Nanaimo Historical Society Fonds
Series 2. Sound recordings
Dr. John Lewis: Nanaimo Concert Band, May 20, 1980
Transcribed by: Glenys Wall, Transcription date: April 2003
Some time ago, when I first became a member of the Society, a thought occurred to me that if I were ever a Programme Director, who would I invite to be a speaker? One of the first topics that came to my mind was the Nanaimo Concert Band and its Musical Director. After all, the Nanaimo Band goes back quite a long time, over 100 years, I believe it's 108 years, and that really goes back to Nanaimo's early years; and I feel very much a part of the band. I was a member, not 107 years ago, but I was with the Band in the '40s when I was a teenager and, in later years, during the time when Dr. Lewis has been with the Band. Dr. Lewis, tonight's speaker, goes back over 60 years with the Band and his father was Bandmaster. Our speaker grew up in Nanaimo, I believe in the Fairview District, and when he grew up his father… I guess the whole family moved to the United States and came back to visit now and then. I met Dr. Lewis's father on some of his trips when he came back to his old hometown. So having said that, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce tonight's speaker Dr. John Lewis of the Nanaimo Concert Band.
Dr. John Lewis:
I first came to the Island in 1910. We went to Cumberland, we had been living in Crow's Nest Pass the previous year. The following year we came to Nanaimo; we came in the summer of 1912 actually. Nanaimo had about 6 or 7000 people and about 4000 of them were coalminers. Lots in town were selling for $300; you could buy a house for $1000. The miners were making something like $3.75 a day unless you were a Chinaman, and they were paid $1.50 a day. It was said they didn't have the experience of the English and the Scotch and the Welsh coalminers.
The town had stables; there were horses everywhere. The town smelled different from what it does today. (laughter) The place was loaded with horse-manure; we thought that was pretty good. There were outhouses everywhere. Downtown was filled with saloons; we thought that was nice too. They had them every block on each side of the street. Very few cars and they were enough to scare the Dickens out of the horses and so the mothers always cautioned the children to watch for runaway horses and wagons, you could get hurt that way. Lots of advertising "Horses for Sale".
The town filled up with black-faced miners about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They would come in from Number 1, which was down where Sears is, they would come in on scows from Protection Island, they would come in on a train from Reserve Mine down the road.
The Old Bastion Bridge, was there, the old wooden one, and down below was what we called the Ravine and that was the City Dump. Now I'll talk to you about that later, that was very important to me. In town, we had the Opera House and that was the day of the vaudeville and it advertised that they were the finest violins [unintelligible] finest singers in the world and that sort of thing. And then they would also have some movies. The [Western Theatre] was here and they would present plays, mainly by American Companies coming up from Portland. The church choirs were here every Friday night instead of Thursdays in those days. The biggest thing in groups in town was the Welsh Male Choir. You could hear more [unintelligible] there in one night than you could hear anywhere else in town.
Chinatown was lively; I loved to go down there as a kid and listen to their music. The phonograph was being sold around town as the new thing and the most popular records were probably Harry Lauder and a record called the Preacher and the Bear. Everybody would play that thing and just laugh (laughter).
The Princess Pat went back and forth to Vancouver and I noticed in the newspaper it would say that "Mr. J. Brown went to visit Vancouver for the day" or "Mrs. Jones went down to Victoria for the weekend". Anybody that left town, anybody came to town that was news.
On July 14th of that year, the Silver Cornet Band played a concert on July 14th. A Mr. J. W. Smith was the band director and for the next 10 years, Mr. Smith and my Dad alternated at times being the band director. The Band played Verdi, [unintelligible] and [Barnhaus?]. It was a brass band! By that time the band had been in existence for 40 years. It has been organised first in 1872. At that time, any town that had 300 English, or Welsh or Scotch coalminers, you would have a band, you would have a good football team. Nanaimo had both. At that time, Cumberland was a big coal camp; Courtney was nothing. It was just a place where the miners went to carry-on on the weekends, but Cumberland had a good band; Ladysmith had a fine band; Nanaimo had a good band, so did Wellington. Nanaimo also had the Boys' Brigade Band.
