Bob Mitchell: Enjoying the old days of music

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Years ago, the opening of school, and the arrival of the fall season and cooler weather, served to be a much enjoyable time for Cassville’s residents of the northeast part of town.

Those were the days went the high school drum and bugle corps was very active and represented the community throughout the region.

The girls had snappy routines, but the enjoyable part or the residents of the town was their rehearsal marches around town. It was up and down the streets in the residential areas, which most likely would cause those at home to drop whatever they were doing at the time to see the outstanding unit pass their homes.

There were even occasions when the unit would venture into the business district and display their talents for that segment of the community.

Leaders

A list of some of their leaders would include: Louise Robberson Thomas (who was later a leading member of the faculty as an English teacher), Johnnie Bower, Roetta Bower and Sue Hawk Blythe. In later years, there was a mascot, an elementary student, Jackie Canada. Sue Brown Mitchell was a twirler. Actually, as I remember, leading this group was not a problem as they were not only drum and bugle corps members — they were among the leading students of Cassville High School.

An early director was music instructor Harvey Jones.

Annual outing

Among their most regular outing in competition, which always had them in the top ratings, especially during early years, was the Joplin Fiesta Festival Parade.

An annual event in Jasper County, the parade route went a long distance from south to north on Main Street.

Here the gals were in completion with much larger schools, but many a trophy came to Cassville as a result of their performances.

Primary unit

And then there was the Cassville Grade School Tonette Band in their red and white uniforms that included a few drum players for their programs.

An interesting part about this unit was the director who was also the grade school basketball coach who would later become involved in a different program of fame — John Q. Hammons. The late Hammons, who passed away a few years ago and is buried in his native town of Fairview, excelled as the leader of this music unit and won a number of Barry County basketball tournaments with his teams he coached.

The music group wasn’t an outside performance unit, but it did participate in a number of programs and was usually on the bill of entertainment at the annual School Carnival held in the fall every year, but that’s the subject matter for another column.

Later bands

Like recent football teams, which have compiled a record envious of many in winning the Big 8 Conference, R-4 bands of the 1970s and 1980s played their way and pushed contest events throughout the region.

Initiated by director John Knight, now a university music director in the state of Ohio, this particular unit was titled a Stage Band. Second in line as director was the late Bob Merideth and Rusty Robinson, who probably pushed the unit to the peak of its performance ability, which was evident with the honors they achieved throughout his career at CHS.

Robinson is now a top educator in music at the University of Florida, kept the tradition going with participation in any local happening that came down the pike.

Both Knight and Robinson have returned here to direct bands in special concerts.

It wasn’t unusual for the unit to crowd into the dining room space of a local restaurant to present a program for various groups.

Marching bands

Usually also getting ready for early season competition events, marching bands mostly used the back streets of that section of town for their outings.

The sound of one of the bands coming down Main Street to circle the public square and head back to the school campus would eliminate much business being conducted as stores could empty to see the group pass in review.

It wasn’t difficult to see the pride swell on the faces of parents who might have a youngster in the band unit. For those not readily within hearing of the bands nearing the square, there might be those like Charlie Willis, of Willis Insurance, who would announce the event to his block on the square.

Concerts

Then there was always the long anticipation for upcoming band concerts on the public square. The west side of the square was the usual location with the band virtually filling the street in front of the courthouse.

There were very few spaces remaining for spectator chairs by the time the concert would begin, playing until dark since there was no lighting available for the members to read their music.

Responses were long and loud for each number played, with old model car horns from those parking near by, joining the recognition.

Those were the old days of music, which was enjoyed by the Cassville community.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.