LETTER: ‘The Old Man and the Fountain’

Tony Sacco


August 22, 2013


The street has its lights, garbage cans, and sewers, but is rare to find a water fountain in Cape Charles.

Imagine an old man nearing 90 in front of the Palace Theatre on a blistering summer day, filling the air with music of many years ago, accompanied by the sounds of water spurting at the top of the fountain and returning from the bottom in a perpetual ecstasy of affection with itself.

The mosquitos and flies biting those with short sleeves, the gang of motorcyclists wheeling by with blaring muffler pipes, muzzling the lyrical melodies specified in an instrument of pride from the gray baldish instrumentalist perhaps making his last performance before he joins the angels of strings.

Inside the climate-controlled theatre, a proud gentleman on stage in uniform of a Confederate soldier reads letters from loved ones. They were fighting a war between the American states that destroyed millions of lives.

The old man standing outside in front of his vehicle with license plate CV-12 (the identification of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier of World War II that engaged the enemy in the Pacific Ocean) received three war medals to save the human race from domination.

Now less than a million remain out of 18 million that served gallantly in the war.


The old man performed in burlesque, symphony halls, park concerts, and festivals, and now found himself a street musician watching children dancing to his music that made them feel free to express themselves.

He found himself having a ball instead of engaging in opera, choral groups, or ballet inside the playhouse.

Who was this clarinet performer attacking music to “Summertime,” “Ain’t Misbehaving,” or ‘”Dead man Blues”? Was it Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, or Woody Herman?

No, he was not one of them. We will never know — the management of the theater did not placard who he was; instead at no pay and as a Veteran of Foreign Wars his orders were to the front on the sunny side of the street with the street lamps, garbage cans, and sewers — and his new friend, the water fountain.


Letters to the Editor are welcome on any subject relevant to Cape Charles, and a diversity of opinions is encouraged. Send submissions to [email protected].



2 Responses to “LETTER: ‘The Old Man and the Fountain’”

  1. Bruce Lindeman on August 22nd, 2013 8:39 am

    Thank you, Mr. Sacco. Beautifully written!

  2. Wayne Creed on August 22nd, 2013 11:49 am

    How many times have walked down the alleys and streets to the Palace, on the way to a show, nervous and petrified sick, only to hear these beautiful melodies dancing off the bricks on the wall. Then turning the corner, I see him, sometimes inside the gallery, sometimes on the street. This beautiful music, from a beautiful friend, has saved me many times. Cheers to you brother — the fountain isn’t the only one that has stopped to listen.