DuBois, James

Interviewer: Ethal Thrall
Place of Interview: Mr. DuBols’ home on Grove Street, Salisbury
Date of Interview: August 13, 1984
File No: 35 A Cycle:
Summary: Mr, DuBois’ Interview deals with the Salisbury Band from its beginnings. He has been a member of the band since it began and is the only member of the band who is still active.

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

Memoir of

James DuBois

Transcript of a taped interview,

Property of the Oral History Project.Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library.

Salisbury, Connecticut 06068


ET: Okay, Jimmy, let’s have a little … about the band.

JD:  Well, I can tell you about the startin’ of the old drum corps. That I was associated with here, sponsored by, the Hubert C. Williams folks in 1926, Cyril Beers was the one that got that thing going. We ended up with eighteen people in it and some of them were, let’s see,,. There was George Parsons. It was interesting about that. George Parsons played in this one, the Hubert C. Williams Post, American Legion, and he was the first one to die in town in World War II. Then it was changed to the Williams-Parsons Post and George is in this drum corps picture. That was interesting.

ET: Yes. it is. Then there’s Grant Knickerbocker, Ralph Finn, Charlie Oh, Charlie played in the orchestra. What did he play?

JD:  The bugle

ET:  He’s never said that.

JD:  Yeah. Earl Senior, Cyril, Lou Goddriss Eddie Kilmer, Ed Markey, Ernie Goddriss, Harvey Decker, Sr., Harvey Decker, Jr,, myself, and John Parsons, Oh, yes. What year was this?

This was started in 1926 and after that I played fife and I played drums, I played whatever..,.

ET:  You could play ‘most anything.

JD:  Well, in that I could.

ET:  How, can you give me a little history of the Salisbury- Lakeville Band? When it was established, the year?

JD:  Yep. Well, the Lakeville-Salisbury Band was started in 1927 and they started in the old wooden hose house in Lakeville. We played there until they finally put the new brick building up and we had to move. We moved up to where the Salisbury Courthouse is now. We rehearsed there.

ET:  Who was the Director?

JD:  Harry Evaston was the Director; It was Harry Evaston and Charlie Turner, Earl Uosburgh and Frank Vaill. I think they’re the ones who really got this band started, They were the background of it, Of course, I was only a kid, you know, and I wanted to join that and I went down there to a rehearsal. They were upstairs and – remember Jack Ostrander and [??] Vaill? They used to be our audience.

ET:  Oh, really?

JD:  If we could keep ’em quiet enough to play, They used to argue and get to fighting back and forth. We’d have to calm them down so we could go ahead and play.


ET:  How old were you then?

JD:  I was sixteen.

ET:  Did they have uniforms in those days?

JD:  When we started, we didn’t have uniforms but what we all had to do mas throw in two dollars apiece to buy new some music. They said if we got money enough, we’d get our two dollars back. I’m still waiting for mine.

ET:  Long wait, huh?

JD:  Two dollars well spent.

ET:  Do you know who were some of the other original members besides those three?

JD:  Hell, yes. There was…. Now, Eddie Markey is the only one now that’s around that played in that, but Darwin Hiller also played bass drum for a short time.

ET:  Oh, really?

JD:  Yeah, he played for about a year.

ET:  We’ll have to get him back because he’s got a lot of time on his hands.

JD:  I know it.

ET:  Find he wants to keep busy.

JD:  I don’t know if he’d do it or not. Anyway, we had Joe Calissari, he played a baritone. His son, John, still lives in Long Island. He’s a good clarinet player. And Bert Bishop, he played the baritone horn. Ed Baldwin played slide trombone. Hugo Eisenholtz, he played a slide trombone. John Parsons, he came out a little later. There was a fellow from Falls Village. I forget these names. He played trombone, too. I can’t remember his name. Anyway, there was Lou Decker. Lou played sousaphone. Arnold Franson, he played trumpet. Frank Vaill played trumpet. Harvey Decker played trumpet. Buddy McKone, he was a little fellow. He played trumpet. Jimmy Vaill played trumpet. Young Johnny Decker, he played the cymbals, if you could keep him quiet long enough. Tom McKone played alto horn. Charlie Hiller played alto horn. Ray Silvenail played an alto horn. Stub Sherwood played trumpet. Earl Vosburgh, I guess I mentioned him. Freddie Staples from Canaan and Freddie Staples, Jr., they played clarinet. They wanted to play better so young John Palizarri used to give them lessons. He was a pretty good musician. As a matter of fact, after he left here, he went to New York and played with one of the big symphonies in New York. I think he was second chair.

