Our Little Town

  

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 Jolly Jazzbo, our very own home town clown.
  
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), and was a member of OHS's class of 1946.
  
Most of us knew him only as Jazzbo from his annual appearances in the streets of our little town in our popular Memorial Day parades from 1947 to 1960 and at other local events in our community, usually in his colorful clown car that was known as the
"JAZZMOBILE" (a 1930 Model A Ford that Jazzbo told me bought for $65 in 1953). He is also a magician, an artist, writer  and, of course, Jazzbo is a circus clown.

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 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

   

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:
   

HOWIE:

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”?
         
 

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.”

 

HOWIE:

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

JAZZBO:

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.

 

HOWIE:

Did anyone pay you for that?
         

JAZZBO:

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

 

HOWIE:

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

JAZZBO:

With great difficulty. It wasn’t easy.

 

HOWIE:

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

JAZZBO:

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.

 

HOWIE:

Why was your identity kept secret when you played Clarabell?
         

JAZZBO:

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.

 

HOWIE:

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

JAZZBO:

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

 

And so did we, Jazzbo. Happy Birthday!

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).
                                                                             
________________
    

*

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. They were Bob Keeshan (who later became Captain Kangaroo), Bobby Nicholson and Lew Anderson (in that order).

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

UPDATE on JAZZBO — 2012: The photograph at right was published in Newsday on October 4, 2012. It features Edmund Tester (our Jazzbo) still performing at age 85, once again appearing as Oliver Hardy in a recent recreation of a scene from the 1933 Laurel & Hardy classic, Sons of the Desert.  

 

 Photo credit: Newsday/Audrey Tiernan

   

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