Band History: Week 4

If you missed our July 1st concert or just want to review the history, we visited the years between 1945 and 1955 of the Winona Municipal Band’s history. Here’s what we learned:

Week 4, July 1, 2015
(Written by Ruth Bures, read by Dan Barr)

Harold Edstrom resigned from teaching at the High school in 1945. He planned to start a music store in his brother Everett’s photography studio. But he would continue directing the Winona Municipal Band.

By 1947, the band was up to pre-war strength with 45 members. That year the band was invited to play for the dedication of the new Wabasha bridge, but it seemed many members would not be able to get off work. The newspaper editorialized “The calls for civic duty are heavy and frequent but this is one event at which Winona should be represented.” Two days later it was announced that the municipal band would “head the Winona delegation” to the event!!

Harold’s summer band concerts featured special vocalists, singing groups, and performances on violin, xylophone, accordion, and even piano (at the bandshell?) Harold’s brother Everett, an excellent trumpeter, often played as soloist or member of trios and quartets. Irving Tingley, the KWNO radio announcer, frequently sang. Local folks performed in talent contests and one time Harold invited children under 10 to direct the band! There were the usual complaints about noisy kids and people leaving before the Star Spangled Banner (the last piece on Harold’s programs) finished, but for the most part, people enjoyed themselves.

Arrangements of popular tunes by Harold, Roger Busdicker, Gilmore Mason, and later Zane Van Auken, Frank Cofield and others were very popular with audiences, and soon were in demand by other bandleaders. When someone came to the Edstrom Music Store for an arrangement, someone had to run upstairs and crank up the mimeograph machine to make copies. Fairly soon, they realized they would need to pay attention to the copyright laws so they went to New York to learn about legal technicalities. They returned with the rights to “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.” Hal Leonard Publishing was off and running! The first listing of a Hal Leonard arrangement appeared on the program in the summer of 1948, and by December, Hal Leonard had 24 employees, not including Harold or Everett.

More uniform drama was brewing in 1948. “The band, as presently outfitted, is a disgrace, in the opinion of director, Harold Edstrom. The entire band can’t be outfitted with the present stock, purchased in the mid 1930’s”. What? They were shot after being worn by sweating musicians though summer concerts and parades for a decade plus? Yes! The city council ok’d a public subscription campaign to finance new uniforms. They would cost about $60 apiece, or between $2500 and $3000. The newly formed Exchange Club took on the project and raised the money. “Then what the heck did they buy?” asked Gerry Landers, then a band member and librarian. PURE WOOL!

The band marched in their new brown WOOL uniforms in the 1949 Minneapolis Aquatennial Parade and made a big impression on spectator Carolyn Corwin. She wrote “A Big Hello From Winona” has just passed our door at 10th and Nicollet and we simply loved it. We all raved about the band and thought the arrangements were very good [thanks Hal Leonard!] the timing was excellent, the volume was great – well it was wonderful!” [Wonderful exposure for the great band arrangements Hal Leonard was putting out, too!]

Another exciting event in 1949 was the appearance of Miss America, BeBe Shopp, with the band. A lovely, tall and talented young lady from Hopkins, MN, she played a vibraphone solo on a specially designed instrument that was 2 inches taller than standard. She traveled with her father, who made sure no unwelcome advances were made to his daughter. Today Beatrice Waring is in her 80’s and lives in Maryland. She has fond memories of the concert in Winona and still has her personalized vibraphone, which she only plays at Christmas when her grandchildren request Silent Night.

The first Steamboat Days was held in 1948, and, yes, the band marched in the parade then, and all of Harold’s directing days. Some years it rained, and long time clarinetist Gladys Delano recalled the time water just poured through her horn, and someone’s trombone slide slid off and clattered on the street. Some years it was hot! When Susan Delano (Gladys daughter) was just 4 she could already twirl a baton! She wanted to be in the parade and Harold said ok. But it was so hot that the tar melted and little Susan’s shoes began to stick to the road. Harold picked her up and carried her to the end. After the parades, Harold would invite other participating bands (and their directors) to his store for refreshments – and maybe a few sales?

Arcadia Broiler Days was a regular parade for the band, and the marchers were always happy when they finally spotted the railroad tracks ahead. A well-known tavern was waiting there to greet thirsty marchers. There were also a few taverns to visit on the way back to the parade start!

The band rehearsed year round, and for some years presented concerts in the winter that were broadcast over KWNO. A few band members were in a hurry for these practices to end especially when television series like “Sea Hunt” aired on the same night.

The rehearsal room in City Hall happened to be right below the city council room.  On one band rehearsal evening a hearing was being held on whether to suspend the city treasurer suspected of “changing the weights” of the parking meter nickel bags between collection and counting. “The hearing proceeded to the accompaniment of brisk band music which made it difficult to understand the speakers.” After the rehearsal stopped and the council could hear again, they voted to suspend the guy.

Pageants, Patriotic Ceremonies, Conventions, Parades, County Fairs, Winter Carnivals, Chiefs Baseball Games, bridge, road and building dedications, the Winona Municipal Band was there to play. There were exchange concerts with the Rochester and LaCrosse Community bands. When the Mayor of Winona flipped the switch for the city’s new lighting system (that gave more light at lower cost) the Winona Municipal Band was there. And we’re still here!

Come back next week to hear from the Edstrom family themselves!