Sunday, June 13, 2010

Recollection: Mother’s Youth and Carlos Gardel

Above is a rose from a rose bush I planted this year. It is an English rose named Pat Austin. It has a lovely coppery tone and sweet fragrance but its stem is not very strong. It could be that we planted it in an area which does not get enough sun. Below is another charming rose; it is a postcard from my vintage postcard collection.

rose postcard. It is signed Ruth and mailed to Mary Binkey in Harold, Pa (circa 1910)

As mentioned in my last post I am continuing with my mother’s youth – in the early ‘30s she was working in the high fashion business in Paris.

Grandmother and mother

Some parts of Paris are now gone like the old palace of the Trocadéro. For the 1878 World’s Fair a large building was constructed in Paris where meetings of international organizations took place. It was called the Palace of the Trocadéro. It was demolished to make place for the Palais de Chaillot for the 1937 Paris International Exhibition. Below is a postcard showing the old Trocadéro through the feet of the Eiffel Tower.

Below is an inside view of one of the large meeting rooms in the Trocadéro.

Mother had learned to dance the Charleston, but by then another dance was getting very popular worldwide, a dance from Argentina, the tango. Mother loved to dance – she went to many tea dances, as they were called, and danced the tango.

Tea Room Tango, by Jullius Müller-Massdorf, German, 1863-1963

She often reminisced about dancing Carlos Gardel’s tangos. He had come from Buenos Aires to Paris in 1928 and then again in the early ‘30s both in Paris and on the French Riviera. He was Argentina’s superstar and the best of all the tango singers in the world. He had a distinctive baritone voice and a great sense of rhythm. He was very elegant, impeccably attired and always smiling.

Carlos Gardel was born in France but since he is still so famous in South America, Uruguay has been trying to establish that he was born in their country instead, but he was not.

He was born as Charles Romuald Gardes in Toulouse, France (south west of France) on 11 December 1890. His mother Berta Gardes was single, and his father was declared as unknown. His French Government birth certificate is on the web. He lived with his mother at no. 4 rue du Canon d’Arcole in Toulouse.

(click on picture to enlarge)

Berta immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina with Charles in 1893 to join a French friend of hers who had a laundry business there.

Vintage postcard of Buenos Aires harbor.

Charles, who by then was called Carlos, spent his childhood in the “Mercado de Abasto” area where they nicknamed him “El Francesito” (the French man.)

Vintage postcards of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Top: Avenida de Mayo, bottom: Palacio de Gobernia

By 1905 he started his career by singing Argentinean folk songs. Then he formed a duo with a Uruguayan folk song tenor. At that time he changed his French sounding surname Gardes to the more Spanish sounding Gardel. The duo was successful but when his partner withdrew because of throat problems, Gardel went ahead with his career, singing tango songs alone. By 1917 these songs were very popular.

Illustration of tango dancing in the early ‘20s by Barbier

In 1923 Carlos Gardel went to Europe for the first time and had a triumphal visit in Spain.

Picture of ballroom tango from the web, author unknown

In early 1924 Carlos Gardel visited his family in Toulouse. He went on to Paris where he performed in music halls and theatres. His success kept growing and he acted in several movies. But he would visit his family in Toulouse at least five or six more time until 1934.

Photo of Carlos Gardel with his French family, taken on 18 September 1934 near Toulouse. He is standing next to his uncle Jean, who he called Juan, and aunt Charlotte Gardes, who he called Carlotta.

Around that time my mother left the House of Worth to start a business with a friend, rue de la Paix – a famous area of Paris, not far from the Opera.

Marchande de Fleurs place de l’Opera by Victor-Gabriel Gilbert, French, 1847-1933

She also did some free-lance in the high fashion business.

Style of dresses from that era

Mother told me many times though that she would often go with her girl friends to dance the tango, which was more popular than ever. Carlos Gardel was one of her favorite.

Whenever Carlos Gardel paid a visit to Paris Mother always tried to attend his performances.

(copyright on all these photos has run out)

In the early 1930s Carlos Gardel starred in several movies, some made in France the others in the USA. One of his movies was a musical along with the American singer Bing Crosby. Carlos Gardel was very famous by then, a living legend at that time. There certainly was a tango craze in Paris.

Tango, by René Gruau French , 1909-2004

Unfortunately on 24 June 1935 Carlos Gardel and several of his band members were killed when their aircraft collided with another on the airfield of Medelin in Colombia. Gardel left a will where he indicated that he was born in Toulouse, France. A partially burnt passport was found, bearinghis name, but from the country of Uruguay. This is the reason Uruguay is claiming Gardel as its own.

