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April 23, 2005

One of the Bob Kennedy dance bands in the 1940's was this group, rehearsing in the Perry High School auditorium. From the left, those recognizable, are Johnny Marshall, Donald Frazier, Homer Moore, Phil Galaway, Kennedy, Theodore Hartman, Charles Lamb, Bill Haynes and H.C. (Cab) Galaway.

Bob Kennedy and I did not graduate from PHS the same year. I was in the class of 1941 and he was a year behind, but we were the same age and we had many things in common. His Dad, Ivan Kennedy, ran a tire repair shop on the grounds just outside the back door of our family's drug store, and Bob and I spent many afternoons and weekends dreaming up solutions for problems we did not even know really existed. His Mother, Hazel Kennedy, taught piano and I spent many hours in her living room trying to teach my fingers how to cover an octave, only to find that my hand wasn't big enough. Mrs. Kennedy seemed to have a lot of children and usually some of them were waiting on her front porch or the living room sofa for their turn at the old upright piano. I learned to play a few pieces, but never considered myself a possibility as a performer for her annual recital. Bob played the drums and probably a lot of other instruments, because his Dad had been the director of the National Guard band here and he even filled in as PHS band director during World War II when healthy young males (including band directors) were in the military.

Mrs. Kennedy once told me that she and Ivan met when she played piano and he played violin in the pit of a movie house on the corner of 6th and Delaware where silent movies were shown. They were musical pioneers and they played a lot of horns and other instruments. Mr. Kennedy also operated a roller rink in the building across the street from his tire shop, just a half block off the downtown square, Bob did a lot of skating during that time, and eventually he had his own rink and other businesses in Shawnee, where he died the other day. He was a respected member of that city's business community, and they will miss him.

In later years, Ivan Kennedy had a framing shop on the north side of the square. He enhanced some interesting paintings and photographs with his artistic frames. It was a far cry from his old tire repair shop, but he was a real craftsman. Bob was pretty much like both his parents, soft-spoken, talented and easy to get along with. While in high school here, he organized a dance band and even though the young musicians played only a limited number of tunes, they were in great demand for DeMolay dances and other large social functions. Bob, of course, played the drums and got the band started all at the same time. You are probably aware that Bob's older sister, Warrenne Harris, wrote our school song, "Dear Old Perry High," at the request of Glenn Yahn and the irrepressible Poor Boys Club about 56 years ago.

I was sorry to learn of Bob's death the other day, and even though he had not been able to spend a lot of time here in recent years, I still consider him to have been a former Perryan transplanted to Shawnee. He was a good guy.