REVEREND PHILLIP BEAUCHAMP
(Assisted by Tony Fournier)
Above: The Cabin Kids (Top L-R) Helen (tenor), Ruth (soprano); (Bottom L-R) Frederick ("anything"), Winifred (bass), and James (baritone). Their nicknames are written on the photo.
For some of us we first saw THE CABIN KIDS perform on either one or both of their appearances on The Our Gang shorts that was shown on Television when we were kids. Here is their story....
In 1930 James Hall Sr., from Asheville, North Carolina, became a widower with four children. His four children were JAMES HALL JR., HELEN HALL, WINIFRED HALL, and FREDERICK HALL.Here's the story behind Laruth's last name. Laruth's father was Frank Gamble and her mother was Flora Chavis Gamble. Well, there was a nasty split between the parents resulting in Flora Chavis Gamble dropping her husband's last name and sticking with Flora Chavis. Her daughter, Laruth, also dropped her father's last name replacing it with Chavis. So she was both LARUTH GAMBLE and LARUTH CHAVIS. Lets just say that she was LARUTH GAMBLE in the 1930's and LARUTH CHAVIS in the 1940's until she married Reuben Patterson in the late 1940's becoming Laruth or Ruth Patterson.
The following information provided by Marv Goldberg:
They were the children of James J. Hall and Anna V. Wade. In 1930, they were in Asheville, but in 1940, they were living in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Frederick D. "Honey" Hall (at least half the time spelled "Fredrick" on official documents)
Born in North Carolina on February 3, 1928 - died October 17, 1965 He registered with the draft on August 23, 1946, but his occupation was "just discharged from the Navy".
Born North Carolina on December 7, 1926; died February 1, 1970
James Hall, Jr.
Born North Carolina on January 13, 1923; died December 8, 1969
Helen Louise Hall
Born South Carolina (1930 census) or North Carolina (1940 census) on November 8, 1922; died July 6, 2001.
Born North Carolina on July 9, 1922; died December 15, 1992 (as Ruth Patterson) When Frederick died in 1965, his obit said he had three sisters and one brother. Ruth Patterson was named as a sister.
In the 1947 Plainfield City Directory, LaRuth, Helen, and Winifred all lived at 1360 George St. Each said she was an "actress".
In the 1950 Plainfield City Directory, Helen was an aide at Muhlenberg Hospital and Winifred worked for C. H. Hall & Co. Neither lived on George Street. By then, LaRuth was married to Ruben Patterson, but I don't know where they lived (although it wasn't Plainfield).
Shortly after the passing of his first wife, John Sr. remarried to a young girl who was still in her teens by the name of Beatrice. Beatrice Hall before her marriage to John Sr. served two years as a nurse in the Blue Ridge Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. At first the Hall kids did not like their new step mother but she eventually won them over.
At Right: Beatrice Hall From Courier-News (Plainfield, NJ) dated 2/20/37.
Another important person in the story of THE CABIN KIDS is LARUTH GAMBLE. LARUTH was a friend of the Hall kids but not only that she was also Beatrice Hall's cousin. Mrs. Beatrice Hall gave each of her step children as well as her cousin Ruth nicknames. RUTH was nicknamed "Sweetie," HELEN was nicknamed "Precious," JAMES JR. was nicknamed "Darling," WINIFRED was nicknamed "Sugar" and FRED was nicknamed "Honey."
Musically inclined but having no formal music training, Mrs. Hall taught the kids songs and wrote parts for their voices. In 1934 The Union Mission in Charleston, West Virginia, heard about them and signed them up for a ten month tour of the South. At this time the kids were known as THE JOLLY SIX SEXTETTE.
Also in 1934 the Hall kids and their friend made their first radio broadcast on The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour (1929-1936) starring Rudy Vallee. When the kids did the radio show with Rudy Vallee, a Fox Movietone scout heard them and signed them up for a series of motion picture shorts for a small motion pictures company called Educational films whose films were distributed by the Fox Corporation. Their first motion picture was a two reel comedy titled "She's My Lilly, I'm Her Willie" released in 1934. In this film THE 5 SPIRITS OF HARMONY, as they were credited in the film, sang three songs including "This Train" and "Honey" (also known as "Little Liza I Love You").
WATCH a short VIDEO of The Cabin Kids from the movie "She's My Lilly, I'm Her Willie" in MP4 format.
Winifred, their "bass," goes low. (Will open in a new window)
1935 was a banner year for the young quintet. In that year the quintet appeared in nine motion pictures, performed in a couple of radio shows, and appeared in theaters across the country (more about that later). There was also a name change for the group. They were no longer THE JOLLY SIX SEXTETTE, but now known as THE CABIN KIDS.
