/history mashups.
Stream in the player above or download audio.
- Rhymes of the Sunrise Trail by Si Tannhauser (find in a library via WorldCat)
- Songs of Horticulture by Si Tannhauser (find in a library via WorldCat)
- “Mile-a-Minute Murphy,” Sports Illustrated, Sept. 5, 1955
- Long Island Railroad History
- San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
- Homegrown String Band
- Steam Whistle by Bidone CC 0 License
- Music: Razzle Dazzle
- Crowd cheers by jessepash CC 0 License
- Peak rails by konakaboom CC Attribution-NonCommercial License
- Bicycle by DamianMinnie CC Attribution-NonCommercial License
- Heavy breathing by Under7dude CC 0 License
- Grunts by mattgarkusha CC 0 License
- Wheezing by thedapperdan CC 0 License
- Man saying OMG by email@example.com CC Sampling Plus License
- Ooh females by AudioRichter CC Attribution License
We continue our celebration of National Poetry Month with our second Long Island power ballad from the past. This time out we are looking at “A Babylonish Ditty” by Frederick Swartwout Cozzens (writing as Richard Haywarde).
Few will remember New York wine merchant-turned poet Cozzens and his heyday as a humor writer in the mid 1800s (although you should try his Sparrowgrass Papers, something of a 19th-century prototype for the sticom Green Acres.) Fewer still will remember the Knickerbocker, the magazine where he cut his teeth. But that’s where, in 1850, he first published “A Babylonish Ditty,” a quick-trotting ode to a long gone summer romance.
Why Babylon? Well, the south shore of Long Island (“the merry old south side”) had a reputation that drew men out from New York City. Mostly they were merchants and lawyers, amateur sportsmen drawn to the abundant fish and game along the Great South Bay. They came by rail and stage coach and after a long day traipsing through the great outdoors, they retired to one of the many inns and taverns strung along the South Country Road (today’s Montauk Highway).
Listen to Cozzens relive those hazy summer days and wonder to yourself how the “fickle” object of his affection viewed the whole affair. Many thanks to our guest reader, Steve Birkeland.
Stream in the player above or download audio.
- “Babylonish Ditty” Kinckerbocker Magazine, December 1850. (via Hathi Trust)
- Prismatics by Richard Haywarde, 1853
- The Sparrowgrass Papers, 1856
- Village of Babylon Historical and Preservation Society
- Clock by pogotron CC Sampling Plus License
- Female giggle by ch0cchi CC Attribution License 3.0
- Stream by gluckose CC 0 License
- Cheers by Corsica_S CC Attribution License 3.0
- Drinking glasses by EpicWizard CC 0 License
- Fireworks by noah0189 CC 0 License
- Crowd Ooohs by noah0189 CC 0 License
- Breeze by keweldog CC 0 License
- Footsteps by mentalsanityoff CC 0 License
- Bees by Benboncan CC Attribution License 3.0
- Pain by 11linda CC Attribution License 3.0
- Dog barking by jace CC 0 License
- Dog barks by juan-merie-venter CC Attribution Noncommercial
- Female startled surprise by AudioRichter CC Attribution License 3.0
- Male laugh by ch0cchi CC Attribution License 3.0
- Screams and pain by thanvannispen CC Attribution License 3.0
- Running by Benboncan CC Attribution License 3.0
- Vocal (Kiss) by Adam_N CC 0 License
- Slap by talis1942 CC Attribution License 3.0
- Summer sounds by jymdavis CC 0 License
- Writing by moai15 CC 0 License
- Paddle in rowboat by jakobthiesen CC Attribution License 3.0
- Storm by crooner CC Attribution Noncommercial
- Oh disappointed by esperar CC 0 License
- Splash by petenice CC 0 License
- High heels on wooden floor by avakas CC Attribution License 3.0
- Door slams by bennstir CC Attribution License 3.0
- Heavy surf by odilonmarcenaro CC 0 License
- Raven by bidone CC 0 License
- Grandfather clock by ollyoldhoff CC 0 License
A self-confessed Nancy Drew aficionado, Addie Meyers has followed her passion and made writing an integral part of her life, finding inspiration for her books from the wide range of her experiences. Here she discusses how she went from raising children in Sayville to teaching poetry in schools (Alligators, Monsters & Cool School Poems), researching dyslexia (The Upside Down Kids written with Dr. Harold N. Levinson) and swimming with dolphins (Top Fin.) She also discusses the writing process – refining concepts, finding the right publisher, and ignoring trends in favor of your own ideas. You’ll hear her read some of her poems and the picture book I Don’t Want to Go, revealing at the same time the secret to Grandpa’s super special tomato sauce.
Books by Addie Meyer Sanders via Worldcat.org