Goodbye Friend

202 fancy & wb banquets 019We mourn the loss of a giant, Robert Shannon, Jr.  Bob Shannon meant and means that much to us.  He is a giant.  Bob was a real person who did what he did out of love and caring, not for money or fame or power.  I had the honor of knowing his humble and kind father, Robert Shannon, Sr., and I always saw his dad in Bob.  I saw the love of his children and Susan in him.

There are many things about Bob that we all know.  He was tall.  He was really tall.  He was a leader, Captain of the great Quaker City String Band for nearly 40 years.  He remains the most popular and best known of all Mummers of the Modern era.  Bob loved Mummery and he loved being Captain.  When I saw Bob, I usually said, “Mr. Ambassador!” He was a natural at connecting with those in awe of this tall (did I mention he was tall?), costumed man who looked like a giant among giants with his hat and huge back piece.  His movements were graceful for a big man.  He covered a lot of ground in a few steps, and flashed that broad smile and pointed that trademark forefinger right at you.  It may the only time you ever wanted a finger pointed at you.

All kinds of memories are colliding with each other right now, probably in you, too, if you knew Bob.  It’s been like this since Susan called today to say that Bob had passed.  Among the many thoughts, what can we do to console and be there for Susan, the family, and the band.

There are random memories of Bob, including that he liked to have fun, and that he loved Ireland and Galveston, Texas.  He was a Mummer historian, he was a friend, and he was also a great goodwill Ambassador for the city throughout this nation and across the seas.  He worked behind the scenes with TV and city administrations to promote and protect the Philadelphia tradition and help the city achieve its goals. I will never again get to greet him with, “Mr. Ambassador.”  I like to think it was our thing.

But, Bob was much more. He knew what friendship meant.  He understood that he could help a child grieve, an elderly person enjoy a difficult life and he would go anywhere to help his band, a Mummer family, his friends, strangers in need and his city.

Bob really enjoyed being a Mummer, and particularly when it came to his Captain’s suit, which especially in Bob’s era was special and often hidden from the public until parade day.  I’ll always remember the first time he said to me, “Hey, want to go upstairs and see the suit?”  Two grown men scrambling upstairs like it was Christmas morning and the only ones who got to see Santa.

Many of us will have thoughts, flashing little bits of memories, that we are pained to think we will never be able to experience again.  One of mine is Bob saying, “How you doing, pal?”  You see, he meant it.  He wanted to know.

To the Shannon family, thank you for sharing this goodhearted man with the City of Philadelphia, our region, with the countless hours in parades, in rehearsals, in visiting the sick and in bringing wide smiles to children.  Our respect for him is deep.  Our condolences to you are as tall as the giant who has decided he need not walk among us for a while.

We have lost a good man.  We will still see glimpses of him in the Class, Pride and Commitment of Quaker City String Band, in the good faith of his brother and sister Mummers in all divisions, in the strength of his family, and when we think of Philadelphia Mummery’s Mt. Rushmore.  You know, Bob Shannon, Jr. is there.

SH2011

Mourning in South Philadelphia

#011SouthPhiladelphiaSBClubhouseWith the start of a new year, many people look for a new beginning in some part of their lives.  This is a good thing.  Most of us do so, not with foolish optimism, but because we are good people.  We have celebrations not because we are selfish or hedonistic, but because we want to improve, to enjoy each other, enjoy the gift of life and we want to encourage that joy in others.

New Year’s Day 2019 started that way for many, many people.  The men, women and children of the Philadelphia Mummers awoke in the early morning hours to rekindle the Philadelphia folk tradition of calling on family and friends and playing together in the streets.  They shared their brilliant suits, unique sounds, silliness and satire, struts and choreography with the world.  We hail Golden Sunrise, Murray Comic Club, Quaker City String Band, South Philly Vikings, the Pirates and all the winners.  It is about competition to some degree, but it’s also about sharing the joy of life and making others smile.  In that competition on New Year’s Day, South Philadelphia String Band finished a very close second.  It was a great day.

It then feels soul-wrenching when word comes that in the hours after that joyful expression, that three young people we knew suddenly died and that another vibrant person lies critically injured.  Young people who have helped you enjoy life are in an instant gone or fighting to live.  It’s just wrong.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thousands of people associated with the folk tradition of Mummery are shaking their heads and asking that question.  Some are angry; others are deeply saddened and emotionally spent.  None of the answers seems good enough as we mourn the sudden passing of three good young people and pray for the recovery of another, all victims of a crime.

