Elkhart Trombone and Franklin Consolidated School Marching Band Hat Donated by Gary L. Johansen


Elkhart Trombone
and Franklin Consolidated School Marching Band Hat

Donated by Gary L. Johansen June 2021

There was a time when every small town in Franklin County (and in Iowa) had a school, and every school had a band. These school bands provided an opportunity for students to try their hand at music. Some students found that they had talent while others came to know the difficulties of playing an instrument well. All discovered the joy that can be found in music and the camaraderie found doing an activity with friends and classmates. The bands also served an important role in the community, playing at sporting contests, holding concerts, and marching in parades. They were a source of pride for their community and provided entertainment before the onset of TV and the digital world.

In many cases instruments were passed from one student to another. When a student had completed his or her band experience, the instrument found its way to the son or daughter of a relative, a friend of the family or a neighbor. Or the band director may shepherd the instrument to a new player. It was not uncommon for the same instrument to be played by more than one student or even at different schools.

The Elkhart trombone was just such an instrument. It came from a neighbor’s brother who had once played it at another school at a different time. It came to me in Junior High when I started band. The Marching Band Hat was obtained later when I was in high school. It appears to also have been a hand-me-down, as it is dated 1957 and I didn’t enter high school until the fall of 1959.

The trombone was manufactured by The Elkhart Band Instrument Company (or the Buescher Company). According to the internet, Elkhart merged with Buescher sometime around 1928. Buescher continued to use the Elkhart brand after the merger. The companies were based in Elkhart, Indiana, which at one time was home to 60 instrument manufacturers. The trombone has a beautiful elk inscribed on its bell, with the words “ELKHART” and “ELKHART-IND.-U.S.”

The trombone has a serial number of 37311 inscribed on the slide section that houses the mouthpiece. LP is also - inscribed at this location, which may mean that this trombone is a low pitch instrument. Finally, the following is also inscribed on the slide section: 67 ? I. The number 311 is inscribed on the slide section that fits into the bell part of the trombone. I have tried to research the serial number but have not been able to determine what year the trombone was made. However, the bell braces are slanted. Some on the internet believe that slanted bell braces are an indication of an older model of the Elkhart trombone. In any event, I received the trombone in junior high school, and it had been used before I got it. It shows its age and wear as it has several dings and dents.

The trombone case has a plaque on the top, which states, “Buescher True Tone” and “Elkhart, Indiana, U.S.A.” The case is unusual in that it is a rectangular box construction, with compartments for a mouthpiece and music. Most trombone cases are not rectangular but follow the outline of the trombone.

I played the trombone in Junior High and in High School (Franklin Consolidated School, which after my sophomore year became CAL Community High School). There were summer music lessons, taught by the band director. I can remember playing during halftime of the girls’ basketball games and for those of us who were also on the boys’ basketball team, then rushing to put on our uniforms for the boys’ games. I also played the trombone at the North Iowa Band Festival, held in Mason City, Iowa, to honor Meredith Willson of Music Man fame. I would also have worn the marching band hat at that festival. The trombone case has an old decal, almost entirely worn away, from the Band Festival.

My cousin, Marshall Hansen, also played the trombone. He and I would play a couple of Christmas songs each year at the Johansen family get together. We may not have played well, but we played with much Christmas spirit.

After my band playing days ended, the trombone and hat stayed with my parents, Silas and Pauline Johansen. The trombone eventually made its way to their attic, where it stayed. The marching band hat was stuffed away in a closet, until it also found its way into the attic. By an odd occurrence, in June of 2021, they found their way to the Franklin County Historical Society.

While visiting my brother, Randy Johansen, I visited my cousin Carol (Schemer) Card and her husband Myron Card. We were talking about when I had a summer job working with Corn Belt Power Cooperative. Myron had been a line technician with Corn Belt. We were reminiscing about where the old Corn Belt office used to be in Hampton and Carol mentioned that there was a plaque near the old office memorializing the location of the first house in Hampton. Neither Myron nor I had ever seen or heard about it. Having grown up in the Hampton area, I found this to be somewhat surprising. Although Carol had visited the plaque once before, she couldn’t remember its exact location, only that it was near the old Corn Belt office. So, we decided to go looking for the plaque. We couldn’t find it. We then decided to stop by the Franklin County Historical Society and ask where the plaque was located. While waiting for directions, we did a tour of the museum and we saw the music exhibition. I inquired if the Historical Society might want an old trombone and marching band hat for its collection that I had played in school. The answer was yes, so I retrieved the trombone and hat from the attic of my parents’ home (now deceased), and now occupied by my nephew, Landen Johansen, and his family. Since I was leaving Hampton early the next morning, I asked my brother Randy to deliver the trombone and band hat to the Historical Society, which he did. That is the journey of my trombone, as far as I know it. Its history before it came into my possession I do not know.

As to the plaque, which Carol, Myron and I found after directions from the Historical Society, it states, “Site of Job Garner’s Cabin 1854” and then “Third Preaching Service in County 1855.” The plaque is located on a vacant lot not far from Squaw Creek. Pretty exciting to discover something in your hometown that you didn’t know existed.

Gary L. Johansen

June 2021