Golden Anniversary

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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, February 14, 1952

This coming summer [1952] will mark the fiftieth year that band concerts have been played on a season's engagement basis at Hampton Beach. The golden anniversary of concerts at our town's beach should be observed with that type of celebration which would last all summer and would attract leading bandsmen and music lovers from all over the United States. Officials of the American Federation of Musicians, one of the country's most powerful and closely knit unions, would be greatly interested and probably its august head, James Petrillo, would be glad to be present in person on some feature day during the summer celebration. And why is it so important? Because there probably is not another recreational community in the entire United States where band concerts have been a regular feature on every day of the summer season, for fifty continuous years.

Season Of Celebration

Our Beach Chamber of Commerce never had a stouter peg on which to hang publicity which would become nation-wide. We suggest rebuilding the band stand to improve it acoustically and make it more beautiful. And we would suggest that in redesigning the stand, the architect would keep in mind the desirability of making it impossible for children of all ages to perch all over its edges. It might be well, though, to, incorporate in the "50th Anniversary Bandstand" a special alcove or "Kiddy Koop" where children could absorb their. "close-up music" without being a distraction to older folks who come to enjoy the concerts. But, if possible, retain the present roof and give it a coat of gold leaf, for that is all that is left of the original "conceret kiosk" which was first erected in 1899. What we really should have is a "music concourse" with a proper acoustic shell and seats for an audience of several thousand, but that, together with a dozen other features of the Manning Plan, will have to wait on the slow march of progress. Let us hope that another fifty years will not elapse before its fulfillment.

How Concerts Were Started

The north half of the Casino was built in 1899. At the same time, a high-posted "Kiosk" was erected across the street on the east side of the Boulevard as a bandstand. It was used occasionally but not regularly. For instance, a display advertisement in the Exeter News-Letter of Friday, August 18, 1899 announces that on the following Sunday, "Talma's Ladies' Band, Artists of National Reputation," will appear afternoon and evening. The south half of the Casino with the exception of that part which now contains the ballroom, was not completed until 1901. The Ocean House was opened for occupancy at the same time. To play for the formal opening of the completed recreational plant, Henri G. Blaisdell of Concord, with his orchestra of twenty men, was engaged for a full week. Arthur Nevers, also of Concord, was manager of the Blaisdell Orchestra and probably used the occasion of the opening concerts to secure a ten-day engagement for Never's Band during the month of August. The same band came back for a week's engagement which ended on Labor Day in 1901.

Regular Concerts in 1902

There is little doubt that the Haverhill City band, conducted by Charles Higgins, and managed by a Haverhill barber by the name of Joe Goodrich, played during almost the entire season of 1902 — the first summer in which a band was engaged on such a basis. That is the way many people remember it, including Herbert Rainie, a well known Concord attorney and musician. Mr. Rainie has written an interesting and informative letter to us on the subject. He played with Never's Band during both of its short engagements in August, 1901 and played the entire season with Higgins' Band in 1903 at the end of his first year as a student at Dartmouth.

The Haverhill Harbor Master

And there's another interesting yarn which has a direct bearing on the authenticity of the story which has the season of 1902 as the summer in which bands were first regularly engaged on a long-term basis. Joe Goodrich, the Haverhill barber whom, we are told "played a very sad second violin and alto horn," was the harbor master at Haverhill. We have no idea about his qualifications as harbor master, but he must have had some qualifications for the authorities conferred with him concerning the proper method of laying a submarine cable under the Hampton River Toll Bridge when it was being constructed in 1901. And we are told that in return for this "professional" assistance, he was given the contract to furnish a band at Hampton Beach for the following season, which was 1902.

Bridge Opened In 1902

The "Mile Long Wooden Bridge" was opened on May 14 of 1902 and with the opening came an additional and substantial daily influx by trolley of recreation seekers from cities and town to the south and west of our town. This was still another reason for offering a band as a season attraction in 1902. We have talked with a dozen other people including Howard Rowell, Henry Lajoie, Ely Aitken, "Herb" Rainie and Frederick Cook, all of whom had something to do with our band in the early days and most of them substantiate the facts as we have found them.

Request From "Chuck" Hill

We were asked last August by "Chuck" Hill to do a story for him on bands at Hampton Beach. He expected that he might be able to get a report of band activities at Hampton published in the monthly magazine of the American Federation of Musicians. We told "Chuck" that we would be glad to oblige and started immediately to gather facts. And during part of our spare time for six months we have been gathering facts and here, at long last, "Chuck" is getting his story. It has been a difficult job, for people do not remember dates and not much information was available in the Exeter News-Letter, usually a prolific source of material concerning our town. Bands belong in the commercial entertainment field and newspapers are not keen about publishing stories for free in news columns about bands which should be publicized in the display advertising columns. So, it was as late as two weeks ago when we finally completed our roster of eight band conductors who have appeared over the last fifty years, with the correct dates of their engagements.

Musicians' Union Controls

There are many highly interesting sidelights in connection with fifty years of summer concerts at our town's wonderful beach, some of which we will endeavor to relate. For instance a union organization has appeared in the band stand every year. However, two weeks after the start of the season 1924, difficulty arose over salaries and the union band was replaced until Labor Day by a non-union band from Amesbury. So, for only eight weeks out of a period of fifty years have musicians appeared in our bandstand who were not affiliated with the union. And union trouble was precipitated on another occasion but drastic action was avoided.

What Type Of Band?

And there always has been and always will be divided opinion concerning the type of band music which should be provided in our town's bandstand at the beach. Many people have wanted a band in the true sense of the word, like Sousa's, Pryor's, Moses and Goldman's. Bands of this type which have appeared in our bandstand include those which have been led by Messers Higgins, Downs, Leave and Moses. Then there has been an insistent demand for the dance type of band. Outstanding leaders of this type of music that has been popular among the younger people, are 'Hal" McDonnell and "Chuck" Hill. Of course the two type of bands are differentiated not only by the instrumentation, but by the type of music which they play. And the debate concerning which type of musical organization and which type of music should predominate in the beach bandstand, will continue as long as there are enthusiastic music lovers in our town and in the surrounding communities.

Next week we will relate the story of the bands that have appeared at Hampton Beach during the last fifty years.

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