August 15th of that year, Andrew Dunsmore played the organ and E.D. Jones and Dan Jones (they were Welsh) and Mrs. Tuck and Mrs. Cornfield were all singing. Mr. Manson played violin and Mr. Jackson sang and the tickets were 25 cents. The Band also played for the Moose Lodge on August 21st. Nanaimo Musical Club was rehearsing under the direction of Mr. F.W. Dyke; they were working on The Messiah in the Good Temperance [Templars?] Hall. September 27th the Duke and Duchess of [Clemant?] were in Nanaimo; all the school kids were dressed up and sang for them. September 29th Nanaimo Symphony, I don't know who the conductor was; it was either Professor Harvey or Dr. Ingham. They were both violinists, they were both teachers. Dolly Fisher also played on the same programme. A Mrs. Drysdale did a lot of singing in those years. A Miss Chiswell, I don't remember her, but I just know her name was on many programmes. Andrew Dunsmore conducted the orchestra at that particular concert and I didn't know for a long time that Andrew did a lot of conducting. I just knew Andrew as a piano teacher.
November 23rd, the symphony concert. They played Light Cavalry, the trombone solo the Death of Nelson (my Dad used to play that one); [Maritana?] Overture by Wallace, Tannhauser March by Wagner. November 25th Nanaimo Operatic Society rehearsed Hermione by Verdi.
The sidewalks were being put in. The Bijou Theatre opened up and you could go to it for 5 cents and if you were an adult 10 cents. Then came World War on August 4th 1914. The Boys' Brigade Band was in St. Paul's church; it used to support the Boys' Brigade Band for many years. Now there were patriotic concerts, lots of Rule Britannias, lots of Elgar, Land of Hope and Glory, and Evan Jones sang "The Boys of the Old Brigade". Eugene Arnold had a concert orchestra. The Nanaimo Orchestra Society under the conductorship of Andrew Dunsmore and the Nanaimo Musical Society under Mr. Dyke…..
January 15th 1913 the Steamer Oscar blows up and the miners are on strike. Surprising at that particular time we have these kinds of concerts. Smokers, I don't remember them (laughter). The Templars had concerts, the Belgian Relief had concerts, St. Luke's church had concerts; there were patriotic concerts in general. St. Andrew's song service; school patriotic concerts; the [unintelligible] concerts; the church choirs gave concerts; Nanaimo Male Voice, which was really the Welsh Choir, men. The Arnold Orchestra concerts and the Silver Cornet Band played concerts and there were student concerts, and the [unintelligible] sisters had concerts and the Boys' Brigade Band had concerts. Isn't that amazing? We don't have things like that today, but we did then.
December 13th under Mr. Dyke we gave the Handel "Messiah". December 27th, Arnold Concert and that's when my Dad played cornet solo [unintelligible]. It was the time when the men were singing "give me the right to love you all the while, life cannot [unintelligible]". Then the trumpeter [unintelligible] what are they playing now, "just a baby's prayer at twilight for her Daddy over there". "Keep the Home Fires Burning" "Tipperary" "A Perfect Day" "The Maid of the [unintelligible]" remember that one from many years ago "[unintelligible] let the rest of the world go by."
Now that was going on in Nanaimo when I got here. I didn't know much about it. When a child walks by a table he gets a completely different point of view from the adult who walks by the table. When we came to Nanaimo, we lived in a house on Wentworth Street; it's the last house going up before you get to the railroad tracks and I was sent to the Fairview School. The Fairview School, now Manning Street is a very short street, it begins in the middle of the cemetery and comes out to Second Avenue and then across the road was a big lot and the back of it was the school. A one-room school with a potbelly stove in the middle; the little kids were seated around the stove and the big kids around the outside. I was sitting in this school on January 15th when the Oscar blew up in the Harbour, and all the windows on that side of the school building were blown in and it was very fortunate there was only one little girl cut with all the glass around there. The teacher dismissed the school; I remember coming back down Wentworth Street and looking at our house and seeing the chimney all askew. And all downtown windows were smashed everywhere some people broke legs, fell down and whatnot.
The streets up and down were very dusty and unpaved and a lot of them were gravel and in wet weather they were really muddy. Edgar Kaiser had started putting down some of the streets for us. But for me as a little kid, Wentworth Street was close to St. Ann's, which is now a parking lot, and my people were Baptists so we were very suspicious of all those Catholic people, strange ladies dressed in black, walking back and forth in the garden, and we would look through the hedges and wonder about those people. Just below St. Ann's was the Ravine and down there was the City Dump and that was a great place! I caught my Dickens from my Mum for coming home all dirty, muddy, clothes torn up, smelling. But down there you could find old wheels, and pieces of iron for axles to make our little wagons work. You could find bits of coloured glass, rope and all that junk and bring it home (laughter). So I spent a lot of time there not listening to any music concerts.