The first motion picture that THE CABIN KIDS did in 1935 was a Hal Roach Our Gang short titled "Beginner's Luck" which was released in February of that year. They did the song "Dinah" in that film.
Their next film was a feature length Paramount Pictures release titled "Mississippi." Released in March, THE CABIN KIDS sang the spiritual "Little David" in this film. Unfortunately for RUTH GAMBLE she was considered light-skinned. Paramount Pictures decided to blackface her in this film.
Above: COURIER NEWS (Plainfield, NJ), February 27, 1940:
The "Cabin Kids," popular radio and screen troupe, returned home to 1360 George St. last Saturday after a four-month tour of the South. They are seen above with Rudy Vallee who started them on the road to success five years ago. They are remembered for their performances in "Mississippi," "Round-Up Time In Texas" and "Git Along Little Doggie [sic]."
The above photo was taken on the set of the 1935 film, "Mississippi," starring Bing Crosby and Joan Bennett (Rudy Vallee was not in this movie). The Kids are still in their costumes and RUTH GAMBLE (at far left) is still in blackface.
WATCH the VIDEO of The Cabin Kids singing "Little David" in MP4 format. (Will open in a new window)
The next month in 1935, April, saw the release of three films featuring THE CABIN KIDS, two of which were Educational Films comedy shorts. The first was titled "Spooks" and the second was titled "Life Of The Party." In "Life Of The Party," THE CABIN KIDS sang three songs, "Sweet Sue," "This Little Piggy," and "Workin' For The Lord." THE POPE SISTERS: EOLINE, ODILE, UNA, and INEZ are also in this film. I consider "Life Of The Party" THE CABIN KIDS' best film work.
WATCH the VIDEO of The Cabin Kids singing "Sweet Sue, This Little Piggy, and Workin' For The Lord" in MP4 format. (Will open in a new window)
The third April film release for THE CABIN KIDS was their second Our Gang short titled "Teacher's Beau." In this film they sang "Old MacDonald" with the rest of the gang.
For the rest of 1935, their film work was all Educational Films comedy shorts. And they are: "Radio Rascals" released in August, "College Capers" released in September, "Way Out West" released in October, and "Easy Pickin's" released in December.
As mentioned before, THE CABIN KIDS in 1935 did a couple of radio shows. One of those radio shows was The Paul Whiteman Hour broadcast on November 7, 1935. There was a newspaper article about that show in the November 9, 1935 issue of The Houston Informer. Here is what was written:ON THE AIR By CHARLES ISAAC BOWEN
CHICAGOThose "Five Little Cabin Kids," the "Hall" children from Salisbury [sic], North Carolina, were the hit of the ether waves last week. Singing on the Paul Whiteman Hour, Thursday night, they received an ovation from the large studio audience which persuaded those in charge to have them do three numbers instead of two.
The success which these kiddies have achieved on the screen was explainable because folks could see them, but they put over their songs so excellently that you can almost visualize them doing it. Little Winifred, six-year old, whom the announcer, Ford Bond, delighted in calling the basso profundo, was the star although the whole aggregation found the hearts of the unseen audience.
Other radio shows on which THE CABIN KIDS appeared were The Goldbergs and Jimmy Durante.
On to 1936. THE CABIN KIDS in 1936 did the same things they did in 1935 which included three more Educational Films comedy shorts. The first film that I will be talking about is "Pink Lemonade" which was released in September 1936. In this film THE CABIN KIDS sneak into a circus but get caught. In order to see the circus they have to sing and they do with two songs.
The second film is "Gifts In Rhythm" released in October 1936. In this film THE CABIN KIDS are all in an orphanage and they were asked to sing songs to one of the nurses that was celebrating her birthday. They sang two songs. I'm not sure of the title of one of the songs. I think it's titled "Roll Along." The other song they sang is titled "You Can't Pull The Wool Over My Eyes." What I don't like about this film is that THE CABIN KIDS are separated from the white kids in the orphanage.
The third film was an 11 minutes film made for the black audience, for it had an all-black cast. The film is titled "Way Down Yonder." This film is very much Politically Incorrect with a black comedian in black face and a mammy figure (think Aunt Jemima). THE CABIN KIDS sing two songs in this film, "Cornfield" and "Good News The Chariot Coming."
1937 was a good year for THE CABIN KIDS with four motion picture appearances that year. Two Republic Pictures features and two Educational comedy shorts. The two Republic films are both Gene Autry westerns. The first is "Round-Up Time In Texas" released in February 1937. THE CABIN KIDS sing three songs: "On Revival Day," "Dinah," and "When The Blue Is On The Sage." The second western is "Git Along Little Dogies" released in March 1937. THE CABIN KIDS sing "After You're Gone" in this film (see still shot at right).
