John Krauthause was an institution at Albert Hall, the country-music and bluegrass capital of New Jersey’s pinelands. Everybody at the hall, in the Waretown section of Ocean Township, Ocean County, knew him as Mr. Spoons — his specialty was the spoons he hand-carved out of wood, and played for years with most of the bands who hit the stage.
So John’s wife, Caroline, had a built-in nickname: She was Mrs. Spoons, and not just at Albert Hall.
“They had camping chairs that said, ‘Mr. Spoons’ and ‘Mrs. Spoons,’” says the youngest of their four kids, Terry Caffrey, 47, of Absecon.
And Mr. and Mrs. Spoons, of Mullica Township, did lots of camping together until John died in 2002. Caroline, who was 88 when she died last month, was known everywhere her husband was, just not as a musician.
She was a volunteer ticket-taker at Albert Hall — but then everybody at the hall, run by the Pinelands Cultural Society, is a volunteer. That includes the PCS’ longtime president, Roy Everett, and all the musicians who have played at some version of the venue since the tradition started back in 1974.
Everett says Caroline was such a fixture at the latest Albert Hall that a little piece of the place was named for her: The cubbyhole she worked out of was called Caroline’s Closet before John died and Caroline had to stop going.
But before that, “I don’t ever recall her missing a night” in close to 20 years he knew them, Everett says.
John developed a following as a spoons star, so much that he and Albert Hall were featured in National Geographic Traveler and other magazines. Mr. Spoons also got on TV a few times, thanks partly to the fancy, cowboy-style outfits he always played in — and Mrs. Spoons always helped him pick out.
One night, a talent scout from an Atlantic City casino showed up to check out Mr. Spoons. Gary Krauthause, John and Caroline’s son, says the guy offered his dad a job on the spot. It paid $650 for two sets — 45 minutes each — in the casino lobby.
John played a few times, but he drew such a crowd, “He didn’t like it,” says Gary, 58, of Egg Harbor City, a blues guitar man who enjoyed playing with his dad. “He said, ‘I feel like I’m in a freak show.’”
So John quit and went back to Albert Hall — free. But most of Mr. Spoons’ gigs, Mrs. Spoons got him. The two traveled the country together in a Winnebago after he retired from Lenox China, and John played at folk festivals and anyplace else his wife could line him up.
Way before that, though, when Terry was in Girl Scouts and Caroline was a troop leader, John would help her — particularly on camping trips, which the family came to love.
Mr. and Mrs. Spoons always were a team — with or without the team nicknames.
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