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

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

 

Heritage Division (Poll results update)

MUMMERS_ROWIt’s time for a Heritage Division. The Mummers Parade has historically had 2 to 5 divisions. Currently they are the Comics, the Fancy, the Wench Brigade, String Band and Fancy Brigade. Let’s postulate that it’s time to create a new division that does NOT add to the length of the parade, but which preserves the historical significance of the parade, allows some clubs an opportunity to have a less financially stressful year and gives the public more of what they want.  There’s a poll question for your input below. UPDATE: Poll results so far are 78 percent in favor of the idea; 22 percent opposed.)

The 21st Century has brought with it financial stresses, city regulations or goals, changing ideas of entertainment, and a new reality of how busy families are, including multiple jobs and how far apart we live from each other. Parts of Mummery, contrary to other media reports, are growing.  However, some other displays, especially ones that require people spending a lot of their own money, are crunched.

The City of Philadelphia definitely does not want the Mummers to assemble as they did in the 1800’s. It wants to contain the excesses that were problems before the creation of the Broad Street parade.  Most officials do not want to get in the way of the freedom to assemble and they see the tourism value.  Most Mummers, too, like the idea of parading on Broad Street, being at the Hall, and giving a show for all on New Year’s Day.  But, some clubs have been living on the edge of existence, and outside influences, or stresses, are major reasons why. So, what is a non-corporate, people parade to do?

Here’s a starter idea for discussion. Create a Heritage Division of 3 to 10 clubs each year. The clubs in this division would not have to field as many entries and the rules about their size would be adjusted. The time of their performances could also be shortened. They might not even be judged, though a different judging system could be worked out. The Clubs in this division would revel in the history of the parade.  Yes, we’d see feathers and back pieces and more.  We might be able to start a fundraising effort in conjunction with the Museum, in which part of the proceeds would go to the clubs in this new division.

Fralingerspinningbanjo2015-mummers-parade-6378So, how would it have looked on this New Year’s Day?

Maybe Trilby String Band would have fielded a band if it did not need 40 players and did not have to create a Broadway routine.

Maybe another string band or 2 would liked to have saved money for a year and volunteered to be in the division.

Maybe the String Band Association holds a lottery, if there are no bands volunteering, though I think some bands would love to live in this division.

Maybe a brigade from Murray or Goodtimers volunteers to go in.

Maybe Hog Island believes it could return to the Fancy Heritage, if some adjustments were made.

Golden Sunrise could take up permanent residency there, preserving the Fancy within Mummery.

A big wench brigade could take a year in there.

Maybe a Fancy Brigade even takes a turn.

Maybe we have a youth band.

Maybe we have the Hardly Ables.

Maybe there is an open opportunity for a new club to try the parade, allowing new voices to experience Mummery.

Maybe BrassBands2015-mummers-parade-5860a new club in a division first would have to march in the Heritage Division for a year.

Maybe a guest string band from another state comes in.

Maybe a brass band rocks the house for 2 minutes.

Maybe none of the clubs or divisions mentioned above would want anything to do with this proposed Heritage Division, but, I think it’s worth talking about.  This is not about artificially propping up unsupported clubs.  Clubs have always come and gone in Mummery and that will continue.  But, the Mummers exist in a manufactured world where imposed rules affect their existence.  This Heritage Division idea is aimed at supporting positive tradition and cultural significance.

Whether it would be 3 clubs or 10, whether they march all at once in line or are sprinkled throughout the parade, whether they only appear on tv or do the whole route, the idea is to ease financial pressure, keep the parade flowing, and retain and enrich the historical display of this great Philadelphia folk tradition.

Please take part in the poll below and give me your opinion.

2015 String Band Order of Enjoyment

Here’s something to crow about.  The String Band order of March.   2014IMG_20140101_151519_118It’s been a busy few days as members of the Philadelphia Mummers String Bands debate within their clubs how to approach their themes and production costs for the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade.  They’ve had nearly a week to digest the official Order of March, or Enjoyment as I say.  (See Order below.)  The order was chosen by lot at the Mummers Museum. Traditionally, most bands view going up early in the order as a disadvantage in terms of judging.  The judges work hard to make sure that they are not under-weighting early performers, but the general belief persists among string band members that going early hurts your finishing position.  Most of the results seem to support that belief, but you have to remember that through much of parade history many of the power bands, or bands that finished higher in the previous year, used to have more say as to what position that they marched in. They usually chose the back half of the division.  Also, I found very gratifying in  the 2014 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade the effort in production, rehearsal and parade day performance of bands that went up in the first several positions but looked at doing so as a positive challenge and as a test of professionalism.  Those bands, from Woodland going up first to South Philadelphia marching in 8th position, were outstanding.2014aIMG_20140101_153411_769

So, below is the 2015 Order of Enjoyment.  No themes are public yet.  But, the past week has been full of string band members assessing their chances and trying to figure out how to play the order to their advantage.