WATCH the VIDEO of The Cabin Kids singing "After You're Gone," "On Revival Day," "Dinah," and "When The Bloom Is On The Sage" " from the 1937 movies "Git Along Little Dogies" and "Round-Up Time In Texas" in MP4 format. (Will open in a new window)
The two Educational shorts were "Rhythm Saves The Day" released in October 1937 and "Trailer Paradise" released in December 1937. THE CABIN KIDS made one more comedy for Educational Films and it was titled "All's Fair." This was to be THE CABIN KIDS' last motion picture appearance. Educational Pictures stopped all film production in 1938 and the company closed its door in either 1939 or 1940 and all copies of their films were sold at auctions.
THE CABIN KIDS may not be making any more movies, but they were still performing across The United States all the way into 1939 and 1940. THE CABIN KIDS started performing across the country in 1934. They traveled all over the country by car. Now if you are thinking what about school? Don't kids have to go to school? Well yes but traveling along with the parents and five kids are two private teachers and they were Miss Bertha Ray and Charles Darnell. The kids were taught their ABC's between performances.
The Hall kids and their friend, Ruth, performed in places like The Royal Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, and The Casa Manana in Fort Worth, Texas. Well, the parents and their kids encountered a problem that all black performers back then had when they are traveling across The United States and that is where to stay overnight. They weren't allowed to stay in any white-owned hotel, so all black performers had to stay in private houses or black-owned hotels.
Another problem that THE CABIN KIDS faced was their age. Different parts of the country had laws about presenting juveniles on stage presentations. Many theaters across the country paid fines for having THE CABIN KIDS on stage. In the October 27, 1945 issue of The Afro-American, HELEN HALL mentioned that they were taken off the stage in the middle of their act when they were in Billy Rose's "Jumbo" Show in New York.AFRO-AMERICAN, March 7, 1936: BAR CABIN KIDS FROM FLORIDA STAGE
ORLANDO, FLA.A mythical "child labor law" was invoked to bar the Cabin Kids from appearing at the new Lincoln Theatre after the opening night last week.
Many whites had already declared the Lincoln was "too nice for colored." After the opening performance of the Cabin Kids, who won fame in several film appearances, the management received orders not to let them act again as it was in violation of State statutes.
Investigations later disclosed there are no such child labor laws in Florida.
During this time in the late 1930's the Hall family moved from North Carolina to 1360 George Street in Plainfield, New Jersey.
As THE CABIN KIDS grew up their popularity waned and they disbanded. Now this happened during World War Two. The two boys in the group, JAMES HALL JR. and FRED HALL, decided to leave show business. James Jr. served in the Army with the 92nd Division. He rose to the rank of Sargent. He was finally discharged in late 1945.
Fred, on the other hand, was said to have joined the Navy around August 1945. He was seventeen when he joined the Navy.
The three girls LARUTH GAMBLE, HELEN HALL, and WINIFRED HALL decided to stay in show business performing as a trio calling themselves THE THREE CABIN GIRLS (they would later change their name to THE HALL SISTERS). By October 1945 THE THREE CABIN GIRLS performed in black USO Centers around the United States.
They also performed in various nightclubs such as The Club Bali in Washington, The 666 Club in Detroit, and The Del Grotto and The Delisa Clubs in Chicago. After the war, THE HALL SISTERS went overseas and entertained the black troops that were stationed in the Pacific.
Above Left: The Hall Sisters (L-R) Winifred, Helen, and Ruth.
PICTURE TAKEN FROM CLEVELAND CALL AND POST, November 8, 1947: LONG ON LOOKS, AND THEY SING TOO
Audiences at the Howard Theatre, Washington, D.C., got an eyeful as well as an earful when the Hall Sisters, Sugar [Winifred], Helen, and LaRuth, newest vocal trio in eastern theatrical circles, made a recent appearance there.
With their two brothers, some years ago, they formed an act known as the "Cabin Kids," but the brothers are out of show business now, and these kids look as though they could get along on their own anyhow.
Already they have been signed by RCA Victor and you'll be hearing them on the juke-boxes before long.
Above Right: Label image of RCA Victor 20-2386, released in September 1947. This is The Hall Sisters' first of three records for RCA Victor (1947-1948).
BOTH SONGS played in sequence.
Here is where the biography ends, for I have no more information on the group. Now I will address some rumors that have turned up.
Rumor number one: James and Beatrice Hall officially adopted RUTH HALL as their daughter. I have not found anything anywhere that this is true. If anyone knows for sure, then please let me know.
