Our Own Hometown Clown

         (with exclusive interview)


Another unique and happy childhood memory shared by many of us who grew up in our little town in the 1950s or early 1960s was our very own hometown clown known as Jazzbo (or Jolly Jazzbo).
Born May 13, 1927, and a resident of Oceanside for over 36 years from the age of 18 months until 1965, Edmund A. Tester, Sr. was almost a native of our little town. He lived at 33 Fairview Avenue, one street south of Davison Avenue (behind the library). Tester was a member of OHS's class of 1946.



Click here to read Newsday's extensive obituary, and read more about Jazzbo below.


He started his career as a circus clown and was soon performing with well-known entertainers, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor. He is also a magician, an artist and a writer. But most of us knew him only from his appearances as Jazzbo at local events in our little town and in the streets of our community in its popular, annual Memorial Day parades from 1947 to 1960, usually in his colorful clown car (pictured below) that was known as the "JAZZMOBILE," a 1930 Model A Ford that Jazzbo told me bought in 1953 for $65.

Jazzbo (at right) under the big top (probably in the late 1960s)  ̶  heading for the moon!

Two years after our Roadside Rest became Nathan's, the "Kiddieland" amusement park area next door was taken over by Jazzbo, and it was renamed "JazzboLand." From 1961 until it closed in 1965, Jazzbo operated the little amusement park and appeared there regularly entertaining the local kids.



JazzboLand, circa 1964


The following 2004 article, published by the now defunct Oceanside High School Alumni Association in its newsletter, Spindrifter, tells us a great deal that we probably did not know about Jazzbo.

Jazzbo's promotional flyer, used in the 1950s
Courtesy of Edmund "Jazzbo" Tester



 Source: NY Times, © 1958


In 2007, the day before his 80th birthday, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jazzbo by telephone at his home in Suffolk County, Long Island. I found him to be utterly charming and delightful, quite cheerful, talkative, sharp, energetic and enthusiastic about his time in Oceanside, his many memories and his life, then and now, despite some troubles from time-to-time. (Jazzbo, his now late wife, Margie, and their now late son, Edmund, Jr., all battled cancer.)

The 80 year-old Jazzbo told me he remembers everything and he proceeded to prove it. Here are selected parts of our conversation:



I believe many people of Oceanside remember you fondly, and that they would enjoy recapturing some of those memories by reading about you on the worldwide web. And I believe you deserve to continue to be remembered. Tell me, how did you get the name, “Jazzbo”?


I was a very sharp dresser in school ... so the other fellas called me 'jazzy.' After I started clowning in jr. high, someone introduced me in a show as “that man about town, that great Jazzy Bo.”



What were some of the unusual things you did when appearing in our Oceanside Memorial Day parades?


In the early days of the parade after WWII, I created floats for it, like Iwo Jima. Sometimes, I wore costumes other than my clown clothes, for example, General Douglas MacArthur.



Did anyone pay you for that?


No, it was all volunteer work, a labor of love.



How were you able to drive the "JAZZMOBILE" with those big clown shoes on?


With great difficulty. It wasn’t easy.



What other types of community or other local events might people remember seeing you at in the 1950s?


Mostly Kiwanis Club events. Once, I appeared as the Frankenstein monster. In 1957, I also organized the first daytime community-sponsored Halloween celebration for the Oceanside Recreation Department. I appeared at children’s birthday parties all over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.



Why was your identity kept secret when you played Clarabell?


I made personal appearances as Clarabell for several years when Bobby Nicholson* was playing him on the TV show. Bob Smith wanted the world to think there was only one Clarabell.



One last question. How would you like to be remembered by the Oceanside residents of the 1950s, particularly the kids?


If I left my audience laughing, I was happy. I loved Oceanside.


We loved our little town, too, Jazzbo. You were an
important part of its history. And we remember you.


On behalf of our class, 1960 Sailors Association Inc. has arranged for Jazzbo to receive, as our gift, a copy of the pictorial history book, Oceanside, autographed by the author, our friend, Richie Woods (class of 1976).

Ed Tester (sans clown make-up) and his now late wife, Margie, on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary, October 4th, 2006.

Photo courtesy of Edmund "Jazzbo" Tester


EDITOR'S NOTE: A search through available internet and other published sources identified only three actors who played Clarabell during the history of the Howdy Doody Show from 1947 to 1960 (or subsequently), none of whom were Edmund Tester. The most famous was Bob Keeshan (who later became Captain Kangaroo), and then there were Bobby Nicholson and Lew Anderson (in that order).


2012 UPDATE on JAZZBO: The photograph at right was published in Newsday on October 4, 2012. It features Edmund Tester (our Jazzbo) still performing at age 85,  appearing, as he often did, as Oliver Hardy in a recent re-creation of a scene from the 1933 Laurel & Hardy classic, Sons of the Desert.  (At Tester's left is his friend, Larry Wolff.)


 Photo credit: Newsday/Audrey Tiernan


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