The Music Man, The Library & The Osage

What happens when you visit New Jersey


I can’t get The Music Man songs out of my head.

Posters for a community performance of the 1957 musical hang in store windows throughout the little berg where we’re vacationing.

We walk to town a few times a day from our hotel on the beach: it takes about 7 minutes.

First stop is breakfast, where I order a coffee with a shot of espresso and Honey grabs a cappuccino.

New Jersey knows muffins, and we split a fresh, hot banana-nut muffin when the café opens at 8 a.m.

We’re starving by then because we wake early and take a stroll on the boardwalk.

Other early-risers are biking on one-speed cruisers or jogging past us.

Most denizens are browned from the sun and look retirement-aged.

After breakfast Honey heads off to visit his father and I wait outside the Library on the steps until it opens at 10 a.m.

And the songs begin anew in my noggin.


Spring Lake’s Library and Community Center

The townsfolk are telling the con man, Harold Hill, about the Librarian in town, Marian.

One singer says, “She made brazen overtures” to a lonely, rich man in town. When he died:

He left River City

The Li-Berry building

But he left all the books to her…

The Spring Lake Library is tucked into a fine and stately old home, just like the ones in England where I spent my teenage years.

The wooden building—which takes up a good part of the block—is dark-brown and woody–with lead-glass windows set in diamond frames.

Just what you’d expect from the Library in The Music Man, which will be performed in 2 weeks in the same structure that houses the community center and performance stage.

When you walk through the front doors of the Library, you’re greeted by a room warmed with honey-colored oak with books lining all four walls.

The bookshelves rise to the ceiling.

You can take a tiny staircase upstairs to a second-floor loft and walk along a wooden shoulder that’s one-person wide.

The path skirts the walls and leaves a generous opening to view the first floor.

One side on the second floor is a little larger: wide enough for two small tables and four chairs, so I camp here with my computer so I can write.

I hear the Librarian below, chatting with patrons and checking-in books.

I think of Marian the Librarian.

In the song Pick-A-Little, she’s accused of “advocating dirty books.” Books like:




That’s the refrain in the song, and the chanteuse lets “Balzac” slide on her tongue for several beats: “Baaaaallll—Zzzackkkkkk!”

The Spring Lake Librarian asks a reader: “How did you like book?”

Not so much, she says.

Other patrons are more enthusiastic with their choices.

I hear a card-holder ask the Librarian for a recommendation.

In between visitors, the Librarian makes phone calls, letting a reader know that a book is in.

She leaves a message that Killers of the Flower Moon, has been returned, and can now be retrieved.

My spine straightens: the book is about our tribe. What a coincidence to hear someone in New Jersey reading about the Osage of Oklahoma.

Killers is the latest in a slate of books about efforts to murder Osage people and steal the money gleaned from our oil holdings.

Today, laws prevent an Osage’s headright from being transferred to a non-Indian, but in the early 1900s few protections prevented Indians from being cheated out of their headright, and some were murdered.

My grandmother lived on the money from her headright, which can only be passed along to her children, and then to her grandchildren, and so on.

She wasn’t a rich Osage like the rumors you hear of individuals who inherit more than one headright.

But the oil money was enough for a trailer-home Granny shared with her husband, and enough to slip a college girl a 20-dollar bill from time-to-time.

Granny would approve of this town, I mused: a wonderful Library near the beach, and coffee strong enough for an American Indian. ###

3 August 2017

Hear the original Broadway cast sing, “Pick-A-Little”








About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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2 Responses to The Music Man, The Library & The Osage

  1. I am aglow with enjoyment after reading your fine post! I love that fly on the wall feeling when it allows me to enter other, often parallel, worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

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