Rumor number two: That there was originally a sixth member of THE CABIN KIDS. Per the Ashville Citizen Times newspaper dated 4/13/34, they started out as the "Jolly Six Sextette." However, the sixth member was Beatrice Hall, who was "director and accompanist of the group," probably on piano.
Final thoughts: When I watch CABIN KIDS performances, I see an endearing quality about them. The folks in the 1930's probably saw that same quality too. The one person in the group that is definitely the star of this group is little Winifred.
Most so-called film historians would see THE CABIN KIDS as being nothing more than a novelty act as these music historians believe that the popularity of the vocal group's sounds was due to its novelty appeal.
THE CABIN KIDS may not be the first kids vocal group (THE MILLS BROTHERS performed professionally ten years earlier), but they were one of the early kid vocal groups that paved the way for later kid groups to come.
Whatever success THE CABIN KIDS achieved in the 1930's was due to one person and that person was their step-mother Mrs. Beatrice Hall.
CABIN KIDS FILMOGRAPHY:
1. She's My Lilly, I'm Her Willie--(As THE 5 SPIRITS OF HARMONY)--Educational Films--1934
2. Beginner's Luck-- Hal Roach Studio-- February 23, 1935
3. Mississippi-- Paramount Pictures-- March 22, 1935
4. Spooks-- Educational films-- April 17, 1935
5. The Life Of The Party-- Educational Films-- April 26, 1935
6. Teacher's Beau-- Hal Roach Studio-- April 27, 1935
7. Radio Rascals-- Educational Films-- August 3, 1935
8. College Capers-- Educational Films-- September 27, 1935
9. Way Out West-- Educational Films-- October 25, 1935
10. Easy Pickin's-- Educational Films-- December 27, 1935
11. Way Down Yonder-- Educational Films-- 1936?
12. Pink Lemonade-- Educational Films-- September 18, 1936
13. Gifts In Rhythm-- Educational Films-- October 23, 1936
14. Round-Up Time In Texas-- Republic Pictures-- February 28, 1937
15. Git Along Little Dogies-- Republic Pictures-- March 22, 1937
16. Rhythm Saves The Day-- Educational Films-- October 29, 1937
17. Trailer Paradise-- Educational Films-- December 27, 1937
18. All's Fair-- Educational Film-- February 25, 1938
19. Swanee Smiles (musical number taken from one of their old 1930's shorts)-- Soundie-- 1943
(NOTE: The IMDB website lists the Cabin Kids in the 1935 movie "Hooray For Love,"
but this is actually a different set of three kids.)
Above: Four of The Cabin Kids with Joan Bennett. From the 1935 movie "Mississippi."
Above: The Cabin Kids from the 1935 movie "Beginner's Luck."
Above: The Cabin Kids from the 1935 movie "Mississippi." Ruth, far left, is in blackface.
Above Left: INDIANAPOLIS STAR, August 18, 1935: CABIN KIDS
The Cabin Kids of movie fame are "in person" on the Lyric's stage this week.
Above Middle: CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, November 13, 1937: CABIN KIDS COME HOME
The famous Cabin Kids, who have made more than half a hundred motion pictures in Hollywood, came home to their native North Carolina yesterday and delighted large audiences at the Food Show at the Armory-Auditorium with their songs and dialogue. The children were born in Asheville.... (NOTE: I've told them a million times not to exagerate!)
Above Right: COLUMBIA RECORD (South Carolina), November 18, 1939: TO BE SEEN ON STAGE FRIDAY
The Cabin Kids, on their second nation wide tour, will play at the State Theatre Friday and Saturday.
Above Left: FORT WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, June 29, 1937: CASA MANANA'S MUSICAL PICKANINNIES
Here they are, those singing Cabin Kids of the Casa Manana Revue. The musical pickaninnies have had parts in a number of big motion pictures and are often heard on the radio.... They appear in the "Gone With The Wind" sequence.
Above Right: CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, November 21, 1937 (Tasty-Pak Advertisement):
Here is what happened when the celebrated Cabin Kids at the Food Show heard about the delicious samples being given out by the Tasty-Pak Manufacturing Company. The kids wound up in the center of the popular foods. The superintendent of the Armory building declared this booth created one of the biggest sensations he had ever seen at a Food Show....
Above: AFRO-AMERICAN, October 13, 1945: DO YOU RECOGNIZE THEM?
Shown above are a trio of New Jersey lovelies who wowed Grenier Field, New Hampshire, soldiers recently when they appeared at the air base with a USO-Camp Show featuring Jeter-Pillar's orchestra and revue.... They were part of the original Cabin Kids of movie fame. Can you recognize them since they grew up? NOTE: They are (L-R) Ruth, Helen, and Winifred.
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Last Revised: November 22, 2021 Original Start Date: November 19, 2021