ET:  For Heaven’s sakes!

JD:  And he was good.

ET:  And you played what, now?

I was snare drummer. I thought I was pretty good. I bought abrand new drum; cost me forty dollars, a new Ludwig. Boy! wasthat something !. ! thought I was pretty hot. Charlie Turnercame over to me and he said, “Jim, why don’t you go over andsee Billy Stone? Maybe he can give you a few pointers.”Billy Stone was the postmaster in Salisbury and he was a verygood snare drummer. He played, I guess, for the Lime Rockers,the Barnum Richardson band and the Lakeville Grays, whichpreceded ours. So I went over to Billy Stone and went in hishouse, had this nice shiny drum. Billy came out and said,“Hell, let me hear you roll.” So, I get the thing out and Iroll. He took it and looked at it. I thought he was going toplay. He took it and went in the other room. He came backwith a board with a piece of loose leather on it and he said,”How I’ll show you how to roll on this piece of leather, Yougo home and practice for two weeks and you come back in twoweeks.” So, I went home with my tail between my legs. So, Ipracticed for two weeks and it wasn’t very interesting, I’lltell you, on a piece of loose leather. But I did it and Iwent back to Billy and he said, “Hell, bring your drum outagain and we’ll try it.” I brought it out and I tried it andhe said, “Hell, do you think it’s any different?” I said,“Yes.” He said, “Yes, but not much.” So he said, “Take itback home for another week and do the same thing.” And I did.Billy Stone gave me some great pointers. He was really a goodman and I always got a big kick out of that because I oftenthought, “When the devil’s he ever going to bring that drumback?” Then, when he did bring it out, I said, “How about youplayin’ it for me?” So he did and he showed me how bad I was, just by doing it. That was the greatest inspiration I’ve everhad.

ET:  You were lucky to have him to help you.

JD: Yep, He taught me to read some music.

ET:  Rnd in those days there were no women at all, only men andboys?

JD: Oh, yes. These were all mostly old-timers. He kids were justthere. He played around at different places. One time wewanted to get uniforms. They had a musical comedy up in theStuart Theater. One of those traveling things that furnishedeverything but the town. It was local talent. So we wantedto get these uniforms. He rehearsed a couple of numbers. What we were going to do, we were going to ploy during an intermission on the stage. That was our part of it.

I’ll never forget. We had this one piece that featured a trombone. So we handed that over to Hugo Eisenholtz, the solo part. Lie all got there and we sat there and Harry gives us the baton, you know, and he played the introduction and Hugo stood up to play. He put the horn to his lips and he blew but nothing came out. He took the horn down and said, “Oh, shit.” Then he put the horn back and started to play, but by that time everybody in the band was laughing so hard they couldn’t play. He had to start that thing all over again. But that was the funniest damn thing in the show all night and it wasn’t even rehearsed. That was funny. That was funny.

ET: Yeah, I bet it was. How what about that money for the suits? Did you ever get it?

JD: Yeah, we got it. The thing ran two nights. He got money enough for them. They were pretty fancy in those days. They were navy blue.

ET: Yes, I can see that by the picture.

JD: Choke collars.

ET: Where did you play mostly? Around Lakeville?

JD:Well, we played paradesaround here. We did a few parades.

We didn’t do asmuch as our band is doing now. I don’t think we had that many

ET:Did you go play in the Grove or anything?

JD:Yes. We didn’t play intheGrove. We built the bandstand in Lakeville on the

ball field. The band did that.

ET: Oh, did you really?

JD: Yeah, we furnished that bandstand and we built it. Ed Baldwin was a carpenter and all of us….

ET: Then you played for the games?

JD: We did for different things down there, for the games and also concerts. We played around like for the White Hart Inn, on the grass there. We had our set of lights. We went around to different places.

But I want to go back a little bit. When the band first started, there was a band, a CornwaII-Goshen Band and that was Frank Vaill’s uncle, I think, was the director of that, Avery Dai II. So we used to get together with those fellows and we used to go to Cornwall and rehearse down at tlr. Chamberlain’s house in Cornwall Plains. He had a great big house down there. It’s on the right going to Cornwall Plains down to the Cornwall Bridge, big pillars on it. He had a great big kitchen. That’s inhere we rehearsed. Ever heard of a brass band rehearsing in the kitchen?

ET: But kitchens mere big in those days.

