Here’s another mea culpa from yours truly. A couple years ago, Gerry Fornwald, ’55, send me an audio tape and a VHS tape. While I haven’t yet located a VHS machine to digitize the videotape, A couple days ago, I finally digitized the audio tape.

This is an audio recording of VFMA’s performance at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birthday in Hershey, PA. In his address, Ike can be heard making specific reference to his 63rd birthday celebration that day, placing the event on October 13, 1953. At about three minutes into the audio clip just after the choir sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” you can hear the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” being performed by the choir, brass and percussion. It’s clearly the VFMA arrangement that we often played.

Here are some excerpts from Gerry’s email to me and some links to historical records of the event. Make sure and keep scrolling down.

From the Hershey Community Archives Encyclopedia
Click on the image for a closer look.

“The reel-to-reel tape was made in 1954 or 1955. Have no recall that it could have been made on President Eisenhower’s birthday.

“However, I remember that we went (the band) to Hershey and participated in his birthday celebration in the Hershey Stadium. I remember that we marched first down the field and waited at one end. Then the Penn State Blue band (probably 150 to 200 members) came after us at a phenomenally fast cadence (200+) and extremely loud — almost blew us out of the stadium. Not sure, however, we may have marched and played around inside the large tent erected next to the stadium.

[Note: This article makes reference to Fred Waring‘s participation in this event.] “Regarding Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, I was a member of the glee club and chapel choir during my time at the Forge and the glee club and members of the band playing fanfare trumpets performed with Fred Waring at Carpenter’s Hall (?) for a nationally televised Christmas concert. We performed the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

“General Baker was the chairman of committee raising funds for the Eisenhower campaigns in 1952 and 1956. He had a very close relationship with Ike. That is why there is Eisenhower Hall on campus and why the band represented Pennsylvania in Ike’s inaugural parade in 1957. I joined several other bandsmen in 1957 to augment the size of the band for the parade. When we passed the reviewing stand (Ike and Gen. Baker standing next to each other) we played “Them Basses.” I remember that Feltham was upset that a college band from Texas with perhaps 200+ members was named the outstanding band of the parade.

“Also, supposedly Ike asked Gen. Baker to be Defense Secretary and Baker declined stating that he was too occupied with his mission developing Valley Forge. Just a bit of background info for you.

“Thanks for your update on that recording and letting me know what was on the tape. News to me. Best regards,

Gerry ’55
Band Sir”

Original tape provided by Gerry Fornwald, ’55. There is audio distortion throughout the tape.

From the Milton Hershey School:
“President Eisenhower’s Visit to Hershey on October 13, 1953” (Link now broken.)

From the Hershey Community Archives:
“Eisenhower’s Birthday Party”


Eisenhower’s 63rd Birthday in 1953 — 1 Comment

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