Also, on this side of the Bastion Bridge, there was a blacksmith shop and I wasted more hours in the front of that place. Mum would send me downtown to get this or that and either going or coming it was the blacksmith's shop. I would watch them hammer and work away with their iron and catch the Dickens for coming home late with the stuff for supper and all the rest of it. Anyway I loved it!
By 1914, we had moved to what was called Five Acres that was … moved up to Manning Street. Remember Manning Street starts in the middle of the cemetery and comes out to Second Avenue. Perhaps some of you remember Joe Barton? They were our neighbours. Across the street it was empty, it was muddy, undeveloped land, real good for finding mushrooms in the Spring- time. Now there were people up and down the street who were still digging out stumps and they were going to build and use their property.
I got away from the City Dump a little bit and now beyond, on the other side of the cemetery a place we called [unintelligible] Bush and that became our playground. Over there also was a farm, an old man (anybody over 30 was an old man to us kids) an old man there and his daughter, Old Man Connor and his daughter Maggie. And they had an orchard and nothing delighted us kids more than to climb one of Old Man Connor's trees, swipe his apples and then get chased by Maggie (laughter).
Beyond Connor's farm on that ridge there was also an outcropping of coal and in that coal there was a place where we could take a match and there was gas escaping. A good place for when we swiped potatoes, roasting them or anything else. That was also the place that in November we built our big bonfires for Guy Fawkes Day (I guess we don't have that anymore do we?) We used to spend considerable time building great, big bonfires and then lighting them.
The other thing that I found of interest in Fairview was the on the other side of the cemetery that was… we called it the Millstream, not the Millstone, Creek. But the Millstream was where some of us kids explored it regularly and we could tell you every hole that was in it that had a fish or didn't. And by the way there were quite a few trout in those years in the lower part in the Millstream. Of course the upper part had a great …was fine for fishing. But I spent my time cautiously crawling around those water holes, peering in, under and above, looking for trout and catching them.
I'm thinking of Halloween. Kids are marvellous today. In my day we were mean! We'd start it out and just take row after row of outhouses and push them over and take people's furniture and stack it somewhere else. We could think of a lot of things (laughing) pretty bad. Those were the years when after supper was a great time. You played! You played hopscotch, you played [caddie], you played hid and go seek, remember? You continued until your parents leaned off the back porch and yelled your name and "you better come home right now". I haven't seen anybody play [caddie] for 50 years, I guess. And that's one thing we used to do in the City Dump, we'd get broomsticks, cut pieces about so-long, sharpen each end; in fact once I got a real good black eye when somebody came up with a stick and tried to hit the [caddie] and hit me instead.
Saturday morning was an exciting time. Mothers would give their kids a nickel apiece and send them off to the Bijou Theatre. And that was the darndest racket you have ever heard (laughter). It would be loaded with kids, the place would smell to high heaven and you couldn't hear anything anyway but that wasn't important because the headlines in the pictures had titles on them that you could read. And we would get so excited and … Pearl White and Pearl would get caught in a sawmill and a saw was going to get her, or she was down in a pit and a crocodile was going to get her, or she was on a railroad track and the engine was coming (laughter). Squeal and yell! And then the comedies in those days, people laughed anyway, people [unintelligible]. But then some people did seem to cut loose. I mean somebody would throw a pie in somebody's face and we would think that was real great (laughter). And then there was a Bill Hart [unintelligible] with a revolver on his hip and he would chase all the outlaws in the West and we loved that.
In Fairview, in the evening you would usually hear my Dad. My Dad was one of the few people I have met in my life that really loved sound. When he had nothing else to do he wants to play. Wherever he goes, he encourages somebody else to play. In the latter years of his life, he traveled around a great deal, always with some sets of English Brass Quartets and his cornet. And wherever he could, he organised a quartet just to play, he just loved the idea of sound. So Dad practised on the back-porch and you would hear him for blocks around playing "My Pretty Jane" or "Trumpet Triplets".
