Band History: Week 5, The Hal Edstrom Family Story

We were very honored to have Nick and Nancy Edstrom present our history lesson at our July 8th concert. Their older brother Tom was also in attendance and the family generously served Swedish meatballs to the crowd, a favorite of Hal Edstrom.

Week 5, July 8, 2015
Written and Read by Nancy Edstrom Bachler and Nick Edstrom

FAMILY MEMORIES: Growing Up with Hal

NAN: My name is Nancy Bachler; my maiden name is Edstrom, my dad was Hal and I grew up with four brothers.  One of them [here] is my twin, Nick Edstrom.  Our other brothers are Lee, Tom, and John.  Our oldest brother Lee is in Providence, R.I. and he has made delightful contributions to our anecdotes and he regrets very much that he cannot to be with us.  We lost John 3 years ago, but he was an important player in all the nostalgia.  Tom is sitting out there in a red convertible ready to honk and has come especially from California for this event —he also participated in the storytelling.  We already wrote something in the program about our family (which we thought was plenty!) but we were requested to tell the audience some personal stories about what it was like growing up with The Leader of the Band, Hal Edstrom, who we’ll remind was the director of the Winona Municipal Band from 1942 to 1973.

NICK:  Our oldest brother Lee gave a eulogy at Dad’s funeral in 1996 and developed a whole theme about the Leader of the Band based on the song by the same name. We knew our Dad as a terrific band and choir director, musician, and C.E.O. of Hal Leonard but most of all to us he was fun-loving and devoted family man with equally outstanding leadership qualities at home. There’s a photo of our family orchestra in your program. Mom played drums, Dad the Hammond organ, Lee trumpet, Tom clarinet, John trombone, and Nan and I played accordion until we graduated to chord organ and bass fiddle. 

NAN:   We grew up in an old pink house next to Cotter School. We had two pianos and two organs, and I think at times they were going all at once.  We played many “gigs” in a variety of settings and did live T.V. shows weekly in Rochester and LaCrosse. Gerry Landers was our organ teacher — she was not only a top clarinetist in the Municipal Band, she was Dad’s right hand person for planning programs; and she also happened to be a great teacher.  We also went to Rochester weekly to take piano lessons from Marjorie Lidstrom, and on both instruments we played in contests throughout our childhood.    It was a heck of a lot of practicing for Mom to endure, and those competitions put her nerves on edge, but she never complained.

NICK:  Something that was a huge part of our childhood was our time with our cousins, Ev’s and Mary’s kids: Steve, Pat, Krs, Kate and Kim.  Mom and Dad had 4 boys and a girl, and they had 1 boy and 4 girls. We were always at each other’s houses and never tired of each other’s company.  Most of our cousins are in California now.  Mary Edstrom, who had a dance studio some of you may remember, is still going strong living in La Jolla, CA.  She was able to make it to Jo’s 101st  birthday (our mom died only two years ago at the age of 102.)  When we contacted Cousin Steve about his memories of Municipal Band he recalled being one of the guest acts on the Hammond organ along with Dave Heyer, Freddy’s son.  He said the sound system wasn’t working that night and you could hear the mosquitoes better than the Hammond!

NAN:  Something that is a vague but pleasant recollection is time we spent at the different retail stores.   Edstrom Music Store was the first place they sold instruments and that was at 3rd St. and Center, kitty corner from Choate’s….a.k.a Heart’s Desire. There were short free concerts given at noon time because that drew the business, and many of the performers worked there and also played in the Municipal Band. These mini concerts packed in the consumers who might then buy music or go to a private booth to listen to 45 RPM records that they might also purchase.

NICK:  Hal Leonard had its first printing press in the second story of Edstrom Music Store, but then they moved to 2nd St., next to R.D. Cone (the building that houses the Winona Post now), and the retail store moved with them. What really took off, though, was Hal Leonard Publishing.  Both pop music and band music were sold nationally.  A favorite story we like to give Mom credit for was the fact that Dad used to make up halftime shows for football games and he even wrote them up for fellow band directors. One night when he had to drag Jo home early from a dinner party to do homework for someone else, she said, “You know, Harold, you should sell those shows!” 

NAN: We often kidded her that she might have had more to do with the founding of Hal Leonard than anyone!  The story she liked to tell was that she and dad were in London at Buckingham Palace and they heard a song that sounded familiar — it turns out that it was a Hal Leonard arrangement by their very own son Lee!  When publishing became Hal Leonard’s total focus, they sold the business to none other than WSU band Director Dick Lindner who would eventually become the longest tenured director of the Winona Municipal Band.  There are still many funny stories to tell about Frisky the dog, for instance, or the older boys playing at county fairs, or practicing long hours for penny candy, or sleeping 7 people and a dog in 1 tent, or if you didn’t put away your music you got KP, or how Mom won Gretchen Lamberton’s Casual Corner essay contest with “How to Survive While Traveling with Small Children”!  We’ve had great fun digging up memories.     

NICK: There is one story I enjoy about Mom playing drums in our family band that goes back to when Dad was courting her  — and in order to show her how to do her paradiddles he had to put his arms around her. She became quite proficient!  We know she was up on the Municipal Band stage at some point, but perhaps she played in a half time show with the family!

NAN: I like that Dad had music going in about every aspect of his life, family and business and I think he enjoyed it all.  We have so many exciting festivals and concerts at the present time in this town, which reminds me that Mom and Dad played a big role in the Community Concert Series — the concerts were in the old Middle School and they hosted some big names! 

NICK:   Well, these are good examples that Mom and Dad were devoted members of the
community, of the Winona music scene, and they were great parents who were really in love and supported each other in everything they did. Municipal Band was very much a part of their routine — no drama, no drudgery, just a good time with great musicians.

NAN:  We have nothing but good memories. Tonight and for this centennial the most important subject here is the Municipal Band, and we know for certain that being the Leader of the Band was something Hal Edstrom enjoyed very much.  

NICK:  He would be delighted to meet Levi and congratulate him for this present, excellent Municipal Band.

NICK AND NAN: Thank you!