First-Hand:My Growing Up Pre-Engineer Years' Historyː Walter Elden
NOTICE TO READERː This is still under construction and is not complete. NOTICE TO READER
My PRE-ENGINEER History from Birth through High School (1931-1950)
My history, herein, through the application of using multi-media forms of telling my history, such as Written, Audio Voice Recordings and numerous Photo and Graphic Figures, are used to tell stories which occurred in my life. Starting with early growing up, became educated, became skilled in several forms of performing music, (with the goal aimed to become a Conductor of Orchestra, Mixed Chorus and/or Band).
But then, the Korean War, starting 3 weeks after graduating from High School in 1950, changed most of that, but for the better.
a. I was raised in a Blue-Collar Catholic family of 6 where both my father and mother only had the first 8 years of schooling, but they emphasized religion, education, to work hard, music and to engage in school sports, where mine were basketball, track and volleyball.
ELDENS EARLY DAYS OF DAD'S RELATIVES IN THE BAHAMAS
My father, a British immigrant, age 15 years, from The Current on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas Islands, became an American citizen then progressed in his working life from being a Chauffeur, Fence Builder, Power Company Electric Lineman to a Diesal Engine Maintenance Man for ocean ships. He told me though, that he always wanted to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Mom, her family had moved from Westwego, Louisianna, was busy raising the 4 of us. She saw to it we were raised in the Roman Catholic religion, which I still practice to this day and sing in the Church Choir.
DAD AND MOM AND OUR FAMILY
Walter's Dad and Mom Sang in Church Choir
WOOPSǃǃǃǃǃǃǃ The Editor was instructed not to use this; anyway, here is Walter when a baby.
My older brother Harry, at age 94, passed away while I was working on this history. He obtained a PhD in Physical Chemistry at age 24, taught at U of Miami and held patents.My younger brother, Guy, Sr, died 2 1/2 years ago. His older son, Guy, Jr, was spared dying in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Towers. His office was on the North side 72nd floor of the North Tower, but that morning he over slept and never got to his office.
My 6th Grade Pinewood Elementary Class (He in all White, Front Row) 1944.
b. One big event in my early life was when I was given a violin at age 11 and took formal lessons from the 6th thru the 12th grade. My 2nd violin (see figure) I earned enough money, 100 dollars, being a grocery store "bag boy", enabled my purchasing the one in the figure which I have to this year 2022. 10 years ago it was valued at 3,000 dollars.
7TH-9TH GRADES Junior High School Activities
Beginning in the 7th grade through the 9th grade of Junior High school, I played violin in the orchestra, sang in the Mixed Chorus, played 1st team Center on the basketball team, ran track (100 Yard Dash and 400 Yard Relays), and was elected President of the Student Council where each morning from the Principal's Office I would lead the entire Student Body recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, over the Public Address System and officiate at Assemblies of the Student Body. I succeeded in proposing and getting approved a new Pep Song for the school, to be sung at sporting occasions.
Walter Performed as 1st Violin Chair Concertmaster, 7-9th Grades 1944-47ː
In the Upper Right Photo are Walter and Bob Hewitt. In the 9th Grade they both ran for President of the 7-9th Grades Student Council which Walter won using the slogan "BACH, BEETHOVEN AND BLACKIE" selected by his Campaign Committee in 1946.
Lower Right Photo are Bob Denton and Bob Sherill. In High School they each were awarded Florida Big 10 State Champions. Denton later was a Pan Am Pilot and Sherill became a Math Professor. He may not know this, but the woman he married was the first girl I ever kissed. Now, don't tell him.
Bob and I did a lot of crazy things together but the nuttiest was when after a basketball game Bob played in, as we each lived far apart, we decided to just park his car behind the Miami Shores Police Station and sleep in his car, having first phoned our parents telling them we were sleeping at the other's house. We nearly froze that night but were never disturbed by the police. As adults I became an Engineer and Bob a Pan Am pilot of a 747, flying the "New York to Moscow"route. He told me stories of how he had to dodge the Secret Police for the routes he took. And to think now today, being his last name began with a "D" and mine with an "E", he sat right in front of me and I would tell him answers on the math tests.
NOW, Robert and I, on the otherhand, were more conservative. It wasn’t til after high school, when Robert was in college in Nashville, TN and I was in Naval Aviation Electronics school in Memphis, TN that we got together.
I got paid rides on Fridays from other Sailors, to and from Memphis. I would spend Fri evening thru Sunday late afternoon there with him. We always timed it to when an “All Night Sing” would occur in the original Rynam Auditorium, home of the original “Grand Ol Opry”.
