Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I used to enjoy the stringbands. I remember going to the Mummers parade when I was a teenager and into my 20s. I had family who lived in South Philly near Broad and Snider, which is approximately where the parade began, so the folks weren't so drunk yet.

But the best part was the stringbands. I recall dad watching the parade on TV and commenting about the costumes, which ones he likes, and then which band(s) sounded the best. I don't know how he could tell which costumes were the best because we had a black and white TV, but he gave his commentary along with the TV hosts.

Well, today, I was able to catch a rerun of this year's Mummers parade -- the stringbands. I was so very disappointed.

I don't know what happened to the marching band. Now it's a run-around the street band. The costumes -- which I saw in color -- were just plain ugly. Very few sequins or feathers. It looked to me like they went to an Oriental Trading Company catalog and ordered costumes for their bands. And the music? Well, I couldn't really call it that. Maybe it was the way the microphones were picking up the various instruments.

I recognized a few of the musical numbers, but mostly the songs were unfamiliar. You know, folks, some songs just done lend themselves to stringbands. Banjos are made to play certain types of songs, and so are saxaphones. Clarinets? Yikes. All I heard was squeaks.

If you want to know more about the Philadelphia Mummers parades, go to:


1 comment:

Bill Tracy said...

So coincidental you would bring up the Mummers. Up until now I never gave them much of a thought. Frankly I was dismissive of a bunch of guys parading drunk through the streets -- and trying to do it in silly costumes on a day of the year sure to have questionable weather. But out of the blue came a desire to see Mummers marching.

Obviously they don't have the cache of the Rose Parade so we won't see them on TV in California. I looked on You Tube and there were a few videos, and I loved them. I now have a goal of being at the parade next year!

I'm not sure I understand your disappointment with the current paraders. But then, I have no history to compare. What I thought as I watched a string band move across my computer monitor was, "Who knew all those guys could play saxophones!" It made me think of all the wonderfully constructive energy put out by so many people over the year to make such a thing happen. Playing musical instruments well, practicing, sewing costumes, coming up with themes and choreographing. I guess my prison work affects me -- all I can see is so many guys wrapped up doing good things and not getting themselves in trouble!

I also thought of the tremendous sense of community involved. The organizational names invoke the diversity of the Philadelphia community -- Greater Overbrook, Irish American, Polish American, Broomal, Quaker City, South Philadelphia, and they all bring their own pride to the event. Very rich!

Think about me next New Year's Day -- I plan to be bundled up, holding a thermos of hot chocolate and watching string bands strut by in person!