Its company sponsor defunct, Myers marching band plays on CENTRAL -- Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

September 20, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Marching briskly down the street, the generations merge as father and son, mother and daughter parade by in a burst of orange and blue.

After 55 years, originally representing a now-defunct Westminster meatpacking plant, the William F. Myers and Sons Marching Band prides itself on still being a family organization.

"A lot of band members are from the same family," said Thomas Lawrence, the band's business manager. "If a family doesn't show up, we can lose three to five members."

Former band director Glenn W. Patterson agreed.

"A lot of the kids, before they learn to play an instrument, are in the band front and then come back and play in the band," said Mr. Patterson, the band's leader from 1966 to 1985. "The band has always been conducted in a manner that supported family activities."

A classic example of the youngster drawn to music through family involvement, Mr. Patterson said, is the current director, Richard Humbert.

Joining the band at age 7, Mr. Humbert has continued for the past 50 years, reluctantly relinquishing his trumpet four years ago to direct the organization.

"My grandparents worked at [William F. Myers and Sons] and decided my brother and I should take [music] lessons and join the band," Mr. Humbert said. "So they paid for music lessons and several years later, my father got involved.

"It's just been a family thing, and I've always enjoyed doing it."

But the band was not always open to the community, beginning as an "employee benefit" for plant workers in 1938, said David Reifsnyder, president of the group.

"I would assume it was open to community members in the mid- to late-'40s," he said, adding that subsidies from the Myers family continued until it sold the company in the early 1970s.

Unlike the many Baltimore bands that carried a company logo and served as an inexpensive form of advertising, the Myers band was the only one in Carroll affiliated with a business, said Joseph Getty, director of the Carroll County Historical Society.

"If you played an instrument, you could get a job there easily," said Charles Swinderman, the band's most senior member at 73. "And if you didn't play, that was no excuse. They'd get [Edward J.] Grobrecht [the band's original director] to teach you."

Mr. Swinderman, who traded his bass drum for the glockenspiel a few years ago, said Carroll County residents associate the band so closely with the company that they don't realize he's actually retired from Hahn's, a meatpacking plant in Westminster.

"In '46, I got out of the Navy, and at the same time I joined the band," he said, adding that he used to drive the band's truck, which has the company's name emblazoned on its sides.

Women gradually joined the band in the late 1960s, when Mr. Patterson became the director.

"It had been an all-male band, and a friend asked, 'Why don't you have any ladies?' " Mr. Patterson said. "There was no reason not to, so we opened it up as soon as we knew people wanted to be involved."

But an influx of young people into the band is generally attributed to the current director.

"Dick Humbert teaches at school, and that's the way these kids get in the band," Mr. Swinderman said. "These young school kids keep us going."

The addition of the younger players continues the family feeling as they interact with the older members, he said.

"They're pretty good players, and they get along with us older fellows," Mr. Swinderman said. "It's nice playing with them."

Ryan Lawrence, who at one time was the band's youngest member, agreed.

"The trombone section tries to help me along and stuff," the 16-year-old said. "The people around me when I march, they help you when you get in trouble."

But what Ryan finds most unusual is the feeling he gets when the band performs.

"It's weird, it's not like anything else," he said. "You can sit on a stage [for a school concert] and that's just for people you know.

"When you march in a parade, that's a whole other town. People you don't even know are staring at you as you march down the street."

In addition to a Dundalk Independence Day parade the Saturday after the holiday, marchers also perform every year in Fourth of July parades in Towson and Catonsville.

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