DRUM AND FIFE CORPS INVOLVEMENT
Early in the late 1940's our family became active in marching and performing in the Miami Drum and Fife Corps. My brother Guy and I played the Colonial styled drums.
Example of a 1940's Drum and Fife (both are still in original good condition).
Example of a Drum and Fife Corpsː
MRS AYRES - JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
When i was in the 7th-9th grades, my Orchestra and Mixed Chorus Music Director was Mrs. Ayres. She had herself played the violin as I did and assigned me to the 1st Chair Concertmaster position, which lasted 7th thru 9th grades. We never discussed my moving on to attend the 10th thru 12th grades at Miami Edison Senior High School.
10TH - 12TH GRADES HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCES
After learning to play the Sousaphone at FSU Music Camp, well enough, I was admitted into my high school marching and concert bands in my Senior 12th Grade.
During the summer of 1949' I participated in the FSU Music Camp Orchestra, as its 1st Violin Concertmaster (Front Row Center in Photo).
CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO ONE OF THE WORKS WE PLAYEDː
I decided in the 12th grade to enroll in Orchestra, Band and Chorus and that I wanted to become a High School/College Director of Music, In Orchestra, Chorus and Band.
FRED McCALL - 10TH GRADE HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
I mention that because during my first entire week at Miami Edison there had been a mix-up in my schedule for attending classes and as a result, I missed attending Orchestra practice that entire week. When I finally walked on the stage to be seated, I met our Conductor for the first time, Fred McCall. I told him my name and all he said was, "We have been looking for you.
"Please sit here in the First Chair Concertmaster's seat". I nearly fainted.
I sat in that Chair thru the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. I attributed that to Mrs Ayres who must have advised him to expect me and that she felt I was qualified for that honor. Fred McCall completed that year at Miami Edison then moved on to become the Bandmaster of the University of Miami Hurricanes "Band of the Hour" band for the next 15 years.
High School Director of Band and Orchestra, J Howard Reynolds 1950
I wish to highlight Mr. Reynolds here, as he had a profound influence on the positive direction my life took, starting meeting him in the Miami Edison High School Band and Orchestra experiences, and then how his being and mannerisms shaped my philosophy about life, beginning then. Some of the characteristics he exhibited which influenced me were these, most of which I applied during my Engineering career:
MR J HOWARD REYNOLDS, DIRECTOR OF MEHS BANDS AND ORCHESTRAː
1. I was greatly impressed that at age 24 he had achieved marriage, a Navy Commission and tour of duty, both BS and MS degrees from LSU and Michigan, respectively, appreciation of Country music, and a home high fidelity system (first one I saw and heard; later after my tour of the Navy I built one).
2. Some years later while I was watching a football bowl game on New Years day, around 1998, at the halftime in which Iowa State's band was on the field performing, the Band Director was announced as being "J Howard Reynolds", my former 12th grade band and Orchestra Director himself. Soon after that, I made contact with him and we exchanged emails until his death.
3. He demanded excellence in our performance of music
4. He demanded that we dress well and looked good in our band uniforms
5. He was a disciplinarian, and that appealed to me
6. He was organized and projected that he knew what needed to be done and led us to achieve it
7. I loved his music conducting style. The way he used his hands and arms to bring out music effects
On one occasion, performing in the U of Miami Orchestra, Joshua Heifetz, age 50 years and considered the greatest living violinist at that time, was our guest soloist. During a practice break, I went up to him and got his autograph (see photo). I cherish that to this day.
I believed my 12th Grade Band and orchestra Director, J Howard Reynolds, was instrumental in my being awarded a Music Scholarship to the University of Miami, a condition being that I play violin in the Orchestra.
Lastly, he was a young man at the time, 24 years, dressed extremely well and look good. A leader to be proud of. Since last seeing him, back in 1950, (then I spoke with him one last time by phone around 2013, months before he passed) I can look back and see that I applied many of these traits in my engineering career work. I wonder how many other students he had a similar positive effect upon. Many I expect.
HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA, MIXED CHORUS AND CONCERT/MARCHING BAND
Back in 1950 when I was a Senior in High School, in Miami, I played the Bass Sousaphone (Tuba) in our band so I could be in our marching band at football games, each played in the Miami Orange Bowl on Thursday nights. In order to achieve that, I checked one of those oversized instruments out for over the summer and attended my 2nd term at the FSU Summer Music Camp. There I also sang in the Mixed Chorus and performed the Violin as the 1st Chair Concert Master in the Orchestra at the FSU Music Camp. In my Senior Year playing in the Orchestra, I continued to be honored serving as its 1st Chair Violin Concertmaster.