  2015 String Band Division Order of March1.  Uptown
2.  Greater Overbrook
3.  Duffy
4.  Durning
5.  Trilby
6.  South Philadelphia
7.  Aqua
8.  Greater Kensington
9.  Fralinger
10. Polish American
11. Broomall
12. Quaker City
13. Woodland
14. Pennsport
15. Avalon
16. Hegemen
17. Ferko

Why There are Mummers

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3 Maminskis, father and 2 sons, are about to strut up Broad! Congratulations to Kenny Maminski, who’s been at it for nearly 4 decades. This pillar of Aqua String Band will be strutting among family on New Year’s Day. Son, 14-year-old Eddie, plays sax and has been parading since he was 7. This parade, 10-year-old Andrew will take his sax up the street for the first time. Kenny’s wife, Marie, is helping with the band’s choreography. Daughter Samantha lends her support. Perhaps the greatest gift of Mummery is the opportunity it provides to be a touchstone for families. The Mummers parade, a Maminski family affair on New Year’s Day.

Here Come the Cromptons

Jerry Crompton is a fine sax player and he was a great music director for Avalon String Band. Tough. He was tough. Jerry is one of the most recent inductees into the String Band Hall of Fame.  Son, Jim, has carried on well in his place as Music Director since 2007, while dad still marches. Younger Jerry is also in Avalon and is showing there’s no drop-off in quality with later versions of the Crompton model. And then, of course, there is Jeff, who is formerly of Avalon, and lately of Fralinger. Jeff is Presentation Director of one of the finest bands to walk up the street. But, more importantly, all the Cromptons are prime examples of the quality of talent, the dedication to Mummery and the great families that are the Mummers. They touched many bands,  starting with Aqua.   There’s Polish American, Ferko and more that they were directly with or influenced over the years.  But the biggest connection is Avalon.  It was an honor for me to speak with Jerry and the boys. In this photo the late, “Big Ger”, towers over Jerry and the kids. I talk with the Cromptons Sunday, December 25th, Christmas Day, at 11:30 a.m. on NBC10 at Issue. The program also features the great Mummers Chorus, singing Christmas songs, and I highlight the story of Julia Parmisciano (go Jesters!) and Philadelphia’s Firefighter of the Year, Ed Verbitski, of Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars.  Happy Holidays everyone!  And remember, coverage of the 2012 SugarHouse Casino Mummers parade begins at 9 a.m. New Year’s Day with “Breakfast with the Mummers.”

2012 Order of Enjoyment

As the 2012 Sugar House Mummers Parade prepares to step off on New Year’s Day, the clubs also do so with the order of their appearances on their minds.  It’s a psychological game for some who believe that going too early ensures a lower score from the judges and that going in the last half, especially the end, ensures better scoring.  Some string bands think going about 2-thirds of the way in is perfect. For 20 years of broadcasting the parade I make notes and keep a private scoring sheet, but I really look forward to seeing every club and each performance.  The more you know each Mummer, the more you witness every club planning, rehearsing, serving their neighborhoods, giving time to charity and just trying to enjoy liberty and give folks a good time on New Year’s Day, the more you love every strut.  The Order of Finish is less important to me than the Order of March.  In the end, it’s the people parade that matters.  So here is the Order of Enjoyment.

The Comic Division around 9:45 a.m. steps off at Broad and Washington and heads north to 16th and JFK.  The Goodtimers will lead the Comics, followed by Landi and returning champion, Murray.

The Wench Brigade Division follows with its 8 clubs.  Riverfront leads off, followed by Oregon, O’Malley, Cara Liom, Bryson, Pirates, Saints and Froggy Carr.

The Fancy Division follows with Hog Island leaving Broad and Passyunk about 10:30 a.m.  Golden Sunrise will follow.  Both clubs should be up at 16th and JFK between about 12:30 to 1:30.

The String Band Division hits the street next.  There are 17 bands this year.  Here is their order.

Duffy is first, stepping off from Broad and Shunk around 10 a.m., followed by Fralinger, Broomall, Aqua, South Philadelphia, Polish American, Uptown, Ferko, Quaker City, Avalon, Greater Kensington, Greater Overbrook, Trilby, Pennsport, then Durning, and Hegeman and Woodland round out the 17. 

Inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Fancy Brigade Division wows the crowds in two shows. The first is at Noon. The second is at 5 p.m.  You’ll see a show on PHL17 between 8pm and 10pm. Here’s the FB order. Downtowners, Saturnalians, Avenuers, South Philly Vikings, Golden Crown, Jokers Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars, 2nd Street Shooters, Satin Slipper and Clevemore. 

Go forth and Mummerfy.