This collection was donated to me nearly a decade ago. The archives were found abandoned in a small crawl space underneath the stairwell of an unoccupied house that was being renovated. I received a telephone call regarding the material and immediately made time to accrue the collection. Once I obtained full access to the material, I was grateful that the collection fell into my hands and not disposed of. Prior to my handling of the collection, I am uncertain of the amount of time the collection sat un-bothered. Based on the condition of the collection, it is evident that the collection was unkempt. The items were not in any particular order, majority of the items were chaotically stowed in a large black garbage bag and approximately seventy five photos were stored in a shoe size brown box.
Once opened, the items inside reeked of a musty odor, the old photographs carried a strong moldy scent.
(The items appeared to have been improperly stored and unprotected) The rest of the collection is in excellent condition, with the exception of the crumbly Chicago Tribune newspapers. These items have been exposed to the constant temperature changes of its environment of warm, hot, humid and cool conditions. This uncontrolled environment triggered and expedited the growth of mold and brittleness.
As proprietor of Roberts Show Lounge and the 500 Room, Roberts booked the likes of Nat ‘King’ Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton—and responded to segregation and its legacy with ingenuity and class.
Dick Gregory Talks Roberts Show Club
Photo: Vivian G Harsh Collection
Dick Gregory at Roberts Show Club
Photo taken from http://www.hermanroberts.org
Elnorah Huff-Williamson was a Chicago showgirl that performed at Club DeLisa and Roberts Show Club on the Chicago’s South-side in the 1950’s.
Ellnorah Huff-Williamson (A Chicago Chorine at the Club DeLisa)
Elnorah was born Elnorah Huff, she was born on August 5, 1932, in Chicago, (U.S. Census Records) to the parents of late Samuel Lewis Huff and Capitala Fanny Huff. She attended Wells High School on the North side of Chicago, she graduated in 1950. Upon graduation, Williamson enrolled in the Chicago School of Dental Nursing and worked as a showgirl at Club DeLisa. Elnorah graduated dental hygienist school on April 20, 1952. (Records in Harsh Collection)
Dental School Commencement
On October 10, 1952, she married Robert L. Williamson; out of this union, two daughters were born. Sharon Capitala Williamson, May 9, 1953 and Cookie (?) Williamson July 20, 1954. (first name of daughter not clear, cookie could be a nickname)
Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Williamson
Lefty Bates (March 9, 1920 – April 7, 2007) was an American Chicago blues guitarist. He led the Lefty Bates Combo and worked with the El Dorados, the Flamingos, Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Etta James, the Aristo-Kats, the Hi-De-Ho Boys, the Moroccos, and the Impressions. A regular on the Chicago blues scene, his major work was as a session musician on a multitude of recordings made in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Australian Jazz Quartet, also known as the Australian Jazz Quintet, was a jazz group active in the 1950s, best known for collaborations with Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan and Carmen McRae.
Brook Benton, born Benjamin Franklin Peay, (September 19, 1931 – April 9, 1988) was an American singer and songwriter who was popular with rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Autographed, Harsh Collection
The Roberts Show Club was established in 1954-1961- It was “the biggest negro nightclub in America” Dick Gregory
Showgirls, Chicago’s Roberts Show Club 1950’s
Elnorah Huff-Williamson, 5th from left
Owner, Herman Roberts (center) with Women he Employed
Photo taken from http://www.hermanroberts.org
Article: Everything Herman Roberts Touched Turned To Gold
The Club was owned by four DeLisa brothers, they were of Italian decent. The Club DeLisa was legally established in 1934-1958, prior to 1934, the club operated as a speakeasy on the Chicago’s South side. The DeLisa brothers operated an illegal establishment during the prohibition. The illegitimately selling of alcoholic beverages, cock-tailed with gambling and in most cases prostitution, created the birth of “rum-running and organized crime.”
It is not known how long the club operated prior to the passing of the 18th amendment. http://www.government-and-constitution.org/amendments/18th-amendment.htm The documented history of the Club DeLisa began in 1934, one year after the 18th amendment was passed. “In 1941, the original building burned down and was immediately replaced with the New Club DeLisa.” (DeLisa)http://clubdelisa.net/home/about-us/
Club DeLisa was one of the first night spots in Chicago that catered to a diversified audience, including the LGBTs community. (Cabello) http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Queer-Bronzeville-African-American-LGBTs-on-Chicagos-South-Side-1900-1985/36389.html
Articles: Queer Bronzeville: African American LGBTs on Chicago’s South Side, 1900-1985
“DeLisa was known as a “Black and Tan” establishment, they provided nightly entertainment in an array of show presentations that highlighted and featured jazz, blues, soul music, dancers, comedians, the DeLisa Chorines and Red Saunders and his band.” (DeLisa) http://clubdelisa.net/home/about-us/ This hot spot was located on Garfield Boulevard at 55th and State Street on Chicago’s South side. The personal collection of Elnorah Huff-Williamson features autographed photographs of local Chicago artist as well as famous artist. Fats Domino, Bill Doggett, and an act that included black face and Bobby Blue Bland, amongst others are featured in the collection.
Old Club DeLisa was located~5512-16 S. State Street before the fire- (1933-1941)
The “New” Club DeLisa was located~5521 S. State Street- (1941-1958)
Red Saunders and His Band
Red Saunders and his Band were the house band for Club DeLisa more than 21 years.