The Westminster Municipal Band will play its time-honored free annual end of summer concert in the park on Sunday, Aug. 22 in Belle Grove Square at the corner of Green and Bond streets in Westminster.
According to oral tradition, the band first began playing an annual summer concert in Belle Grove Square as far back as 1893. Throughout much of the 128-year history of the band, it has participated in practically every significant event in Westminster history — at least since 1893.
On August 16, 1942, the Westminster administrative offices at the intersection of Willis Street, Longwell Avenue and Emerald Hill Lane, in what we now know as the “Westminster City Hall,” were dedicated.
Previously — for decades, the administrative offices were located in the Westminster Fire Department fire station at 66 East Main Street. In August 1942, Carroll Post #31 of the American Legion and the Westminster Municipal Band played important roles in the ceremonies. Growing up in Westminster in the 1950s, I recall that the 1942 dedication ceremonies remained a topic of discussion as a milestone in Westminster history.
A lengthy July 17, 1931, newspaper article describes the Westminster Municipal Band and the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1 arriving home from participating in the Maryland State Firemen’s Association (MSFA) annual convention earlier that July “in a jubilant mood, as the band brought home $100 for the best band in line of parade …”
The 1931 newspaper article described the band trip to Ocean City, “Members of Westminster Fire Department taking part in the convention were Frank T. Shaeffer, Michael E. Walsh, Edw. O. Diffendal, Francis N. Keefer, J. Floyd Diffendal, Frank B. Dillard, James Pearre Wantz, Jr., Ralph Royer, Edward B. Orendorff, Wilbur Weller, J.H. Ryland, and Claude Buckingham.”
“The $100 purse was a princely sum in 1931,” says local historian Jay Graybeal. “In this early year of the Depression, a pound of coffee cost 20 cents; a pound of peanut butter, 21 cents; and two cans of tomatoes were 15 cents.”
The history page from the Frostburg, Maryland fire department reports that the Westminster fire company was one of nine member fire companies that organized the first MSFA convention in Frederick in June 1893.
Although I have not written about the band recently, over the years the Westminster Municipal Band has been a favorite topic for this writer in this space. Earlier versions of this discussion have appeared in print dating back to at least 2001 and as recently as 2018.
The history of the band is so intertwined with the history of Westminster and Carroll County — that an encore is always appropriate. The origins of my research on the band date back to the 1960s when I wrote about my experiences from playing in the Wm. F. Myers and Sons Band and the Westminster High School Owl Band.
The roots of the present configuration of the Westminster Municipal Band are found in 1920, but “there are records of a ‘Westminster Band’ dating back as far as 1860,” according to the band’s director, Sandy Miller, from a July 2004 interview.
According to oral tradition one of the early predecessors of the band may go back as far as the “Westminster Cornet Band,” which formed in 1858.
However, it is widely accepted that it was 1893 when it was first incorporated as the Westminster City Band of Carroll County. The band has a long history and tradition of being closely associated with the city of Westminster and the fire company.
Miller explained that in 1916, “many members of the band went into the Maryland National Guard under the heading ‘First Regimental Band of Maryland National Guard,’ and shortly after that they were deployed to the Mexican border to participate in an undeclared war between the United States and Mexico.
“In 1918, the band was deployed to France for World War I. After the members of the band returned home from France, they got together with the members who had remained stateside along with folks from a ‘Boy Scouts band’ and formed ‘The Westminster Band, Inc.’ in 1920. In 1950, the name was changed to ‘The Westminster Municipal Band’ when Westminster Mayor Joseph L. Mathias took a particular interest in the band and the band reorganized.”
An article in the Democratic Advocate on Nov. 18, 1981 explained, “Armistice Day was celebrated in this city by a parade headed by the Westminster Band followed by Company H, and horses, pulling machine guns, W.M.C. Military students and Westminster Fire Department …
“Services were held at [Belle Grove] Square under the auspices of … Carroll Post No. 31, American Legion … the address was delivered by Chaplain M.J. Shroyer, of the Legion. A demonstration was given with machine guns on Liberty street … The bullets could be seen sailing through the air toward the target. The day was closed with a dance in the Armory under the direction of Company H, which was well attended.
See you at Belle Grove Square.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.