O. Rex Porter and the Wolfville School Bands

Wolfville School orchestra. In 1928 it became the first high school orchestra to play live over radio station CHNS: its first on-air performance was broadcast from the Phinney Music House in Halifax, and the second from the penthouse of the Lord Nelson Hotel, South Park Street, Halifax. Included on the program were marches, waltzes, overtures, a grand opera selection, and a medley.

In a previous post Lauryn shared the process and challenges of searching for information on a trumpet in our Collection. There is more of a musical story to share connected with this artifact though. The original owner of the trumpet was O. Rex Porter who was Principal of Wolfville High School between 1940 and 1970, taking over from B.C. Silver who occupied the position starting in 1921 when the Munro Building was erected. Silver was a noted musician, educator and author, who became an inspector of schools, received a master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1966, and an honorary doctorate from Acadia. Silver’s interest in music was undoubtedly why Wolfville School had an orchestra when few if any schools in the province did. Tom Sheppard in his book “Historic Wolfville”  (p.222) writes : Few young people who went through the Wolfville Schools could avoid music, which was important both in the school and in the town. By 1924, Wolfville High School had an orchestra, and many of the students who played in it and in the school’s cadet band kept an association with music throughout their lives.

1937

The orchestra gave public concerts from a bandstand on Main Street in Wolfville.   Silver’s contributions to Wolfville’s cultural life is material for a whole other post but here we will focus on our trumpet’s owner, O. Rex Porter, seen in the orchestra holding a cornet, who continued the musical tradition at Wolfville School which Silver had started. In 1936 he organised the Wolfville School Band. Their uniform was a yellow sweater with a crest containing a “W” and a blue lyre on the front, black pants, black wedge caps with two buttons and an embroidered “WB” on the left side near the front.

1937 Taken in the school grounds at the corner of Acadia and Highland facing the west side of the MacKay Building. In the background is the Acadia Villa Hotel

 The band played at sports, school, and civic events. In 1942 it was renamed the Cadet Band with Rex Porter as bandleader. We have several photographs in our collection of the cadet bands over the years.

Circa 1943. Taken in front of the bandstand which used to be on the school grounds just to the west of the Munro building
The members of Wolfville Cadet Corp Band, circa 1944, are, front row, left to right: Carl Murphy, Alan Reynolds, Ronald Coldwelll, Cyril Murphy, Burton Bowlby, Karl Perry, Morris Kenny; second row, left to right: Lloyd Gesner, George Frank, George Perry, Ralph Mosher, Lawrence Machum, Merritt Gibson; back row, left to right: Rex SLeep, Maurice Frank, Arthur Murphy, Douglas Spidle, David Ross, Ramond Shepard, William Parker. Standing to the right is the bandmaster and principal, O. Rex Porter.

Tom Sheppard in “Historic Wolfville” (p.223) writes : Porter was the musical director of the band, recruiting the players, helping to select the instruments on which the boys focused, teaching them the basics of reading music: and conducting the band practices after school. He taught the cadets to march, to look after their uniforms, to keep their instruments polished, and to be ready for inspections. He prepared the band for parades, concerts and the Remembrance Day services in front of the post office, which were often memorable for cold weather, in which lips would freeze to mouthpieces. In 1950 the band came first in the Halifax Music Festival, competing against bands from Sydney, Liverpool and Yarmouth. The cadet band was a school ritual that continued to the 1960s, when it was changed to a bugle band.

1946 Taken on the steps of University Hall, Acadia University

A little more about Rex Porter:

Rex grew up in Wolfville son of Grant Porter , one of the brothers of Porter Brothers store.

He was married to Ruth Ingraham. who was a long time Historical Society member and one of the contributors to Mud Creek.

Rex did his education degree at U of T and came back to spend his entire career in Wolfville, mostly as principal. He died in 1975.Save

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Solving the Trumpet Mystery

Our very first blog post of the 2017 season is upon us! Lauryn Wadden, an aspiring music teacher and the museum’s Heritage Interpreter (seriously if you haven’t been given a tour by her you should come right now and get one!) has written this interesting piece about one of our newest acquisitions to the permanent collection!

