Posts Tagged ‘Michael N. Gery’

The Bone Rattler: Michael N. Gery

March 19, 2010

Michael N. Gery – The Bone Rattler



Hereford, Jan. 29 (Special). — Michael N. Gery, aged 88 years, who had been dubbed as the state champion bone rattler and old-time frolic fiddler, was buried from his home near this place. Services were held at the house, Rev. James N. Blatt, Reformed pastor of Huff’s Church, officiating. Further services were held at Huff’s Church, where interment was made.

Five sons and a son-in-law were the bearers at the house, as follows: Sons, Alfred, Allentown; John, East Greenville; Horace and James, this place, and Charles, East Macungie; son-in-law, Charles Roeder, Sigmund. At the church six members of Harlem Castle, No. 335, K.G.E. were the bearers. The remains reposed in an oak casket with plate inscribed “Father.” Undertaker William H. Dimmig, East Greenville, had charge.

The funeral was one of the largest held at Huff’s Church in many years, deceased having had a large acquaintanceship. At the time of his death he was treasurer of the Gery Family Reunion Association, and members of the clan knew him as “a young old man,” for even in recent years not a family meeting was held without the deceased giving an exhibition of bone rattling, violin playing and jig dancing.

Road Supervisor 20 Years.

For 20 years Mr. Gery served his township as road supervisor and was one of the first men in lower Berks county to foster the movement for better roads, improving them with the use of road machinery and macadamized material.

About 65 years ago he gained notoriety at the then old-time country frolics, where the lads and lassies of the rural communities gathered at the rural hotels and engaged in jigs and hops. He and his brothers, and later his sons, would sit on top of barrels and store boxes and fiddle and rattle the bones, while the buxom swains reeled around the pretty country maidens on the pewter sanded floors of the dining rooms of the roadside hotels.

None knew better how to cater to this — one of the earliest amusements of social life — 60 and more years ago, in the Pennsylvania German communities. In one evening, Gery and his family would get from $10 to $30 to play the jigs and reels, including such old-time frolic music as the “Kutztown Reel” and “Fisher’s Hornpipe.” Gery was a past master in calling out the dance gestures and every young man and woman knew what he meant when he bellowed forth his figures. Many a time would he throw the fiddle to his eldest son and then take the floor himself and dance until midnight. The last time he appeared in public with his bones in his hands was at the annual Gery reunion last fall, where he showed an audience of 3,000 persons that he still was able to bring forth real old-fashioned music, though he was four-score years and eight.

Had Attractive Offers.

When still quite young he had offers of $100 per week from shows and at one time refused a most flattering offer to appear at the then well-known amusement house in Philadelphia, “Carncross & Dixie,” because his father would not consent to his absence from home.

With his family he conducted many years an orchestra of string and wind instruments, as every one of his sons and daughters were musicians. He also helped to organize a number of orchestras and was well known in musical circles in lower Berks and upper Montgomery counties.

He was an expert in telling Pennsylvania German stories and jokes and whenever he came to the crossroads store he kept the farmers in a jolly mood. Then he also kept up a record of a Sullivan in his community for two generations. He was a man who never sought a quarrel, but during the country dance era such fights among the young folks were of frequent occurrence, and “Mike” Gery acted as peacemaker at a score of the most important fights, where he had to use his fists to impress his peace arguments. Only once in his long career did he get licked, and then he fought single-handed a dozen assailants and laid eight of them on the floor before he went sprawling himself.

He is survived by six sons and two daughters and many grandchildren, among them Francis Ritter, a grandson, who is able to take the grandfather’s place at bone rattling and keep it up with the enviable record the grandfather made during more than 65 years of experience.

Reading Eagle – Jan 29, 1917

The Hereford Literary Society Reunion – 1903