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Letter: Innocent ditty raised ire of Waseca residents

While most of the audience applauded with enthusiasm and laughter, others did not
Barbershop Quartet
When a 1930s barbershop quartet chose a silly song to present at a concert in Waseca, they unknowingly set the stage for ire, as well as hilarity.

Dear Editor

Letters written to newspapers are not usually meant to make readers chuckle. I thought that, in the depth of winter, I would send in a true, and truly funny, incident from the 1930s. During those years, and before and some years after, this was a musical area. Nearly every home had a piano, nearly every church had a choir.

Under the direction of Keith Farley, there was a Waseca and District Music Society with members in the village and from the surrounding districts. Their chorus did well at music festivals.

At that time, Everard Pike, in the district of Forest Bank north of Waseca, started a male quarter that also did well at festivals. The group included Everard, baritone, his friend and neighbour, Harold Oakes, top tenor, Everard's nephew, Don Blyth, tenor, and Blyth's hired man, John Ravascowsky, who sang the bass.

The men were asked to sing at a concert in Waseca. In looking through their music for an idea of what to sing, they came across a silly little piece they thought had never been heard in the area. As it turned out, it certainly hadn't. That, with a sentimental selection, would make up their presentation.

On the night of the concert, the quartet first sang that funny song. Forest Bank people in the audience could not help but notice that, while most of the audience applauded with enthusiasm and laughter, others did not.

They soon found out the reason. It hadn't been long since there had been, unknown to anyone in Forest Bank, an incident in Waseca School. A little boy had put a tack on the teacher's chair. The teacher didn't like it and involved the trustees. People took sides and there was a silly tempest in a teacup.

What had the male quartet from Forest Bank to do with that?

The song, the funny song, was titled "There Was a Boy, There Was a Tack" (there was a teacher, too). The last line was, "And the teacher said, 'I fail to see your point.'"

The residents of the village thought those Forest Bank men were having fun at their expense. Some didn't like it. Of course, Forest Bank was quite innocent; in those days they had their own school, Waseca had their school and little if anything was heard from either direction about the schools.

Most people, I expect, took it well and many thought it was hilarious.

Then the men sang their sentimental piece, an arrangement of the beautiful Welsh song, "All Through the Night." The first line begins, "Sleep my child, and let peace attend thee."

This is from a story told to me by my mother and older brothers and sisters. Even though there are few people around who remember either Everard Pike or Harold Oakes, they might agree that, even had those men known about the Waseca incident, they most likely would impishly have gone ahead with the same song.

Christine Pike


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