By Susie Spitler
For the Weekly Record Herald
WEST MILTON — The 36th West Milton area oral history recording session took place Monday evening, Oct. 10. The panel discussion topic was “The Milton-Union Alumni Band.”
In 1987, as members of the M-U Band Parents, Alice Martin and Jane Gilbert sent out invitations to past band members asking them to join a Community Band.
They began in 1988 with over 100 members. They put on a Homecoming Show which included returning drill team members as well as majorettes. They performed in Bradford, downtown Dayton, Troy — anywhere that would have them.
Sylvia Kress joined the M-U Band in the mid 50’s under the direction of Lawrence Frazer, who taught her to play the sax. She explained that band camp was held at Miller’s Grove. A bus took the band there to practice in the morning, parents prepared a meal for them followed by an afternoon swim, which was followed by more practice. Camp lasted for a week. At the time she was a senior, all clubs had a float for Homecoming. The theme for the band that year was “Around the World” featuring a very large globe. She sat on the very top and to this day does not remember how she got up or down. Years later Director Dean Stitz shared how frightened he was that she would fall off.
Connie McCarroll moved to Milton in 1960 as a freshman and was nervous about trying out for the band. Mr. Stitz called the West Alexandria director and included her in the band without having to try out. Her first experience with the band was band camp at Miller’s Grove. When Nixon and Kennedy were running for president, as a civics lesson, Representative Bob Netzley arranged for the band to attend a campaign rally at the Hobart Arena. She was selected to be in the Pep Band her junior and senior years. As a freshman in a new school, the band was a life saver for her where she formed strong and lasting friendships.
Belinda Brame Wright graduated from M-U in 1970, returned to teach in 1974 and retired in 2004. She was among those who did the “McKinley Shuffle” — McK for first and second grades, Elementary for third, McK for fourth, fifth, and sixth, the high school for seventh grade, back to McK for eighth, then 9-12 at the high school. All the while walking back and forth for lunch and band practice no matter what the weather. The high school band played for the junior and senior school plays and football games. They performed a new program for every home game, having only two weeks to memorize the steps and the music. She was in the Community Band before they changed the name to Alumni Band. At one time during the ’90s they had members covering five decades.
Debbie Schumann is a 1976 grad who went away to school, lived in Michigan and then Columbus, before returning to Milton in 1991. As far as band, her mother didn’t ask her if she wanted to be in band, she just asked her what instrument she wanted to play. She remembers as a freshman she was invited to play with the high school band at the Northmont game. It was pouring rain and the field was muddy most did not want to perform. But it was the seniors’ last chance to perform so they voted to go on with the show. She joined the Alumni Band in 1991 after having her instrument in its case for fifteen years. She considers it a real joy to be a part of the band.
Steve Schummann (they are the only couple to be in the band) quoted Winston Churchill as saying “education is the worst part of life.” Steve feels Winston must never have played in the band. Because of the McK Shuffle the band members shared the same classes in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. He commented on what a good director Dean Stitz was. After one homecoming parade, when he was no longer able to attend the games, the Alumni Band pulled their flat bed wagon to his house and played for him. He also mentioned doing new shows every two weeks. They did not do contests. He feels the purpose of the band was for community service, toraise school spirit and to have fun.
Scott Hinkle graduated from M-U in 1978. He told quite a story about how he became field commander for Director Ken Bowman. He shared how Alice Martin arranged for the Fire Department to escort the band through town when the Marquettes Drill Team won a first place trophy. And how much he enjoyed the band playing at Walt Disney World. One reason the Alumni Band played for the Strawberry Festival was because they got paid, which allowed them to buy instruments. In the 1988 parade the Alumni Band majorette leading the band was about eight months pregnant — another good story.
See the Oct. 23 issue of the Weekly Record Herald for the continuation of the Milton Memories recording session.