James Ritter and Mary Wolfe

Recorded September 1, 2010 Archived September 1, 2010 39:31 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX007117


James Ritter, 85, tells his daughter Mary Wolfe, 49, about his work as a public school music education teacher.

Subject Log / Time Code

JR grew up in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, a small town that used to be a summer resort.
JR went to school in Eagles Mere. In seventh grade, he began taking piano lessons weekly.
JR would listen to his teacher play at Friday night town hall dances. She once had him play for the audience.
JR recalls getting his contract for teaching music in Hughesville, Pennsylvania, while still doing his student teaching.
JR recalls getting $1,000 in 1950 for purchasing instruments.
When JR and his wife got married, band members showed up at the wedding. The band followed their horse and cart and played.
JR left Hughesville after 15 years of teaching. He has since returned and makes his home there.
There’s nothing I would do differently... it was a great career.” - JR


  • James Ritter
  • Mary Wolfe

Recording Location

MobileBooth East


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00:03 My name is Mary Meghan Wolfe. My maiden name is Ritter and I am 49 years old and today is Wednesday, September 1st 2010 and we are in Bellefonte Pennsylvania about an hour from where we live and I am having a conversation with my father.

00:24 Udel

00:25 I name is Jim Ritter.

00:31 And I am all of 85 years old. Today is September 1st 2010.

00:40 We are in Bellefonte, PA.

00:43 And I am the father.

00:47 Of my partner here.

00:50 That's my dad. But I call it Grandpa cuz everybody calls him grandpa, but I wanted to talk to you a little bit and just have a conversation about your history and coming from Eagles Mere Pennsylvania. And then of course the history of the band that he was fell because you did start the Hughesville High School band. So we both currently live in Hughesville, Pennsylvania. We live behind each other our yards attached at the corner. So you're originally from Eagles Mere Pennsylvania and Eagles Mere years ago was a huge Resort town when you were young there, and there were five big hotels Marston to Lakeside.

01:40 Lakeshore in the Eagles mirror in the Raymond Hotel

01:47 And I think that's it.

01:50 Forreston florist until I mentioned and when you were growing up there you worked to Crestmont hotel and then I had a break from that then I went back there as the mailman.

02:10 And your mother and father and brother and sister.

02:14 They all think they're my mother and father met at the Eagles beer and what were their names from rotor and Jenny reitmeyer?

02:25 Ritter and he was a painter paper hanging in those days. It was not easy to like it is today and they met at Eagles Mere.

02:39 And all their friends met at a glass mirror everybody want their to work summers in the winter. There were only 250 of us who live there.

02:53 In the summer there were two thousand people there big summer Resort summer, but now all the hotels are gone are springing up.

03:07 And old cartridges are being winterized and

03:12 But the winters are still tough there a remote and then when there's a sign that comes in to Eagles Mere that says the elevation is 21 mm 100 feet. But if the boys from Laporte paint the sign they changed the numbers 222 and then you went to school in Eagles Mere on Laporte Avenue Elementary School teacher who would come and she would hit the same tree every day. This Rowena Herman came once a week. She was a country.

04:06 Is a teacher she always parked in the same place. She always hit the same tree and then you went to Stonestown high school today by bus to Stonestown High School.

04:23 Where I could join the band and then tell me about when you learn to play the piano at the square dances grade.

04:37 And

04:40 This traveling music teacher stayed over.

04:44 One night and the night that she stayed over was when I took my pair of us for $0.75.

04:54 Then I would not see her until the next week.

05:00 But you used to go down to Muncy Valley to the fire hall.

05:10 There were my friends, mr. And mrs. Everlane.

05:16 Mr. Evelin played the violin mrs. Everson Berlin played the piano

05:25 And this was once a month.

05:28 That's a Grange hall that are square dance.

05:32 So I used to sit on the piano bench with mrs. Evelyn and I could figure out playing with my right hand the song she was playing.

05:45 And then to my amazement one Saturday night. She said no, I'm going to I'm going to take off on the next set you play the piano was Mister everlane.

