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Luxton Lake unveils monument

Contributed photo Jimmy Smith ca 1955.

By PATRICIA M. AAKRE
August 18, 2011

NARROWSBURG, NY — The public is invited to attend a ceremony on Saturday, August 20 at 1 p.m. at the Luxton Lake Community Property, 95 Luxton Lake Road, to unveil a new community monument. Music will be provided by local musician Jimmy Smith and special guest singer, songwriter and recording artist Halley Hiatt, as well as other local musicians and entertainers.

Luxton Lake is not really a lake any more, but in the ‘50s and ‘60s, at the height of the civil rights movement, it was a summer home to many black families who enjoyed the beautiful waters to fish, swim in and relax. At night in its clubhouse musicians from the city played jazz.

At Luxton Lake Road now, near the site of the clubhouse, a large stone announces “Welcome to Luxton Lake.” A park maintained by the property owners association is manicured, peaceful, a place to reflect with a bench circled by flowers. Jean Sackett, award-winning gardener and first white female Property Owners Association president, continues to tend the flower beds that she designed and Tina Spangler helped to plant. Just beyond is a large field where community picnics and concerts take place. Bridging the roadside garden and the larger lawn are flag monuments originally erected in 1960 to recognize famous jazz legends.

There is one for James Reese Europe, the first black American officer to command troops in combat in the Great War. Europe accomplished several other firsts. He led the first performance ever given by a black orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Europe and his orchestra were offered a recording contract by Victor Records, the first ever offered to a black orchestra. His orchestra during WWI introduced to Europeans the live sound of orchestrated American ragtime, blues and a new genre called “jazz.” His untimely death in 1919 at the height of his career was marked with the first public funeral for a black citizen in New York City, with a procession that included thousands of fans, black and white.

The other original monument honors W. C. Handy, blues musician and composer and author of “St. Louis Blues.”

The new monument, bordered by a row of flowers, is “Dedicated to all who help keep the dream alive” and quotes “I have a dream,” the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 when he articulated the vision of equality among all men and women.