When I was in the 10th grade orchestra in 1938, I and 3 others in the orchestra were asked by then Band Director Fred McAll to pull the Chariot carrying the new Orange Bowl Queen and Princess for that year's Orange Bowl Parade and Bowl game (see photo).
--------Walter Elden 3rd from Right---------
Walter Practicing Then Playing the Bass Sousaphone in the 1950 Orange Bowl Halftime Show
1950 MIAMI EDISON HIGH SCHOOL CONCERT ORCHESTRAː
ONE MAJOR WORK THE ORCHESTRA PLAYED
Here is a link to one orchestra work we played well and a lot, the "Egmont" Overture, by Beethovenː
1950 CHORAL SENIORSː
1950 MIAMI EDISON HIGH SCHOOL CONCERT BANDː
We were invited and was a part of the Orange Bowl parade in Miami then later we attended and performed during the 1949-50 Orange Bowl game.
HERE IS A LINK TO THE MARCH THE THUNDERER, BY JOHN PHILLIP SOUSA, OUR BAND PLAYED AT EACH GAMEː
Well, fortune was with me as I was seated and marched next to a girl Trumpet player (2nd Chair Trumpet actually) player named Jane Berry. Boy did that spark up my school life. Later, getting prepared for the State Bands Competition, I got to know her better, we started dating, which led me to not concentrate on the Trigonometry class in math resulting in my failing it. But I graduated anyway. Later, in the Navy I learned how to study and concentrate from the Aviation Electronics training I received. In college even later at U of Florida, in every Math class I took, I made “A’s” and even graduated “WITH HONORS, in 3 years.
Later, again, we both made an invited band trip to perform in Havana Cuba’s Mardi Gras parade.
Close Band Friends thenː Odel, Joyce, Walter, Jane. Anita and Ken. The band was transported to-from Cuba aboard one of their Navy's Destroyers from Key West, FL.
Actually, though, I fell in love with Jane then but differences in our religions; I was Catholic, and at that stage working in a Grocery Store all through high school as a Bag Boy, did not present me as the right partner for Jane. But I adjusted to that emotional downer. We each went our ways, married others, and raised our families. We reconnected some 60 years later, around 2005 and then in 2007 one of Jane’s daughters wrote me that Jane had recently died, from Leukemia. That was a great loss there for me then.
THE DAY IN 1950 MY HIGH SCHOOL BAND PERFORMED “WAGNER’S “PRELUDE TO DIE MEISTERSINGER” AND WON A STATE-WIDE SUPERIOR RATING
To prepare later to compete in the State Band Competition, held that year 1950 in Miami, in addition to attending regular classes in the daytime, we voluntarily met each Wednesday evenings to rehearse for the event. Our young 24 year-old Band Director, J. Howard Reynolds, selected the “Prelude to Dei Meistersinger”, by Richard Wagner as our elected choice. Now there was a musical selection which really inspired me.
We rehearsed each Wednesday and at competition we were ready. When I write “ready” , years later (actually more than 50 years, when Jane and I met again, now as each a widow, and friends again, she related to me that one of the Competition Judges related to her that “our band’s performance of the Prelude to Die Meistersinger was the finest performance of anything her ever heard performed previously, by any high school band”.
Here I am making an exception and providing the link next to as great of performance by a Professional Orchestra, as I have ever heard. Focus on the row of Sousaphones in the back row of the band in enclosed photo (I am seated in the last chair from the photo’s right side) an at 7:20 minutes into playing listen to us featured playing the main theme repeated several time by other elements of the orchestra. I will never forget that high school band (and Jane Berry) and know now I made the tight decision to get in that band.
From that high school experience til now I rate the “Prelude to Die Meistersinger” as the greatest overture ever written and performed, with the Lone Ranger’s Radio Theme “William Tell Overture” a 2nd.
AUDIO Link to an Orchestra Performance of the “Prelude to Die Meistersinger”
TRY TO FOLLOW ALONG WITH THE BASS TUBA AND STRING BASSES BEGINNING AT 7ː20 MINUTES THRU THE FINISH
Later, Mr Reynolds awarded “MOST TALENTED” Awards to Jane, playing 2nd Chair Trumpet in the Band, and I for playing 1st Chair Concert Master Violin in the “Orchestra”. We’re we each surprised.
Walter Performed a Violin Solo at Graduation Ceremonies 1950
Here is a Link to a You Tube Performance of "Poem" by Fibich
And still later, at graduation, Jane Berry was my date to the Senior Prom.
Walter and Jane at Senior Prom 1950