16 May 2023

Riverina Rewind: Back when the Wagga City Band had us tapping our toes

| Chris Roe
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Wagga Band in 1950

A 1950 photo of the Wagga City Band, which was the subject of debate among city councillors about whether the band should receive a subsidy. Photo: Museum of the Riverina (Baumer collection).

This week, the Museum of the Riverina takes us back to 1950 and this gloriously coloured photograph of the Wagga City Band.

In the year before this photo was taken, there was a debate in a Wagga Council meeting about the value of the band to the city and whether it should receive a subsidy.

In December 1949, the Advertiser reported that Cr Cheeseman had declared that the band “had done an exceptional job and was worthy of the City of Wagga” and proposed that the £120 subsidy should be doubled.

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However, Cr Jack was feeling less generous and pushed back, saying the band should first prove itself.

“I have it first-hand from the band authorities here that they are not at all satisfied with the behaviour of the band members — I mean, in the way of attending practices,” he said, suggesting that the bandmaster should ensure that members were attending the required practice before giving the “all-clear” for the subsidy.

Some councillors objected to the annual subsidies for things such as the eisteddfod society, the ambulance service, the base hospital, the city band, the free library and the Baby Health Centre, arguing that it was a “big drain on the money the council raised for the essential requirements, such as maintenance of roads, parks and gardens”.

It seems that it was around this time that the band began to struggle to remain motivated.

In 1954, while downplaying their chances ahead of the ”Band Festival” in Albury, new Bandmaster F. Foran said there had been a lot of apathy “by the public about the band’s activities and that was transmitted to the band generally”.

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He said their instruments were also in disrepair, but he was hopeful that the 27 full-time members were picking up and would capture the public’s interest once again.

“We intend to play at the Memorial Gardens every second Sunday commencing at 8:30 pm throughout the summer,” he said.

In the end, he needn’t have worried as the band claimed a prize for Best Marching Visiting Band and Mr Foran said: ”Their standard at their first appearance in a competitive festival for a long time was very high and augurs well for the future.”

At the Albury competition, the Wagga City Band was led by drum majorettes Shirley McMullen, Dawn Mclnerney and Helen Lucas in their snappy new uniforms.

Dating to the 1950s, the band members are identified at the bottom.
Back row:
L to R – L. Dryden (Deputy Drum Major), B. Bush, J. Peacock, R. Smith, T. Carne, V. Carpenter, S. Smith, E. Henderson, A. Carne, W. Bentley (Drum Major).
Third row:
L to R – K. Flanagan, M. Larkin, C. Samuelson, E. Samuelson, B. Nelson, I. Hurst, H. Samuelson, J. Henderson.
Second row:
L to R – H. L. Berrigan (Secretary), C. Hoye, E. Piltz, W.S. Hill (Bandmaster), B. Childs, C. McCoullough, R. Dunbar, P.O. Smith (President), P. Rake (Treasurer).
Front row:
L to R – B. Raulston, I. McCoullough, T. Mahoney, B. Samuelson.

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