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Como, Christmas, Saluda ... ah, the memories
Wednesday, 01 January 2020 14:33

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the main address given during the Christmas salute to Perry Como in Saluda on Dec. 20:


By NANCY PEW
Member with Historic Saluda Committee 

 

For those of us who grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Perry Como Christmas special. 

We remember the sacred sound of “Avé Maria.” You might find it interesting that he only sung it live at Christmas — and he never sang the song in public. He believed it was special and should only be sung during the holy times.

The man whose memory we come to honor and share tonight was one of humility with a calm, peacful personality and warm, smooth, easy-listening style of music. He started out as a barber in Pennsylvania and ended up a singer.

He was not one to boast about his achievements, such as a music career of 50 years, 44 of those he recorded for RCA Victor. He recorded 200 songs, had 20 gold albums and sold more than 100 million records, only to be outdone by his friend Bing Crosby.”The Perry Como Show” was a staple on NBC (TV) from 1948-50 and 1955-63. Only two shows ran longer, one being “Gunsmoke.” 

He has three stars on the Walk of Fame. He received a Kennedy Center Award from Ronald Reagan, along with a whole host of other “firsts” awards. His net worth at death was $40 million.

He sought privacy in his personal life, which is how he came to live in Saluda part of the year for many years. Tonight, we will share in some of the stories about Perry’s life in Saluda. We hope you will have others you feel like sharing.


Story has it Perry was encouraged to visit Saluda by a friend he met in vaudeville, Jack Morris. He was a magician (or maybe a musician). His parents had property here.

Perhaps, Polly Mountain. He assured Perry (that) Saludans were regular folk and would accept him as one of them. Perry must have been convinced, as he bought the property. This story may have taken some liberties.

Mark from the Orchard Inn shared a story about Perry who had his own special table at the inn. While eating at the inn, a patron asked Perry if he would sing a song. Perry politely declined, saying his recording contract would not allow it. Shortly after, the patron sat down, Perry proceeded across the dining room to the restroom. It was said he sang a song to himself the whole time.

Perry’s main home was in Jupiter, Florida. However, he had been coming to the mountains of North Carolina to a small town called Saluda for years. He liked his privacy and the people of this friendly little town were passionate about protecting it.

Perry built a house here in 1980. He discouraged people from taking photos of the house, since it was his private getaway.

Perry had commissioned a painting of the Saluda Historic Train Depot, which was hanging in his house, when the house was purchased. The new owners asked Perry if he would leave the painting. His response was negative. During the closing, Perry excused himself for a short time. When he returned, the new owners were presented with the painting as a house-warming gift. When the painting went up for auction this year, it was purchased by the Depot as part of their collection.

Perry would take long, brisk walks to town every day with his wife, Roselle. He would stop at the Post Office, where Saludans would give him the casual nod or a hello. His privacy was protected.

Deb, from Wildflour Baker, says he (Como) would come by the bakery to get his favorite bran muffin. One day, he was in a hurry and asked her to just throw him one. She laughs when she says it was a perfect catch, despite her fear of throwing it.

Another story tells about Perry standing in the doorway of Pace’s Hardware with his full fishing gear on. A customer was asking Mr. Pace if he knew where he might find Perry Como, as he heard he lived here. Mr. Pace just laughed and said, “Ask that guy in the doorway. He might know.” There may be some liberties taken here.

Most of us know the song, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” made popular by Bette Midler. What they probably don’t know is that Perry sang that song five years before Bette. He said it was sung in honor of his good friend, Bing Crosby. The song was included in his last album.

Perry was a man of strong faith, one of 13 children born in a large Italian family. Both parents were immigrants. Perry and Roselle admitted to their blessings, but believed faith is a word for doing, not talking. Perry was devastated when Roselle died suddenly in 1998 from a heart attack. They enjoyed 65 years of a blissful marriage. They had one child and adopted two others. None were exposed to a celebrity lifestyle. Family life was personal to Perry. He died in his sleep (on) May 12, 2001, six days before his 89th birthday.

Perry Como was a treasure to the little town of Saluda.

 



 


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