Sunday, January 03, 2016

Mummer's '59

My father was a terrible photographer - especially with outdoor photography. This was largely due to the rudimentary technology available in 1959 using his post war era Agfa Silette Pronto but as the recipient of a large number of blurry Kodachrome slides, I can attest that he did not understand "depth of field".  Indoor photography of that age was much more forgiving with safety flash bulbs - a generation removed from Mathew Brady era flash bars - but outdoors it was a wild set of assumptions about shutter speed, F-stop and range.

There were two sets of outdoor photos that stood out as some-what-acceptable:

1. A set of photos taken of my Aunt's '61 DeSoto after it had been the victim of a hit and run on Morris Street in South Philly, taken presumably for insurance purposes.

2. The 1959 Mummer's Parade.

Let's focus on the '59 parade.

I've had the slides for years but after this year's parade decided to rescan them at a higher resolution and research what bands were which. My Dad always said "that was the year South Philly won with the African Theme." but beyond that I had no idea which were which,

First I needed some historical resources and I found this, what appears to be 8mm home movies of the same parade.

This movie helped place most of the bands since it has many of the lead vehicles with band name banners.

From I found out that the parade had been started and cancelled on New Year's Day because of weather. The Comics and Fancies marched on New Years but by time the string bands were due, the parade was cancelled and delayed to the following Saturday, the 3rd.
Found on

I found this record of the order of march in '59
Marched  Place Band Theme
1 5 Fralinger Toyland
2 20 Broomall Tournament of Roses
3 2 Polish American Melodies of the Season
4 18 Quaker City When Hearts are Young
5 4 Ferko Carnival of Venice
6 19 Avalon Welcome Alaska
7 16 Woodland Easter Parade
8 7 Greater Kensington The King and I
9 6 Aqua Gypsy Baron
10 11 Uptown Puppets on Parade
11 14 Durning An Orchid to You
12 17 Trilby Honor Guard of the Mummers Hall of Fame
13 10 Hegeman Cavalcade of States
14 1 South Philadelphia African Fantasy
15 8 Greater Overbrook American Jubilee
16 12 Duffy Serenade of the Stars
17 21.(DQ) Ukranian American Prisoner of Love
18 9 Harrowgate The Prince of India
19 15 Palmyra Serenade of the Bells
20 3 Greater Bucks The Great White Way
21 13 Garden State The Cobra and the Charmer

I also found this photo of the presumably 1959 Polish American String Band here.

And using the movie above I found the 5th band to march in Dad's photos was Ferko String Band with a theme of Carnival of Venice. Yes, it just makes you want to shout Shutter Speed! but it's bright and clear.


This was the 4th picture of nine and helped identify the remaining.

Since I couldn't find the Polish American String Band among Dad's photos, I just assumed he skipped it and I also assumed that the slide number determined the proper sequence. That meant the following:

The first slide was the Fralinger String Band and "Toyland"

The second slide was the Broomall String Band and Tournament of Roses.

And third was Quaker City and When Hearts were Young.

That leaves Avalon String Band and it's 1959 appropriate "Welcome Alaska" theme:

Hegeman and "Cavalcade of States":

Next are two shots of the prize winner of '59, South Philadelphia and "African Fantasy"

and finally, Overbrook and "American Jubilee"

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