Bring ‘em back for more!

Whoever decreed “let there be mirth and merriment” must have meant to include music, especially the brass big band music like Fort Frances knew in every celebration on both sides of the border until about 20 years ago.
Through war and peace, this band brought us the theme songs of Atlantis!
But bandmaster Walter Andrusco, now 95, recalls the sad day when there were not enough younger people to keep it going–although there had been regular increase in recruitment of Americans, there was little urge to continue.
The Highlanders have been great, and the high school bands from throughout Minnesota have injected their rhythms. Yet our old Civic band’s absence is felt on every public occasion. Local parades have been noticeably more silent, and our outdoor concerts are gone.
Memories are rich with laughter and admiration for the gallant guys who wore the bright, military-type uniforms with railroad-conductor caps and marched so well in every weather.
Walter, as leader of this band, should have had his own song written by now, like MacNamara of Ireland. He followed Harper Simmons, our first bandmaster, and both were on hand when the old town hall used to offer Sunday concerts upstairs in its auditorium.
The whole town once stood behind our horn blowers, from the town council and its grants down to every organization who appreciated how the band kept the town together as a tight-knit community that put music first for so long.
There were at least two Andruscos in uniform here, as well as three Kingerski brothers among the 30 members, which were of all ages. The youngest may have been teenage trumpeter Bud McWatt, son of Charlie. who was better known for his popular daughters. Bud would blow the “Last Post” and “Reveille” in the cemetery on Remembrance Day. That was after the entire band usually marched out there from downtown.
And then there was the cut-up Don McClure, who got laughter and applause regularly by sliding dependably and awkwardly off his front row seat on stage “by accident.”
There was a poem in the Times about Don, who was once a fire ranger in a forest tower that was hit by lightning. The poem described “Gabriel” as blowing his horn while toilet paper littered the tree tops. A fresh box of groceries from town had taken a direct hit in the storm!
The laughs didn’t stop there because whenever our band crossed the International Bridge for a Labour Day or July 4 parade, a splinter group of six or eight musicians known as the German band (actually of Dutch extraction, like big “Oompah” Dueck), would be honoured guests in an American bar and proceed to entertain there. His brothers spelled their names “Dick.”)
How does it go: “They had joy, they had fun, they had seasons in the sun.” And they had their own bandshell in Point Park for hot weather engagements. drawing large and friendly audiences.
There once was an idea that a new town band might come out of the high school. Ralph Whetstone, the music teacher then, did not believe his students should don uniforms and march too, so the idea was dropped.
Jack Keenahan brought out his very successful drum and bugle band of teenagers over 35 years ago and there was always some bagpipe music around because Bennie Fossos was at it before the second war. Then suddenly afterwards, there were kilties everywhere due to fresh influence from Scotland.
Yet the big band of yore must be reborn, everyone says, and nobody wants another desperately quiet Christmas parade ever to occur again. There would be other younger Americans supplementing our band, so both towns can revive the neighbourly spirit we used to demonstrate and appreciate.
Sure the Highlanders do stand ready to hit the streets, but there is no reason for a brass band to remain muffled here any longer!
And at 95, Walter might be persuaded to give them a pep talk because he could still do it!
• • •
Concerning the Allan Cup, just ask that Warroad, Mn., window-maker Cal Marvin, who has posted at least three senior hockey championship photos in his hometown Dairy Queen since our big win in 1952. But they just don’t have the same national importance as in our day.
Cal regularly paid Fort Frances players, including some of our champions and NHL’er Ed Kryzanowski, now at Atikokan, to lead his lineup. But his hometown Christian brothers were usually his stars when Warroad Lakers would meet the Canadians.
• • •
Although we haven’t heard lately from Barbara Forsythe, who volunteered to play Lady Frances in any centennial program we’ve conceived for next year, it’s assumed she is busy with her placer mining for gold back home in the Yukon. The niece of Josephine Benson, the well-known retired teacher, Barbara is known for historic stage portrayals and offered to help us out in that line. Meanwhile, I trust her creekside activities with a huge caterpillar, hydraulic hoses and rifle boxes are keeping her profitably occupied.
• • •
Nor have I bumped into Pat Daub very often since he switched from raising quarter horses in LaVallee to operating excursion boats on Lake Nipigon, near Beardmore, Ont. It was quite a change for our retired Justice of the Peace, who also performed any number of local marriages.
• • •
Our own flying history may not rival that of the Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, whose first powered flight occurred a century ago in December, 2003. But Rusty Myers started our air bases almost 60 years ago on Rainy Lake, next to Pither’s Point Park.
Before long there were others on the same lake preferring pontoons to wheels for their commercial take-offs, and we almost had a government seaplane base here around 1955. Then dissension occurred when Vern Jones of Rainy Lake Airways, assisted by colourful Clark Robertson and Flin Flonner Warren Plummer got into a memorable argument that spoiled Rusty’s application. Then along came the present airport promoted by Bill McKinnon and Don Melville, a plane engineer, after Jones went into Holiday Inns and several of our other fly-minded businessmen passed away. I don’t know whether Bud Mallory of Canadian Airways lost interest when he moved west, but his son, Robbie, was still flying this winter for Bearskin Airlines. Vic Davis at Lakeland followed Jones. who followed J.A. Mathieu and his pilot, Al Smith.
• • •
I met the Harlem Globetrotters there years ago, same day as I saw an old Chicagoan who invented aerosol cans and the first hula hoops.

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