06:01 Well, I thought I think I can do this but she stood behind me and told me what key we were playing in and when I should change key and this is over and said now you have to play good love because we have no percussion. So I got through the set and I really was really really happy.

06:32 Good, and then you you graduated from sounds town and you went to Mansfield majoring in majored in music education.

06:48 And when I was a senior

06:52 Three men came from Houston School District every school board members

07:00 And they were aware of the fact that I needed to be close to Eagles Mere and my mother didn't drive and I my dad should not have been driving.

07:14 So they had a contract in there and

07:19 Me to sign. Well I said I haven't done my student teaching yet. So I don't graduate until next spring.

07:31 They were willing to wait for that.

07:35 And I thought I was interviewing a job in New York state, but then I realize that was too far from Eagles mirror. So I accepted this contract and I thought well, I'll stay two years.

07:53 And then I'm going to head for the big setting but that all changed.

07:58 So you came to Hughesville?

08:01 I came to Hughesville and I didn't have a car. So use my dad's pink truck.

08:09 And I went to Hughesville once week and gave

08:15 Some private lessons during the summer and the school was on Main Street. Then school was almost rude and school started in September day after Labor Day. And where was your classroom?

08:37 My classroom

08:40 Was on the stage.

08:43 And the stage of course had a curtain on the other side of the curtain.

08:50 Was the gymnasium

08:53 Which was also the auditorium so janitors were forever putting up chairs and taking down chairs and I had to deal with whistles and basketballs would come bouncing up on the stage and hit the curtain.

09:12 And that's that was the music room. Now how many kids were there and that you didn't have a band when you arrived or they didn't have any music teacher two years prior to my coming. Mr. Gower's came 3 days a week and he was a violinist.

09:38 So he has an orchestra of 3 violins.

09:44 1 cello

09:46 1 banjo player. I don't know how he fit in and a couple trumpet players and a couple saxophone players and one clarinet.

09:57 And we've played the gold and silver Waltz and we played many times.

10:05 Anything's that was in the orchestra book. We try to put together. I had a good piano player, but she was a singer and she graduated. Sometimes I had to play the piano parts myself.

10:25 How many times I would have to revert back to those old square dance tunes that I played in high school if we had a March and our Orchestra book then I found out the boom check boom check boom check with my right hand left hand and that's how we got through.

10:53 The first year was the orchestra you did an operator though it at Christmas.

11:06 And the fifth grade teacher said no, you do not supervise you teach the lesson and will try to follow you so

11:17 There was a piano in the sixth grade room. So that's where we practice the operetta.

11:25 And the

11:28 The PGA ladies thought it was wonderful and the PGA at that time were very valuable in the public school system. This was the late forties right to new glasses or whatever. They were viable part of the school system. So I was a Big Hero 2

11:57 Put on an operator. I think it was Christmas time. I don't remember much about it.

12:04 Except that it made me a hero and there's a big success the the rotary gave you some money rotary. The rotary was abused political force and Hughesville.

12:24 All the school board members were also wrote Aryans.

12:29 And they had no new projects.

12:33 Has fundraisers for their new hospital with twists in the next town Muncie m u n c y

12:42 And the

12:44 They had Minstrel shows Every Spring now. This is 1950. Remember 1951?

12:55 So that they gave you some money to give me a thousand dollars to spend for instruments. I bought a sousaphone.

13:10 And I bought a drum set.

13:14 And I bought two baritones.

13:18 And I blocked several used instruments to get the kids started on clarinet and trumpet.

13:28 And then I had this boy who played the banjo and I wasn't quite sure what to do with him in today's world. He would be very acceptable in 1950 to 1951. I wasn't sure what to do with him. But that was the real beginning of the band. That was the beginning because I tried to keep the violence and the cello going but that that's ages away and gave way to band instruments and then there was a bad parent organization formed.

14:12 And which is very helpful helpful.

14:16 And people began to buy private instruments for the students and you got uniforms. Oh, yes weird green and white uniforms all uniforms.

14:31 All wall

14:34 And what did you play?

