The St. Louis Trip

Glenn R. Russell         

          Being a chronicle of the visit by the larger boys of the choir to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, financed by Mr. Silas W. Gardiner, under the personal direction of Mr. A. L. Holmes, choirmaster.

          Under date of July 24, 1904, Mr. Gardiner addressed a letter to Mr. Holmes, choirmaster of Grace Church Vested Choir, proposing that he select ten of his choir boys and “personally conduct” them to the Exposition.  His letter follows, which is self-explanatory: 

Lyons, Iowa, July 24, 1904. 

Mr. Arthur Holmes,
Lyons, Iowa. 

My dear Arthur:         

          I have a proposition to submit to you which I trust you can see your way to accept.  It is this, if you will accompany, or escort, or “personally conduct” a party of ten (10) of your choir boys to St. Louis for a week or ten days trip, I will pay their expenses to the extent of $35.00 each or $350.00 for the ten.  I should like you to make the selection taking such as would be most likely to benefit most by such a trip, and the boys who would not be able to go otherwise.  I would suggest taking mostly the older members of the choir, as the young boys will have plenty of chance in the future.         

The trip should be made early in August, so as to get home long before school opens, as I presume some of them are in school work yet.  We intend to start on a western trip tomorrow (Monday) morning and will leave Chicago at night arriving in Duluth Tuesday, thence to Port Arthur by boat and then west by Canadian Pacific Ry. To Bannf, British Columbia, and later to coast. 

          You can telegraph me at Duluth Tuesday in care of Spaulding Hotel, at my expense. 

          Trusting you will be able to give a favorable reply, and with best wishes and kindest personal regards, I am, as ever,

Very truly yours.

          Mr. Holmes consented to act and a few days later, arrangements between Mr. Gardiner and himself being completed, and other friends of the choir having added to the amount contributed by Mr. Gardiner so as to make it possible for additional boys to go, he dropped the bombshell into the midst of an excited bunch of choir boys, whose journeyings up to that date had consisted of a trip to Chicago, if any. 

          The following, older boys, were selected to make the trip:

Carl A. Larson Claude E. Harrison
Henry W. Ladehoff Earl F. Mayer
Glenn R. Russell Harry W. Johnson
Alfred W. Sievers Charles J. Reusche
Herbert E. Neesley Karl L. Johnstone
Harry F. Sievers Franklin Manz

Arthur L. Holmes, Generalissimo.

          In the cold gray dawn of August 4, 1904, a bus, horse drawn in that day, made the rounds picking up the boys at their various homes, and it is worthy of note that not a single boy kept the bus waiting.  It is also worth of note that not a single boy appeared sleepy, even though the hour was in the neighborhood of 3:30 A.M., which occasioned some conjecture as to whether or not they had been asleep at all.  Speaking for the writer, I am frank to confess that such a thing as sleep, on the night preceding an epoch making event of the magnitude of this trip, was entirely out of the question, and not to be thought of.

          The trip was made via C. B. & Q., starting from Clinton station about five A. M. with quite a lengthy stopover at Galesburg, Illinois, arriving in St. Louis somewhere in the neighborhood of six P. M., thence by trolley to the Monmouth Inn, where arrangements had been made for the housing of the party.  The Monmouth Inn, by the way, was quite a unique hostelry, being a series of disconnected houses, fronting on West Olive Street.  These houses were commodious, many roomed affairs, evidently being the one-time homes of an aristoctracy gradually being shunted farther and farther afield by the encroachments of an ever lengthening business street.

          The party having been augmented by the addition of several friends, an entire house was turned over to their use, and thereby hangs a tale.

          We younger boys were judiciously placed, or separated might be the better term, in rooms, under the command of an older boy, acting as lieutenant to the generalissimo, with full punitive powers, which were not exercised, for cause.  Said cause being the menace of numbers and the habit of the genus “Little Kids” to stick together.

          However, there were no mutinies, and life may be said to have proceeded on its tranquil way.  Of course, there were untoward happenings such as Frank Manz familiary know as “Hans” awakening from a too premature nap to find himself suddenly turned black.  Consternation reigned supreme for a short time and wild speculations arose in the turmoil.  “Has Hans reverted to species?”  Is it some new and dread disease that has overtaken our unhappy playmate?”  What to do; what to do.  When finally someone had the presence of mind to suggest that he try soap and water for it, boisterous mirth replaced our fears, and the recipient of our sympathies became the butt of the hilarity.  Not so with Hans.  Vengeance should be his, and dire retribution that would be heaped o the head or heads of the guilty, and he “knew who did it” and straightway declared war on the generalissimo, Mr. Holmes, known lovingly to all and sundry as “Art.”  Whether or not Art had any connection with the, from Hans’ standpoint, outrage, was never known, for he and his particular charges were barricaded in, and was never known, for he and his particular charges were barricaded in, and successfully withstood the battering siege of the one man punitive expedition composed of Hans himself.  Several other minor explosions of a like nature served to keep the party on edge, but, on the whole, life moved along quite normally, for tired boys will sleep, regardless of fire, famine or flood.

