Gootch is Gone to Heaven

PopBrysonIMG_20141002_074706_284I went to Joseph Bryson’s viewing today. So, did the rest of the planet.

It certainly feels that way as more than a thousand people filed into the Edward O’Malley (EOM) Athletic Association hall in South Philadelphia Wednesday evening and Thursday morning to pay respects to Philadelphia Shooters and Mummers Association Hall of Famer, Joseph “Pop” Bryson. Pop passed away at the age of 81.

Byrsonfuneral 2014-10-02 at 1.56.58 PMIn a manner that would fit Pop, also known as “Gootch,” the viewing was a celebration of his life, a restatement of his belief in his large family (can you say 30 great-grandkids?), and displayed the fun, spirited attitude that is the hallmark of a great Mummer. The evening and morning were filled with conversation about Pop. Music, too. Quaker City and Woodland String bands serenaded. The Spartans and others visited. Brass bands played. All wanting to comfort Pop’s children, Renie, Lou, Joe, Jr., Michael, Ed, and Paul and the whole Bryson family.

Joe Br2012-12-23_16-57-02_586(1)yson also embodied at least three of the great spirits of Mummery: Fun, Family, and Independence.

Joe started in the Mummers Parade when he was 5 years old, strutting with his Uncle Harry in Murray Comic Club. The year was 1938. He missed the 1951 and 1952 parades while serving overseas in the U.S. Army.BrysonArmyIMG_20141002_074441_955 Gootch loved the parade. He would march with several clubs, including Golden Crown, Hammond, Goodtimers and Golden Slipper.

BrysonhatIMG_20141002_074803_282In the mid-1970’s he raised the stakes, creating his own brigade called the Bryson New Year’s Brigade. The emphasis would be on family.


LucilleIMG_20141002_074735_259Bryson and his late wife, Lucille, loved children. He would never say no to a child who wanted to be in the parade. He was famous for ordering a suit to be made at the last minute for a kid who wanted in and many who could not afford the suit. BrysonsuitIMG_20141002_074627_608He was also a stickler for how the suit was constructed. “Trim as you go,” he would say. “Trim as you go.”

He drove a truck for much of his life. He played football while in the Army and later volunteered with kids on the athletic fields. He was an EOM Man of the Year.


Brysonprocession2014-10-02 at 1.57.12 PMThis love of life was capped off today by a funeral procession from EOM near Front and Moore to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church at 3rd and Wolf. A horse drawn carriage carried his body. Brass bands led the procession. Scores of family and friends followed. New Orleans and Philadelphia Mummery have always had connections. Joe Bryson knew that better than most of us.

3 Responses

  1. Pop Bryson was an legand, the New Sound Brass Band and Whoa Phat brass band feel graced to have been a part of the occasion.

  2. Steve,
    Thank you for the beautiful tribute to our dad and also for getting to know dad on a personal level over the years.

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