JD: They were. So we used to go up there and play with them sometimes for the Memorial Day parade in Goshen. It would be on a Sunday and they’d come up and join mi th us on a Monday. They had a pretty good band. Then after a while we got interested in playing with the Thomaston Marine Band and then there was the Pittsfield American Legion Band. We used to practice up in Pittsfield. They’d come from Thomaston. He’d go up to Pittsfield. Then we’d go to Thomaston, everybody. We’d rehearse. They’d come over to Salisbury. We’d rehearse. We gave a concert in each town. We ended up with about seventy-five players. It was a good band. I never regret that I took part in that. It was fun, too.

We used to have rehearsals up in the Courthouse there and of course, Hugo, being German, said, “We ought to have some beer once a month.”

ET: Once a month.

JD: So he furnished the Limburger cheese and we all chipped in on the beer and crackers. But we had to have Limburger cheese, ‘though because he was German, you know.

ET: Some party. Hell, you had some fun with it, too. You deserved it after you’d had some good practice.

JD: All part of the fun. Then after that Harry was getting along and he didn’t want to do it anymore. We had a little money so we decided one night we were going to have a dinner and decide what we were going to do with the money we had, in case we weren’t going to continue. So, somebody got wind of Bill Meader, who just came to Salisbury as Music Director.

ET: At the high school.

JD: No. At the Central school at that time.

ET:Oh, Salisbury Central. That’s right, he did start there.

JD:That was before, Yeah, that was 1947, along in there, I

think. So we invited Bill to that dinner and we presented it to him. This is what we had to work with and being interested in music and being his bread and butter and he had kids and everything, would he be interested in taking it over? He said, yes, he would be interested. So that’s what continued the band.

Otherwise, it probably never would have….

ET: I have it that he continued until 1968 so he had it about twenty years then.

JD: Yes, yes he did.


James Du Bois 6

ET: And from there he went to the high school, didn’t he?

JD: Yes, he went to the high school.

ET: Then he brought in… I’m reading that article that said he brought in some high school children along with it. Then when did the girls start coming in? At that time too?

JD: Yes.

ET: Oh, yes. He took his pupils from the Central School and put them in the band.

JD:Yes, and high school, too, and the grade school. That’s what

got us going,

ET:That’s when you started wearing the red uniforms?

JD:Yeah. Hell, after a while. No, we started outwith white uniforms.

We had these little maroon vests, something like the Salisbury Band has now.

ET: Oh, I see.

JD: We had those. Then we finally got the new ones, red, black and gold uniforms.

ET: Those were warm, too, weren’t they?

JD: Oh, they were hot I They were wool whip cord.

ET: Yes, I know. I always felt sorry on a good hot day when you went down Lakeville Main Street in a parade.

JD: You never got cold in those things. They were nice uniforms, but… Hell, the band started thriving then. We ended up then with about, oh, we must have had forty.

ET: Yes, I know it was a big band. Then you started going to the parades around,

JD: Yeah. We did a lot for different….We started playing for Lakeville Hose Company, and we played also for Amenia. We played for Millerton. We played for Rhinebeck. We did a lot for Rhinebeck. We used to go all over. He went up into New York State, into Lake George.

ET: Oh, that far?

JO: Oh yeah. Then we played up and down the Hudson, along Beacon, PeekskiII…

ET:Everybody in their own private car?

JD:Oh, no. It was done by bus. They gave us so much for our

playing and they had to furnish the transportation. In other words, if they didn’t furnish the transportation we would do it and them charge them. So it didn’t make any difference which way. So we used to get our own bus and they would pay for it.

ET: I wondered how you did it.

JD: Hell, it mas the only way you could do it because of the safety of moving, and the insurance and everything,

ET: And all those instruments, too,

JD: Everything, yes.

ET: Then after Mr., Meader, who took over?

JD: Hell, after Hr. Header got out of there, Phil Garraway took it for a While, but he didn’t do much for it. Didn’t spend that much time. Of course, we mere used to Bill. We learned so much. Then We had… Oh, a fellow from Torrington came. He was with the St. Peter’s drum choir in Torrington, He was all right but he wasn’t our kind of director. He was more for a drum corps. We didn’t need that.

ET: Ho, no.

JD: So there mas David Bailey, who is now the director of the Torrington Symphony. We had him a couple of years. And we

had a couple of other fellows. They were just day in and day out. Finally, Lee Collins came along. He got Lee and everybody mas so happy. He’s done’ a swell job.

ET: He’s really building it up again.

JD: Oh, yeah. Heli, he’s got a lot of good interest and he’s got a lot of young people. They’re a very shiny group.

ET: I think it’s wonderful. and now you have to tell me about the big… Lee Collins came in about 1980 according to that little circular. (See Lee Collins interview)

JD: Yeah.

