Janie Knorr is still singing ”Oh, Johnny”Written by Barbara John | | email@example.com
Did Abraham Lincoln sleep in Janie Knorr’s bed? Chances are 50-50 that he did.
Thirty years ago, Janie and husband/bandleader Johnny Knorr had the chance to purchase the historic canopied bed, dresser and night stand that had originally graced one of two identical suites at the elegant Oliver House built in 1859.
Newspaper accounts explain that Lincoln spent a night at Toledo’s first hotel, to meet with Ulysses S. Grant and Cleveland businessman John Jay, to discuss financing the Civil War.
“Whether Lincoln slept in this bed will never be proven, but it sure makes a good story,” Janie said, laughing. “And what a beautiful, elegant bed it is! We had to replace the linen canopy, but the bed itself is in perfect condition.”
That’s just one the many stories Janie has to tell about her 64 years of marriage to the “savior” of Toledo’s famed Centennial Terrace.
Her tales go way back to her first real encounter with the fledgling band leader. It was at the 50th anniversary party for her grandparents at the Toledo Club. Janie and her identical twin sister Jean (Hammer) were the last to leave the party, except for Johnny and his musicians, who had played for the event. She was 16; Johnny was 18. She thought he was rude, and threw her coat at him.
“At least it got his attention,” she said.
Soon Johnny took Janie out on their first “date.”
“A date meant go with him wherever he had a job. That’s still the pattern today,” she said. Which is why if you’ve been to any place Johnny played in the last 20 years you’ve probably seen Janie … and their son Jerry, one of the original members of the orchestra and daughter-in-law Emilie.
One month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Janie married Johnny Knorr.
“He wasn’t always home,” Janie said, “often getting jobs as a side man with bands like Les Brown and Jimmy Dorsey. We were newly married and he was still in school so he turned down the chance to join Glenn Miller’s band to go overseas.”
The post-war era found Johnny back in Toledo, playing at the Paramount and Rivoli Theaters and anyplace there was music.
“We had a new baby girl, Janice. Then calamity struck,” Janie said. “Johnny hurt his back and required surgery. I was faced with the fact that we had two children, and didn’t know if or when Johnny would be able to work again.
“I had to do something. I already had some credits at UT before we were married, so I went back to college and got my elementary education degree.
“She saved me and the family,” Johnny interjected. “She taught second and third grades at the old Glenwood school for 20 years!”
“In 1979 we faced another challenge,” Janie said. “Johnny decided something should and could be done to restore Centennial Terrace. It was known as the country’s largest outdoor ballroom, with 10,000 square feet of terrazzo floor. I was with him all the way — organizing ‘Friends of Centennial,’ painting furniture, ordering Port-A-Potties, lugging drinking water. He did it!,” she said.
Janie was with Johnny when the newly formed Johnny Knorr Orchestra debuted at the El Rancho Ballroom on Woodville Road in 1960 and she will be with him at Centennial Terrace on June 11, the start of the orchestra’s 45th year and the beginning of a new season at Centennial.