1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


AHS Band Memories - Part Two

Mary Morgan - October 20, 2011

Mr. Hazeldine was a wizard turning this rag-tag group of kids, from 7th grade through 12th into a marching band. He never had any discipline problems. We weren't reading textbooks or trying to earn a grade. We were learning to actually do something right there in school--band music, together and real. He had to blow the whistle a few times when the horseplay got in the way of practice but he treated us with great respect and did everything he knew how to do to help us look and sound good.

I remember the day that we went to class and saw a big bass drum on the stage. It had had a former life and the scuffs and scrapes showed but it was a genuine bass drum which was what had been missing. You can't have a marching band without a bass drum.

A very young boy, he must have been in the 7th grade, wanted to be the bass drummer. When he got into the shoulder harness and hooked the drum on in front of himself he could hardly be seen. It looked like a big drum with short legs underneath. The kid was very small for his age, looking "Great Depression" starved, but he was keen on being the drummer. Mr. H. put him on the gym floor and set him marching to his own drum beat. That was the plan but the kid had a problem. He could only take about 3 even steps and then he would get to bobbling--his steps didn't match the drum beat. Mr. H. would hop off the stage, where he was working with the rest of us, and march beside the boy while he shouted "LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT!". That seemed to confuse the kid more. So the vocal cues were changed to "ONE,TWO,ONE,TWO!" That helped a bit and the kid improved to maybe marching 8 or 10 steps before getting off-beat. Mr. H. would urge the kid to keep practicing while he climbed the steps back onto the stage to teach the rest of the class. We were beginning to learn to play together--like all the trombones at the same time would play their part and then the trumpets would play their part. We were nearly ready to begin to play marches as a complete band.
Once when Mr. H. looked down on the gym floor and saw the drummer kid floundering he "drafted" two of us to go help the kid. I was to march on the right side of the drum and a classmate was assigned to march on the left and we were both yelling, "MARCH, MARCH, MARCH, MARCH" to the drum beat. We would get half-way down the gym floor before all three of us were stumbling along because the marching and the drumming was not in sync. I couldn't understand why I couldn't keep marching when the drum faltered. It only took about 2 uneven beats and I was bobbling along with the kid.

Mr. H. never yelled at us or used sarcasm. He kept encouraging all of us including the boy who couldn't march. One day we came to class to see Mr. H. and the drummer already at work on the gym floor. We stared open mouthed at what we saw--Mr. H had tied his right leg onto the boy's left with a small rope. They both had drum sticks, Mr. H beating on the left side of the drum, the drummer on the right. It was a sight to behold. Boom, boom, boom. But it wasn't working. Before they reached the full length of the floor one or the other would almost be tripped or toppling over. Mr. H. untied their legs, helped the boy out of the drum harness and brought the drum up onto the stage. I remember that none of us laughed. The boy was crestfallen. Mr. H. looked defeated.

A. H. S. had more than one teacher who came from Huntington and it was a pretty usual practice for them to catch the train on Friday evening and leave Alderson for their homes in Huntington. Early Monday morning they would arrive back in Alderson on the eastbound C&O. Single teachers usually rented a spare room in someone's Alderson home and weekends were pretty dull for them. None of them were paid enough to rent an apartment. The passenger train schedule both eastbound and westbound was about perfectly timed for them to make this escape.

The very next Monday morning Mr. H. got off the train with a long slender package, wrapped in brown paper, under his arm. (Another teacher who had a car met him at the train and told this part of the story.) When we had band class that day Mr. H. told the failed drummer to open this package--it was his band instrument. We stared in wonder as the kid slowly unwrapped a United States flag mounted on a slender wood rod about 3 feet long. The kid was now our flag bearer, marching to the right of the first rank of the band which at that time was four trumpets. Mr. H. trained another drummer who was not doing well on his first choice of instruments and it didn't bother the band at all that the proud flag bearer was not marching to the drum beat. The kid who couldn't march and was poor as a church mouse with no musical instrument was now IN THE BAND!

In 1940 Mr. H. decided to expand beyond band music. He selected a little brass ensemble to play some syncopated jazz. The name of the piece was Swamp Fire, a jazz classic. Richard Meredith, Howard Lively and I were the trombones. I remember that I lasted about three practices. Howard and Richard were really sounding snazzy but I was like the kid who couldn't march--I couldn't do syncopation. I think I had played too many Methodist hymns on the piano for Sunday School. I don't remember how this combo worked out but only a few years ago Richard told me that Mr. Hazeldine had taken a number of AHS band boys over to Oak Hill to help out a band instructor there who needed some brass reinforcement for a special program. That must have been a unique cooperation.

It was a shock to all of us in September 1941 when school opened and Mr. Hazeldine was not there. For almost two weeks we had no band director and we thought it was curtains for our band. And then, surprise! Off the train stepped Emma Carl Juheim, (sp?) having just graduated from a college in Louisiana I think. We were shocked at a woman band director but oh, so glad and relieved that we would have a band after all. She stepped right up and we dug in quickly to play at half time for the first home football game. She and I shared a room in a hotel in Huntington for that year's State band festival. I was slow catching on that Fred Neely, the only boy in A.H.S. who drove a car to school, had added her to his passenger list of buddies. They were married not too long after he graduated in 1942 and later they celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary at their home near Lewisburg.

Many years after I graduated from Alderson High School in 1942 I was teaching at Ohio University which, in the summer, created a summer band open to members of the community. The ads invited anyone who wanted to play in three summer picnic concerts on the college green to join even if we didn't still have our instruments. Remembering fondly my high school band experience I showed up. The director asked, "How long ago did you play the trombone?" It took me a few minutes to do the arithmetic before I answered, "About 37 years." It took the music professor a minute or two himself to recover from the shock before he could smile and say, "Well, let's go pick out a trombone for you." We were both surprised that in a couple of weeks I was playing as good as I had played in high school. That wasn't saying too much but I stayed with all the music with one exception, John Phillips Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever". That had a trombone line that was just too much for me. I let the O. U.. music majors carry that section. It was another fun musical experience that added to my appreciation of teacher Norman Hazeldine and my experience in the Alderson High School band.
Mary has listed some questions below. If you know the answer to any or all, please post them in the comment box.


Did the state band festival stop during WWII?
Did it start again?
Does it go on now?

How big did the band get?

Did the 1940? 41? band uniforms last forever?

Did the girls finally get pants or stay in skirts?

Why haven't more band members contributed any memories of their Alderson High School band experiences?

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