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Memorial Day: 1943

May 31, 1943. "Gallipolis, Ohio. Young horn player at the Decoration Day ceremonies." Acetate negative by by Arthur Siegel for the Office of War Information. View full size.

May 31, 1943. "Gallipolis, Ohio. Young horn player at the Decoration Day ceremonies." Acetate negative by by Arthur Siegel for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Totally tuba-ular!

All detractors aside, there is nothing more fun than grooving along a parade route with all that metal as your dance partner. I was too thin as a high school freshman to tote one (they were afraid I would get blown away in a strong wind) but my sophomore year and later into college I marched with one. The best was a dented up silver one. I kept it polished and it was stunning, in spite of the dents.

What's in a name?

Quite a lot, as it turns out. And even more gets squeezed into two names: for a century "Decoration Day" battled it out - so to speak - with "Memorial Day" for the description of the day in May where we commemorate the fallen; finally, in 1967, the latter won the battle.

Job prospects, with an asterisk

The biggest employer of musicians in the United States is the military. Steady work, good salary, benefits. The hitch: audition, then basic training (without your instrument). Pictured: Sgt. Beverly Parnell Washburn, WAF (as it then was) Band, 1950s.

Yeah, Me Too!

I went out for band in the 8th grade. I remember the band instructor going down the line handing out instruments, and I was really hoping for the alto sax.
When he got to me, he looked me up and down and said, "I've got the perfect instrument for you!"

I had had a growth spurt and being larger than my classmates, I ended up with the sousaphone as I was the only one who could carry it!

Big Target

I played a Sousaphone all four years of High School and it seemed like the bell of the horn always attracted people to try their hook shots with anything that was handy. It could be gravel, coke cans, paper wads, etc. Most of the time it happened at local parades in our hometown and not so much in other towns. Our band represented Kansas in the Inaugural Parade of Eisenhowers second inauguration in 1957 and there was certainly no throwing of objects along Pennsylvania Avenue.


After 3 years of playing the upright bass, and 3 years of hauling one of these monsters in parades and at football games, the class immediately after I left ended up with the nice, white (and light) fiberglass sousaphones. A long parade in 95+ degrees was quite a feat!

Permanent damage

I have a depression in my left trapezius directly traceable to my having played Sousaphone for a few years. My other instrument was violin -- no, I never played a duet with myself -- and my left wrist is now a reliable indicator of impending inclement weather.

But what is art without sacrifice?

Well used

Those sousaphones look pretty battered. They were probably bought in the '20s when times were better. I feel for the smaller boy - a metal sousaphone can weigh 35-40 pounds.

More from Decoration Day

Are these guys entertaining the folks from this previous Shorpy entry: Decoration Day: 1943?

From the condition of the sousaphones it looks like they are school supplied instruments. Since this appears to be out side I'm gonna guess this young man is a member of the Gallia Academy High School "Blue Devils Marching Band".

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