By Joan Baxter
Students who resided at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans’ Home were fortunate in many ways.
There were a multitude of activities for each of the students, and each was expected to “pull his or her own load”.
Beds were to be made, clothing and rooms kept tidy and of course, they attended school and church services on the campus.
When the dinner bell rang, students were expected to be in the cafeteria with clean hands and a hearty appetite.
All students learned a trade of some sort and the home was self-sufficient when it came to raising vegetables and cattle and providing baked goods for the table.
One could learn to be a beautician, secretary, baker, commercial printer, farmer or many other fields. Students upon graduation from Woodrow Wilson High School had an adequate amount of training to be hired in many positions nearly as soon as their education was complete. Graduates were very much in demand in the county because of their excellent training,
Some of the boys worked from time to time cleaning the stables, but this was considered a form of punishment for some infringement.
Sports were an integral part of the experience with basketball, baseball, track and football being the favored sports. The teams from Woodrow Wilson often excelled locally. The teams were matched against Fairfield, Osborn, Lebanon, Franklin, Beavercreek, Oakwood, Springfield and other nearby schools.
Among other activities the students could select was being a part of the band. Music both instrumental and vocal was a major part of the lives of the OSSO Home students.
Harold E. Seall was the band director in the 1930s and early 1940s. Each year, the band gave a concert at the Home for the enjoyment of the students, faculty and visitors. One of the printed programs from 1941 indicated a large and varied selection of music which went from Strauss waltzes to the “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”. Excerpts from The Mikado were featured. Each of the two evening presentations ended with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.
For the Christmas Presentation of 1935, the band was joined by the Home Choir. Miss Juanita Rankin (later Fultz) was the accompanying pianist and Mrs. Kathrine Shoup Farrell the narrator. Among other selections was “Toyland, March of the Toy”. The copy I have of the program had the notation written by hand “splendid” beside this particular song. Obviously the band was well-appreciated.
In addition to the annual concerts and the Christmas programs, the band also played for Commencement exercises.
The Cadet Band, as it was known was one of the more popular marching bands in the area. This band was present when the cornerstone was laid for the Xenia City building. They appeared in nearly every parade held in the nearby area with the big bass drum which read “Corps of Cadets OSSO Home Xenia O.”
The 1946 schedule was a busy one for the band, by then under the direction of George W. Schumacher. The band was scheduled to perform at several different sites when the forty-two piece all boys band attended the state convention of the American Legion, held in Columbus that year. The band members were housed in The Ohio State stadium dormitories and commuted to the downtown activities by bus.
Their first appearance was when the convention opened. They appeared in the Forty and Eight parade, then later at the uniformed groups contest at Columbus Central High Field. A crowd of nearly 7,000 witnessed the band contest where the OSSO Home band competed.
The boys got a day off when they visited the Columbus zoo where they had lunch, after which they participated in the convention parade. In their bright uniforms, according to the newspaper, they “stole the show.”
As interest in music grew, so did the number of participants. A Junior Band was formed for those who were learning to play the various instruments. Eventually, these boys moved into the more formal Cadet Band.
A Dance Band was formed in the late 1940s. This group included a female soloist.
As the years went by, George W. Schumacher continued to work with the students, and the band was always in demand. The presentations often included the OSSO Home chorus, under the direction of his wife, both of whom were graduates of The Ohio State University.
In 1970, the band played the spring concert with both boys and girls as part of the band. Mr. Schumacher was still directing the band which played diverse numbers such as “Alla Barocco” “Rosamunde Overture” and for a lighter touch “Autumn in New York”
No longer do students attend classes at Woodrow Wilson High School, and no longer is there a band at the OSSO Home, but the memories live on with those who were students there. If you have not visited the fine museum located on the grounds of Legacy Center, I encourage you to do so.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.