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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Mom's A Dancer: More Photos and More Story

        This week I am continuing with the photo story that I began last week .  If you would like to start at the very beginning of this saga then you might want to look at my first post on the topic of Lois Kay Trevillian Jackson .  Today's story begins after the birth of Lois's first two children, Lee and Joy.

     In the idyllic 1950s, the veterans of World War Two were busy building their dreams and their families. Television was rapidly taking it's hold on the popular culture, but vaudeville desparately tried to hang on. Variety floor shows were common in night clubs and fraternal organizations like the Moose  and Elks Clubs. On any given weekend in a large city like Cleveland, Ohio, hundreds of performers and bands would be playing in the local venues as adults went out for dinner, drinks, dancing, and an evening of live entertainment. Variety acts that were not circus were having their heyday.

        Bob and Lois Jackson -- The Juggling Jacksons-- were among those performers taking advantage of the entertainment boom.   Lois learned to juggle after she became pregnant with her first child.  She had to take a break from dancing for obvious reasons. Juggling came easy to her since it is a physical art much like dance and involves rhythm and patterns.  Once she had learned to juggle the clubs (the correct term for what some refer to as bowling pins), she and Bob began practicing team juggling, also known as passing. 

      Even after the births of her first two children, Lois continued her acrobatic and tap dance act while she and Bob practiced their team juggling and began putting together their juggling act.  When the act was ready, they began shopping it around to the Cleveland-based theatrical agencies.  Eventually, the juggling act was what the agents were booking since it was a flashy fast-paced visual novelty.  There were plenty of dance acts and comedians, but slick juggling duos were different.  The Juggling Jacksons were working every weekend.

        Show business was not a full time occupation for the Jacksons.  Bob, who was a trained accountant, worked for an industrial contractor during the week.  Lois played the role of stereotypical June Cleaver style housewife and mother.  Busily attentive to her two young children and her husband's needs, she kept house and prepared the meals.  However, she also would take the bus into downtown Cleveland, with two small children in tow, making rounds of agencies, costumers, and prop houses as she did the work of maintaining the show business as well as the home front.  She was always on the go.

           In 1955, Bob took off from work for an extended vacation which allowed the Juggling Jacksons to go on tour with the FOLLIES OF 1955 stage show which was part of the Gooding's Carnival Midway.  They played dates throughout the southeastern U.S. at fairs in places like Knoxville, TN and Atlanta, GA.  The carnival revue show played according to audience demand and the Jacksons performed up to sixteen shows per day in a full stage production that included comics, singers, and burlesque dancers.  This is where the Juggling Jacksons really polished the act to perfection.  It was very different than the types of vacations that most families would take.

Mama's a Juggler-- Joy, three years old, and Lee watch as Mama Lois Jackson of the Juggling Jacksons practices her act for the Follies of 1955 on Gooding's Midway at TVA & I Fair.

(Article from a 1955 Knoxville newspaper)

               After the tour with Gooding's, the Jacksons had a juggling act that was one of the best in the business.  They had proven themselves under grueling working conditions, but they loved every minute.  The next few years saw continued bookings as the act remained in strong demand.  However, Bob Jackson's desire to maintain stability made him keep his day job even though the young couple would have loved to take the show on the road.  Then, in 1959, a new development put another roadblock in the show biz aspirations for the the Juggling Jacksons.

          In the summer of 1959, the company that Bob Jackson was working for transferred him to San Diego, CA and at the same time Lois Jackson gave birth to twins, Jay and Joni.  The show biz scene in San Diego was not as active as it had been back east.  The juggling duo worked much less frequently, but continued to practice and polish their act.  Lois was active in her children's activities: PTA, Cub Scouts, etc.  She was frequently bustling about carting Joy to dance lessons and Lee to violin lessons while tending to the twins at the same time.  Lois had a whole new juggling act going on.  Eventually Joy and Lee both learned to juggle and the family had an even more spectacular act to offer the public.  But in San Diego the show business jobs were slow in coming.  In 1963 a new development came about that would change all of that.

         Lois had her last child, Jeff, in 1962.  In the following year, Bob was again transferred, this time to Gary, Indiana, which is near Chicago.  A new era for the Juggling Jacksons was about to begin.  Now the act had four members and had a strong appeal for the Chicago theatrical agencies.

       It did not take long for the new improved Juggling Jacksons to start working steady dates again.  The show business scene of the 60s was not as vibrant as it had been in the 50s.  Television was now the entertainment staple and floor shows and stage shows were more uncommon.  Nevertheless the exciting Juggling Jacksons act was an easy sell to the clients that were out there looking for that kind of a show. It was still a weekend and summer vacation gig for the Jacksons, but Bob kept his job and Lois's work with the kids and the house was never done. There was always the temptation to go into show business full time, but it remained an unfulfilled fantasy.

The Juggling Jacksons @ 1964
Bob, Lois, Lee, and Joy

Below are a couple of pictures that appeared in a feature story in a Gary, Indiana newspaper circa 1963.  The photos were taken in the Jacksons family room, which served as their rehearsal room.  That's Lois Jackson who was still performing her signature split on the backs of two folding chairs while juggling.  The photos on the back wall were of various other jugglers and  acts with whom the Juggling Jacksons had worked.  In the full family picture, from left to right, is Bob, who is holding Jeff, Lee, Joy, Lois, and on the floor is Jay and Joni.

