…there’s a party. Big Jon Runyan, former Congressman and former Eagle, admiring these talented String Band members entertaining the PAL crowd tonight at the Sheraton.
If you ever pass Joe Blass on the street, turn around and follow him. You have to. As he walks, notes and stories compiled from 7 decades of String Bands, fall from his pockets. At least, that’s how I imagine it. Few have witnessed so much and known so many people involved in the crazy hobby called Mummery. Joe has lived it since he joined his first string band when FDR was President. “It’s a way for self-expression,” he says.
Ray Endriss (Captain of Quaker City SB from 1931 to1971) was a good friend of mine, ” Joe says casually. Joe Blass knew them all, the lions, the legends, the steady and the loyal. Wearing his Ferko red and even a bolo from an earlier theme, he looks back, fondly remembering his friendships with Bill Ewing, Robert Shannon, Sr., and Jim McKnight. He remembers how social bands were. Maybe more than today. Competition was fierce, too, says Joe, “If you didn’t have that feeling that you want to be a winner, you should stay home.” Joe Blass joined his first band in 1939. World War II was just beginning in Europe. Pearl Harbor was a couple of years away.
Joe would play center banjo for Woodland String Band. But, he quickly took up the saxophone, learning from a teacher who used to play with Tommy Dorsey. Joe tells stories of playing on Sunday afternoons and of learning from Captain Sam Jefferies. His first generation as a Mummer was fast and productive, including organizing Delaware County String Band in the late 1940’s. “Freshmen” was their theme in ’48.
As much as he respected his early Mummer experiences, Joe was drawn to one of the greatest contributors to the String Band epic, Joseph Ferko. “I was always a great admirer of Mr. Ferko himself as a Captain and also the music (that) different musical directors presented to the club.” Joe says he called Mr. Ferko one day and said I’d like to join your band. Says Joe, “The next Tuesday I was a member of Ferko String Band.” Displaying his Ferko patch, Joe says proudly, “It was the best music on Broad Street, ever. No one has ever created a sound like Ferko had.” And Joe heard it from every angle, as a fan standing along Broad Street, as a playing member and from 1969 to 1979, as Captain of the great band. From Woodstock through Disco, there was Joe leading Ferko.
Joe Blass worries that young people today are not having as much fun with Mummery and with the parade itself, not as much fun as folks used to have. It’s worth thinking about, if only because Joe said it. It may even be on a note falling from his life-filled pockets.
Philadelphia Phillies players and managers, led by Carlos Ruiz, joined with some media members and scores of supporters of Philadelphia Futures tonight at the new South Bowl on Oregon Avenue. The proceeds will help hundreds of young people and programs to make college a reality. Way to go Philadelphia Futures, and my team of strikers.
I had a great conversation today with Chad Gehman, of Montgomery County, and Sarah Brooks Hart, of Philadelphia, about the “Be the Match” program. The “In Focus” show runs Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m.and 11:30 a.m., but, if you can, support the walk run Saturday. Chad is doing great after a bone marrow transplant to overcome acute myeloid leukemia. For more information, check out the show and go to BetheMatchWalkRun.org.
Hundreds of admirers and friends of Stan Hochman joined his family on this beautiful spring afternoon for the final, formal farewell to Stan Hochman. TV, radio and newspaper colleagues gathered with Gloria Hochman and other loved ones of Stan’s at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. A folded flag of the United States of America lay beside a forest of flowers atop the wood coffin bearing the body of the veteran, columnist, commentator, writer and humanitarian. Stan was remembered as smart, wise, loving, compassionate, talented and honest. If Stan were to have described today’s service, he just might have called it “dazzling.”
Murray Comic Club tonight is packing Falls Manor in Bucks County for its annual banquet.
Awards are ready for the participants in the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade.
President Rich Porco and his family again mark a year of Murray finishing first for the 17th straight year. As Jessica Porco said tonight, success is measured by the hard work 365 days a year by the members of Murray.
Congratulations to the club and all the individuals, groups and brigades. Also, good luck tonight to the folks in South Philadelphia Dancing with the Mummers Stars.