Humdingers' last hurrah
Local band retires after 41 years of music.
By SCOTT AUST
After 41 years, The Humdinger Band played its last concert as a group last week, singing a modified Woody Guthrie song saying farewell to those who attended their retirement reception on Thursday at the Senior Center.
"So long, it's been good to know ya,
So long, it's been good to know ya,
So long, it's been good to know ya,
We had fun playing for you all this time,
But we have to be rolling along."
"Father Time has caught up with us," Louise Korbe, the longest current band member with 16 years, said. "We're all getting sick and can't practice as much." she said.
Accordion player Alice Childers, 86, agreed the seven-member band, who range in age from 80 to 87, is beginning to slow down.
"Some of us are getting older, and traveling is getting to be a problem so we decided to slow down while we're still able to play," she said. "There may be a time when some of us play again. But health-wise and age-wise (it was time to stop)."
Childers, who has been with the group for 10 years, said it was an emotional week, with a farewell performance Tuesday night at Garden Valley Retirement and Thursday at the Senior Center reception.
"We really hated to end, but it was just time. The last song was really hard to sing," Childers said.
The Humdinger Band's current lineup includes Alice Childers, accordion; Frances O'Brate, drums; Ted Doyle, percussion; Louise Korbe, melodica; Gwyneth Frack, piano; Faye Doyle, clarinet; and Edith Knoll, percussion.
Prior band members have included Hazel Skinner, Dorothy Hawkins, Sheri Sorrenson, June Harrison, Florence Wilson, LaDeane Groves, Odelia Wasinger, Lois Holister, Leanna Siler and Ruby Cessna.
Band helpers and skit performers have included Don Childers, Ted Doyle, Al Skinner and June Hendrickson.
The band started in 1972 at the Senior Center of Finney County to celebrate Pioneer Days. The group plays polkas, gospel, waltzes and songs from the World War I and World War II eras. Today the instruments include piano, drums, clarinet, accordion, percussion, melodica and electric keyboard, but when the band first started, they played toy horns, tissue covered combs, kazoos, harmonicas and kitchen instruments.
Korbe, 87, said the group plays the style of music her generation grew up with when they were "young and running around."
"I like the polkas. Beer Barrel Polka, of course!" Korbe said when asked her favorite songs. "We play all kinds. When I was selecting music, I introduced them to some Spanish, some blues. And of course, we play the Big Band-era music."
Childers said she never had an accordion lesson. She learned to play by ear. Childers also still plays the accordion her dad bought when she was 15 at a farm sale for $60.
"My mom had a fit. It was a lot of money back then," she said. "It's probably close to 100 years old and it still has the same bellows and everything. I play by ear, mainly, and notes. My two girls took piano lessons so I learned a little (reading music) then, and I learned from the band."
The band has played a lot through the years in Garden City and area towns throughout southwest Kansas. Occasionally, travel required a little ingenuity.
"If we needed money, we'd have a garage sale to pay for our gas. It's been a struggle once in a while. We had three or four garage sales I think," Childers said with a laugh.
Gwyneth Frack, 87, the newest band member, having played with The Humdingers for about three years, said being part of the band has been a great experience.
"Well, it pushed me, which is good for old people. It's just been fun. I'm a people person, so I've just had a ball. I visit with all the people," she said.
Frack said Tuesday's show at Garden Valley brought in around 90 people who were actively clapping and yelling for songs, which made for a fantastic experience.
"It was a wonderful, wonderful time. And even though it makes me terribly nervous, it was just exciting," she said.
"We had a fantastic crowd at Garden Valley, and a big one here, too," she said. "Whenever we can, we like to get the audience involved in the singing, and I think they enjoyed it, too, because a lot of them grew up in the same era that we did."
Korbe will miss performing with the group.
"It's been my life," she said. "I had heart surgery 18 years ago and the doctor told me I needed to expand my lungs. This certainly has done that. It's been good therapy."
Korbe said the farewell performances were emotional. She really enjoyed the friendships that developed over the years.
"For 15 years, all of us have developed a really great relationship, friendship, caring for each other. It's been great. It's been fantastic," Korbe said. "We're going to miss it. Because after that amount of time, it's just like taking a part of you. It breaks my heart."
Childers has also enjoyed the time the band spent together.
"We've had a good time, and we got along fine. I'd say all the years have been great. We just got closer and more acquainted, so it was hard to quit. But it's just time," she said.