1976 Convention Flashback

Source: Circus Fanfare, Vol. 6, No. 2, April 20, 1976, Highlights of Convention ’76 at Fort Mitchell KY, Author – Unknown

Editor’s Note: This is an adaptation of the original article with spelling and grammatical changes made where warranted. The piece, written in the first person, is a very informative look into WJU history.  There are some noteworthy items in this article including references to the recordings, “non-performing musical lovers” and the resolutions to abolish the original organization and reconstitute it as a corporation, “Windjammers, Unlimited, Inc.”  You might notice the comma, strategically placed, but it has since been dropped and is not present in WJU’s IRS Determination Letter as a 501(c)(3) Charity.  Also, consider that Meritorious Service Awards were made to members and are not a recent phenomenon started in 2018. One might wonder why some members were awarded Hall of Fame status in lieu of the Meritorious Service Awards. And now, we convene in Florida in the winter, likely a better location than the snow-prone cities of the past.

Jim Gordon told me “We better get on our way, it’s starting to build up.”  He was referring to the inch of snow which, very early Friday morning, was already on the ground in Columbus.  After a breakfast, servicing of the vehicles, there was about two inches as we traveled toward the Convention City this year, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Lucky enough, though, just north of Wilmington the snow broke; but then we had to be careful of ice since there were reports of bad icy road conditions north of Cincinnati. And it was evident from the autos spread around the freeway.

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Windjammers 1976 Convention

So we arrived late! We weren’t the only ones.    But there were quite a few of the guys already there, met us at the door and greeting us warmly.  I can’t recall any other business or working conventions where the camaraderie seems to always be affluent.  Several tape recorders were in evidence including the Buckeye Sound System who records mainly for you guys who never seem able to make a convention.

The first exit was the right one – landed us right at the doorstep of Convention Headquarters, Holiday Inn South (Fort Mitchell, Kentucky – just a few miles south of Cincinnati).  Holiday Inn is nestled just off the freeway on the top of a lookout.  Maybe not the most attractive Holiday Inn I have ever seen, but indeed the most unusual, especially inside.  This would have been the ideal combination of business and pleasure, for, as we guys might be playing the wife and kids had about a half-acre of enclosed play area, including volley ball, tennis, slides, shuffleboard, swimming, heat ray, sauna, and on and on – including a miniature putt-putt green.

Windjammers mywju circus music legends
Windjammers Unlimited 1976 Convention

The Holiday Inn personnel were very cordial.  We occupied the Board Room, very adequate in size and acoustical-wise.  The band had had several impromptu sessions the night before, but after we were assembled, we proceeded on our business, that of preserving old circus, or just plain old music.  Charlie Schlarbaum once again at the helm played out of some newly acquired band books, some of them standards.  It was quite a whirlwind for us Saturday night musicians to sight read that fast;      but the tunes, whether good or bad, were recorded and will be sorted out by the Buckeye Sound System. (At this point it cannot be determined what type of offer will result depending on the time element, number of tunes, etc.)

We were requested to disband about six p.m. at which time most of the members ate on their own in groups for discussion and fraternization.  The same thing happened the night before, the management asking that the band cease their playing; then Chairman Peckham was informed by management at six A.M. that “now you can start playing again”.

1976 Windjammers Convention
1976 Windjammers Convention

Most of us had breakfast at the motel after which we got in as many sessions as we could before six p.m. This recording session was somewhat better, I think attributable to the fact th3t most of the musicians had a chance to read through the music before making the final cut. When one knows what he is playing it is a little easier to get the right notes and interpret on the second try.

Saturday’s sessions were topped by the banquet, complete with an oasis and hors d’oeuvre followed by a delightful and quite tasty menu.   Chairman Peckham should be congratulated for the fine arrangements which, in essence,  went  quite  smoothly. The program was a tune-naming contest, the tunes having been extracted from former Windjammer meets. Of course, Charlie Bennett won, but a few had to disqualify themselves.

Charles Schlarbaum then had a series of auctions (like the candy pitch routine of years past) where bandstrations of music were auctioned off for a couple of dollars. Later, more valuable music was auctioned to the highest bidder. This resulted in a   sizable amount which was earmarked for “trooper” membership.   Also awarded at the meeting were the Hall of Fame awards, one to Henry Kyes, the other to Vic Robbins.  The President had some other awards, but time being of essence, the presentations were saved to  a  later date.  They included the President’s Meritorious Service Award to Robert Peckham for having performed as Chairman of the Convention, and an award to Ward Stauth for his service as Secretary-Treasurer.  It was nice to see so many attending – I believe it was thirty-three people altogether.

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1976 Windjammers Convention

The Sunday morning breakfast was actually the business meeting, very cleverly arranged by the Chairman.  The meeting went smoothly, the minutes of which you may read elsewhere in this issue of Circus Fanfare.  I think the highlight of the meeting would be the acceptance of Incorporation. This is good for the Society, especially in perpetuity. After adjournment, the musicians returned to their stands for the closing strains of circus band music which would terminate the 1976 Convention.  Each departed his or her way in the bitter cold, few of them travelling on to Corydon for the “Tribute to Merle Evans” Concert.

Was it a success? In the writer’s opinion if even one march is recorded successfully then it was a success. The planning was excellent and the accommodations great.  My kids still talk about the swimming pool and games.

So, Windjammers, Unlimited – now Windjammers, Unlimited, Inc., registers another mile post, another convention.  As long as there are circus buffs, there will always be a circus band somewhere.  Look now toward the future, to Saint Louis, Missouri, January 1977 when Ray Bouillon, Convention Chairman and Central Zone Trustee will arrange for something “special”.

About Don George 9 Articles
WJU #3911 INST: NPM OTHFAM #3912 Don has been instrumental in WJU's marketing and website initiatives. He is semi-retired, having owned his own international change-management and technology consultancy. He is also a writer. In his younger years, he was a professional musician, involved in the recording industry, and a "Philadelphia Mummer" playing and performing in a Stringband.