The emptiness, the feeling of one’s heart jumping from your chest, is incalculably magnified, more painful and intense, for the South Philadelphia String Band family and especially for the immediate family members of Joe, Kelly, Denny and Nicole.

Mummers have been making sure that the Ferry and Palandro families and their extended families have not been alone.  They will continue to stand together, to mourn together, and hopefully to aid in Nicole’s recovery.  All will struggle to try to find the answers that elude us.  If we find a functional way forward, it may begin with faith and with always remembering the passion and joy of these beautiful young people.  For now, we just are feeling lost, and it may be that way for awhile.South Philadelphia String Band with Black Ribbon 2

Sats Celebrate Half a Century

20171111_201610Saturnalian New Years Association celebrated 50 years in Mummery this weekend in a fun and beautiful gathering at SugarHouse Casino.  It was extraordinary going through the decades with images of the past performances and remarks by former captains like John Griffith, Dave Moscinski and John Zakrewski, and current captain, Jack Hatty, Jr. One fun fact among many with Saturnalian: It took first prize in its very first parade in the late 1960’s.  The Sats honored the living and departed members of the club and also celebrated the contributions of women members to the Fancy Brigade.20171111_214651 Josephine Thompson, a 12 year member of the Sats, led that recognition.  I am also grateful to the club for its welcoming of me to the event.  20171112_210822Saturnalian has a successful history and is again a brigade on the rise.  Here’s to the Richie Ski and all the gang going from last year’s “Gangs of New York” performance at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to a fun circus theme in the works this coming New Year’s Day.  It will be a great night for the club from 1811 S. 2nd Street.

Until We Meet Again,Ted

We said goodbye to the Old Man.  Teddy Kudrick was laid to rest, but not until countless friends, loved ones and fans gathered in Media, Delaware County Tuesday night and Wednesday to pay their last respects to this father, husband, friend, showman, leader and hard-working American.20171025_092213

Ted Kudrick worked as an engineer on a tug boat and was Captain of Duffy String Band. A top hat he wore on New Years Day and at parades around the region graced a room where mourners gathered in Media, Delaware County to say farewell.  We kidded Teddy in recent years about being the “Old Man.”  His dad, Henry Kunzig was the original Old Man of the Duffy String Band family, but Teddy had gone on to earn the nickname.   He paraded for half a century, was inducted in 2005 into the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Hall of Fame, and was Captain for 32 years at the time of his passing.  He deserved the respect that was meant by “Old Man”, but Teddy was not old.  He was just 52 when he died last week.

Duffy has always been a favorite band of many Mummers.  It’s been a leader in opening up the parade to women and remains one of the most accessible and pleasing bands of Mummery.  They haven’t always placed high in the competition, but they always have heart.  They love the tradition of a people parade, and care more about making people smile.

20171025_092150 Teddy had a smile, one that never left him from the time he was a baby.

Throughout Fishtown, Wallingford, Port Richmond, South Philadelphia, and throughout the region, hearts go out to his wife, Colleen, and to their children, Jake and Kathryn, and to sisters, Cheryl and Peg, and brother, Michael, and all Ted’s family.  His son, Jake, had paraded with his Dad for ten years.  When you saw them at rehearsal on a parking lot on a cold day, or in full costume in front of tv cameras and fan-filled grandstands, you got a glimpse of the Mummery that many never see. The down to earth bonds of a father and son, joyfully spending time together.  We will always remember Ted, the “Old Man,” forever young with his son.20171026_000642.jpg

 

Laurel House Gala!

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At PineCrest CC in Lansdale tonight at the annual Laurel House Gala raising money to prevent domestic violence and help victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County.

Happy Anniversary Murray Comic Club

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The Murray Comic Club celebrates its 80th anniversary tonight and its 18th 1st Prize in a row with a gala at SugarHouse Casino.  500 attendees are here, including past presidents and officers of other clubs. And, of course, big cheers to President Rich Porco and his daughter, Jessica, long time leaders of Murray and standard bearers of Mummery.  As Rich said tonight, “We’re not a club, we’re a family.”

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Murray has been a steady supporter of Easter Seals, our Armed Forces overseas and Philabundance. On New Year’s Day and throughout the year, Murray is number one. Congratulations and thank you, Murray Comic Club.

Here’s to Rowing!

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Cabrini College Rowing Coach Janit Gorka and two of her student rowers talking up the new program on the Commons this afternoon. The young program is a great opportunity for students and successful Cabrini Athletics, as well as another way to move fast early in the morning along the Schuylkill (river).