I read a lot on Carlos Gardel, mostly in French.

I also read some Spanish booklets (which I translated via Google translate.)

I even found on the Net a postcard that he had sent to his French family.

Postcard which says: ‘Dear grandparents Happy New Year I send you this little postcard to remind you that I always remember you with love and I also remember my good aunt Carlota and my good uncle Juan. Here we are very happy to know that you are in good health. We are all right and soon if God allows me I'll spend some time with you.
Your grandson that loves you and does not forget you. Carlos”

What I found out though in my research is that French men who lived in foreign lands were exempt from military duty in time of peace. However when the First World War started they were called to serve France. In the Argentina’s census of the time it showed that there were 20,924 eligible French men living in Argentina. Only 5800 went back to France to fight in the war. The easiest way not to go to war was to change nationality. Still in his soul Carlos Gardel was from Argentina, not from France or Uruguay. He was formally naturalized as an Argentinian in 1923.

From my readings it is quite obvious that Gardel was born in France. First of all there was the authenticated birth certificate and witnesses and also, why would an Argentinian singer stop in Toulouse on five different occasions to see the Gardes family? Gardel’s chauffer, Antonio Sumage confirmed in 1944 while being interviewed by a magazine that he had driven his boss to Toulouse because Gardel wished to visit his mother’s siblings.

In 2009 UNESCO declared the tango as part of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage.” They have also classified Carlos Gardel’s voice a human patrimony where they officially state that Carlos Gardel was “a French Argentinian singer born in France.

There has been a renewed interest in the dance and it is easy in summer to find places to dance the tango like in Paris, New York and other large cities. Dancing the tango has many health benefits. It has been linked to better balance, increased heart health and improved memory. My mother taught me the tango and I love it. I have many CDs of tango music, including Carlos Gardel’s.

When Carlos Gardel died in the plane crash on 24 June 1935 his fans were numb with grief. His body was returned to Buenos Aires and more than a million came to his funeral. To this day Carlos Garel’s tomb is visited by a large number of fans from all over the world and they bring flowers still.

Just like Valentino, Carlos Gardel in the 1930’s was the epitome of what a fashionable man should look like.

I am not sure if that was the type of man my mother liked.

My mother in the mid '30s.

Below is my father, the man she met in 1935 and married in 1936.


Face of Tango, Perez Fabian, Argentinean born in 1962


""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Coucou Vagabonde ! :o) Tu nous gâtes avec ce post ! Tu nous emmènes dans une époque d'y il a des dizaines d'années et c'est un vrai plaisir ! La vie de Carlos Gardel, danseur, chanteur, comédien plein de charme, Paris et ses endroits d'antan et tes parents très beaux sur les photos... MERCI VAGABONDE ! Ce n'est que du bonheur de venir chez toi ! GROS BISOUS !!!!! Bon dimanche !!! :o) ***

lorilaire said...

Passionnant ce post sur cette star du tango, je dois dire que j'ignorais tout cela, j'adore regarder de bons danseurs, le tango n'est pas seulement une danse, c'est aussi un prélude à l'amour, la danse de séduction par excellence !
Ta maman était une très jolie femme !
Bon week-end Vagabonde !

Ruth said...

It's hard to confess this, because I don't like being so ignorant, but I am wondering how you found so much information about someone I had never heard of.

You found a lot to document Gardel's French birthplace. So many beautiful photos, and postcards! I was thinking the other day that you must have a very good filing system for your postcards to use them to such advantage here.

This post is tremendous. I learned so much from it, feel that I know this handsome man. Thank you for digging and sharing what you found.

I love the rose, the color is so lovely. And it would be nice between my teeth in a tango I am Ruth after all. :)

Elisabeth said...

This is a terrific post, Vagabonde - history, romance, family and the Tango. What a wonderful story you have to tell and your archival footings really bring it alive. Thank you.

DJan said...

I know little to nothing about the tango, other than the name. And absolutely nothing about Gardel! What a great and informative post. I also love those pictures of your mother from one of those photo booths. Now I will need to learn some more about Gardel.

Pondside said...

What a wonderful post - the history and the family story entwined - I really enjoyed this.
When we were in Argentina a couple of years ago we saw people dancing the Tango on the street - everywhere. We heard the music of Gardel, CDs were available for sale in the shops and his name is still in the forefront of any discussion of Tango.

Rosaria Williams said...

Lovely! Much appreciated!

Elisa said...

Comme argentine... bravo et merci!
Un petit cou cou du dimanche
Elisa, en Argentine

TorAa said...

