Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Port Byron Fife & Drum

In the history of Port Byron, there has only been one Fife & Drum.

The group was founded by former music director Jon Bowen. The group was not part of the school music program. As such, the members were responsible to arrange their own transportation. Thanks to the devotion of the parents, the group flourished and traveled all over Central NY as well as Canada.

The group was so small that they marched with out a parade banner. That would turn out to be the key to their success! When the school's marching band was not performing, Port Byron's Fire Department would hire the Port Byron Fife & Drum.

It wasn't long before they were also marching with Weedsport's Fire Department. They were a group of very creative kids. When push came to shove, they always found a way to get to the parade, even if it meant that the firetruck from Weedsport had to come pick them up in our school parking lot! The group tagged rides a good many times with both of the fire departments. The lack of a marching banner made them a draw to both townships.

I'll never forget the time riding with Mr & Mrs Murray. He had a scanner in his car and that made him confident that we could make up lost time, so away we went. He no more than said "if there is a smokey in the area, I'll hear it on the scanner long before he can see us". Well, here we were pulled over on the side of the road with lights a flashing when our second driver zoomed by us. Only then did the alert come over the scanner! We had a chuckle over that one. I think that may have also been the same parade when we arrived late and the parade had already started. Thankfully we were on the correct side of town as we had to run through the street with our instruments to find the PB Firemen! We made it long before the judging stand so not all was lost.

Even though we were never officially a school music group, the Board of Education extended their support by allowing us to use the school drums. We were not able to use the school uniforms, so the group adopted a uniform that was patriotic, being colors of red, white and blue. All members wore blue jeans, white shirts with a red bandanna, as seen in the above photo.

One year the school budget didn't pass and even the Marching Panthers adopted casual wear, marching in jeans and t-shirts. Once again the parents answered the call to transport the students. I send a heart felt thank you to all of our boosters and drivers that donated their time and their generosity to provide the transportation when needed. We have such a wonderful community and much to be thankful for.

The Port Byron Fife & Drum marched from 1975 until 1982. Members have included founder Jon Bowen-bass drum, Fifers included Jon's wife Kathy Bowen, Maggie Fraher, Cindy Ellinwood, Dough Smith, Theresa Burke, Dawn Roe-snare, Todd Murray-bass drum, and one member, Jim Keenly, marched with us even before he learned to play the fife. One year we only had 2 fifes and the 2 drums, so he marched in the middle and looked like he was playing enough that we continued to receive prize money from the judges. It was a fun group to travel with. Today both Jim Keenly and Maggie Fraher are music teachers.

If I've missed any of the members, please email me so I can add you to the list of the Port Byron Fife & Drum!

I'll be adding a full list of members since they have not been featured in our school yearbooks.

In the groups last couple of years, a Port Byron Sr. would assume all responsibility to direct and organize the group. They disbanded in 1982. The above photo shows the last four members with the final award received by the group at Gananoque, Canada.