 

A Sleuth in Action: Solving the Trumpet Mystery

Last year, we acquired a trumpet in our collection as a part of some old Wolfville School memorabilia.  The trumpet is engraved with “Made by C. G. Conn Ltd. Elkhart, Ind. USA,” on the bell and surrounding the text is a gorgeous floral pattern.

 

One of the most important things to remember when donating items to any heritage organization is to provide as much background information on the item or items as possible. Take our trumpet for example. It arrived with a small tag that gave us just enough information to launch our investigation. It read “O.R. Porter’s trumpet sold to Sydney Horton in 1962. This trumpet was used in the cadet band before they changed to a drum and trumpet band.  This gave us a start on our hunt: it had to be at least manufactured before 1962. [ More on Rex Porter and The Wolfville School and Cadet Bands in a subsequent post! ]

We began the identifying process by searching up the serial number on Conn trumpet databases. What we thought was the serial number on the trumpet was “33351,” and according to the Conn Loyalist webpage and the Conn-Selmer site, this would date the horn sometime between 1891-1895. As cool as it would be to have a 122-126 year old trumpet in good condition in our collection, it ended up being too good to be true.

After some research on the Conn Company, we learned that it was founded in 1876 by Charles Gerard Conn, and it went by various names, mainly “Conn” or “Conn Instruments.” Our trumpet is engraved with “C. G. Conn Ltd.” However, the company did not change its name to this until after C. G. Conn retired and sold it to Carl Greenleaf in 1915. That would mean that our trumpet could not be older than 1915, which did not add up with our serial number. After looking deeper into Conn trumpet serial numbers, it was explained on every website that the serial number is always printed on the second valve of the trumpet, but that is not where we found our number. Ours was printed on the bottom of the Bb-A rotary change mechanism, which is a unique and special feature not found on most trumpets. So, this could not be our serial number. It was missing.What next?

After performing even further research on the Conn Company, Conn trumpets, and the history and trends of trumpets in general, it all led to dead ends. That’s when we decided to take another approach. Find pictures of every Conn trumpet within our time frame (1915-1962) and compare it to the one that we have at the museum. Fortunately, the Conn Loyalist website has a picture list of all of Conn’s trumpets. We began comparing ours to all the trumpets on the list, and the Conn 56b resembled ours the most. However, there were some slight differences. Our trumpet was missing a ring on the third tuning slide, which is used while playing to adjust certain notes to be more in tune. We decided to find out what the Conn community had to say, and found that many people’s Conn 56b trumpets came like this. These people had to add the feature on by themselves after purchasing it. Some other features that led to our belief that it is a Conn 56b are that two of the slides near the bell end of the trumpet are reversed in a way that is unusual for a trumpet. The Bb to A rotary change mechanism is also unique, as mentioned earlier, but on ours it is also located in a different place than other Conn models with the mechanism. Also, very faintly stamped on the second valve we found a letter “B.” At first we were unsure if it was just a scratch, but after finding a forum post of somebody with a Conn 56b with the same letter in the same place, it helped us to determine our model.

Therefore, we discovered that we had a Conn 56b on our hands with a missing serial number, perhaps lost during some buffing of the instrument. The Conn 56b is also known as the “New Era” trumpet. It was manufactured only between 1928-1932, meaning our trumpet is between 85-89 years old. A very cool feature of this model is that it has the Bb to A rotary change mechanism. This means that players could switch the key of the trumpet from Bb to A. Many orchestral pieces call for trumpet in A and with this feature the player could simply turn the dial and play the orchestral scores with ease.

Finally we had figured out more about our instrument and the hunt to identify the mystery trumpet was finally over. In the end we discovered we have a pretty cool horn on our hands.

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Happy Birthday Sir Robert Borden

Today is Sir Robert Borden’s 162nd Birthday. WOW! Borden is arguably one of the more well known Nova Scotians, having been Prime Minister of Canada from 1911- 1920, and then after his 1920 retirement form politics serving as the Chancellor of Queens University until his death, in 1937.