ET: Last year you had your big Salisbury Band Day, didn’t you?

JD: Yeah.

ET: What mas that? The fifty-seventh anniversary or something like that?

JD:Yeah, the fifty-seventh anniversary of the band….

ET:That was the day at the Grove and they also honored you.

JD: Yeah, they did and I didn’t know anything about it.

ET: I know you didn’t because I saw Olive [JD’s wife, ed.} and she said to be sure to go over to the Grove because it’s Jimmy’s day.

JD: I didn’t know anything about it.

ET: That’s the good fun of it, though.

JD: The whole band was planning this thing and, of course, I was to all the rehearsals but I wasn’t doing any parading. They used to practice marching.They’d go down back of Tri-State

and down that way. But I didn’t go down there with them. That’s where they had their meetings without me. I found all that out after.

ET: That was a great day; a beautiful day and you were so surprised.

JD: It was a surprise to me,

ET: The music was beautiful, too. You had the big banner up there in front of the building – JIMMY DUBOIS'” DAY. Hell, you deserve it.

JD: I was very, very happy about that.

ET: How, you were the only one left of the original band?

JD: Hell, I’m the only original one who still plays.

ET: Still plays?

JD: Still active. Eddie Martin… So I’m the only one that’s still in it.

ET: That’s great.

JD: I do it because I like It, and I’ve always had a lot of fun with it during the years. It gave me something to do.

ET: Hell, I think you held it together.

JD: Hell, you know, everybody has to help a little.

ET: I know, but we always think of the band and Jimmy DuBois, Because we really enjoyed those concerts and the one you had over at the library a couple of weeks ago.

JD: He did one last Saturday night down in Cream Hill Association down in Cornwall, down at the lake there; We have one more to go. It’s in Kent.

ET:Are you going to have another one in Lakeville?

JD:Hope, Kent is the last one of the season.

ET: You won’t have another one here at the Grove?

JD: Hope. We’re going to wind the season up.

ET: I thought you might be doing it for Labor Day, or something.

JD: No, there’s no plan for that. So we have one more parade that’s a week from next Saturday. It’s in Rhinebeck. We’re playing for the Millerton Fire Department. That’s a big parade, at the fair.

ET: Yeah. Rhinebeck Fair’s a big thing.

JD:it’s a big thing for all these young people in the band

because they have a good day.

ET:And it’s an honorfor you people to be asked to do it, I think.

JD:The nice part of it is, all these people have made every

rehearsal. Now, this is an old traditional thing. It goes back a few years and we’d always play Chatham or Rhinebeck or both. We’d always… We got fifty cents apiece for every program we put on during the summer, to spend at the fair.

ET: Oh, I see. And the band gives them the fifty cents?

JD: Yep. They give them fifty cents. So, we were a paid band, right?

ET: What can you got? You can hardly get a glass of soda today for fifty cents.

JD: Nope, but we never went up on it.

ET: They’re probably glad to…

JD: Yeah. If they made all the parades and the concerts and everything – about three or four hours.

ET: Now, what did Esther Rouillard do? Didn’t she do something?

JD:Yes, Esther, she always took care of the books for us.

ET:Oh, I see. I used to see her in the band and she used to call

me about the insurance of the uniforms.

JD: Yeah, she took.., Esther worked hard at that. Matter of fact, Bing and Lynn, her daughter, played. She played, both of them played. Bing played the clarinet, too.

ET: Yeah. (See Lynn. Reifsnyder’s interview)

JD: Lynn was a big help. They were a lot of hard workers,

ET: She was in the Memorial Day Parade.

JD: Esther did a lot of hard work.

ET: Well, somebody had to keep books and keep order, I guess.

JD: Yes, she did.

ET:Well, that was great. I hope the band continues for many,

many years. The town needs it.

JD:I hope so. I think people appreciate it.

ET:Oh, I think they love the concerts. I know I love the


JD: Yes, they’re nice.

ET: And we have the Grove and why not use it.

JD: That’s right. It’s a good place. lie also have a group with the band, senior members of it, what we call the Hot Shots. Salisbury Band Hot Shots, lie played down… You were probably down there when we had the… lie played for that Chinese day.

ET: Oh, yes, sure. I was there, working in the kitchen. That was good.

JD: A couple of political things we played. Twelve or fifteen of us played.

ET: Yes, that was very good.

JD: When the whole band is dissolved for the season, there’s enough of us around who can do this if somebody wants something. While these other people are gone to college, we don’t try to rule that out all winter.

ET: Hell, you’ll have to go over to the lake sometime and have a concert, the Hot Shots.