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The Legend of Jacob Chaplin

Okay, so his name wasn’t Chaplin, it was Horowitz, but ever since he’d attended the moving picture show and seen the great, perhaps marvellous, Charles Chaplin, he had modelled his dancing on that particular master.

It was just that one dance, the one he had seen as he sat with his folks in the Vaudeville and Burlesque Movie Palace, that had made him almost wet his pants with laughter, and one that he had used from that day on.

He could never concentrate in school, as he felt there was a greater world outside just waiting on him. When his teacher, one Mrs Rosa Gertrude, gave him into trouble for staring out of the window, he was dragged up in front of the class and that was when he started dancing. He couldn’t be sure why, but it felt right. Even Mrs Gertrude had to laugh and on that day, Jacob decided that when he was old enough he would change his name to Chaplin, and that anytime he was in a little trouble, he would dance his way out of it.

There was a night, during his national service, when he’d accidentally shot the Captain in the foot – well Jacob had been surprised – and perhaps he was sleeping at the time. He tried the dance that night, and perhaps it hadn’t stopped him getting sentenced to detention but it did make them cut a couple of months off of the total.

There was the awful day when the good folks of the city ran up and down the street smashing the windows of all the shops. They painted words on the doors, and when it came to Jacob’s uncle’s shop – Jacob did his dance and miraculously the crowd passed by and left the shop alone.

In the camp when the guards were rounding up the folks to go to the showers, Jacob would try his dance, especially if they were children involved. Sometimes, it worked, sometimes not.

Jacob made it out of the other side of the war, and do you know what? He did change his name to Chaplin. He appeared on stages in France, Italy, Britain and the United States. It was always the same dance, but the crowd couldn’t get enough of it.

It made people stop what they were doing. It made people smile. That was all Jacob had hoped to do with his life.


bobby stevenson 2017


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