          After breakfast at the Inn, the party m arched in a body to the confectionery in the neighborhood, whose name is forgotten,  but whose fame should be blazoned to the four corners of the world, where a wondrous goblet of peach ice cream was to be had.  Never in the history of this fair land had ice cream such as this been conceived, much less attained.  This practice assumed the proportions of a rite as the days were on, and the one regret of each and every boy was that this could not go on forever, but such is life; all things end but eternity, and the peach ice cream became a memory, albeit a cherished memory, when the holiday was over.

          From the Peach Ice Cream festival, the trolley car again came in for its share and aside from tearing a slight patch from Henry Ladehoff’s trousers when he stood too close at the turn, no casualties were reported in the daily round trip to the Fair Grounds.

          The Fair Ground!  What a veritable wonderland it was, with its maze of State Exhibits, the buildings housing the exhibits of the nations of the world and the Festival Hall, with its Cascades overlooking the Grand Basin.  The awe inspiring architecture of the Fair Buildings proper and the Pike—what wonders for boyish imaginations lurked here!  The strident tones of the barkers blending in a pagan diapason that roared on forever.

          It may be said that the Pike was not slighted.  Hale’s Fire fighters and the Galveston Flood being particularly in favor.  The Chutes and Hagenbeck’s Animal Show and the others were done as was the Intra-Mural Railroad, but the baritone soloist beseeching all and sundry to “Take the Auto,” presumably for a sight seeing tour, forced attention by the monotony of his song.

          This writer was given somewhat of a fright in the English exhibit, where Queen Victoria’s coronation presents were being shown.  The place was literally cluttered up with London “Bobbies” in full panoply, standing at so rigid attention one could be excused for thinking they were wax figures, especially if one had shortly before visited an exhibit of particularly lifelike dummies in wax.  Under the circumstances, a thumb in the stomach of a supposedly inert “Bobby” for the edification of Harry Johnson and Herb Neesley was not be neglected; but to be rewarded with a grin and a wink from a statue was too much for frail nerves and nearly caused a panic among a certain few on the inside.  The experiment was not repeated.

          Each day and part of the evenings were spent at the Fair, but one night was set aside for the purpose of attending a production of “Way Don East” in the city, rendered by a big town company.  It went over in quite a large way at the time, and is remembered, no doubt, to this day, as being the last word in dramatic presentation, especially the snow storm.

          On Sunday the entire party, in a body, attended the eleven o’clock services at Christ Church Cathedral and were invited to help sing the service, but not having vestments, occupied the front pews, using the period taken up by the sermon to make mental criticisms of the local choir and acolytes, as well as comparisons with Grace church Choir, in which comparisons, Grace Church choir did not suffer.

          Footsore, weary and happy, the return home was made on August 12th.  Later the party repaired to the photograph studio of the famous Alva Fields of Lyons, where a permanent record of the gang was made, and the event voted a complete success, and a vote of thanks given to Mr. Gardiner, who made this wonderful trip possible, this being one of the least of his good works.

          And now, in looking back over the quarter of a century span, to that happy, carefree day, one is reminded vividly of the passing years and the changes that have been wrought.  The gang is pretty widely separated now, our old buddy, Harry Johnson, beloved of all, going to final reward November 13, 1922.  Art Holmes, Claude Harrison and Earl Mayer continue to keep the home fires burning.  Henry Ladehoff is located at Davenport, Herbert Neesley at Cleveland and Karl Johnstone at Parkersburg, West Virginia. New York City

Claims ones of the greatest bass soloists ever turned out of Grace Church Choir, Harry Sievers, while Alfred Sievers calls Villa Park, Illinois, home.  Charles Reusche and Frank Manz (Hans) are neighbors now, residing at Beverly Hills and Los Angeles respectively. 

Carl Larson is a nabob of Eugene, Oregon.  Your orator labors and votes at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and as this is written there is a wisful hope being woven into the fabric that each and every one of us may be on hand for the fortieth anniversary of the choir we love, and may we pause a moment in our joy of reunion to shed a tear for that best of pals, Harry Johnson, whose “soul is marching on.”

          And in closing, may I not add a word of the love and esteem in which Art Holmes is held in the hearts of every one of us who knew him and were lucky enough o be one of his choir boys.  His self effacing generosity always placed his choir ahead of his own comfort; he has given freely of his time and his numberless charities have always been submerged under a cloak of anonymity, and it is the firm conviction of this writer that we who have associated with him have profited both mentally and spiritually and our lives are richer for this contact.

          The St. Louis trip is history, but the memory of it will go to the grave with each and every one of us.  The Fair may be overshadowed by furture Expositions, but never, and under no circumstances will this particular bunch ever receive a thrill such as this trip gave them.

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