In the Millstream, below the bridge now, just up from the Tally Ho, up a couple of hundred yards, there used to be a water hole and that's where I learned to swim. We would meet down there in the afternoons then hit it with bathing suits or without. In fact I learned to swim in that water hole. This was a time also that my Dad bought about a 1915 Ford. Before this, with his brother Tom, they'd go up the Island on their bicycles to Horne Lake, they'd go to the Qualicums, the Englishman's River. But now he got an automobile and Tom and John would go and keep me in the backseat. We'd go up Englishman's River they'd leave me off at the old Upper Bridge. If it rained I stayed under the bridge most of the day and if it didn't why I'd just fished the river below and above. And amazing there was lots of fish you could catch; in fact days when Dad would take the whole family up, park us all at the bridge and he'd go up the river and I'd catch enough fish for the rest of the family to have fish fries. But now you're lucky to find a fish in the river.
The Baptist Church we went to was up over a block and up a couple of blocks was the old Baptist Church and they used me to pump the organ. I'd get in the back of the organ they'd give me a cue and I'd start pumping it and that's the way the organ played. And at home the first instrument we had I bet was an organ. Then my Dad decided he was going to learn to play and he did a poor job. And then we got a roller piano and now he was going to teach me to play piano but he was not a good teacher, too impatient. So he sent me off to Andrew Dunsmore and that was a different matter. Andrew was really a fine teacher, very patient. I was never a bad kid with Andrew, I was never a lazy kid with Andrew. If the work wasn't done why well you just do it again. And then Dad bought home a little pepper E flat cornet that was one of the original set that the concert band, the Silver Cornet band bought. He said "I'll give you a dollar when you can play the scale on this, boy". That was his idea of teaching me; he expected me to know, and if he ever told you that the second and third[intelligible] E flat he expected you never to forget it. If you did, why you were a pretty dumb kid. But anyway, it didn't take me very long to find out that he was a poor piano player and I could do a better job, because Andrew was doing a very lovely job teaching me. We would get into our [Hannon], we'd get into our scale, major, minor, melodic, harmonics. We got to our arpeggios, we got into Scarlotti and pretty soon we got into Chopin.
1918! On September 10th there were sixteen men killed on Protection Island. A rope broke; the town was sad but no more than most mining towns are sad. A mining town used to live by the sound of Number 1 whistle. It sounded at 7 o'clock, the town woke up, went about its business; but whenever there were three short blasts you knew something had happened in the mines. Everybody waited for it. Most wives knew when their husbands went to work it might be the last time they see 'em. They were fatalistic about it; even so this town was covered with men who had one leg shorter than the other; legs, backs, arms were broken. Hands with fingers missing - that was a very common sight, expected. As a kid, all of us kids, we learned very quickly from these men that you don't complain. Miners came home from work with shoulders banged up, bruised, with huge bumps on their heads, places skinned on their legs; no fuss. You just didn't complain! You wasn't expected to! And so as kids we learned some of the same business.
Playing in the band! I played along side a man called Reuben Wall and he was a very kind gentleman. He put up with a lot of my foolishness. At times when I would show off, I could get a book of musical terms; I would find one that I knew my Dad didn't know and I would catch him in the group rehearsal and I'd say "can you tell me?" and watch the old man squirm. Or listening to the basic harmony of the band playing, I would pick out sixes and sevens and play added notes and the old man would stop the band and say "may I hear the chord, the first chord and the third measure". I would play the right notes and then we would go through again (laughter). I learned to stop that though and I'll tell you why after a while.
The 1918 incident was the time the band played, these men trooped through town, we played the Dead March from [unintelligible], we played the Chopin Funeral March.
Side 2 of Tape
Dr. John Lewis continues:
[unintelligible]. We often played a different kind of a funeral. Occasionally a Chinaman who was well placed would die and they would want bright music, happy music. I remember the last time I played a Chinese funeral we played a pop tune (Dr. Lewis hums a tune). A popular tune called "Miaow" ever hear of it? (laughter). And then people would march alongside the band throwing out leaflets with holes in them to let the spirits know that there's nobody bad here [unintelligible], we're alright. We would go up to the old Chinese cemetery at Townsite and there they would put food, they'd put the body down and bury it and then they would put food in there also for the body to eat I suppose, for the spirit to eat.
With Andrew Dunsmore, I soon got to a place where I was doing the Bach Inventions, the Chopin Preludes and [unintelligible] Waltzes and we would hold our recital up here in the Presbyterian Church. Andrew was the organist there for many years. Usually, we had a recital beginning with the youngest kid to the oldest and then at the very end of the programme Andrew would play a Chopin number for the parents.
