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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The New Gretna Cornet Band and Murray's Opera Sedative

A few generations ago the town center of New Gretna was buzzing. There were many stores and other businesses and various forms of entertainment. For instance, remember the February 4, 2009 Blog story about Professor Harold Hill and the Brass Band?

Professor Harold Hill started a Brass Band in River City. (Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

Well, not to be undone, we had a Cornet Band right here in downtown New Gretna. It was started in 1883 and was the pride of the community for many years. Eat you heart out, Professor Hill!

The following old newspaper transcriptions provide a look back at the band and what it meant to the community. Yes sir, River City had nothing on New Gretna!

A festival and picnic will be given in the grove adjoining the Presbyterian church this Saturday evening. The funds will be used as the starter for a brass band. There will be music, dancing and lots of fun. The woods have been cleared out, a platform and stands erected and no doubt it will be a success. (Mt. Holly Herald 9/8/1883)

There was a very quiet wedding in our town last week. The contracting parties were Lafayette Gerew and Ella Hickman and on Wednesday night our cornet band serenaded the happy couple and they gave us some very good music considering the time they have been practicing. (Mt. Holly Herald 12/15/1883)

We were lucky enough to hear the new band a few evenings ago and must say they are doing well. We also learn that they are going to give an entertainment on the 22nd of February and do not doubt but that it will be a success, unless the new “theatrical troupe” which discourses very fine vocal music and dancing gets the lead of them and gives a free entertainment. (Mt. Holly Herald 1/5/1884)

The New Gretna cornet band tendered a grand serenade to Aaron Mathis and wife also to Capt. John Loveland and wife, the newly married couples, and we must say the grooms received them with open hearts and open pocket-books, but because the band did not apply the proceeds to “Jersey lightning” it had the effect of hurting some of the thirsty. (Mt. Holly Herald 2/9/1884)

We can not help the becoming act of the New Gretna Cornet Band, on last Saturday afternoon. They turned out and repaired the fence around the Presbyterian church. Go in, boys, and do all the good you can, and if you push your purpose, you will find plenty to help you in the erection of a town hall. Of course some old fogies will object, but old fogyish is played out, long ago, in most places and people are trying to push forward with the age, then let us not be backward but let us try and make our little town as forward as any, and may we hold a better reputation than old Bass River did years ago. . .  (Mt. Holly Herald 2/16/1884)

Some of the boys and old settlers that are fond of refreshments in the shape of apple jack, don’t like the proceedings of our new Cornet band. They say when the old tin kettle band went out serenading there was whiskey and lots of fun. (Mt. Holly Herald 2/22/1884)

The exhibition given by the New Gretna cornet band was a grand success financially, also a first-class entertainment, and the young people, according to the views of several strangers, did excellent. (Mt. Holly Herald 3/15/1884)

Liveliness at this place is a trifle below par, and if it was not for the sweet strains of music from our cornet band, intermingled with the beautiful voices of the frogs, life would almost seem hardly worth living, but after having so much fun and play all winter, it now becomes our duty, as gentle spring approaches us, to turn our hands from amusement and push forth to the bay, the fields and the ocean, and it is a very few who are not indulging in the busy strife of life now at New Gretna. (Mt. Holly Herald 3/29/1884)

The Cornet band is about to purchase the old church and convert it into an opera house. The band will serenade the successful candidates when the campaign is over. (Mt. Holly Herald 2/14/1885)

The last newspaper account has me somewhat confused. What old church was the Cornet Band thinking of buying, and what made them think that New Gretna was ready for opera?

Speaking of opera, I couldn't help chuckling over today's "Beetle Bailey" cartoon. I don't know weather it speaks to the reaction of New Gretna's citizens to a local Opera House, but I do know that it speaks to two very good New Gretna friends of mine who are spending the winter in Arizona, Jean and Murray Harris. It should bring back some memories. I hope they enjoy it.

March 7, 2009

I believe General Half Track's opera sentiments probably are the same as those in New Gretna in the 1880's. After all, the Opera House was never opened.

Well, that's it for now. All this talk of opera is getting to me. I think I'll go and take a nap.

Pete S

PS- Don't forget, we pushed our clocks ahead 1 hour last night.

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