Band History: Week 3

If you missed our June 24th concert, we revisited the very busy second decade of the Winona Municipal Band’s history. Here’s what we learned:

Week 3, June 24, 2015
(Written by Ruth Bures, read by Dan Barr)

By 1935, the band needed new uniforms. A proposal for bids appeared in the paper for 55 Coats, maroon broadcloth with military style trim of gold silk that will not fade and pocket large enough to carry the band book. Cost estimate, from $12 to $15.

They had these uniforms by the summer of 1936 and (according to the newspaper) “made a striking appearance at the opening concert”. The uniforms were checked by band sergeant Dayton Merriman prior to every concert, so each was worn according to regulations.

The band played its usual summer concerts but not without some difficulties. Children playing on the lawn (seriously we don’t mind quiet dancers!) people talking, cars driving in and out, extreme heat, hordes of mosquitoes and firecrackers were annoyances.

Besides the summer concerts, the band played at local parades and fairs. The newspaper wrote “Preparing for appearances at a number of fairs as the good will and music dispensing representatives of Winona is occupying the attention of municipal band members”.

Their appearance at the interstate fair provided a bit of drama when they were asked to play to restore order after a trapeze performer fell and was injured.

They competed twice in the MN State Fair. In 1935 they came in 2nd place to Little Falls. A feature of the Little Falls band was its drum major Miss Lambert, who, “dressed in shorts, tossed her baton and led her band in intricate maneuvers.”

Little Falls also won first prize in 1936. This prompted a St. Paul Pioneer Press editorialist to suggest that the judges’ decision was unpopular since the crowd booed when Winona was awarded 3rd place. “It would seem that the points to be awarded on uniforms were really awarded on lack of uniforms.” Sounds like it was the same drum major!

The summer Band concerts continued to feature requests, encores and soloists, often W. W. Christenson, the popular singer and ex brother in law. Baton twirlers appeared, one time spinning lighted batons! It was believed that this was an innovation for the entire territory!

At a concert in 1939 Melvin Ruehman, who, at 14 was the youngest member of the band, played a cornet solo.  Ruehman went on to be the band director at Mabel-Canton High School for 40 years. Also in 1939, the Band finally got new pants for their uniforms when the council agreed to purchase 50 blue (? With maroon coats?)  uniform trousers for $7 each.

On July 20, 1940 Orville W. Reese, 63 died following cerebral hemorrhage. Stanley Streuber was appointed interim bandmaster through November 1.

Choosing the successor to Reese was a bit contentious. Over half of the band members and some community members felt that Streuber should get the job. But Harold Edstrom had made a name for himself in Winona teaching the high school and college band. Parents of his students wanted him hired and feared that “a school with more money will hire him. I doubt that the school board can pay what he is worth.”

Harold Edstrom did get the job (for $100 a month!) and Winona benefitted from that decision in more ways than they could envision!

Edstrom led many concerts in the following WWII years with military themes, and the band played for groups of soldiers as they left for training. The band accompanied the yearly ice frolics, and played for conventions like the MN retail grocers and general merchants association and the American Legion.

Baton twirlers were featured at his concerts regularly, and there was a new singer on the program, Irving Tingley. Soggy ground at Lake Park caused the concerts to be moved at times. Several seasons ended with concerts at the east and west end parks.

In August of 1943 a rather unique revue was prepared by the Winona Recreation department and presented with the Winona Municipal Band. Called “Victory on the Home Front” children from the different city playgrounds practiced and acted out scenes entitled “Song of Health; Proper Diet; Victory Garden Drill; Harvest Scene; Cora the Unpatriotic Cow; Relaxation, Rest and Sleep; Health Habits; Posture and Physical Fitness, all accompanied by the band.

War Bond sales were heavily promoted to support the war effort. The well-known comedy duo, Abbott and Costello came to Winona in 1942 for a bond rally and the band led the parade. Afterward as the band gathered around the celebrities, Costello surveyed the group and remarked that their uniforms “Looked like a blood transfusion”.

Next week tune in to hear more about Harold Edstrom and Hal Leonard Music!