You know what I did?
I bookmarked this post.
C'est vrai.
I must read it over and over again;-)

Anonymous said...

I love the way you can tell your mothers story through postcards and photographs. You are lucky to have such a rich history and that she documented it so well for you. The postcards are absolutely charming!

Friko said...

Carlos Gardel is not a name I have ever heard before.His photo shows him as a very handsome man, just the type that would have appealed to ladies in the 30s. My mother had her favourites too and they were all of a similar sort.

You are very fortunate to have such a brilliant collection of postcards. It shows that your family is spread all over the globe.

alaine@éclectique said...

A lovely post and most interesting; I hadn't heard of him either. I love the tango and watching the experts dance on YouTube.

You certainly know how to get down to the nitty gritty. I joined a French genealogy page and paid for a year to find my Great-great-Grandparents but I'm not having much luck!

Shammickite said...

You have really done your research well to find out so much about Carlos Gardel, a man I have never heard of. But he was certainly a handsome man, amd I am sure there were many hearts broken when he died in such a tragic manner.
I like the three photos of your mother. I think women look very sexy in hats!

Ann said...

caught up on your posts! such wonderfful stories ,photos,postcards!! I am taken back to a wonderful time in history..I can hear your mother ,the sounds,the music ..all of it through your magnificent posts!!!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Coucou Vagabonde ! Par ces quelques mots je te souhaite un très bon début de semaine !!!!! BISOUS !!!! ***

Avo said...

That rose is a beaut. : j

Tango is still well loved in Paris. There's a park off of the seine on the "Quai de la Rapée", near "l'institut du monde arabe", that has three three mini amphitheatres, or giant alcoves ( and in the summer season, a tango club bring a player and people just dance there in the evenings... In the other two alcoves there's folk dancing in one and swing dancing or capoeira in the other. And right nearby there's a largish square where they do salsa.

Ginnie Hart said...

You are always such a fount of information, Vagabonde. WONderful information that just enriches our lives, post after post. I love the way you piece things like this together. I wonder if there will ever be a movie made about there was of Edith Piaf? I can just see all the tango dances, which I would love!

Paty said...

Hi Vagabonde, thank you for your message on my blog! It is certainly going to be a big change in my life. I begin to fell better now, I hope this nausea will go away soon.
I love your post, as always! Very interesting those old pictures of Trocadero.
I went to Buenos Aires in 2008 and i just loved it! And tango is the most beautiful, sensual dance in the world (and must be one of the most difficult...). Tango is something you never get tired of looking at.

Fennie said...

What a wonderful post, Vagabonde. Really enjoyed this especially as I knew nothing about Gardel. He has a superb voice and style. Can't understand why your mother would not have liked him. Was everyone like that in the 1930s, I wonder? The sophisticated veneer over a world preparing to tear itself apart. Sad about the old Trocadero. Looks a wonderful old place. I only know the Metro station.

Elaine said...

Beautiful rose and a wonderful collection of postcards and old photos. It was really a different world back then. Thanks for bringing it alive.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Un petit coucou ensoleillé juste pour toi Vagabonde ! BISES AMICALES !!!!!! :o) ***

claude said...

Je viens de faire un passage vite fait, Vagabonde. Je repasserai plus tard pour commenter. Tout ce que j'ai vu, c'est la rose comme celle du post précédent. J'ai les mêmes à la maison.
A plus tard donc !

Baino said...

I love coming here and just don't do it often enough. Gorgeous visuals and I always learn something. I've never heard of Carlos but the Tango? Truly the dance of love. No wonder your mother was so enamoured by it. The fashion postcards are just darling.

Marguerite said...

First, such a beautiful rose, it looks like a painting! And another wonderful story about your dear mother. The photos of her are priceless and I love the one of your father, too. I was not familiar with Carlos Gardel, but enjoyed reading about his interesting life. I love to tango, too. Cheers, cher!

Lonicera said...

I didn't know Gardel had been born in France, and from the way you explain it, it sounds as though Argentines would be reluctant to believe it (which interestingly I didn't know). Growing up in Buenos Aires in the 60's & 70's I heard his singing voice on every colectivo I ever took, and saw his photo swinging from the rear view mirrors of buses and taxis. I must admit that to a child such as I was then it sounded dated, although I did use to play "Caminito" on the guitar... His story is so fascinating though.

It's such a privilege to grow up bilingual, and a pleasure to make the effort to stay fluent in two languages - not one, but two different worlds open before you, with their people and their culture both equally dear and familiar - and comfortable. It's wonderful to understand them both from the inside, and clearly this is the case for you with France.

