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February 23, 1984


PIX #1 - Fostoria V.F.W. Color Guard also won first at Dallas. Reading left to right: Phil Brubaker, Don Clinker, Don Etchen, Robert Weeks, Jim Isbel, Commander of the group was unable to attend the Dallas meeting.

PIX #2 - Dick Downs, Director of V.F.W. Band, showed the victor's smile when he received the trophy in behalf of the band for winning first place at 1956 convention at Dallas.

Twenty-two years after Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 421 was chartered in Fostoria, the band which it sponsored in 1946 won its 10th victory as national champions at the annual convention in Dallas.

When I finished up last week's article about the post some accent on the band and was taking another look at Don Etchen's scrapbook of that event. I was convinced that it contained interesting information for the followers of this column. It follows in these condensed items from The Review Times which were in the scrapbook.


(Aug. 10, 1956.) "Fostoria's nine-time national championship VFW Band will leave Saturday (Aug. 11) on the B&O Shenandoah for Dallas, Texas, where it will defend their title next week. The band fund went over the top Thursday when William Heim, Sene- ca County Engineer, contributed $100 bringing the fund to $5,597.83.

"The band will be busy throughout the encampment as it is the 'encampment band,' and must furnish music for concerts, the annual Memorial Service, open the encampment, march in the parades, as well as participate in the contests and pageant of drums."

(Aug. 13, 1956.) "Vice President Richard Nixon told the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their open- ing session that the United States wants...'a peaceful world...a world in which free men can live securely and honorably. What are the main principles behind our foreign policy? In a single phrase--peace with honor.' To achieve this goal the U.S. must have 'resoluteness of purpose,' backed by military strength. Another vital element in our foreign policy is to secure effective world disarmament. The U.S. will go along with the Soviet Union on reducing military expenditures if they will agree to a complete and foolproof system of inspection, as proposed by President Eisenhower."


(From notes compiled by a band member and published in The Review Times Aug. 20, 1956.)

"The B&O train that took the band to Chicago had barely pulled out of Fostoria on Saturday when the trumpet section went into rehearsal. Some of the more difficult spots had been causing trouble, and the boys were determined to get them worked out before the full rehearsal in Dallas. The room the eight trum- peters practiced in was rather small, but they kept at it for 1 1/2 hours, and their efforts paid off in the contest."

"At Chicago there was a four hour layover and the clarinet section made good use of it. One corner of the Santa Fe waiting room was commanderred and Dick Downs and principal clarinetist Glenn Walker worked with 10 players for more than an hour."

"At 6:00 the Sante Fe train headed for Texas, and another rehearsal was soon underway. This time the French horns, saxaphones, baritones and trombones worked as a unit. Only those playing the big brass horns and drums were ab- sent for practice on the train...they had left ahead of the rest of the band since it was necessary to ship those instruments in the baggage car and to look after them."


"The band arrived in Dallas at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, and the rumors about the Tex- as heat were confirmed. The band members were taken to the Baker hotel and assigned rooms. Ernie Duffield, band manager, and Harry Boileau had done their advance work well, and the band was ready to go to work. A 2-hour closed practice session showed that they had not travelled 1,150 miles to lose the title."

"After a quick meal and a chang into uniforms, the band went by buses to the huge State Fair Auditorium, where they furnished the music for the 57th Annual Memorial Service. At the conclusion of the impressive ceremony, the thousands of people in attendance were thrilled by a flawless performance of Taps and Echo by Fostoria band members Rex Ridge and Jim Slusser."

"Timothy J. Murphy, commander-in-chief of the VFW, made his way to the band and told Dick Downs that the music was the finest he had ever heard at any VFW function."


"Then came the day to run through the contest numbers for the last time. The Fostoria band assembled at the ballroom of their hotel and played the march Barnum & Bailey's Favorite, Cowboy Rhapsody, and 1812. There were no stops, no checking difficult parts. A recording was made by Alfred Williams, Jerry Lonsway and Ed Johnston, three boys who because of their age were unable to play in competition, but worked hard at any task to which they were assigned."

"Later that same day at the site where the concert contests were held, a thorough tuning session was held under the direction of Glenn Walker. The heat can do strange things to the intonation of musical instruments, and ex- treme caution was necessary in this important phase of the contest."

"Suddenly it was Fostoria's turn to perform. Having heard the competition, the band members were more determined thanever to win 'their number ten.' In spite of the heat and poor lighting the Fostoria band played as they had never before, and they knew their playing was superior to any rehearsal."


"Now came the 48-hour waiting period until the final marching competition, and announcement of winners. Sixteen units from the original 35 competed in the finals. The Fostoria band led all of the units onto the field. After sever- al marches had been played, Tony Schlecta, chairman of the contests, stepped to the microphone to announce the winners...and The Review Times told the re- sults in a front page six-column headline--VFW Band Wins Tenth National Title--Color Guard Takes First Honors."

(From The Review Times the day they won.)

"Both units swept the field of contenders. The Fostoria band placed first with a score of 96.35 over Lansing, Mich., with a score of 94.45. The Color Guard's margin was even greater with a score of 92.20 over Beloit, Kansas, with a score of 87.5."


"Now the contest was over, and the band members had some time to see Dallas. But soon it was time to pack up for the home trip. Doc Kiebel took over as transportation manager as we leave for the station, and the train ride to Chicago. There we discovered that our competitor, the Lansing band, was on the same train. We had a congenial time with them talking about Michigan and Ohio gridiron battles, and Big 10 bands. We even formed a Dixieland band and seranaded the citizens of Emporia, Kansas."

"It's Friday and the band is back in Chicago, ready for the trip to Fostoria on the B&O."

"Now we are at N. Baltimore and it is time to get sharpened up for the home folks. The crowd we had expected is waiting for us. Back to the only town in the U.S.A. that would give an organization such as our such tremendous support."

"Just before we leave the train there is a call for silence and one last practice this Monday night...we have a concert at Lakeside next Saturday."

"The VFW Band and Color Guard was greeted by one of the largest and most en- thusiastic crowds in the long history of the organization. R.H. McIntire, managing director of the Fostoria Chamber of Commerce arranged for new car dealers to provide convertibles at the station for the band's triumphant ride through the city, headed by the St. Wendelin Band."

"Fostoria Londe 935 Elks staged an appreciation dinner and entertainment on Monday evening honoring the VFW Band and Color Guard. State and district VFW officials along with Mayor Coburn, joined with Joe Keyes, exalted ruler of the Elks, in praising the two organizations."


The Fostoria VFW Band didn't let their ability to win national titles dampen their interest in other musical activities.

Their ability to provide the best in instrumental music soon led to expanding their activities and promoting their expertise in a colorful printed folder, offering not only their marching band, but also a concert band, dance band and Dutch band featuring Bavarian and polka music.

Dick Downs and his VFW Band associates continued to carry on the music tradi- tion which J.W. "Jack" Wainwright had started years earlier.

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