Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

BAND SHELL 60 YEARS OLD

Morning Star, January 28, 2001, pg. 9

Weíve just added a "whole bunch more" Historical Notebook articles to our internet site. Spread the word! Go to: www.albionmich.com. Click on the "Albion History Directory" and then the Historical Notebook option. Youíll then reach my page. Scroll it down to the Historical Notebook Morning Star articles category, click that on, and youíll see a listing of titles and dates. Choose what you want, click it on and read the actual article, along with some great color photographs. Special thanks to Robin James for putting this together for all of us.

There have been recent rumblings about the condition of the restroom facilities in Victory Park, which happen to be in the rear portion of the Victory Park Band Shell. The Band Shell is a prominent Albion landmark and asset, and has been the site of memorable concerts and events through the years. Did you know that the Band Shell will be 60 years old this year and that it was never officially dedicated? Our story begins on August 7, 1939, when the Albion City Council petitioned the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for $330,000 to: fund sewer projects throughout town, make improvements to Riverside Cemetery, and construct a band shell for Victory Park.

Back then, the Albion City Band was a big thing. It held concerts up to three times a week (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday evenings) and the City of Albion took over funding the group in 1941. That year, the 25-member band was led by Floyd Hoyt (1883-1962), in his first season as conductor (He served from 1941 to 1958). Concerts were held in temporary stands on the lawn of Victory Park southwest of the high school fieldhouse. Construction of the Band Shell occurred in 1941, and was supervised by Albert Schumacher. One well-seasoned carpenter who helped make the forms for the Band Shell was Leon Claucherty (1897-1986). He also helped construct the adjacent tennis courts, part of which unfortunately have been abandoned for years now. The Band Shell was not finished until October, 1941.

The first concert at the new Band Shell was held on the evening of Sunday, October 12, 1941, which was the final concert of the 1941 season. The first number performed at the new facility was "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by the "Chicago Tribune" march. The event was called a "christening" of the new band shell, just two months before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Mayor Norman H. Wiener stated that an elaborate dedication ceremony was planned for the spring of 1942. In looking over the 1942 records however, it appears that no such dedication ever occurred. This would have been due to the intense local focus on Albionís involvement in World War II, as factories were re-tooled for war, men were drafted, and special celebrations were set aside. The band concerts held in 1942 were "normal" ones; no mention was made of any dedication ceremony, even when the WPA Symphony performed in September.

As we celebrate our Band Shellís 60th anniversary this year, why not finally "dedicate" it, and feature local Albion music as part of the mix in this yearís Albion Community Band concerts? This will give talented band members time to compose arrangements and recruit soloists. Selections should include such titles of course as "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," and "The Old Rugged Cross," Albionís "claims to fame." But there are also other pieces composed here that could easily be performed. Albionís theme song, "Hang Your Hat in Albion," written in 1912 by Wesley Irma Dorris ("...its a happy college town, growth and business all around...") could be matched with the contemporary "Albion Is Our Town, Your Town" by Barbara Gladney. John Philip Sousa could be replaced by editor Mark H. Fallís masterpiece, "Soldiers Military March and Patrol," a peppy march written in Albion in 1906 that helped finance Fallís education at Albion College. Iíve got a copy of the sheet music. There could even be school songs played, from Albion College and Albion High School to the elementary schools ("Oh, Dalrymple School, Weíre for you; both loyal and true, weíre for you..."). Give our band members a call with your suggestions.

Whatever the case, letís all be proud of our Band Shell, something we have that most communities donít. Take advantage of the opportunities and attend this summerís concerts. From our Historical Notebook we present an early 1960s postcard of an evening photograph taken by Norm Burlingame of the Band Shell with its lights on. It features conductor Gar Dickerson in front wearing his gold jacket. His dedicated band had many long-time members. How many persons remember the Albion City Band concerts of the 1960s directed by Gar Dickerson?


Gar Dickerson Conducting the Albion City Band

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All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic

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