In Search of Accordion Jimmy

Ms. Cladrite recently made a purchase that yielded far greater treasures than she might ever have expected.

A couple of weeks back, we were strolling the aisles of Uncommon Objects, a vintage emporium in Austin, Texas, and Ms. Cladrite was taken by a portrait, dating, we guessed, from the 1960s, of a young man joyously playing the accordion.

The portrait was housed in an inexpensive picture frame, and we almost wondered if it wasn’t one of those generic pictures that come included in store-bought frames.

But no, it was not a commercial insert, but, as we confirmed upon extracting the picture from the frame, a studio portrait taken in December 1962.

The subject of the portrait was one James Thomas Dollins, and he was fourteen years old at the time.

Pleasing enough to come across a few details about this anonymous portrait, but imagine our surprise to learn that, hidden behind the shot of Mr. Dollins and his accordion, were three school portraits of Mr. Dollins, aged 9 and 10, two of them taken in 1958 and one in ’59.

We’ve undertaken a cursory onine search for info about Mr. Dollins, but haven’t found anything definite. A James Thomas Dollins Jr. was married to one Lucy Doll Murphy in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. I don’t know his age at the time of the ceremony, but Accordion Jimmy would have been 34 or so in 1982, so that’s a reasonably good match.

A James Terry Dollins was born in 1928 in Dallas, Texas. Given that he’d have been approximately twenty years old when Accordion Jimmy was born, it’s possible he’s Accordian Jimmy’s father—especially given the fact that James Terry’s father was named James Thomas. Perhaps James Terry gave Accordion Jimmy his father’s name as a tribute.

Perhaps someone who knows Accordian Jimmy will contact us. We’d love to know more about him. At the very least, we’d love to know if he still plays the accordion.

Stalking the past in present-day Austin

When we hit the road with Ms. Cladrite, we make it a point to seek out whatever is left of the old days in the town in which we’re sojourning.

This past weekend, it was Austin, and we found plenty of places to live the vintage life in that very hip and contemporary town.

It began with our lodging. Ms. Cladrite considered this choice very carefully, and as she tends to to do, she hit it out of the park, choosing the Austin Motel, which opened its doors in 1938 and hasn’t closed since. Even the neon sign is original.

The rooms are modest but delightful, and we couldn’t have been happier with the hours we spent relaxing there.

Among the eateries we patronized, a few deserve special mention. Hut’s Hamburgers is an amazing burger joint housed in a building that’s been around since August 1939, when it opened as Sammie’s Drive-in. The dining rooms were added in 1947 and 1954, and in the mid-fifties, Sammie’s became Eli’s Lounge. In 1964, Eli’s gave way to the Picante Mexican Restaurant until finally, in 1969, Homer “Hut” Hudson moved his Hut’s Hamburgers from South Congress Avenue, where the Austin Motel sits, to this Sixth Street spot where, 42 years later, Hut’s is still going strong.

The food is great, and the atmophere fun and friendly. Hut’s is a must-visit when you’re in Austin.

We also popped by Sandy’s, a classic old-school drive-in that’s been around since the 1950s. Hamburgers, chili dogs, shakes, dip cones—all the classics are here, including a great old neon sign.

We didn’t get to experience a full meal here, having to limit ourselves to a quick dip cone, but if the rest of the fare stacks up to that cone, you’ll be in good hands at Sandy’s.

Then there’s Guero’s Taco Bar, a delightful taqueria on South Congress. The establishment itself is not particularly vintage—it first opened for business in 1986—but, as the Guero’s web site details, the building that houses the Guero’s dining room was built as a seed and feed store in the late 1800s. And the food’s darned tasty.

We enjoyed some vintage leisure activities, too, playing a round of miniature golf at Peter Pan Mini Golf, in operation since 1946. Peter Pan boasts two 18-hole courses, each featuring “a variety of characters, obstacles and surprises,” and the day we played both were packed with families with kids, high school and college kids on dates, and young adults.

We’re suckers for miniature golf and never pass up a chance to play a round if we can possibly fit it in. That’s not to say we’re skillful, mind you (a glance at our scorecard would tell the story there, though we will say we improved on the back nine). We love that this course, with wholesome fun for kids of all ages, has been thriving now for 65 years. That’s a true success story, in our eyes.
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