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Thomas Malone and James Kennedy
                   - Kings of Blackface Comedy

            

Thomas Malone was born on June 23, 1883 actor. When his children were small, he used to make the trip by train from Chicopee, Mass. to the New York area to do his acting as it was told to us by a few older people that had the pleasure of knowing him. When his wife died he returned to Chicopee on a permanent basis to take care of his children and find work here. He never gave up his acting and he joined "the Father Matthew Temperance Group", a local stage group that put plays on in the area. We were told that he was one of the leading actors with the group as well the make up artist for the rest of the cast. He worked as an actor, director, and make-up artist. He even produced and directed some of the plays. Here he assumed the stage name, Herbert Todd.**

James Joseph Kennedy was born on May 5, 1882 to Stephen and Margaret Kennedy. In 1900, the census shows the 18-year-old Jim working at a hosiery shop and living on Palethorpe Street in Philadelphia, PA. An old promotional photo is labeled "Jim Kennedy, the eccentric fellow." One can imagine that handsome young man rebelling at the life of the factory worker and making the choice to follow his eccentric dreams. Thus began the comedy team of Kennedy & Malone around the beginning of the 20th century. Caroline Virginia Vandegrift lived nearby. It's unclear when they first met, but on April 19, 1906 in Saint Thomas' Episcopal Church in NY, Jim and Carrie were married. The following years brought them four children: James, Virginia, Marcella and Ruth. They made their home on American Street in the Olney section of Philadelphia, PA. Time took its toll on the carefree, eccentric fellow. Jim struggled with alcoholism. In later years, the fellow who had performed his antics on the stage had to rely on a cane to get around. When Jim and Carrie reached their 70's, they started taking turns living at each of their children's houses. Around 1950, they lived with their son, James. They had separate bedrooms up in the attic and their belongings were stored in a barrel in the garage. His father's eccentricities upset James, while Carrie's "help" in the kitchen drove James' wife Julia to distraction. They were living in the home of another of their children when they passed away. Many years later, Jim's granddaughter used to play in the attic. She delighted in her grandfather's various costumes... funny hats, costumes, an Uncle Sam outfit and Abraham Lincoln beard. The old comedy books taught her their silly routines involving "Mr. Interlockator" and "Mr. Bones." Even today, as she nears sixty years of age, she enjoys recounting some of their old-fashioned jokes. "Mr. Interlockator, why did the chicken cross the road? --Why, I don't know, Mr. Bones. Why did the chicken cross the road?" You can see her grandfather's twinkle in her eye.

 

** The Father Matthew's Temperance Societies of the Springfield Diocese reported that there were 4,427 active members and 504 of them were from the Holyoke St Jerome's Society

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