. . . or almost no one, at any rate. And with exactly seven weeks to go until Oscar Charleston is released, it seems appropriate to share it here.
The photo was shown to me by Elizabeth Overton, great-niece of Oscar’s wife Jane, just months before she (Elizabeth) died in March 2018–far too young, I might add. Elizabeth and her daughter Dr. Miriam Phields were incredibly helpful to me. I owe them both a great deal.
In summer 2017, I paid Elizabeth a visit in her Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, home to talk to her about Janie and collect some photos. We had a lovely conversation, and I learned much about Janie and her family, but other than this photo of Oscar pasted onto a wooden statue, a gift he had once given Janie, Elizabeth had no pictures of Oscar.
Then, a day or two later, Elizabeth gave me a ring. She had found another of Janie’s photo albums, and this one included two pictures of my subject.
I soon dropped in on Elizabeth to see these images. One (below), of Oscar standing with Pittsburgh Crawfords secretary John Clark, a man who would go on to become an astute political journalist, I had seen before.
But the other was completely new. Here it is:
We have here, it seems, a young, Jazz Age Oscar, probably right around the time at which he met Janie (that is, 1922 or thereabouts). As you can see, he is leaning against a porch post and dressed casually in driving cap, sweater, tie, and pinstriped pants.
It’s like no other photo of Oscar I’ve ever seen. I especially love the way Oscar gazes straight into the camera with a steady, cool, piercing stare. You can see why few people ever dared mess with this man.