(Sat., July 31, 2011)
In the early 1940s when I was about 12 years old, Amos Hall asked me if I would play my guitar in a little dance band he had started for the children’s dances in Enterprise. In the summer time they’d have these good dances every Saturday afternoon, when it was possible, on the old tennis court that was up by the original school gym before the new elementary school was built. I said I’d do this. Amos loved music, and he played the violin. Wesley Holt (who became our stake president years later) played the saxophone. Rhoda Huntsman played the clarinet, and Amos’ two daughters, Evelyn and Shirley, played the piano and the drums.
After that, Amos asked me why I didn’t play with the String Band. I said, “Oh, I can’t. I don’t play well enough to do that.” There were all of these older people who had played in this band for years: Amos Hall, Amos Holt, Jake Truman, Orlas Alger, Ivan Holt, and Aunt Dora Clove playing the piano. (Durward and Merrill Terry joined a little later.) When I told him, “I’m not that good,” he answered, “Yes, you are, and you’ll get better. We need your guitar with Orlas Alger’s. Come and practice with us, and you can get the feel of it.” So I told him, “I’ll come and try.”
They practiced about once a week in the old Heritage Hall in the southeast corner on the top floor. The String Band played a certain bunch of songs by ear, and I knew the chords, so I could play whatever they played. However, I was scared and felt really intimidated, but I stayed with them and played until I was married in 1947 and moved to Kannarville where my husband was from and where we lived for 10 years. In Kannarville a string band was started up again, and I played with them so I didn’t get out of practice until we moved to Vegas and then had the opportunity to move back to Enterprise, which we were really grateful for. I started playing again with the band in 1963 or 1964.
I came from a musical family, and we learned to play instruments on our own. My brothers and dad all played the guitar, with one brother also playing the mandolin. My mom played the organ, and my sister the accordion. We had our own little family band and played together every night or so at home—just our family.
The first String Band in Enterprise was organized by Jim Hulet in the 1900’s after the Hebron earthquake brought people to Enterprise to live. The band had six members, four of them were Halls and two were the Elleker sisters. Amos Hunt and his son Joe, and John Alger soon joined. Each 4th and 24th of July the town was awakened by the serenading of the String Band riding on Elmer Hunt’s wagon pulled by his old team of horses. (They didn’t have cars and trucks then.) As the wagon would take the band up and down all the streets in town, families would come out of their houses and bring them breakfast—biscuits, hot chocolate and so forth.
The String Band continued to ride in this wagon until about the time I joined them when Merrill Staheli had a nice flatboard truck with sideboards on it. We’d meet at 6 o’clock in the morning on the 4th and the 24th of July up at the church. They’d put two benches along the sides of the flatboard and a chair or two in the middle for the drums, and we’d all climb in with our instruments to serenade the town. The benches were used for church, and they had little homemade seat blankets. They used to load the piano on the truck years ago for Sister Clove to play as we’d go around town, but they quit doing that because they didn’t like to move the piano and said it wasn’t good on the piano. The accordion took the place of the piano.
When I first joined the band, people still used to come out and bring us treats like cookies or punch. I remember one time after I had moved back to town that Leland Huntsman had us stop at his Dairy Freeze and fixed us all a great big ice cream cone that we ate and then went on our way.
After I joined the band again around 1964, they decided we needed to have an organization and said, “We want you to be the president.” I said, “Well, I’ll try.” So I’ve kind of been the president ever since and have been responsible to call everybody whenever people would call and ask if we’d play here or there. I’d say yes if I can get enough of the group. I’d always call the drummer and the piano player and whomever else we had to have as basics. If they couldn’t come, then I knew I didn’t need to make any more phone calls, but usually we were able to go and play as we were asked.
We played almost all the big parades in Dixie—the Labor Day and their Homecoming Parades—we were carried on the flatboard truck owned and driven by Merrill Terry. We played at the Dixie Round-Up where they had rodeos and other things, at the county fair and parade in Hurricane and really enjoyed that. We played at the amphitheatre in Springdale, and outside the gates of the Dixie football stadium for the Huntsman Senior Games for many years. (One year as Merrill Terry had stopped playing with us and we had no drums, I was telling that to some of the Senior Games people, and the coordinator said, “We’d like to help you,” and they gathered donations from people who attended the games, and with what money we’d been able to scrape together before, I was able to buy a nice set of drums for the String Band, which we still have.) We played in Pine Valley every year outside the church for an hour or so at a kind of homecoming for the town. We also played at funerals, and for bicyclers who came from all over to Enterprise to ride a trail from here to Beryl for years. They soon were singing with us as we played our songs for an hour or so for them.