14:37 We played trios of marches because trios were short.

14:44 And I have to tell you I inherited Jack Demorest has kind of a self-appointed bass drummer, but he's wasn't very study with the drum D and the kids you to complain about him, but I thought I can teach this boy.

15:04 To keep up a steady beat and I keep him after school and I thought about these old squared square dance tunes and I say no you have to keep the beat with me you watch my left hand and then we went to some boom check boom check boom check exercises, and he finally

15:30 So he didn't complain about him too much anymore. And we remain good friends many years. He stayed in the community. Never married and we were we were good friends many years. He's passed on Now One Summer you were traveling in California with sister with your teacher friend and you came back in the band was parading.

16:05 And I had somebody covering up in Sullivan County with my parents there and there was a

16:16 Who's the band marching behind the fire truck?

16:21 At the Monthly Star parade

16:26 So they didn't have uniforms.

16:31 There were girls in high heels and they were majorettes the majorettes kind of took care of themselves. I didn't know anything about majorettes. I just had to deal with their mothers.

16:45 How many parades would you do in the summer? Where would you go around here?

16:56 And then as we progressed we always got invited to the Bucknell homecoming.

17:04 . And one year, we got invited to a Penn State band day. I was not a graduate of Penn State. I don't know how that happened, but it was a Big Thrill for us.

17:18 To be Penn State

17:22 And you're also at the governor's inauguration Governor leader ocean. We went by train to Harrisburg and it was very cold.

17:38 And what I think we had some

17:42 Alcoholic Solutions or something for the trumpet valves so they wouldn't freeze.

17:50 And we had a great time.

17:53 And Harrisburg and took lots of pictures and the majorettes. Of course one to one of the girls had been to summer camp and she knew a lot of routines and that's how it happened. Tell me about when you met mom and what her name is.

18:23 Her name is Megan. Her name was Megan Griffith.

18:28 And she had moved to Hughes the year before I did.

18:33 And she from Edwardsville.

18:39 And she sang in The Lutheran church choir a very often on Sunday evenings. I attend Services there.

18:51 And I thought who is that black girl that hair girl?

18:58 And we funding that after church one time I said you wouldn't want to go for a milkshake. That was a negative approach.

19:09 And she said sure now that's not the story. I heard the story. I heard was you saw her performing for the businesswoman's she was wearing a wig. She had her teeth all black out. She was wearing boots Stadium boots, and I think she was singing Bloody Mary from South Pacific, but then I saw her again performing Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.

19:44 And she had lots of Bangles and diamonds and did a dance routine on the stage. And I thought who is this girl? And she wore that the diamonds were from the chandelier, which I now have all in the family when you got married. They are you wrote in a horse-drawn carriage down Main Street closed. They close off Main Street going on. Well as local music teacher is getting married. So we were in this horse and buggy.

20:30 All decorated and the band kids all came to the wedding. They were not invited to the wedding.

20:37 But they all came and coarse half the seats were occupied by Dan people and they played they marched behind you down Main Street and played horse and buggy and they were playing the tree off some March. I don't know what it was, but I had a student director and he was very few is more strict than I was with us.

21:05 The band people

21:09 Anyway

21:11 These people from Iowa came through town maybe 10 years later.

21:18 And they said to somebody in the restaurant. The last time we were here the street was closed off the music teacher was getting married I said, yes.

21:28 They're married. They're still live here and they have two children. So that was

21:36 A fun time in the month of June. Of course now you were you were marching and price but there was no football at Hughesville.

21:48 Without a football program are all my buddies used to say what do you do on Saturday afternoon football games and nine years. This went on without a football program.

22:08 So funny Club was formed rotarians, of course.

22:16 And they set it up.

22:20 A football program hired a coach

22:24 And they played football open the public park.

22:29 Now by this time we had a new school

22:33 The first one room School in the county

22:39 And it was very nice when I finally had our own music room, which really was I was at the high school or high school. That was 1955. That was built.

23:01 We got the football program. So the band Friday afternoons. We went to the local park and we made a pinwheel.

