This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

The Perrydale Concert Band

16 November 2019

Taking a picture of a large group of people
always presents a challenge to a photographer.
Should his subjects be crushed together inside a dimly lit room
or strung out in a line in the sunshine? 

The most important person,
in this case the band leader,
should be placed in the center.
But should the other people stand, sit, or crouch?
They definitely should pay attention
and not hide from the camera lens.

And if there are hats, they need to be tilted
so that there are no shadows blocking the face.
And everyone, "Please look at the camera!"

Sometimes you just do the best you can,
and hope with luck
that the shutter clicks at the best moment.
"Everyone say cheese, please."

This photograph, 7" x 5", a bit larger than a postcard, is of the Perrydale Concert Band from Polk County, Oregon. Perrydale is an unincorporated community about 50 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. In February 1911 the people of Perrydale organized their own town band under the direction of Mr. J. P. Caldwell who quickly worked his musicians to a performance level sufficient to give their first concert in May of that year. Ticket sales at 25¢ apiece, children under five admitted free, would benefit the band to pay for new uniforms. The program included two marches, two waltzes, a polka and a Schottische, several vocal numbers, a cornet duet played by Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell, and finished with a patriotic medley.

Polk County OR Observer
09 May 1911

By a quirk of fate, the Perrydale Band director, J. P. Caldwell or Julius Perry Caldwell was best known by his middle name in the village where he was also music director of the Church of Christ. This may be the church with the classic spire in the background of the photo, which I found on the internet identified as the Perrydale Christian Church. It was built in 1866 by some of the early pioneers of the Oregon Trail who settled in this farming region.

The church is now called the Valley Baptist Church. Its location at the intersection of Perrydale Rd. and Amity-Dallas Rod. lets Google Maps gives us a modern perspective very close to the position of the camera in 1911-1915. There's been some remuddling on the spire, but the roof shape and foundation are the same.

* * *

* * *

The Victorian house in the left background of the photo has also survived into the 21st century. In Google maps' streetview it is hidden by trees but if you "walk" to the left you will see it behind a row of trees. The Oregon Historic Photograph Collection has an image of the house from 1958 showing a level of deterioration that almost seems terminal.

Victorian house in Perrydale, Oregon , 1958
Source: Oregon Historic Photograph Collection

Here is the same house today after restoration.

Victorian house in Perrydale, Oregon , circa 2018

* * *

By good fortune I have acquired two other photos,
both unmarked postcards,
of the Perrydale Concert Band
which were taken closer to the same church building.

This time the photographer had chairs,
and Mr. Caldwell was placed front and center.

There are 26 bandsmen plus leader in this photo.
The uniforms are the same as the first photo
but many of the faces are different,
and several are young teenage boys.
In June 1912 the Perrydale band
participated in the Elks' carnival in Portland, OR.
and their picture appeared in the newspaper.
(incorrectly captioned as the top picture)

Portland Oregon Daily Journal
14 June 1912

Portland Oregon Daily Journal
12 June 1912

Just two days before on 12 June 1912 the Portland Oregon Daily Journal ran a report headlined:

Perrydale Band is Young, Enthusiastic.

Under the leadership of J. P. Caldwell the organization of 35 members was one of the first bands on the streets this morning, and dispensed all sorts of music, both classical and semi-classical, and lots of ragtime.

   In their neat blue uniforms streaked with white braid they made a very good showing and attracted much favorable comment as they marched through the streets. The uniforms of the Perrydale contingent were formerly those of the Journal Carriers' association [band.] The band proper has only been organized since last October, although several of the members had played in various organizations prior to that time.  

   "It's just a little country town band," said Director Caldwell, "but I believe that we have demonstrated what we can do. Our band has done a lot to advertise Perrydale."

   Perrydale is about 56 miles from Portland in Polk county and has a population of 200.

_ _ _

The second postcard of the Perrydale Band
is nearly identical as the other
except for one item of apparel. 


I suspect that the first photo of the band
out on the road in front of the church
was taken about the same time as these postcard photos.
The occasion was probably a town concert
or possibly just before getting on the train to Portland,
so roughly 1911-1914.

{For best effect click the GIF image above to enlarge it}

The bandleader, Julius Perry Caldwell was born in 1875 and in the 1900 census was single living with his parents, John and Margarie Caldwell and his older brother, William Caldwell. Their home was in Dallas, the county seat of Polk County where Perry worked as a Dealer, Agricultural Implements while his father was a Dealer in Mill Feed. Interestingly his brother William was a music teacher.

Having already seen army service during the short Spanish-American War in 1898, J.P. Caldwell was too old to join up in 1918, and it seems that by that year the Perrydale band had about run its course. After a stint of leading the band for about 5 or 6 years, Caldwell, now married with two children, moved to La Grande, OR, about 320 miles east of Perrydale, where he found work as a machinist in a railroad shop. He died in September 1945. Yet despite having left western Oregon thirty years before, his obituary in the Salem, OR newspaper made note of his past leadership of the Perrydale band.

It must have been a good band.

<^> <^> <^>

Earlier this year I published another version
of the Perrydale Band story based around the two postcards,

A Band with Hats — and No Hats. 

Since the time I acquired the first photo
of the band posed out on the road in front of the church
and in this post reworked their story in order to show
the contemporary views of the house and church.

<^> <^> <^>

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday.
Hop on over for more stories about old photos.


Barbara Rogers said...

Quite another of your interesting posts...and going into the before/after aspects of architecture was also fun. But the flipping of the photos of the band members with or without hats was a really neat phenomena...and I don't know how you did it. There won't be that many occasions i whch that would be a useful technique, but I hope to learn how it's done.

violet s said...

I agree - the flipping of the hats on and off is very cool!
These band members had quite a range of music they played.

Avid Reader said...

They've got terrific jackets. I love the Victorian homes as well.

Liz Needle said...

st. You have an amazing collection of post cards - several for every occasion. I love the restored Victorian house.

La Nightingail said...

As always, a neat post! I'm so glad that handsome home in the background was restored after having fallen into disrepair. It would have been a real shame to let it go. Speaking of handsome, Mr. Caldwell was a rather fine-looking fellow. He puts me in mind, somewhat, of the actor, William Macy in his younger days. :)

ScotSue said...

An inspired post, for the prompt photograph, linking your favourite trademark bands against distinctive buildings. My favourite is the Perrydale house - I love the American style of verandas around the building.

Nancy said...

This was an interesting post to read, Mike. I love the results of your research and the detail of your posts. To me it's especially fun to see the old postcards then current images of buildings, etc., and to learn the history of some of the people in the photos.

I recently learned that the hometown of my grand- and great-grandparents, Steubenville, Ohio, had a band in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I don't think my ancestors had musical talent so wouldn't have been in the band but it's fun to imagine that they at least listened to it.


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