Born on June 19th 1854 in Grand Pre, Robert Borden, grew up here in the land of Evangeline. Attending Acacia Villa Boys Preparatory School, he proved to be a brilliant academic mind and debater. Borden worked as a lawyer in Kentville before being asked to join a firm in Halifax that was mostly Conservative, and then began his career in politics.

Thanks to Borden’s foresight and thought with the War Measures Act, Canada held steadfast and strong during the war, and continued its support in all of the major battles of World War 1.

This year we have been fortunate enough to have received the gift of the original bell from the Acacia Villa School and we are in the process of creating a mini exhibit about the school and Borden.

So happy Birthday Sir Robert, we thank you for your service to our great country and your love for this land of Evangeline.

William_Orpen_Portrait_of_Sir_Robert_Laird_Borden

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Acacia Villa School in Grand Pre, Alma Mater of Sir Robert Borden

A New Age Begins

Today, 162 years ago, the first earth was turned over as construction began on the Windsor to Halifax to Truro Railway.

This was the first rail- line to begin its construction and the foreshadow of what was to become Nova Scotia’s largest railway know as the Dominion Atlantic Railway. The knowledge that a rail line could be completed and function effectively in Nova Scotia, only further solidified Joe Howe’s relentless encouragement for the railroad to the Annapolis Valley and beyond to connect this province.

So take some time today and smell the air, the air of a new area of transportation, industry and prosperity here in the valley. The scent of steam engines barreling through the hills, the freshness of produce as it speeds along to its destinations beyond our borders; and most of all, the smell of our valley, so familiar with each season as it changes yet ever changing. The smell of the DAR is here.

FlyingBluenoseKentville

Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Celebration Tea

QE2 portrait
Queen Elizabeth the Second

A most happy of Royal Celebration to our Queen on this her 90th Royal Birthday. Join us on the 11th of June 2016 for our Queen’s Birthday Tea to celebrate, as all across the empire will be celebrating, Her Majesty’s  life and reign. Our afternoon tea beginning at 2pm will be a day filled with lots of sweets, tea and a power point presentation of our favourite moments and pictures from Her Majesty’s life.

“I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else – I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.” – Queen Elizabeth the 2nd

So join us as we the great strong people of the Commonwealth, thank Her Majesty for her  years of leadership, love and grace.  Happiest of Birthdays, long live the Queen.

Today in our History

On a warm late spring day, 158 years ago today, the Windsor branch of the newly established Nova Scotia Railway opened. The creation of this rail-line would lead the way for the expansion of all trains in Nova Scotia, but even more importantly it would give a hope to the rest of the Annapolis Valley that their time for rail had finally come.

While it would be a few more years until the railways made it’s way into the heart of Wolfville, this was a major step in the development of the railroad here in the Valley.

This summer, the Wolfville Historical Society is proud to share with everyone, Joe Howe Changes Trains, a whole summer packed to the brim with events, talks, movies and more, all about the important role the trains had as they ran through the heart of this beautiful landscape.

Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for more updates and details about our fantastic summer, and all of our interactive events to come.

So Choo Choose to come to all our events or a few, and learn all about the wonderful history of one of the most fast paced times in our history.

Summer in our Garden

Ahh Summer, those few glorious months when we try and spend all our waking hours, enjoying as much sun as we can before the cool breezes that hearken the fall once again blow through our Valley.
Here at the Randall House this is no exception, our garden is in full swing and everything is bloom.  Each vibrant shade of green, blue, purple, yellow and everything in between seems to be stretching to the sun and proudly showing all its colour to the world.

Our garden here at the house is indicative of what really would have been planted at the home during the time of Charles Randall and his family while they were living here during the 1800’s. Our vegetable garden if showing the signs of what will come in August and in the Fall, but as for now, the most magnificent array of flowers is displayed in our gardens in both the front of the house and around the back. While you’re here at the museum take some time to walk our garden, and stop and smell the flowers.

Flowers and Barrle