Groucho LbNA # 60020
|Placed Date||Nov 5 2011|
|Location||Oak Grove Cemetery, Nacogdoches, TX|
To the many Texas boasts that we now enjoy and/or endure, let us humbly submit another: the Marx Brothers weren’t funny at all until they came to Texas. They didn’t know what funny is until they got to Texas, or if they did they didn’t have sense enough to do anything about it. They weren’t known as the Marx Brothers when they toured Texas in 1912 as part of a vaudeville act. Some sources say they were known at the time as the Four Nightingales and the group consisted of Groucho, Harpo, an older brother named Gummo and a female singer billed as Miss Jane O’Reily. Or they may have added the brothers’ mother and aunt by that time and were performing as the Six Mascots. Either way, all sources agree that they took to the stage at the Opera House in Nacogdoches one summer night as serious singers, musicians and actors. Thespians, as it were. The Nacogdoches audience was less than enthused with the acts’ classical music and dramatic readings. That was made clear when someone on East Main Street hollered “Runaway! Runaway!” This must have seemed preferable to the entertainment on stage because the theater emptied as everybody went to see the mules. Really, who wouldn’t want to see runaway mules, other than the obvious exception of the person who might be standing in their path? Some modern accounts have it that just one mule was on the loose in Nacogdoches that night, not a whole team. The old timers, like former District Attorney Bob Murphey, always said it was a team of runaway mules that caused the commotion. The mule (or) mules were eventually caught and the patrons returned to the theater but it was a hard act to follow, these runaway mules, none with even a smidgen of classical training. The appalled thespians, especially Groucho, were none too pleased with an audience so fickle and inattentive that it could be lured away from a performance of high art by a bunch of mules, or even one mule. Groucho made up a little impromptu verse to express his feelings: “The City of Nacogdoches Is full of cockroaches…” Groucho called the audience “damn Yankees” and opined that "the jackass is the state flower of Texass.” If there is one thing Texans can generally appreciate it is somebody who is ticked off and doesn’t mind letting you know about it. Groucho did just that, and the Nacogdoches audience loved it. “Probably the Marxes didn’t realize it then but they were working a true vein of Texas humor,’ Dallas columnist Frank X. Tolbert wrote of the incident many years later. “Other Texas theater managers heard of the hit the Marx Brothers made as impudent comedians, and the troupe got a raise to $75 as they moved on to Denison and Clarksville on the Red River.” So while we’re not claiming the Marx Brothers as Texans, we don’t mind taking credit for setting them straight and helping them find their true calling as comedians. And let’s not forget to give those mules (or that mule) some credit too. Along with a good-natured Texas audience, they gave the Marx Brothers their start in comedy. Thanks to TexasEscapes.com for this story.
Directions: The Old Opera House is located at 329 E. Main St. in Nacogdoches, Texas. Find the building, which is now the Art Center and go around the corner on Church Street to read the historical marker.
To the box: Get back in your car and continue east on Main Street until just before you get to Lanana Creek, then turn into the parking lot at Liberty Hall. It will be easy to see. Park your car and go to the trailhead sign. Continue on down the trail until you see a stone historical marker dealing with The Eyes of Father Margil. After reading the story, continue on down the trail until you come to the next clearing. Look up and to the left and you will see a tall bench on the side of a hill. Go to the bench, then left up the staircase until you come to a dirt road. Cross the road and find the opening in the fence that leads you into the back of Oak Grove Cemetery. Just as you go through the fence, you'll see a group of medium size white-barked trees. There is also a hog-wire fence. Where the fence meets the tree, and at the bottom, you'll find Groucho hanging out, covered with debris and rocks. Be sure to put him back there and cover the box well.