Peninsula School Band, 1936; Old Mission Peninsula | Archival Photo
Peninsula School Band, 1936; Old Mission Peninsula | Archival Photo
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My friend, Larry Hains, from the Traverse Area Historical Society, recently posted a photo of the “Peninsula School Band” on Facebook, and asked if I had any additional info.

The photo was taken in 1936 at the Township Hall, and I believe the band consisted of students from all the assorted schools that were on the Old Mission Peninsula at that time, including (possibly) Maple Grove, Mapleton, Old Mission, Ogdensburg, Stoney Beach, McKinley and Bowers Harbor.

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Ted Ayers and the Marching Band Incident

I remember my Dad, Walter Johnson, telling me a story about how the band was practicing in the road and a vehicle ran right into them. After searching the Record-Eagle archives and coming up empty, I called Tim Carroll, who filled me in on the story.

The band used to practice their marching steps on Center Road near the Township Hall, because that was one of the few spots on Peninsula roads back then that was flat. One day, they were practicing in the middle of the road when Ted Ayers came over the dip in the road heading north — near where the Nicholas farm is now (the old Dohm farm) — and drove right into the middle of the band!

I couldn’t remember if Dad said there were injuries (or deaths!), but Tim assures me that no one was injured or died. However, as the band members scattered like chickens, they dropped their instruments in the road and some of those instruments didn’t make it.

George Kelly used to tell the story of how he played one of the bigger instruments (tuba?), which allegedly suffered irreparable harm after he dropped it in the road and ran as Ted came barrelling over the hill into the band.

As an aside, Tim also noted that Ted Ayers and two of the Tompkins boys (he couldn’t remember names, which might be a good thing for incrimination purposes) lived north of the Carrolls, and those three, in particular, used to drive way too fast.

He also recalled that Ted used to bring his wife, Gladys, to St. Joseph Catholic Church, but Ted preferred to sit in the car and wait for her during mass. This is Tim’s recollection, not mine.

He said the “Ted Ayers vs. Band” incident likely took place in the late 1930s or early 1940s.

Here’s Who Was in the Band

Below are all the students in the photo, as listed in “A Century of Service: The People and Places on Old Mission Peninsula,” published by the Peninsula Telephone Company, Jack and Vi Solomonson, and their daughter, Mary Jo Lance, in 2008. The students are listed left to right, starting with the first/front row.

It’s so interesting to put names to faces, because you can still see those family traits in the generations who came after them.

Note that my dad is misidentified as the boy with the saxophone in the third row. That’s actually my Uncle Guy, my dad’s brother. At Uncle Guy’s funeral in 2019, my cousin Phyllis brought his saxophone to Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home so folks could see it during the visitation. I’ve included a photo of the saxophone below; I believe it’s the same saxophone that’s in the photo, but correct me if I’m wrong on that, Phyllis.

Also note that George Kelly is in the first row with a drum, so I’m guessing he may have played both the drum and the bigger instrument noted above.

Front Row: Ward Reilly, Dawn Montague, George Kelly, Kenny Joynt Carpenter, Floy Helferich, Gene Ghering, Bill Carpenter, Keith Warren, Bernie Carroll, Bernie McGuire and Jerry Pratt. (I wondered if “Floy” might be a misprint, but there’s a “Floy Helferich” and also a “Floyd Helferich” listed in Ancestry.com. Someone tell me which is correct.)

Second Row: Bob Tompkins Jr., Bob DeVol, John Lardie, Oliver Tompkins, Don Tompkins, Frances Carroll, Marjorie Lyon, Clarabell Lardie, Betty Wood, John Marshall, Ben Murray, Dave Murray, and Willard Barry.

Third Row: Nancy Tompkins, Garth Tompkins, Guy Johnson (misidentified as my dad, Walter Johnson; this is actually my uncle, Guy Johnson, my dad’s brother), Wilma Helferich, Adolph Kroupa, Bob Carpenter, Tom Hoffman, Polly Hoffman, Nellie Wood, Bob Lardie, Ralph Tompkins, Bob McGuire, and Band Director Bob Tompkins.

Back Row: Gene Kroupa, Jean McIntosh, Belle Swaney, Maryann Garland, Helen Cooper, Speed Montague, Harry Heller, Doug Lardie, Elton Dohm, Milo Carpenter, and LeRoy Ghering.

Peninsula School Band, 1936; Old Mission Peninsula; Ted Ayers | Archival Photo
Peninsula School Band, 1936; Old Mission Peninsula | Archival Photo

My Uncle Guy’s saxophone, on display at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home for his funeral in 2019.

Guy Johnson's saxophone, on display for his funeral at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home in 2019 | Jane Boursaw Photo
Guy Johnson’s saxophone, on display for his funeral at Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home in 2019 | Jane Boursaw Photo

While searching the Record-Eagle archives for info about the Ted Ayers incident, I came across this note about the Peninsula Band playing for a July 4 celebration in 1939. The band apparently raised funds for a porch glider for the park.

By the way, there are big things happening at Bowers Harbor Park these days, too. Stay tuned to the Gazette for more info.

Peninsula Band plays at Bowers Harbor Park for July 4 Celebration; Traverse City Record-Eagle, June 29, 1939 | Newspapers.com
Peninsula Band plays at Bowers Harbor Park for July 4 Celebration; Traverse City Record-Eagle, June 29, 1939 | Newspapers.com

Also Read…

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. My mother , Nellie Gilmore Archer, referred to Ted Ayers as a speed artist. When he would drive down Mission Road mom and her friends would hide.

  2. Yep, that’s the same “sax,” as Dad called it. He related that our Grandpa (Lester) Johnson needed him on the farm that unfortunate practice day, so he missed all the excitement! Their band also marched in a Cherry Festival Parade or two.

  3. Robert Tompkins was my dad’s father. I never met him and had never seen his face until I saw this picture in the general store a few years ago.

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