As hurricane rattled ship, an impromptu jazz concert

On this day in 1933: “En route from Havana to New York, the luxury passenger ship Morro Castle was stranded off Cape Hatteras in a hurricane. The entire orchestra was seasick and the ship’s 140 passengers gathered in the lounge because of water in some cabins.

“Twenty-two-year-old Gwendolyn Taylor of Philadelphia distracted the crowd with piano playing and singing. ‘I thought I ought to do something,’ she later recounted, ‘and the only thing I could do was play. So I played. I sang, too; only cheerful things. I think some of the women wanted to hear hymns, but I thought they needed jazz more.’ ”

— From “On This Day in Outer Banks History” by Sarah Downing (2014)

Being stranded overnight off Hatteras was far from the worst misfortune the Morro Castle would encounter.

 

Booker T. Washington signed it — and the rest is mystery

“On a warm January day in 1903, the most famous and influential black leader in America came to San Diego.

“Booker T. Washington created such a stir that roughly 15 percent of the city’s population showed up to hear him speak on ‘The Negro Problem.’

“Washington’s visit is a little-known episode in the city’s halting march forward on civil rights, and now it has a fascinating footnote, a bit of cross-country serendipity