23:15 And played some March Trio and we want the next Saturday and we plays another pinwheel the first time we made pinwheel to the right the second week. We made pinwheels to the left.

23:33 So that was the beginning of my

23:38 Experience with a football routines at Mansfield we never had any kind of training with what to do on the field. I want to go Workshop.

23:52 In Pittsburgh Duquesne University my buddy, and I went

23:58 One summer. We wore out a pair of shoes.

24:04 Practicing on Macadam

24:07 At Duquesne

24:09 And they were going to make us pay an extra $10 which was called the library feed. But we said we're not going to use the library. We're only going to be marching out here on on this McAdam walkway, so

24:32 There are learn to follow the manuscripts by John cacavas.

24:39 Who am I don't know. I think I have the right name there.

24:45 He did the guy has his men, but if you didn't go to the workshop, you really couldn't figure out what it was. So we went there for a week. It was very helpful then to figure out routines for small bands. I always March 48 players.

25:14 Send new has a color guard with a large at that time that was pretty large, but it was always the same way. I always kept it there 48 players.

25:25 With the trombones in the front now and that is you serious come bones in the back.

25:33 Combines and trumpet stand in the middle versus their Drumline

25:39 And by this time I had a new bass drummer Jack had graduated.

25:48 And this bass drummer did all kinds of fancy things with the drum beat her up, or is it top and throwing it up in the air things that he taught himself? I didn't teach you that and wake up a good beat and we played many marches usually only the truth cuz they went fast now Leon Stewart was your your student directory.

26:20 The student directory

26:23 And you were still doing parades during the summer you did football and you had the you had the band and you had the chorus from first grade through 12th grade right to teach music from K to 12.

26:40 Yes, I was still doing the high school choir.

26:44 And that was a pretty heavy schedule.

26:48 Anyway, but you had kids who went to disclose heard somebody and just country band County course District Band District chorus State van State course.

27:03 And that was a good incentive for people to stay with the choir. I told the guys in the

27:14 Man, they wanted to be in the band. They also had to sing in a high school choir. Well, that didn't work always sometimes it did.

27:25 One year, I had eight kids in District.

27:29 Force which is very unusual because they could read music.

27:36 They were singing in their Church choirs, or they were piano players or anyway, they had no problems really miss and I had to choose one of those people to go to state course. They took my bass singer.

27:56 Who is that Tom Magic?

28:00 What's today's date?

28:02 Any way to get back to

28:05 This money that the Rotary Club

28:10 Gave me $1,000 was quite a bit in those days and Jean DeLuca would come from Wilkes-Barre.

28:20 What is the anything we needed to hear the music store there? He would take the instrument back with Andrew turn up the next week.

28:36 It does this for years.

28:39 Hand

28:41 We were very indebted to change a Loca.

28:48 He was lived in another County, but he took care of Lycoming County.

28:54 We were we were very thankful for him.

28:59 I had the boy from this is years ago when we started we still had that little Orchestra then we were trying to do in transition going to ban music and Richard Buck was in elementary school and he came to rehearsal with his violin.

29:24 He wanted to be in the band. Well, I felt really bad to tell Richard. You have to wait till he's older.

29:35 And then we would find a place in the band for hearing his violin.

29:41 Did he eventually join?

29:46 And I never found the place for this guy who was a good band banjo player in today's world. That would be acceptable.

29:58 And those Mansfield days everything was very classical at Mansfield College.

30:07 And the banjo would not be a part of that performing group. How long were you at Hughesville for how many years she had a lot of kids who who really looked up to you? A lot of a lot of kids went into teaching or into music because of you Ronnie 11 or 12 know Ronnie Hill has won the Morgan girls.

30:42 Dirk Merrill who studied piano at Lycoming College

30:52 I don't know that I ever taught in the classroom, but he was involved in instrumental music in the Philadelphia area.

31:02 And you left Hughesville in 63 through address for to Williamsport school district and you all know this same story after I left the hard to music teachers but in Williamsport you were in curtain Cochran Sheraton in Washington.

