Friday, August 28, 2009

THE FIRST BAND CAMP




Some of our favorite memories soon come to mind when certain songs play across the radio, but no experience is so sweet as making the music that makes the memories, such as the case with the participants of the inaugural Toronto Band Camp.
This Toronto high School tradition started in 1949 when the band fathers converted a Yellow Creek farm into a practice field for the marching band and the barn into a cafeteria. As the years progressed, succeeding band fathers added more modern amenities; the first year, however, they simply roughed it.
We slept in tents," then high school senior Dolores (Argentine Graceffa said, "five or six tents, as I recall, about eight to a tent. There were individual tent counselors, one for each tent."
"It got very cold in the mornings that summer, down into the forties," said Ruth Ann Campbell) Davis. "Two of the girls in our tent had to go home with ear aches. We had old iron double-decker beds. I was fortunate to have a big feather comforter that had been in our family for years. I slept on it and pulled the other half over me."
Reveille awakened the campers from their chilly slumbers every morning and then before breakfast, under the leadership of band director D.W. Hover, the 70 members of the THS band exercised and marched and then attended breakfast.
"When I think of band camp," Madonna (Smith) Baker, class of 50 said, "I think of reveille played at 6:00 every morning. So I left a nice, warm blanket and went to the lower part of the barn for a shower. Breakfast was held in the barn dinning hall, and we sat at picnic tables."
The band marched and practiced during afternoons and repeated their routines in the evenings, the early morning coolness soon forgotten.
"It was terribly hot," Mrs. Graceffa said. "It was a lot of fun. John Sabol, a graduate and band member of Ohio State University came out and taught us single line formation across the field, and we did it admirable. I think we were the first small school around here to perfrom this formation."
Band members did find some play and mischief time during the evenings.
"We had the lake back then and the kids swam," Mrs. Graceffa said. "In the evenings we had bonfires and sing-alongs."
There were the usual raids by the boys," Mrs. Devlin said, "but none of us got in big trouble. We really had a wonderful time and certainly needed the practice."
Before the inception of Toronto Band Camp, THS practice alongside the football field during summer while Director Hoover gave individual lessons at the Roosevelt Building. Attending the Yellow Creek camp broke up the monotony and created a tradition celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Graceffa summed up the sentiments of the thousands of band members from the various high schools who had the experience of marching upon this hallowed ground. "It was an experience for a city girl. I wasn't rich enough to go to a summer camp. I wouldn't have taken anything for that experience."
Band members from the classes of 50, 51, 52 and 53, if interested in forming a reunion, should call Doloroes (Argentine) Graceffa at 740-537-2106.
Picture of drum major is Dale Westlake.
Campers in front of tent are, left to right: Dolores Wagner, Ruth Ann Campbell, Joan Paisley, Letilia Arehart, Madonna Smith, Dolores Argentine, Marilyn Williams, and counselor unknown.