Musical memories of days gone by

Dungog District Brass Band with bandmaster Don Redman, Bob Hampton, Michael Banister, John Kennedy, Terry McDonald, Bruce Banister, Rodney Atkins, Alf Redman, George Burges and Paul Holland. Dungog couple Don and Thea Redman with photos of their earlier days in local bands

With the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Dungog Ambulance station just a few weeks away, Don Redman has come forward with a photo of the town band playing at the ceremony.

The Dungog born and bred stalwart has fond memories of the ambulance auxiliary running street carnivals, housie and dances “all around the district” to raise money to keep the ambulances on the road.

“My dad Alf, myself, wife Thea, Stan Leayr and Fred Schofield made up the Red Pepper Dance Band in 1949,” Don said.

“There were popular girl competitions which raised money for the ambos.

“Sometimes there would be three girls so we had three different dances – sometimes all in the same week.

“We would start off at the James Theatre one night and then could go to Bandon Grove, Tillegra, Glen William and Stroud Road halls.

“I even remember going down to play at Limeburners Creek and Bulahdelah.

“And other fundraisers were held every fortnight at least.

“Every dance was well attended and lots of money was raised.

“Socialism died in Dungog when the ambulance was taken over by the government.”

The Red Pepper Band as it was originally known folded three years later and then there was just Thea on piano, Don on saxophone and Roxy Wells on drums. Brian Stubbs filled in occasionally for Thea on the keyboards.

A few years later a number of local musicians got together to form the Dungog District Brass Band.

“There was myself, Bob Hampton, Spike Kennedy and Bruce and Michael Banister and we called a public meeting to see if there was any interest in starting up a band.

“Ambulance honorary Harry Parker and his wife Rene were on the committee and they made me bandmaster.

“Mrs Parker wanted us to play at the opening of the station in 1962 so we had to get practising.

“There were a few of the members who weren’t quite up to standard at that point in time, so it wasn’t the full band as we know it.

“And that’s how we got tangled up with the ambos.”

But while the band had been formed they were a bit short on a few things including instruments and a uniform.

“So we decided to play in different sections of town each Saturday morning to raise the money,” Don said.

“I remember Sid Davey didn’t think we would be very successful and said it was a waste of time.

“He even offered to match the amount of money raised.

“On the first Saturday we made 300 pounds and a total of 1500 pound in four weeks.

“The scouts would go around to the business people and houses and rattle the tin.

“And we never did get that money off Sid Davey.”

The band was able to buy three new trombones at 90 pounds each, four cornets at 45 each and new uniforms.

“A bloke came up from Sydney to measure us up – we all looked pretty flash you know!”

The band disbanded in 1972-73 as many of the members left the district to work.

“The instruments were put under the council chambers for safe keeping . . . council was trustee for them,” Don said.

“In their wisdom council loaned them out to Dungog High School, Dungog Primary School and the Salvation Army, but no-one kept any records.

“And now they are gone and that’s the end of the Dungog District Brass Band.”

Don has wonderful memories of his musical past and his sons and grandsons have continued in the family tradition.

“My grandfather wasn’t that confident I would amount to anything as he told me as a 10-year-old “you will never make a bandsman’s bootlace,” he said.

His grandfather William, father Alf and his two brothers Lionel and Tom, Don, son Geoffrey and grandsons Jaiden, 24, and Tyson, 18, all play musical instruments.

While the ambulance service was officially set up in Dungog in 1939 in rented premises adjacent to the Commercial Bank, the current building in Mary Street was not built until 1962.

This year the building will be 50 years old, being officially opened by Leon Punch on May 26, 1962.

Birthday celebrations will be held at the station on Saturday, May 12 from 10am to 2pm.

For more information see next week’s edition of the Chronicle.

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