           In 1966, Bob Jackson was faced with another business transfer: this time to East Tennessee.  Now far from the Chicago booking agencies, the show business jobs for the Juggling Jacksons became less frequent. However, jobs still did come and the juggling act remained active.  At times Lois would go out on her own with the now teenaged Lee and Joy and work circus and fair dates with a three person act.  Lois proved quite the trooper travelling about pulling a travel trailer behind her car.  They even returned for a short tour with the Gooding's carnival show that she and Bob had toured with in 1955.  Most of the time,however, the Juggling Jacksons performed with Dad at the helm.  They would often perform an entire show package with Bob doing a comedy solo routine, Joy performing a magic and acrobatic act much like Lois used to do, and then the big now seven person juggling act.

          In the 70s the act mostly disbanded as Joy and Lee moved on to their adult pursuits and  Jay and Joni became deeply involved in high school basketball.  Jeff, who had become a highly skilled juggler, continued to perform with his parents.  Then by the 80s the Juggling Jacksons was back to the original duo of Bob and Lois Jackson.  They continued to perform almost up to 1990, when Bob died of pancreatic cancer.

        Lois Jackson continues to live in Maryville, Tennessee where she now shares her life with George Lechelt, a very dear and kindhearted man she met in 1997.  Lee and his wife Betty live in the Los Angeles area and tries to get home to Tennessee at least once a year, but he hopes to be able to increase the frequency of his visits.  Joy lives in New Jersey.  Joni resides in Phoenix with her husband Jack.  Jay and Jeff remain in the Maryville area and are fortunate enough to see their mother on a regular basis.

         Lois Trevillian Jackson was a dancer.  But she was also a juggler.  And to this day she remains a great mother, cook, storyteller, and a person that people around her love very much.


  1. Oh wow. What a cool story. We have Ringling Brothers performers in our family, so I read this with great interest. It is so nice to read about this and the pics are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    BTW, I have linked to your post from the other day. I almost forgot, which would have been a disservice to all my followers. It was such a great post.

  2. >>[Joni resides in Phoenix with her husband Jack.]<<

    It's a LIE! I never saw 'em here.

    Hey, cool photos, rLEE-b.

    Was my big, bad, burning Blog question responsible for the most amount of comments you've ever received on a post? If so, I hope the check's in the mail.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McME

  3. The topic was certainly "hot" and I do think it was responsible for a large number of comments. Thank you.
    On the other hand, was my hot post of Monday responsible for the precipitous drop in hits to my site on Tueday? I want my money back! I have deducted it from your check and once again you and I are even. Or how about this:
    I'll buy you a cup of coffee next time I'm in Phoenix. Okay, okay-- I won't be so cheap. I'll spring for a shot of Grand Marnier with a beer chaser.
    I'm looking forward to your Grand Marnier story that you promised.


  4. `
    Yo! LEE ~

    >>[was my hot post of Monday responsible for the precipitous drop in hits to my site on Tueday? I want my money back!]<<

    Actually, I think your son's situation bummed everyone out. That was a sad story, and you know, people don't like sad stories. They want happy endings, or at least a lot of flesh 'n' gore. (It's The American Way!)

    But speaking of hits to your site, I've seen a few bloggers who have a Hit Counter thang on their Blogs which evidently counts how many times their Blog is viewed, regardless of whether or not people leave comments. Do you know how to install something like that?

    >>[I'll buy you a cup of coffee next time I'm in Phoenix. Okay, okay-- I won't be so cheap. I'll spring for a shot of Grand Marnier with a beer chaser.]<<

    YEEE! G.M. and Beer? Gah!
    How 'bout a shot of Grand Marnier with a Grand Marnier chaser? Sign me up for THAT! :O)

    >>[I'm looking forward to your Grand Marnier story that you promised.]<<

    I think you'll like that one. Or anyway, I think it'll go over better than my Cordes Junction short story did. (Talk about a "precipitous drop in hits." YOW!) But next up on "STUFFS" will be a Rock 'N' Roll 'N' Booze extravaganza. And after that (maintaining the same theme), a grand bit about Grand Marnier.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" Stevieboy

  5. I didn't see the overall story yesterday as sad, just an accounting of a day that I thought ended on a happy note. I've seen much more depressing posts on other sites that get a lot of readers. Maybe I wasn't depressing enough.

    I have my site linked to Google Analytics which gives a pretty fair accounting of hit info. I could probably add a visible site counter as well, but would I want to?

    All I can say is you must really like Grand Marnier. My wife's like that. She doesn't like to drink, but she can sip on Grand Marniers all evening. Then again I suppose I could too.

    Okay, you're on -- Grand Marnier it is.

  6. Thank you again so very much for sharing this. What an incredible woman your mother was/is. =)

  7. Oh my gosh I love this! What an amazing family. I'd frame everyone of those pictures!!!

  8. I absolutely love this. And the photos are so precious. What a great way to grow up, Lee. I am so impressed by the content, your family and writing.


  9. A most interesting story and the photo's are really superb.
    Thanks for sharing best post I've read in ages.


  10. Thank you ladies for your exceptionally kind and flattering comments. This is another reason to blog.

  11. Very good! I love old pictures! You family led an interesting life, it sounds as though y'all had fun together!

  12. What a fascinating story!! I LOVE it!! I love the fact that the story is unusual...and I have always wondered what a performer's life might be like

    Great photos too!!


  13. Aunt Nancy sent this blog to me. It's wonderful, Lee. We have lost track of your family and it was nice seeing the blog. Your dad was also a good basketball player for WVU and had the best behind the back pass I have ever seen. He once told me that the thing he was most proud of was that he had never thrown a bad pass.
    Good Luck
    Uncle Bill

  14. Uncle Bill:

    I am so happy to hear from you, even though indirectly thru my blog. My Mom also keeps up with my blog. Hope I can see you some day and you can always contact me through my email


  15. I remember watching Jay at MHS single-handedly completely destroy an opposing basketball team.

    Jeff and I played a lot of neighborhood sandlot football together.


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