Springville Journal

Life of local songwriter Jack Yellen – Part 2


The following is a guest article from Concord Co-Historian Jolene Hawkins

In 1922, Jack married Sylvia Stiller from Buffalo. Together they had two children, a daughter named Beth, who in her adult life moved to Maryland, and a son named David, who became a lawyer and served people in Buffalo for a long time. Sadly, Jack and Sylvia did not stay married and divorced.

In 1930, Jack fulfilled his dream of owning a farm in the country and purchased it in Concord.  He worked the farm himself and later hired farm hands to assist him. Selling eggs and raising cattle fulfilled his dream. 

Jack was called back to Hollywood to work on the film version of George White’s “Broadway Revue of Scandals.” One gig led to another and soon he had landed a long-term contract writing for Twentieth Century Fox. He wrote scripts and songs for many, many films including 1936 “Pigskin Parade” and the 1937 “Wake Up and Live.” Both films starred Jack Haley, best known for his role as the Tin Man in the “Wizard of Oz.” It was while he was in California that he met a lovely lady by the name of Lucille Hodgeman, (her stage name was Lucille Day) who was a contracted dancer for the studio of Twentieth Century Fox. She worked both at Fox and at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios. Lucille became a choreographic assistant in charge of teaching steps to other dancers and actors. The two of them dated for about three years before they got married in 1944. Later, they moved to New York City and by the end of the 1940s, they moved to their farm here in Springville.  

Chester Harrington was the property manager for Jack Yellen’s farm while Jack was off writing songs and scripts. Jack and his new wife Lucille visited the farm frequently before settling in full time in the 1940s. They raised purebred Guernsey cows and supplied eggs to some of Buffalo’s hospitals and top restaurants. In 1945, the couple hired Tony Limpinsel to manage the farm, while Tony’s wife Alice worked as a full-time housekeeper. The Limpinsel’s lived in a furnished apartment above Yellen’s garage. 

From 1951-1969, Jack Yellen served on the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, an organization that monitors musical copyrights.

One of the stories I have heard was about a baby who was born in November 1956. Mr. and Mrs. Berard Schmitz endeavored to reach Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville at about 6 p.m. during a snowstorm and could only get as far as Jack Yellen’s farm when their car stalled. They were taken out of the cold and welcomed into the farmhouse. Mrs. Schmitz’s labor continued, so a phone called was made to Jack’s brother, Dr. Hiram Yellen, in Buffalo, who shouted the instructions to his brother. Jack then shouted the instructions on and soon a 5-pound, 6-ounce baby was delivered at about 8 p.m. that night by Jack and his wife Lucille. Also present and assisting was Alice Limpinsel, the farm manager’s wife. The next day, Police Chief John Barbus and Dolly Glazier took an ambulance to the Yellen’s farm in the afternoon and brought the mother and baby to Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, where both were doing fine. Lucille would later tell folks, “I have delivered calves, but this was the first baby I brought into the world, and it was backwards too.”

Jack Yellen died on April 17, 1991. During that last 15 years he was ill and required 24-hour nursing care. He died at home at the age of 98 years. He had a list of more than 130 popular songs that he provided the words for, including “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “I’ll be Seeing You,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Down by the O-Hi-O,”  “Hard Hearted Hannah” and a song that became his own theme song, “Are You Having Fun” just to name a few. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo along with his wife Lucille who died in 2010.

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