I've enjoyed reading back through your posts and appreciate all the research that has gone into them. Thank you.

Caroline (from Bristol, UK)

Linda said...

My, my. Isn't Carlos quite the Latin lover! Such a handsome man and that voice is memorable. I'll bet women were dying to get nex to him.

Your mom has such a twinkle in her eye, she is someone you just want to know.

The first rose is spectacular! I have one from Jackson and Perkins called "Antiqua" that is close, a touch more pink in the center and yellowish after it opens.

I would love to tango, but to do that dance really well, you would have to know your partner...really well!

I had such a good time looking at all the postcards. Another wonderful post. Thank you!

claude said...

Merveilleux post, Vagabonde !
Belles illustrations. maintenant j'en connais plus sur Carlos Gardel qui faisait pâmer les femmes. Il avait une très jolie voix et était assez bel homme.
Je trouve que ton Papa a une certaine ressemblance avec le roi du tango. Le tango est une danse très sensuelle que je ne danse plus because que mon Chéri ne sais pas danser. Mais quand j'allais au bal je ne m'en privais pas.
Merci encore pour ce beau post.

Jinksy said...

Hmm...a singer, dancer and handsome man all rolled into one! Who could resist?!

RennyBA's Terella said...

What a wonderful way to tell the story of you're Mom - and what a nice contribution!

Thanks for sharing in every details and for all the lovely photos and cards.

Angela said...

As I just had company from Buenos Aires, I was very interested in your post. A handsome man and beautiful voice! Must ask my cousin about Gardel.
Thanks a lot for sharing all your wonderful memories with us, Vagabonde!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bon séjour chez ta fille en Californie Vagabonde ! :o) Merci pour tes mots chez moi, je te fais de GROS BISOUS et je te dis "à bientôt !!!!" GROS BISOUS !!!! ***

claude said...

Mais tu es une grande voyageuse !
A bientôt !

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Un petit bonjour en ce vendredi matin !!!!! :o) Je t'envoie plein de GROSSES BISES Vagabonde !!!!!! ***

sablonneuse said...

Another interesting post.I'd never heard of Gardel but what an interesting man he was.
The Charleston, Tangos and tea dances reminds me of my mother, too.

LivingOceania said...

WoW! Very interesting post. Great history and fabulous accompanying images. Your mother must be / have been some women.

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

Thank you for visiting my blog once again, Vagabonde.

I am astounded with the wonderful information in this post! It was like traveling back in time, and learning of details and culture of that time gone past. I love history and learning about this kind of information -- specific cultural information of time periods -- in particular, so this was a real joy to read. Thank you for taking the time to research and write about Carlos Gardel, and with the added focus of your mother's history, too.

Also, your roses are gorgeous. :)

maría cecilia said...

Here in Chile everybody loved Carlos Gardel too and my grandparents where his fans and I remember listening old vinyls with his tangos in my grands homes.
They told me about him and here his songs are still listened.
maria cecilia

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. I was at a rose garden this past week, and noticed the McCartney rose. It is gorgeous.
I think that your father looks as handsome as Gardel. Your mother had good taste in men!
It is so much fun to be taken to another time and place, and learn of the people there. Thank you!

Vagabonde said...

Nancy, Lorilaire, Elisa et Claude - Merci pour vos gentils commentaires. Ce post était long alors j’apprécie que vous ayez pris le temps de le lire et d’écrire un mot. Je suis toujours contente de lire vos impressions sur mes posts.

Vagabonde said...

Elizabeth, DJan, Lakeviewer, TorAa, DianeCA, Shammickite, Ann, Paty, Fennie, Elaine, Baino, Marguerite, Linda, Jinksy, RennyBA, Sablonneuse, EarthGypsy, Karin, Maria Cecilia and Alwaysinthebackrow - It was a pleasure to read your comments. I always look forward to see what you think about my posts and photographs. Thanks for taking the time to write a note – I appreciate it very much.

Vagabonde said...

Ruth – I was interested by Carlos Gardel so I had a document in my computer on him and every time I learned something new I would add it to my document, at least for a year. Thanks for your interest.

Ginnie – I do not know about a movie on Carlos Gardel. If one was made it may have been in Spanish. I’d love to see one, though. I always enjoy reading your comments.

Vagabonde said...

Alesa Warcan – thanks for giving details about tango dancing in Paris – maybe some time I can be there when they dance it. Thanks for commenting.

Friko – I have been collecting old and new postcards for decades. I buy them when I go on trips and the vintage ones when I find them in flea markets. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Vagabonde said...

