2016

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Recollections of a Band Member
By Mark W. Mantz

I started to rehearse with the Marine Band right after I graduated from Slatington High School in June 1941 and was officially voted into membership April 6, 1942. The Band owned the building at 27 South 7th Street in Allentown and had a Club Room and rehearsal room and lodge room on the third floor. The second floor and an annex next door were rented out for various occasions.

The remodeled Club Room became one of the most popular clubs in Allentown. The musicians were automatically Active Members and the public from many miles surrounding Allentown could join as Social Members. The Club Room had an impressive-looking bar, lighted with a number of colored lights. There was a kitchen for members who wanted to sit at one of the many tables and enjoy a light lunch or a friendly game of cards. On a Saturday night, there often was a small combo providing music for dancing. During the summer months, the band would rehearse in the air-conditioned club room instead of the hot third floor.

The first director I played for was Maestro Albert Marchetto, a great musician/composer and a wonderful gentleman. I remember one of his "pet" expressions when someone had difficulty playing a part in a number. He would say, "play in the key of silence" rather than mess it up. A few of us "old-timers' well remember being invited to Albert's house for one of his special Italian dinners, which consisted of 5 or 6 entrees each followed by one of his special Italian wines. It took several hours to get through that meal. I remember one year, on the day before Christmas, Albert knocked on our door in New Tripoli and gave us a large tray of assorted meats and cheeses for Christmas. He retired as director in 1959. He and I always had a close, friendly relationship, and it was a sad occasion for me when he died, August 18, 1973. I was honored to be selected as one of the pallbearers at his funeral.

Albert's successors as director to date have been W. Valgene Routch and Raymond S. Becker, Jr.

During those earlier years with the Marine Band, the manager, Myron Neiser, would walk through the band during rehearsal and give us "out-of-towners", what they called car fare. I don't know what some of the other members got, but he used to give me 35 cents at each rehearsal. For a short time before care fare was eliminated, I received 45 cents. I doubt that paid for my car expenses, but it was the thought that counted. Speaking of car expenses, when I deduct my two years on active duty with the 243rd Army Band and possibly 5 or 6 rehearsals per year for personal reasons, I arrive at a conservatively calculated total of 145 to 150 thousand miles driving from New Tripoli to reherasals and to the various engagements throughout the area.


(Mark Mantz was part of the Marine Band of Allentown for 60 years. As part of the Centennial Celebration, he was asked to write about his memories of those years. Mark's instrument fell silent Dec, 27, 2002.)