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April 6, 2005

Professor Radgowsky and his infamous orchestra

Someone recently brought me a small scrapbook containing many newspaper clippings and other memorabilia from a time that now seems long ago 1929 although those who lived it may not agree with that assessment. The little book has no name to indicate the donor so I cannot thank him/her again for bringing it to my attention. I was not personally in that era (too young) but most of the names are familiar because many of them were friends of various members of my family. They do bring back some wonderful memories when our little town was innocent but beginning to understand the influences bearing down on us from a multitude of sources.

One of the more interesting clippings is a newspaper photograph of the Perry high school orchestra, directed by Professor Leopold Radgowsky. There has not been a community orchestra here since the death of Professor Radgowsky in the 1930's, but it's fun to look back at time with the help of that orchestra and the caption which gave the names of the musicians. The picture was on the front page of the Perry Daily Journal and the names are listed by sections. Here are the musicians identified by the newspaper:

Virginia Vandenburg, piano; Patsy Jane Sowers, violin; Bailey Render, violin; Edgar Marshall, bass viol; Bobby Byerley, clarinet; Henry Clark, clarinet; Bill Lynch, bass tuba; Mickey Johnson, saxophone; Harry DeLashmutt, saxophone; Harold Victory, bass saxophone; Charles Lovecamp, cornet; Ashley Alexander, trombone; Forrest Elliott, drummer; John Dykes, cornet; Earl Guthrie, cornet; Bobby Donaldson, cornet; Cleta Mae McWherter, violin; Josie Mae Douglas, cello; Robert Elliott, clarinet; Herman Myers, violin; Frank Ley, cornet. How many of them do you remember?

The photo was posed on the stage of the PHS auditorium, the one that was demolished in the 1960s when the present high school campus was constructed. The maroon curtain, bearing two Lions club symbols to honor the donor, is clearly shown. Orchestra members and their conductor were posed on the stage of the auditorium. The orchestra was too large for a pit provided for them in front of the stage. The caption includes this additional information: "The orchestra holds rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday of every week at the home room period in the new auditorium."

Another clipping, apparently from the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, is headlined "Perry Goes Musical On Partnership of One Man." They are referring, of course, to Professor Radgowsky and a small mug shot of him is shown along with a full-length single column photo of the orchestra's youngest member, cornetist Virginia (Doris) Gregory. The story deals with part of Professor Radgowsky's personal battle to remain in this country rather than return to his native Russia. He came here while his homeland was undergoing a bloody revolution, pitting royalists against the insurgents of that time. He founded a community orchestra here in addition to the acclaimed Perry high school orchestra and band. Many other bits and pieces of that generation are detailed through clippings and other printed matter in this little scrapbook. Thanks to the one who brought this to me.