My Musical Family - Joy Riggs

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A blog about my family's adventures in making and appreciating music.
Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

Imagining Three Tons of Fresh Salmon

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 10:35pm
My mouth started watering last night while I was working on Chapter 8 of my book. I was writing about a national Elks convention my great-grandfather attended in July 1912. G. Oliver Riggs was a cornet soloist with the Kalispell (Montana) Elks Club Band, and one of the events they attended (and performed at) during the six-day event in Portland, Oregon, was a memorable barbecue at the Oaks Amusement Park.

The local newspapers went into great detail about the food the Portland hosts had prepared for their guests, an estimated 20,000 people from across the country. What’s more, the meal was free, thanks to the generous donations by Portland businesses.

The Portland Oregonian offered statistics on what was consumed during the first 45 minutes of the three-hour barbecue: it included 3 tons of fresh Chinook salmon, 3,300 pounds of clams, 6,300 loaves of bread, 2 tons of potatoes, 500 bunches each of onions and radishes, 100 boxes of celery, 248 rolls of butter, 146 boxes of crackers, 100 pounds of coffee and 300 cases of soft drinks.  

The Kalispell Elks Club Band in front of the Portland, Oregon, armory. It’s difficult to pick out G. Oliver Riggs because of the quality of the photo; he might be one of the men on the far right, who appear to be holding cornets.

Another newspaper, the Oregon Daily Journal, explained that “just to give an idea of the number of persons that barbecue will be able to take care of, exactly one mile of high, narrow tables have been laid at the park at which the guests will be served standing.”

An article in the July 11, 1912 issue of the Oregon Daily Journal.I also discovered last night, while fighting off hunger pains, that the Oregon Daily Journal ran two photos of the Kalispell band during its multi-day coverage of the convention.

The Kalispell band uniforms were white with purple trimmings (the Elk organization colors), which is difficult to convey with black ink on white newsprint. My great-grandfather is in there somewhere, one of the guys in white wearing a hat.

Inspired by the lengthy description of the Elks convention meal, I decided to make salmon for dinner tonight. Instead of steaming clams, I made broccoli and cheddar cheese risotto. We did not eat standing up.
Categories: Citizens

A Brief Rant Concerning Invisible Brass Bands

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
During our family road trip out to Glacier National Park last week, we listened to the new book by David McCullough about brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, the legendary inventors and aviation pioneers from Dayton, Ohio. It is titled simply, The Wright Brothers. The audiobook was narrated by McCullough himself, and I loved everything about it except this: at least twice in the book (since we were listening to it, I can’t cite page numbers), he made reference to “a band” playing at an event honoring the Wrights.

Which bands were they? He did not say. Arrgh! I was so annoyed and dismayed. His book, which is filled with fascinating details, lengthy descriptions and a plethora of names, failed to acknowledge the names of these mysterious bands, the towns they were connected to, how big they were, who directed them, or any other descriptors.

Maybe McCullough didn’t know the band names or didn’t think it was important to his story to include them. It’s no excuse, in my opinion. I hate to pick on him, since I really did enjoy the book and highly recommend it. But he committed the all-too-common sin of omission that is a pet peeve of mine in historical accounts. Bands are almost always an afterthought or are ignored altogether.

I hope to help right this wrong through the book I am writing about my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, who was a contemporary of the Wright brothers (Wilbur was born in 1867; G. Oliver was born in 1870; Orville was born in 1871).

The town bands that provided celebratory music at civic events of the late 1800s and early 1900s were not just faceless blobs of humanity attached to instruments; they were made up of men (usually, although some novelty bands of the time were composed of women or children) who had names, jobs, personalities and families. Because of their interest in and love of performing music, they often were witnesses to important moments in history, playing a role (pun intended) in the larger events of their lifetimes. They deserve more than a second thought. They deserve a least a second, descriptor adjective.

Believe me, the great-grandchildren who are researching their lives will appreciate the effort.

In October 1900, when the Wright brothers began their glider experiments at Kitty Hawk, N.C., G. Oliver Riggs (center, with cornet) was directing a town band in Crookston, Minn.OK, rant over. Back to work on my book. You can be assured it is chock-full of specific brass band names and numerous other details about the musicians who contributed to the soundtrack of American history.

You could say it’s simply the right thing to do.
Categories: Citizens

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