By 1918, the Opera House still had its vaudeville; the Dominion theatre was up now and it had movies and we also would play band concerts there. The Bijou theatre was still going. And then a big summer event was the miners' picnic. You can imagine three or four thousand miners; they would bring in all the coal scows and they would bring them down to the water and then the miners and their families would get on and go over to Protection Island. There would be races of all kinds; there would be a pole that had been greased over water usually. The band would have several kegs of beer over on the far side and they would play for an hour and then drink for an hour and then play for another hour and that was it for the whole daylong; they would get through their beer (laughter). Then about 5 o'clock in the afternoon there would be mothers going all of the place; kids would be lost, kids would be crying. Husbands would be drunk! (laughter). And if it was a rainy day look out!!
The dances of that period were quite different from the disco of today. Then the orchestra was expected to play [unintelligible] circle, polkas, one-steps, two-steps , [mazurkas?], waltzes and I believe one fox-trot each half. First half and last half. It was the day when you could see all the couples making the same steps going around the dance floor. My Dad had a dance orchestra. George Chapman was the drummer, Austin Wright played the piano, George Mordue played the violin; by the way George just died, just before Christmas this year. Alf Wardill, he was known later as Mike Wardill, but in the early days we always called him Alf, he played the string bass. My Dad played the cornet. They rehearsed at our house on Fairview on Sunday nights and Alf Wardill became my hero. He had the bicycle shop; my Dad always bought me [unintelligible] second hand bicycles; there was always something wrong so I spent half my time down in Mike's shop. And I had decided as a kid that when I grew up I was going to work in his shop and repair bicycles as that's where most of my life was spent.
Dad's orchestra played a dance in Alberni on the 23rd of May that year and Austin was driving the car coming back over the pass from Alberni; lost control of the car and it rolled over and dumped everybody out and nobody was hurt too badly. My Dad got a bad gash in his leg but they hitchhiked back to Nanaimo to be ready for the 24th May parade.
1918 was also the year when influenza hit the city and people by the thousands were very ill; many people died. Joe Barton who lived next to us, we were in pretty good shape, but my Mum went over to Barton's house because they were all laid out, brought it back to our house. There were six of us kids and they all got it twice except me! (laughter).
That was also the time of whist drives; everybody played whist. The war ended November 12th, big parades, Silver Cornet band, the Wellington band. December 11th Andrew Dunsmore got married, he married a Miss Bonnet. This was also the time that Andrew got me to go to the Welsh Male Boys singing group to accompany him. The Welshmen would play, would sing the "Crusaders", or "Goodnight, Goodnight my beloved, I come to [unintelligible]". Remember? And then they would do, their favourite was "Here by Babylon's Way, though heathen hands have bound us". And they would do a very good job. A lot of the Welsh people have a lot of imagination and they have lovely voices even if they can have dumb heads, and they can't read music but they do have lovely voices. And they have the imagination and you would think they were really a bunch of Hebrews in the Sinai the way those boys could interpret "Here by Babylon's Way". They were the kind of people that could laugh one hour and weep with you because you had spoke a sad poem! Real stolid, tough men in the coal-mines but then very child-like in other aspects of life.
Peace celebrations! The Welsh glee-club in the Opera House in September; the musicians are on strike in the Dominion Theatre. Mr. Ronson, I think led that orchestra. I don't know I guess it was wages. And that was about the time the [unintelligible] started coming to Nanaimo. And to me that was very wonderful. They would have the lectures and music programmes and most of the small orchestras that came were so much better than anything I had ever heard that if I could hear the programme twice I would do it.
Big Deal! September 26th the Prince of Wales comes to Nanaimo. There was the Mayor McKenzie, there was the Silver Cornet Band and somebody took a picture of me at that performance. After the deal in Nanaimo, the Prince went to Qualicum and there they had a military ball. The dance orchestra band played for him and the Prince made some comments about it that were written and were very fine.
October 15th 1919 the musical club of Mr. J. L. Reynolds were working on [intelligible] by Brunot and also the Messiah by Handel. In the movies, we had Mr. Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. By the way did you see Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on the TV the last few days? Amazing! He looks like an old man, I could hardly believe it. But we remember his father.
