By Mary Ellen Shaw
Several years ago I took a trip down Memory Lane in this column when I reminisced about the concerts held in Main Street Park. I was reminded of those memories when I read recently that the bandstand needs to be replaced. The Sunday night concerts were an important part of my youth. Seeing the band members in uniforms playing music that ranged from polkas to show tunes was a real treat. The same was true of walking around the park with your friends and enjoying some great food. It was something I looked forward to on a weekly basis.
Because the park is only about half a mile from my home I usually walked to the park with my parents in my younger days back in the ‘50s. By the ‘60s I was in high school and the neighborhood kids walked to the park together. It was “the place to be” on a Sunday night!
A look back at the history of the Rutland City Band shows that it was established in 1879. But there were two precursors to it. One was the Rutland Brass Band and the other was the Rutland Cornet Band. The Rutland City Band has the honor of being the oldest continually operated and municipally supported band. Taxpayer financial support began in 1894 when Mayor Levi Kingsley and the Board of Aldermen gave their approval.
The concerts had been held in downtown Rutland before moving to Main Street Park. When the move occurred there was a deed restriction that prevented a roof over the bandstand. Fortunately, that changed in 1926 when City Attorney Jack Crowley rendered an opinion that allowed a roof to be placed over the newly constructed cement base — the one that is still there today.
However this bandstand, where the musicians have played for about 100 years, now needs to be replaced. I noticed in various newspaper articles that what my generation calls the “bandstand” the current generation calls the “gazebo.” I assume it’s because of the multiple uses of this structure in today’s world. It needs to be rebuilt because the cement base is crumbling. The lifespan of the concrete has exceeded the lifespan that most of us will have! It will be interesting to see what the replacement will look like.
Possibly today’s younger generation will age with memories of a structure that looks different than it has looked for almost a century. Seeing history change isn’t always easy. People probably had negative thoughts about a 100 years ago when band concerts moved to the park from downtown. And that turned out just fine.
Throughout the years some of the musicians spent over a half century of their lives playing with the city band. It’s truly a labor of love to practice and commit one’s self to such an endeavor.
But there was more than music to draw a person to the park back in the day! Food was also an attraction. You couldn’t go wrong with selections made from either Charlie Hackett’s popcorn stand or Roxie’s Wagon. Charlie operated out of a small wooden building that was located along the West Street side of the park. It was built for him by the Rutland Lion’s Club. He was blind and students from Mount St. Joseph could be found helping him out. At Roxie’s you placed your order at the window of a silver colored vehicle that resembled a school bus. The wonderful aroma coming from both places drew you in for a treat.
It’s not too often that an event I enjoyed as a child can still be enjoyed today. As an adult there is appreciation for the music that is played. But the kid in me still longs for Charlie’s popcorn and Roxie’s fries!