31:38 So you were all over there but really they said junior high school and then I had a pretty nice band there.

31:49 And then I fed them into the high school wins for high school.

31:55 Which is a new building just called to Taj Mahal up on the hill.

32:03 Yes.

32:04 But he was really where those were really where your legacy and a couple years ago your students many of your students got together, and they had actually a banquet for you and your honor. It was a surprise. You didn't know anything about it.

32:26 I have lived a sturgeon used to all this year's. My wife has now passed away. They see me everyday, so they still love you.

32:41 Banquet in my honor. I saw a lot of people that I haven't seen for many years. They had to tell me who they were but they performed for you and they told stories. I think there were about a hundred people there in Williamsport. It was it was wonderful in the ballroom full of people who might have known over the years and I think that is Sarah Kaplan might have been there Sarah kaplan's husband.

33:20 Was in leader

33:22 Nursing home when my wife was in leader nursing home, and we often had lunch together.

33:31 Then I said to her one day. Where do you live? And she said I live on Huffman Avenue, which is next to Curtis Junior High School.

33:42 And she said I'd like to feel that vendor after their he has those kids out on the street marching up and down street 7:30 in the morning. Well, that was me, but I finally owned up to

33:58 Who it was so Sarah Kaplan died.

34:02 Remain friends how many years but the kids who were your former students and everything they all got together. They dedicated a monument to you out in front of the school Granite Stone and they have a picture of you in your White Band uniform in the auditorium. Tell me one story about my forgot to ask you this you had to substitute for Helen Hess at church.

34:31 What time is Trinity Lutheran Church in Hughesville, and you weren't sure about the service?

34:40 Liturgical Services little complicated number one. I never really had any formal training.

34:50 On a pipe organ, but I could figure it out.

34:56 And I am able to play.

35:00 Four-part hymns

35:04 Anyway, I got through the service with some help from the choir.

35:11 And then the Hess sister she was out the next week then to you had to do it again the next day and the Hess sisters came and sat in the same place where they have been for 50 years and one said to the other who's playing the organ today.

35:35 And the other Miss has said I don't know but he's a lot better than that. Could we had last week?

35:44 So that was me, but now you've been playing there are well over 40 years. I guess it's been right.

35:55 3030 song

35:58 I don't think about it and you've been the choir director there as well.

36:04 So anything out I'm not a singer. I'm a Critic.

36:09 A director of performer

36:12 And it all goes back to the learning those square dance tunes and at the Muncy Valley Grange hall.

36:21 I learned to play all those chords in key of f g k they give me everything but a sharp.

36:35 It was good training, but my dad used to say my my mother was Jim play the piano so loud.

36:43 Well, it's because I had to play loud at the Muncy Valley. Grange hall had to bang it out where no percussion.

36:53 I used to have a class of vocational boys that you was tall and

36:59 They love those.

37:02 Those Tunes from the square dance tunes the country music.

37:10 And I think God.

37:13 My student teacher most student teacher supervisor would walk in here.

37:19 From Mansfield she would be shocked. Anyway, I thought I will play songs from South Pacific. Maybe they've heard this on know they had never heard those songs Some Enchanted Evening. They didn't like that. I never see Maggie alone. That's their favorite song. So I didn't care as long as it was music.

37:50 Season once in awhile

37:54 Is there anything else you want to talk about with the school or with your teaching or the band?

38:02 It was

38:05 Good career. I've been retired over 25 years.

38:11 So

38:13 It was the certificate. I still have Assist teaching music.

38:20 From K through 12. Well, my brother Jim.

38:34 And his three girls Jenny Jesse and Jamie and our son Cole.

38:39 Start my son Cole Jim & Mary's kids. So nothing else. My daughter-in-law can play falalala. That's all she knows.

38:57 It's always music music is fun.

39:02 That's true. Well, thank you. Grandpa Thanks for the Memories in today's world. I would have used that banjo player who died very young from cancer. I always really felt bad that I didn't find a spot for the banjo player. That's okay you found a spot for a lot of other kids. So, thank you.

39:30 Who is gray?