Recollections of a Founding Member
It was back in the fall of 1966 that about a dozen of us got together to explore the formation of our chapter. One member of our group was Dean Fischer, whose father Cecil had served as president of the Pioneer District of the barbershop society during the Fischer’s residence in Grand Rapids. During his father’s years of service to the district, Dean had become acquainted with two icons of northern Michigan barbershopping, Bob Tracy and Loton Wilson from the Boyne City Chapter. Since we needed a sponsoring chapter to pursue being chartered we reached out to Bob and Loton and within a few weeks the inaugural meeting was set.
The site of the meeting was the historic Park Place Hotel and our sponsors came armed with a portable phonograph and an armload of Decca barbershop records. Their enthusiasm and encouragement captivated an eager audience, and after a few days of aggressive recruiting our numbers swelled from 12 to 21, one more than needed to receive a temporary license to operate. Not long after, we were granted our official charter with 31 names on the dotted line and commenced planning for our first annual June Night of Harmony, held at Lars Hockstad Auditorium in 1967, and with a 3rd place international medalist quartet, The Sundowners, as our headliner.
Just as we were aggressive about establishing the annual June Night of Harmony, we also consistently attended Spring and Fall Conventions and contests, to hone our skills and gauge our progress. In fact we hosted our first district convention in 1971.
For the first several years our rehearsal space was the VFW Hall on the corner of Front and Oak. The second floor was a cavernous open space with hardwood floors, 18 foot ceilings and masonry walls which combined to enhance the ringing of barbershop chords to a very flattering level. In the basement of the VFW was a bar, which was very convenient for breaks, not so convenient for resuming practice. We have always considered breaks one of the critical components of a successful chapter meeting, but during this period of our history we were forced to add a Sergeant at Arms to our officer list whose sole responsibility was to clear the bar of tenors so that we could begin the second half.
Over the years membership has ebbed and flowed, at one time approaching 80 members and with the various interests of a group that size a lot of outside social activities developed including lots of camping, a golf tournament or two, and summer picnics, including quartet contests. One of our members, dearly
departed Ernie Richmond, fished all year and stockpiled enough perch for an annual fish fry.
From that historic first meeting in 1966, to our historic 50th Anniversary of the June Night of Harmony, literally hundreds of men have raised their voices in song to assure our mission of “Enriching Our Communities With Great Harmony And Good Works” is an unending mission. In 2017 our annual June Night of Harmony has morphed into a fall “Harvest of Harmony” which we present at Traverse City Central High School.
It’s Great To Be A Barbershopper! In case you’re wondering. It’s never too late!
Stop by any Tueday Night, 7pm at the Presbyterian Church on Airport Access Rd. “You’ll Be As Welcome As The Flowers In May”