Led by a Rainbow

In The Sound of Music, Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, “Follow every rainbow till you find your dream.”   He practiced what he preached.  In the Oscar Hammerstein biography, Getting to Know Him, published by da Capo Press (1995), author Hugh Fordin wrote the following on page 176:

“The Hammersteins had often visited friends in the Bucks County area located in the easternmost section of Pennsylvania.  On a rainy autumn day they went to a local real estate agent and looked at many places, but none seemed suitable.  After lunch in New Hope, they continued to look at other properties in nearby Doylestown.

As they drove up the long hill at the end of East Street, about a mile and a half outside the small town, to look at a farm, a rainbow suddenly appeared over the early-eighteenth-century main house on the hilltop.  Dorothy decided immediately that it was a good-luck omen.  Oscar loved the look of the place.”

Dorothy and Oscar lived in that farmhouse on the top of the hill (70 East Road) from 1940 until Oscar’s passing August 22,1960.  It was there at Highland Farm where Oscar wrote the books and lyrics for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals.

Next week will officially begin a new book project for Perry Principle Press, this blogger’s publishing company, which had its humble beginning in 2007.  The working name for the book is Led by a Rainbow:  A Community Memoir Honoring the Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II and His Beloved Highland Farm.  

Chapters  1 & 2 will be about Oscar and Highland Farm. Chapter 3 will be personal recollections of local residents who knew Oscar. Chapter 4 will record the impact of Oscar’s lyrics upon the lives of fans from around the world.  This will be the peoples’ tribute to this wise man humble enough to follow a rainbow.

At the Highland Farm Valentine Sing-Along in 2011, I had the good fortune to meet David Bjornsgaard, Oscar’s paperboy.  His is the first contribution to our book.  I’ll be meeting with Dave and other Doylestown community members on March 9 and 12th to talk about this new creative project.  If you have a story to share, please contact me at jb@jessiebarth.com.

My Paperboy Story

What would I know? I am a kid, living on Cherry Lane in small town USA.  By the time you learn to walk, in the mid to late 50s, you were issued a bicycle with training wheels.  As soon as the training wheels come off, you are then issued the mandatory paper route for the local evening news.

The daily delivery trek consisted of a full bag of papers at a starting point at the east side of Cherry Lane and ending one mile west at the intersection with Pebblehill Road.  And this was not merely tossing the paper in the driveway as is done in these modern times. You would stop, get off the bike and place it on the front porch as you were expected to do, especially on payday when you’d knock on the door and receive your bounty.  After the Cherry Lane jaunt, you would head north on East Road, concluding your task at the large farm on the top of the hill.

My parents always reminded me that the owner of the farm was a famous person. But, heck, I’m a kid; famous to me was meeting the Philadelphia TV Children’s show personality, Sally Starr, at the local Kiddie City years before. To me, Mr. Hammerstein was just another customer on my route.  More often than not, I’d find him and some friends on his croquet court. To me if he was so famous, why is he playing this game in his side yard and not doing something that famous people do?

After that I’d head home.  My parents as concerned as they weren’t about me living in constant peril on a bike with a full load of papers, would ask, “Did you see him?” I’d say, “See who?” They’d reply, “Hammerstein, Oscar Hammerstein, did you see him today?” I would say, “Sure, it’s payday, he paid me.” I remember my mother’s astonished look as she queried, “He paid you? Out of his pocket?!?!”

It wasn’t until years later, in an older and wiser moment, that I realized that I had met the Oscar Hammerstein, the man that wrote all those great lyrics and revolutionized Broadway. But, what would I know; I was just a kid growing up on Cherry Lane.

Dave with his big brother and bike

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