Alaine – I saw a TV program in France which showed that many of the very old genealogy records for France have been bought by the big genealogy bureau in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pondside – It is so nice that you could go to Argentina. I hope I can go some day. Thanks for stopping by.

Angela – I’d like to hear what your family thinks of Gardel. Thanks for commenting.

Vagabonde said...

Lonicera – welcome to my blog. What an interesting childhood you had to be brought up in Argentina. Thanks for commenting on my post. I hope you will come back.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your mother certainly lead a fabulous and fascinating life. I totally agree with everyone that you've done a wonderful job of putting together this post about Carlos Gardel.

Jeanie said...

This is the most astounding post! I adore the tango, knew of Gardel, but not much about him. Again, such wonderful use of vintage cards to illustrate.

Your mother's story is fascinating, Vagabonde -- it is one to be told, and I hope one day you will write it in full. She was lovely, your father handsome (and, I think, more my type than Gardel!). But oh, the tango!

I'm so very glad Ruth told me about you!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. I am Argentine by birth (Buenos Aires), American by naturalization and my ancestors were French. In Argentina is a well-known fact that Carlos Gardel (Carlitos for us), was born in France.

Being from Buenos Aires, I have visited his ABASTO neighborhood many times, his house (just form the outside), and of course his tomb in Chacarita cemetery. What is curious is that someone always places a cigarette in Carlitos bronze statue - as it was his custom when alive.

We have a saying in Argentina about Carlos Gardel who was known as "El Morocho del Abasto" (because of his black hair): "Carlitos, cada dia canta mejor", which means "Carlitos sings better every day".

My dad always tells me a story about Carlos Gardel. When my dad was about 8, he and his parents and siblings attended an acrobatic show at the Luna Park in Buenos Aires. Because there were so many people watching that show, it was hard for the children to see the stage. My grandparents were able to hold my two uncles up so they could see, but there was no other adult to hold my dad up. Enter Carlos Gardel, who was also in the audience and sitting next to my grandparents. Being very tall, he picked my dad up and held him for the whole duration of the show. From then on, he would often be invited to my grandparents house on social occasions.

Carlos Gardel was unique in his gentle ways, his charisma, his handsome traits (he was a beautiful man inside and out), and his magnificent voice.

It was a very sad day in Buenos Aires when the news of his death reach the citizens. To this day, he is remembered and revered by old and young alike.

Carlitos, each day that passes by, you sing better!

Vagabonde said...

Anonymous – thank you so much for your long comment. It was so interesting and added a unique personal anecdote which I am sure everyone would like to read. I am pleased that you wrote this first-hand information on my blog and I hope that you will come back and read more posts.

Anonymous said...

Muy buenos días estimados amigos. Por favor no tengan miedo pero les estoy comunicando del mas aya... aquí me han dado permiso. Mi vida fue llena de bendiciones. Si nací en Francia pero me criaron y viví mi vida en la argentina. Por favor, sigan viviendo porque la vida es muy corta. Dios les espera y yo les espero en este otro mundo también lleno de vida y almas pero sin dolor. Escribo esto por hijo de mi hijo en los estados unidos. Vivan, mis amigos, vivan.


Miss_Yves said...

Et les documents d'époque sont très évocateurs.

Thérèse said...

Quelle belle façon de faire revivre ces années là.
En ce qui concerne Carlos Gardel voici un article de article de la Dépêche
Toulouse n'étant pas loin, j'irai faire un tour au 4 rue Canon d'Arcole. A suivre.

Notes From ABroad said...

I hope it is not too late to comment on this ..
1- I lived in Buenos Aires and truthfully, you can't go anywhere or hear any music without the name Carlos Gardel eventually being mentioned.
2- There are so many musicians and songwriters in the world, that most of us will never know or hear the name of. But I heard of him while living in the US .. if you listen to music regularly , if you like music, sooner or later, the name Gardel will come up.

Portenos ( people from Buenos Aires) are music lovers ... from birth I think :)
They know French music, they love American and British music .. they are well educated in music of all kinds.
Which makes me once again think that the people in other countries could follow their examples ... ( just not in election processes lol) ...
I (heart) Argentina.

sandy said...

wow, i need to open more of your archival posts! Beautiful postcards and loved reading about your mother and her love of the tango.

Shell Sherree said...

A treasure trove of postcards and history brought to life as always with your post, dear Vagabonde! I knew nothing of Carlos Gardel {I'm embarrassed to admit since he is legendary} ~ he's very handsome but indeed, you have a very handsome father and what a gorgeous couple your parents made. Thank you, Vagabonde ~ maybe learning the tango will be one of my new things to do this year! x0

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