Stanley Thomas, Sr.
Stanley Thomas Sr, who owned the Pythodd from 1965 until it closed in 1973, was a musician himself before becoming the owner of the popular jazz establishment. Thomas taught himself to play the horn at age 14. Upon a visit to the Eastman Theater in 1922 for a music competition, Thomas was recommended to study at the Ithaca Conservatory. He was the only black student in the band school at the time.
In 1930, Thomas came to Rochester with Bill Geeder’s Penn-York group, which he had been a part of throughout his time at the Ithaca Conservatory. He later organized his own band, and eventually joined the Johnny Hartzog group. Along with about 60 black musicians who were active in Rochester, Thomas helped create an organization called the Rochester Negro Musicians. Thomas was elected the leader, and wanted to push for the group to organize a union for the musicians. Ironically, Thomas’ idea, once put to vote, was knocked down by the group. Many couldn’t read music and feared that a union would put them out of jobs. Though the local union was white, in 1945, Stanley Thomas, Sr. and Johnny Hartzog became the first black musicians to join.
Thomas was active in a number of organizations in the 1950s, and at one point was the president of the NAACP Branch, Flower City Elks Lodge, and Eureka Lodge (Prince Hall Masons) concurrently. Thomas was also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In 1982 and 1984, he was elected Grand Esteemed Leading Knight in the Elks.
In 1965, Stanley Thomas, Sr. and his wife, Dolores Thomas, took over ownership of the Pythodd Room. The establishment, in the subsequent years, was managed by the couple’s son, Stanley Thomas, Jr. The Thomas family owned the Pythodd until it closed in 1973.