Mona Matson – Born to Sing
When we’re very young, we often have dreams of what our lives will be like someday. For Mona Matson, the reality was even sweeter than any of her dreams. “All I ever wanted to do was sing,” Matson, a resident of Rittenhouse Village at Portage, says. “I started in church when I was young, and the organist introduced me to some agents in Chicago. That’s how I got started.”
Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Matson had no idea what the world had in store for her.
“One of my first jobs was in Portland, Oregon, and I met a man and fell in love,” she says. “We were both booked in London, so we got married in London, honeymooned in Paris, and toured Germany and Italy together.”
A whirlwind tour of romance and singing was followed by the birth of the couple’s daughter. She was so popular with the American troops stationed overseas, particularly those in the Air Force, that troops nicknamed her “Miss Jet Propulsion”.
Having moved back to Chicago, and with their daughter now part of home life, the singer and the piano/accordion/trumpet player put together an act and set out to charm the Chicago nightlife. “We were Matson and McCall,” she remembers – McCall being a stage name for the wife of the house. “Chicago was the hub for conventions, and we worked practically every hotel in Chicago. We went to Indianapolis and Louisville and St. Louis, and we did the World’s Fair in New York.”
With a voice suited best for musical comedy, Matson and her husband would play night clubs with 4-5 piece orchestras. “People would go out for dinner and dancing and then to a show,” she recalls bittersweetly. “But when television came along, that dried out really quickly.”
Even into retirement, Matson continued to sing, until open-heart surgery in 2005 reduced her once powerful voice down from a 3-½ octave range to down to almost nothing. Singing has not been a passion ever since.
But she’s compensated with other, even after her husband passed away in May of 2015.
“It was too much taking care of the house and the yard, it was just too much for one person at my age,” she said. “MY daughter was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and she sold her house and came to live in Evanston, Indiana to be close to me.” Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Matson’s daughter was formerly a professional dancer for 10 years in New York City, and also dabbled in acting.
Having realized just how much things like picking up after the yard were taking on her, Matson is very happy to be at Rittenhouse Village. “I moved here about three months ago,” she says. “I have a proper little apartment, and I’m very happy again. I play penny poker, which is a lot of fun and nickel bingo. And I have a boom box, so I can go to the library and they have books on CD, and I like to rest and listen to books on tape.
“It’s a beautiful place, and they try really hard to keep us amused, active, and entertained.”