Thursday, May 2, 2013

Newton's Ruthabel Rickman Shares the Page With Bogart and Bacall

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Today's post is by guest blogger and HCHM Archivist, Jane Jones.  Thank you Jane for researching and writing about a Newtonian who "made it" in New York as an opera singer.  

  The 1945 New York City newspaper headline reads " Bogart and Bacall are free to wed."  Bogart's wife is giving him a divorce.  On the same page is a reference to Newton's Ruthabel Rickman, "Concert Is Given by Altrusa Opera."  One of the aims of the opera company was to  encourage "Negro" musicians and composers.  Rickman is listed as a soprano for the event probably singing Verdi in New York City's Town Hall. 
      Founded in 1921 by Suffragists, Town Hall is now a National Historic Site in the Theatre District near Times Square.  Seating 1500 in red, cushy seats the Hall currently is the location for Garrison Keillor's radio broadcasts from New York and other concerts (Kevin Bacon and his brother will be appearing May 2, 2013), theatre and dance.
      Ruthabel Rickman was talented enough to survive the New York scene. She was a graduate of Newton High School (1938) and Bethel College (1941). While at Bethel, Rickman was a member of the a cappella choir and studied voice, piano and organ.

Ruthabel with 1938 NHS classmates

     She was the daughter of Lloyd Rickman and Hazel Rickman and while going to school lived at 304 W. 12th.  Her father took over a Newton "colored band" in 1920 and made it  quite famous throughout the state of Kansas.
     After graduation from college Ruthabel taught public school for three years and then moved to New York City.  She studied with several prominent teachers in the United States and Europe. Ruthabel participated in oratorio, church and opera performances, as well as teaching in her own studio.  One of her teachers was Tony Amato who with his wife started an opera company in Greenwich Village in NYC. After each performance Tony's wife would cook an Italian dinner for the cast.  Amato offered a venue where talented opera singers could get experience.  The Amato Opera House was an intimate setting downstairs in a old building where you might find yourself sitting on folding chairs! 

       Rickman married Frank Rollins in Chicago.  They moved to Houston where she served on the faculty of Texas Southern University teaching voice until her death in 1982.  In 1979, Ruthabel received Bethel's Distinguished Achievement Award.  At her death there was a memorial service at Bethel College where her choir from TSU sang.  Ruthabel's daughter Hazella Rollins Epps sang at the service.   A home-grown talent, Ruthable Rickman made her mark on the world's stage through a very remarkable career. 

Ruthabel Rickman Rollins

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1 comment:

  1. Oh thank you! I was just looking her up from the notes I found today!