In the dance hall, they're playing [Jada].(hums a bit). And "Just a baby's prayer at twilight for his father over there", "Youhoo, a little bridge to me and you", "Keep you head down sleepy boy" and "Roses of Picardy". Mr. Jensen organised the dance-orchestra at this time. The Silver Cornet Band had another concert; they did [unintelligible] [Maritana] and "Recollections of [unintelligible]". Dolly Fisher again playing violin, Blanche Moore vocals, Grace Morgan was the accompanist. At this time we take the band to Qualicum There they had a hospital for the soldiers, the wounded soldiers and we would play Sunday afternoon concerts for them. These were the years when the band could use Mike Wardill's boat for their picnics. They would load a boat with beer and if the band boys were not working their idea of a good time was playing their instruments. And so they would get on Mike's boat and go to Valdez and pick a place for beer and usually they would scout out a place and tell me to look after it. Sometimes they would play a football game; other times they would play other kind of games. Sometimes they would just ride around in the boat. I remember them coming down around Departure Bay all the way down to Gabriola, the band just playing; spending the day riding, playing.
1920. The music teachers had come. [unintelligible] C.Emery, J. Reynolds, R. Robertson, Dave Jensen and Andrew Dunsmore. They had an agreement; that any student who missed his lesson would have to pay for it. I ran across the St. David's day concert, this was the Welsh day. The Lewis Orchestra played, the Welsh Glee-Club sang, Dad and I played a cornet duet. Tom Lewis, my uncle, sang a solo. I played a piano solo and my youngest brother sang a vocal solo.
1921. Lots of band concerts. We had a band festival, a contest at Ladysmith. Nanaimo played "[Maritana]", Cumberland played "[Wagnerian]", South Wellington played "Recollections of Scotland", Ladysmith played "Recollections of Wales". And by the way the bands were petty good! Nanaimo won the contest but the others were not bad.
September 12th my Dad organised a boys' band. What he was trying to do was develop players for the cornet band. We met in the band hall always, for many many years, on the hill on the other side of the fire station, the hill above the Salvation Army. We met there until 1935 when it burnt down. It was at one of these rehearsals that Dad said, " I can't go to the rehearsal tonight I want you to go down to the hall and tell the boys to go home I can't be there". So I jumped on my bicycle and went on down and opened the place up; the fellas came and I said "what are you doing standing around for guys, get going here" and we had a rehearsal and that was the first time I conducted a musical group. Dad didn't know and I didn't either, that I had my eye on that old man and I was determined I could do anything that he could do and I would do it better. "Cos already I had [unintelligible] then he had playing piano and organ and I was getting to be a real smart aleck. But after I rehearsed this gang and realized some of the problems that a conductor has it did a lot to put a stop to my sharp mouth (laughter).
October 9th the band concert in the Opera House. Horace Lincoln, violin, Tom Lewis, my uncle, treble flute, a Mrs. Bangston sang and the musicians were accompanied, my Dad conducted the band.
Our last concert was on December 11th 1921 and with us the chorus sang, "The Heavens are Telling" and the "Hallelujah Chorus". Meanwhile I had played solo at some of the concerts and I also played with Andrew Dunsmore; we did two piano playings. The last time we did two piano playing was Turondot. But evidently Andrew had some confidence in me at that time and he didn't mind me playing along side him. I have several pictures here. I have the names of some of the orchestra performers here. Now can anyone remember here any of the orchestra members? ( indistinct sounds of people discussing the photos).
You're supposed to ask questions that I don't know the answers to I think! Just remember that in the first place I was about this high, and I was just a very young person. Actually I left here in 1921 and didn't return until 1970. In those years I had …. Actually I left school [unintelligible], I left and went to work for old man Hacker on his farm, remember Hackers? [unintelligible]. In 1900… we had strikes here in 1912, and my Dad got a job at Jingle Pot which was not the thing to do [unintelligible]. Our family was alright except my Dad was a union man and so all us union kids we kept our eyes open for people who were not union involving what they called "scabs". And we would wait up there by St. Peter's Church, on the other side there, wait for them and watch them coming from Number 1 or downtown, and when they passed down the road we would get behind them with tin cans and yell at 'em, make a big racket. And then there was the day when we were doing it, just that sort of thing, and along came a couple of Mounties on horses. We all scattered like a bunch of quail and I jumped over Monty Shaw's hedge and got down and when Mrs. Monty Shaw came out of the house and then she threw her paper over me and the cop came up and started talking about these kids and what a darned nuisance they were and making our [unintelligible] embarrassing situation. Then he went off and I remember I left there and never came back and I was[unintelligible] place on the hill next time. But….