Then we got a call from Laura Huntsman Drexl, one of our biggest fans, who was born and raised in Enterprise but was living in Salt Lake City. She was in charge of the “Heritage of Dance,” a part of the All-Church Pre-Bicentennial Celebration in 1975, and she asked if our String Band could come up to Salt Lake and play for the dance program that was to be held at the Salt Palace. I talked to everybody and most were willing and able to go. We were given a tape of the songs to be used, and we learned to play them.
Our String Band played in the basketball arena at the Salt Palace before and during the first section of the program, playing for many dance groups as they performed. Afterwards, we were asked to play in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (the former Hotel Utah). We set up and started playing and people kept coming when they heard us. We played for an hour or so, and the people were standing thick clear around that whole lobby. This trip was just the most fun I think I’ve had in a long time. It was a special treat and memory for all of us.
We took June Simkins with us in our car, and when my two little grandchildren got tired and would start to cry, he played his little harmonica, and they stopped crying. I still don’t know how he played those tunes on that little harmonica.
After all those years when Merrill Terry had taken us wherever we needed his flatboard truck, his health failed him, and he sold his truck. There were a lot of trucks in town, but they were all used for cattle, farming, and so forth. I canvassed the whole town and called everyone I knew who had outfits. They all either had high sideboards on them or they couldn’t take off the time to drive us through town on the 4th and 24th of July, or they said they weren’t insured to transport people, or they didn’t want to do it, so we found we didn’t have an outfit anymore. We tried a low-boy once, but except for the Tait sisters who said it was easier to climb onto than the big flatboard, no one else felt safe without sideboards and the benches would rock back and forth as we traveled. So with no truck so we could serenade to town, and the fact that it got to be impossible to cover the whole town in two or more hours, the String Band had to stop serenading the town.
After that for a few years we set up the String Band by the Heritage Hall on the church block, and we would play for an hour or hour and a half on the eve of the 4th and 24th of July. People were out riding around, and we set up chairs so families could come and listen to the band, and the kids would kind of dance around to the music. We had success for a few years until people didn’t come as much, and this tradition died out also.
It wasn’t just me who didn’t want the serenading to stop. One year when Merrill was out of town and we found we didn’t have a replacement truck, Wendell Pickering didn’t want to disappoint the townspeople, so he put the cassette of our music in the player in his car, turned the volume up as high as he could, opened his doors and windows, and drove slowly all over town playing that tape for people to hear. A lot of people recorded us different times, but the recording by the Moyle boys down at the church was a really good tape. It has all the tunes we played on it.
I loved all of the songs we played, but I did have some favorites: “Sugar” (“Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time….”), “The Wreck of ‘97” because it had a song and a story with it, “Red Wing” which became our theme song and we played it first every time we went to play anywhere, “Over the Waves”, and “The Watermelon Song” which Durward and later his brother Merrill sang, and the last 24th of July Reginald Terry and one of my grandsons who joined the band sang.
Most of the people in the String Band played the music by ear until these last 8 or 10 years when some of the new members needed music, so someone wrote down the main notes of the tunes, and left the fingering, etc. up to the individual players. I would love to get the String Band started again. There are many younger people who are talented and who could do this.
Through the years Lorene Truman, LaRee Gardner, _Terry and her daughters, Verlene Truman, Frances Staheli, and Cindy Tait all played the accordion. Uncle Heber Holt and Durward Terry played the violins. Heber also played the banjo as well as my daughter Debbie. Ferrol Tait, Merlyn Staheli, Lawana Staheli, Elaine Terry Banks, Kody Holt, my daughters Debbie, Sandra, and Charlene and I all played the guitar. Uncle Ray Staheli and his daughter Roma Bunker played the autoharp. Sister Clove and Lori (Lorene Truman?) played the piano. June Simkins, Wendell Pickering, Ken Staheli, and John Staheli all played the harmonica. Merrill Terry and sometimes his brothers Durward and Maesar all played the drums. Steve, Daryl, and Normand Laub played __.
This picture of our String Band was taken at the gym in the church in 1976. (“Happy Birthday America”)
Back row left to right: Heber Holt, Ferrol Tait, Verlene Truman, Frances Staheli, Cinda Terry, June Simkins, Wendell Pickering, Ken Staheli, Ray Staheli, and John Staheli.
Front row left to right: Lorene Truman, LaRee Pollock, Sandra’s daughter, Sandra_, Debbie_, Elaine Terry Banks, LaWana Staheli, Merlyn Staheli, and Merrill Terry.