In Another Time > Singer was a beloved part of Wildwood’s past

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The colorful career of Eddie Morton has been mostly forgotten in Wildwood.

In his 68 years that took him to the Great Depression, Morton worked as a cop on the Philadelphia streets, then turned to songwriting and song plugging, moved on to share the vaudeville bill with some of the headliners of his time and finally settled in Wildwood as a restaurateur and community activist.

Until recently little of this has been brought to light, hidden in the dusty archives of museums, libraries and other storage places rarely visited. That is until Ryan Barna, a Pennsylvania writer and researcher, came along and rediscovered this fascinating figure of American theatrical history. After much research, Barna has put together in one package a CD of 27 of Morton’s original songs written and sung by Morton between 1911 and 1926, plus a comprehensive biography of Morton’s life. Some of his research took place on the home front of the George F. Boyer Museum of the Wildwood Historical Society.

It wasn’t easy to find all thus, Barna admits, and missing are about 23 of Morton’s 50 songs, probably because he never recorded them. Among the missing are his popular “I Never Raised My Boy to be a Soldier,” which still is heard today occasionally at special events.

Many of the recorded songs that Barna has found have a comedic touch as reflected in their titles and have probably been in his act when he shared the billing with such stars as Ed Wynn, Douglas Fairbanks, Eddie Cantor and The Marx Brothers.

Among the titles are “Just A Little Bit of Monkey Left In You And Me,” “Come Out of the Kitchen, Mary Ann,” “Somebody Else Is Getting It,” “Ever Since You Told Me You Loved Me, I’m A Nut,” and “What Do You Mean, You Lost Your Dog?”

Barna’s package of memorabilia is called “Ed Morton’s ‘Bit of Broadway (The Sound of Broadway, Volume 2,” and its title comes from not only Morton’s show business experiences on Broadway, but from the name of a restaurant he owned on the Boardwalk where North Wildwood meets Wildwood at 26th Avenue. Photos of the outside of the long-gone restaurant appear on the cover of Barna’s booklet, as well as pictures of Morton inside the publication.

The success of another song, “I’m Wildwood About Wildwood” has been credited to Morton, although he did not write it. The actual writers were Harry Keating, David Morrison and Ed Ward and its success was attributed to the fact that Morton included it in his vaudeville act on the Keith circuit. It had what was deemed moderate success as 2,000 copies were sold throughout the land.

The CD and booklet have been produced by Archeophone Records of Champaign, Ill., which specializes in resurrecting the world’s oldest recorded music and issuing it in scholarly packages with colorful illustrations. Among the stars of yore it has revived via recordings are Sophie Tucker, Bert Williams, Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth. In addition to making his latest effort available to the public for purchase, Barna is marketing it to the specialty area interested in the restoration of records of celebrities.

Then a big hit in vaudeville, Morton rented a summer home for his family in Wildwood in 1911, the year before Wildwood was joined as a city by neighboring Holly Beach.

“The sand got in my shoes, “ he was later to tell the Wildwood Leader, “and beginning in 1912 I so arranged my bookings that I had 12 weeks off each summer and brought my family to Wildwood.”

Morton was not your everyday summer visitor to the Wildwoods. He started his own restaurants there that included his “Bit of Broadway,” as well as his own tobacco shop. He entertained for the locals as well as the tourists at the Nixon Vaudeville Theater, and he helped start the Wildwood Golf Club, which was incorporated in September of 1921 and for which he was the chairman of the house committee for a decade.

He continued to entertain until 1926, when he took his final bow on stage. A son explained that his father believed “a man should quit while still on top rather than go on until voice and personality were gone.”

Morton lived another 12 years until he succumbed on April 11, 1938 to coronary thrombosis ands cirrhosis of the liver. Variety, the bible of show business, reported in his obituary that he had attended a movie the night before and apparently was in the best of health.

He was so popular in Wildwood that two days after his death the Wildwood firemen and police honored him at a silent tribute at a banquet. Two days later he was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pa.

The latest Morton volume is the second in his honor, the first having been released in 2003. Since then, Barna explains, new research “ helped us understand more about this enigmatic songster.” The latest version not only reexamines his origins, but brings up to date the second half of his life and career.

Barna, meanwhile, will speak about his new package and on the subject of non-fiction research and multi-media at the North Wildwood Beach Writers Conference on Wednesday, June 6, at the Wildwoods Convention Center. The CD and booklet will be on display there as part of the conference’s book bazaar.

It is available for purchase now for $16.49 by calling (800) 728-5000.

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