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Remembering the Lindsay Kinsmen Band

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Back in the autumn of 2003, while in Grade 7 at Central Senior School, I decided to take on an extracurricular activity by signing up for the school band. Those of us who were interested attended a lunchtime meeting in the school’s music room, where instruments were assigned according to what aspiring band members wanted to play. When it came my turn to select a band instrument, I hesitated, not having completely made my mind up

“You know how to play recorder, right?” asked Eric Smeaton, the school’s popular music teacher — possibly knowing that my father had once taught recorder to music students at Mariposa Elementary School. “It’s the same fingering.”

With that assurance, I began my middle-school music career as a clarinetist. Initially, I made use of the school’s new B-flat clarinets. By Grade 8, however, I began using an old clarinet which had been loaned to me by an aunt. This wasn’t just any clarinet, though. Some 30 years before, my aunt had played this clarinet in the famous Lindsay Kinsmen Band, with which it travelled across the county, across the country, and across the border en route to any number of Christmas parades, festivals, and concerts.

Sixty-five years have passed since Muriel Kennedy and Lloyd McMullen set about forming what was known initially as the Lindsay Boys and Girls Band. Dale Kennedy, who with brother Garry were the first members of the band, reminisces today about its origins.

“Parents contributed greatly,” he says, and this defined the band’s success over the years — both financially and otherwise. Earl Kennedy, for instance, generously bankrolled the procurement of instruments when the municipal council of the day declined to assist the band financially in that initial season. February of 1955 saw the Kinsmen Club assume responsibility for sponsoring the band, which by that point was under the directorship of the late Frank Banks. Within two years of its founding, the band was recognized as the best junior band in the province of Ontario.

Marching along in red berets, the Lindsay Boys and Girls Band-turned-Lindsay Kinsmen Band stood in a long and storied tradition of marching bands which had graced the town for nearly a century. Chief among these were community-run groups like the Lindsay Citizens’ Band; military marching bands attached to the 45th Regiment and the 109th Battalion; and ensembles like the Sylvester Manufacturing Co.’s staff band. The Salvation Army’s signature brass band was a commanding presence as well in Victorian-era Lindsay — at one point drowning out the citizens’ band with its hymn tunes!

Unlike those early bands, many of which disappeared as time marched along, the Lindsay Kinsmen Band was going from strength to strength as the Fabulous Fifties turned to the Swinging Sixties. It was making its presence felt as far away as Quebec and Toronto, not to mention a host of small towns and cities in between and beyond. By 1970, the Lindsay Kinsmen Band had become as much a fixture of Lindsay’s cultural scene as the Academy Theatre.

“There wasn’t any instrumental music in the high schools at that time, so the band provided an outlet for these musicians and helped make their home town proud of its teenagers,” observes Bill Walden, who became involved with the band almost half a century ago.

Parents of band members oversaw a variety of fundraising initiatives that band alumni recall to this day. “The band conducted a large rummage sale each spring at the fairgrounds,” Walden says, “and we collected throughout the town for unneeded good articles and clothing. This was before people held their own garage sales.” While the Kinsmen Club provided a healthy sum of money to the band each year, with the Town of Lindsay donating a sum of money annually as well, “the bulk of the needed funds were raised by the band parents,” Walden explains, “either through a per member fee or annual membership.”

Band trips have almost legendary status among former members and the chaperones and organizers who facilitated them. The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia, to which the band travelled in May of 1975, stands out as an example. Merton and Eleanor Davis drove the entire route over the school break in March of that year, meticulously planning every detail of an itinerary that included tours of Washington D.C., Pennsylvania Amish country, and the renowned Hershey chocolate factory. Accommodations on this particular trip were unique, to say the least. “We were offered a portion of a volunteer fire station as a base,” Bill Walden reminisces, “and so fold-up army cots were purchased and shipped to that firehouse. Some of us even put up our cots in the area beside the fire trucks, so we might have had to move them if the truck was called out.”

Dwindling membership saw the Lindsay Kinsman Band march into history after over half a century of making musical memories. Still, the leadership of such musical directors and drum majors as Frank Banks, Jack Clarke, Paul Skipworth, David Morrison, and others — not to mention the parents who gave so much of their time and energy — have meant that the Lindsay Kinsmen Band will remain alive in the memories of many local residents for years to come .

What are your memories of the Kinsmen Band? 

Ian McKechnie is a graduate of Trent University and a lifelong resident of Lindsay. He presently works as a freelance writer and researcher, undertaking projects both for the museum in Lindsay and other organizations. Ian writes regularly on issues of cultural and historical significance.

2 Comments

  1. I remember being in absolute awe of the Lindsay Kinsmen Boys and Girls band. Thankyou for that piece of History. I am a former member of the Lindsay Pipes and drums under Pipe Major John Hunter. I am fully aware of the many great opportunities that one can experience. I cannot help but wonder if young people today spent as much time on musical instruments as they do on their gadgets, if they would not be better off. Thankyou. CWP

  2. I remember the Kawartha Cavaliers and I learned to play a Trombone in the Little Britain Citizens Band. I knew of the Lindsay Band. I tried to get into the Cadet Band when I went to LCI. My parents moved out of the area in 1957.

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