Question/comment from audience:
I noticed going through some of the Hospital Records that the Hospital auxiliary group have a number of bands who would come and play for their various functions and it was interesting to note how much a band charged in those days, anything from about $25.00 up to about $50.00.and there was obviously competition between the bands because sometimes they would put out to tender and you could see in the minutes that there would perhaps be 3 bands who were approached but they had decided to take Dr. Lewis's or Dunsmore's band or Mr. Jenson's obviously according to how much they had decided to charge for a particular evening's performance.
Another audience member speaks but it is too faint to hear.
Dr. Lewis again:
It is interesting to me that when I was a kid this town had 2 what they call symphony orchestras. They were not symphonies; I didn't realize until I left town and got to places like Chicago and so on. I [unintelligible] a couple of concert orchestras here and now, 70 years later, guess what, they still have 2 orchestras; they still can't get together (laughter). Amazing! My thought is that the concert band, the old Silver Cornet Band, still travels decade after decade being of service that it can to the community and holds itself together. The concert band tries to be on hand for the parade always on Empire Days or Queen Victoria's birthday. We do hospital concerts, if necessary give concerts [unintelligible]. It is really a community group. And I think that kind of a spirit that keeps us going as well as it has all these years.
Another question from the audience:
When I came here after World War II we couldn't get a music teacher and there was a Mr. Andrew Dunsmore appointed and he didn't have a teaching certificate and I'm just wondering if he's the son of this man…..
No I think he was the man.
He was the man? They tried all over, they advertised and they were not able to get a music teacher and the Department of Education accepted him as a teacher because of his qualifications and he taught for quite a number of years until he passed away. He was an excellent man and a very fine teacher and a good conductor.
More audience comments but unintelligible.
[unintelligible] the concert band did for many years, perhaps some of you remember, on Christmas Day there was a certain routine of houses they would go and on New Year's Day they would go out and do the same thing.
More audience comments, unintelligible.
The big problems with those trips was they would go to Townsite to a man like Joe [Sloan's?] house, there was liquor all over the place and some pop for the kids [unintelligible] and after a while Dad would wonder who [unintelligible]. And so it was a matter of getting the band out and then you would lose the baritone player over this hedge and the horn player over that one (laughter). We'd always go by Bill Lewis's house and there Hans Peters a member of the [unintelligible] would sing "Sweet Alice [unintelligible]".
Are there any more questions?
Audience comments, unintelligible.
I'm trying to put down a list of some of the fellas…Hans Peters on bass; Joe [unintelligible] on drums; George Moore on drums; Ed. Gibson on cornet, (Ed finally had the liquor store didn't he?)And then there was Sid Foster who lived out Chase River, he worked in the logging camps for a long time; Tommy Allan, they always pointed him out because he was American. Pete Gregson on [unintelligible] and he plays trombone and I understand Pete committed suicide after a while. There was Eddie Hughes on trombone, he worked on the top of the pit down at number 1. Lou [unintelligible] he worked in the machine shop as a repairman. Then there was Harry Smith and he was the son of W.J. Smith who was also band director. Harry was important to me; his father had gone down to Victoria during the war years and had a military band. But after the war he came back, Harry came with him and Harry was put down along side of me. That was very embarrassing because Harry's tone was brighter and fuller and much more lovely than mine and I decided right then that my Daddy was just not doing the job of teaching me at all. I remember I sent away then for books from a Sid Clarke, elementary and secondary studies for cornet. And that's when I learned to play by Christmas but I did it pretty much on my own, but because I was embarrassed because of Harry. Then there was Jack Trisher on clarinet. He lived on one of the Islands somewhere. He couldn't read music worth a darn but he played clarinet and we needed a clarinet player. Joe Spruston pretty good baritone; Ike Carter on clarinet, good; Charlie Wade was a good trombone player; Pete Wilson played pretty good cornet; Fred Menzies good trombone; Charlie Raines [unintelligible] trombone. There was Forrest Dakin he also played clarinet and violin; and then there was a Harry and I don't remember what he played; then Max Docherty also I think played bass. I had an uncle by the name of Jim Lewis who came from Wales and I'm surprised he didn't like this place very much, went to San Francisco and he ended up down there running all the public transportation system. And then another uncle of mine came from Wales [unintelligible] Lewis, a baritone player, and a good one. He played for a number of years in the British Army Band, went to Alberta to Canmore, which is where they had the mines.