Monday, May 27, 2013

I. "Leader of the Band"

Today is May 27th, one of those twice-a-year "best-of-times, worst-of-times" days when we celebrate a loved one's  birth and also remember the passing of another. Actually we remember the passing of both of these two particular loved ones, not just on this date, but on the other one as well.

Mike's dad, my Grandpa George, would have turned 91 today. But he died last year on March 7th, which would have been Grandma Grace's 88th birthday, except as some of you know, she died two years ago today. So on each of these days we are happy to mark the birth of one of them, but at the same time saddened to be reminded of the deaths of both of them. In death, it seems you just can't separate these two. (Even though in life, according to M, they'd been divorced for many years! Go figure!)

This first post today is Grandpa's "Happy birthday!" shout-out. Grandma's "I still miss you like the dickens!" post will follow.

One of Mike's favorite songs is called "Leader of the Band." It was written a long time ago by Dan Fogelberg. During Grandpa's last year with us, as it became clear that his time was running out, Mike found himself listening to this song more and more, for a couple of reasons. First, it reminded him of his own love of music, which he knows he got from both of his parents. But he was also drawn to the song because it echoes one of Grandpa's finest musical achievements: He was the leader of a band. In fact, during his early years, he'd been the leader of two of them!

When he was a teenager in Tampa, just before World War II, Grandpa was the drum major of the H. B. Plant High School Band. Then for almost three years after his wartime service, he was the first drum major of the U. S. Army Ground Forces (AGF) Band (now called the U. S. Army Field Band). He also played clarinet in the concert versions of both of those bands. (M says that Grandma played clarinet in the high school band as well. In fact, that's how she and Grandpa met!)

Here's a picture of Grandma and Grandpa playing their clarinets along with two of their high school bandmates. Grandma is second from the left, and Grandpa is standing beside her, second from the right:

And here's one of Grandpa in his Plant High School Band uniform, with his drum major baton:

And here he is in June of 1946, playing clarinet in an AGF Band concert on the lawn of the White House, for President Harry S. Truman. Grandpa is in the second row of clarinets, the second seat from the end:

This is one of Mike's favorite pictures, his dad leading the AGF Band in Philadelphia's 1946 Fourth of July Parade:

Mike was proud of his dad's musical accomplishments and said so in his eulogy at Grandpa's burial service last year. Here's an interesting tidbit that he was able to share with Grandpa just a month or so before that. It was true then and it's still true as of this morning: If you do a Google image search (M says he had to stop at this point and explain to Grandpa what Google is, and what a Google image search is, because he wasn't exactly an "online" kind of guy) and you type in the search words "drum major poster" (with or without the quotation marks), the very first picture you'll see is this one:

It's an advertisement for a 1947 concert by the AGF Band. And the drum major in the poster is taken from a photograph of Grandpa. I think that's pretty awesome: Grandpa didn't know Google from granola, and yet he's a #1 hit on it!

We thought it would be fitting today to show a clip of Dan Fogelberg singing "Leader of the Band," to thank Grandpa for his own music, as well as the love of music that he and Grandma gave to Mike. The video we liked best was made from a live concert performance, and M says that the sound is a bit "muddy" in spots. If you have trouble understanding any of the words, here they are for quick reference (click to enlarge):

Happy birthday, Grandpa!

II.  I still miss my most loyal reader!

Grandma Grace has been gone for two years, but I still remember her, thanks to her sweet comments on this blog and to a YouTube slideshow made from a bunch of her family pictures. I first posted it four months after she died and have decided to show it again today. I don't think she'd mind, since she loved to watch reruns of old TV shows.

Some of you knew my Grandma. But for those who didn't, here's the 4-1-1 just as I described her in that earlier post:

Grandma was such a great human--kind and generous, cheerful and helpful, and talented in so many ways. She could sing and dance, knit and water ski--though M says she hadn't done the latter in quite a few years. She played piano and ukulele, and when she was in high school she also played the clarinet. And she knew how to improvise in more ways than one: Mike once saw her catch a bass on a fishing lure that she made out of the rubber strap from a bathing cap and a chewed-up piece of chewing gum. At various times in her life she flew airplanes all over the country and sailed a big sailboat called Night Train. M says she was a great cook, too (especially chicken pot pie!), and that she could underwrite insurance policies. (I have no idea what that last thing means, but it sounds pretty hard.) She could even touch-type.

More than anything, Grandma loved her family. She loved her parents, her sister, her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, all four of her husbands, and her many other relatives, including cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and outlaws.

The music we chose for her slideshow is a song called "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," by George Washington Johnson and James Butterfield. It was one of Grandma's favorites. The pictures date from October of 1924, when she was a baby, to September of 2010, when she was . . . not. Most are from her own big collection of albums, but some are from Mike and Jeannie and other kinfolk. I hope you enjoy it. In fact I hope you've enjoyed this whole humongous post. If you did, feel free to share it with your own friends and loved ones.

Please note: I've been having trouble now and then getting the video to load to its full length, which is 4 minutes and 37 seconds. If it comes up short for you, try reloading the page or go to the original here at YouTube. In either case, if your computer will support it, you may want to use the "Full screen" mode, which makes it easier to read the captions that are on some of the pictures.


PHS Alum' said...

Mike and Buddy, you’ve posted a lovely composition in honor of your loved ones. Thank you for sharing your memories, the photos and the music – a perfect tribute to Mike’s parents.

On a personal note, I must say PHS turned out some GR-r-r r-eat “Panthers” like Mike and his Mom and Dad!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful tributes, Buddy. I especially enjoyed the pictures, most of which I don't have, so it is so appreciated that they are on the blog. You are right about Google. I typed in "drum major poster, and there it was!!
Lots of memories for this Memorial Day! 🇺🇸

Christine said...


Jenny said...

Two great posts for two great people!

Bonnie said...

That final transition on Grandma's slideshow always gets me. Nicely done, Buddy!

sherrijj said...

Thanks so much Buddy! I loved both postings, and they both made me cry, but that's okay. It was neat to hear and see a little more of the history of my grandparents. Somehow I had not realized that Grandma was in the band with Grandpa at Plant. And I loved all the pictures and music!
Cousin Sherri

Annabelle said...

Awww, I didn't know they were a clarinet couple! That picture is so cute :)

In my band, it's typically frowned upon to date within a section, since us crazy high school kids are more than likely to break up and cause drama. We don't like splits within the sections! So, we follow what the Good Handbook tells us: "homosectionality is a sin."

C. Lee McKenzie said...

A beautiful tribute to people who helped to sculpture your soul.

How lucky you were to have each other for so many years--never enough, I know, but I can see you were grateful.

K9friend said...

What lovely memories. You've captured them beautifully. And the photos are priceless.

Critter Alley