The Old-Time Herald Volume 12, Number 10

Elgin Hawaiian Guitar Band
By Bob Carlin
1932 Elgin Hawaiian Guitar Club, men's group, with Patton seated at the far right.  Front row, seated, l - r:  possibly Arthur Menke, John Thisell, Al Handrock, Bill Lull, Fred Huehl, and Glenn Hartman.  Back row, standing:  unknown, unknown, Ralph Fritz, Sherman Webster, Barney Blay, Michael Linder, unknown, Dave Cope, Leon Schmidt. Chester I. Nelson, courtesy of Connie Metzger Lull

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I’ve got an Ebay problem: I’m addicted to the online auction website. This dependence began eight years ago when I was away from home with large amounts of downtime between projects. Although I’ve gone cold-turkey when my money has run out, I always seem to return to the site when my finances improve. A day without Ebay, at least for me, is an incomplete day.

I help to control my auction spending by limiting my searches to a few objects and subjects. Usually, I buy photographs and ephemera that inform my musical research and writing. That doesn’t mean that, occasionally, an item doesn’t cross my screen that falls outside of my interests.

Such was the scrapbook that ultimately came my way in March of 2008. Based on the item description and a photo of the cover, I put in the low bid that won me the book. When the package arrived, I was amazed and delighted to find a fairly comprehensive documentation from the 1930s of the comings and goings of the Elgin (Illinois) Hawaiian Guitar Band.
When the last reunion of the Elgin Hawaiian Band was held in October of 2000, about 15 former band mates attended. By that time, the Watch Works, the town of Elgin’s main employer, had long since gone bankrupt, and the watchtower that served as a town symbol had been torn down. With the passing of the majority of the members from the Hawaiian ensemble, the memory of Elgin’s musical ambassadors has faded away. Even highlighting the band in an exhibit at the Elgin Historical Museum did little to revive interest in their accomplishments of some 80 years ago.

It was kismet that I was one to whom the scrapbook came, for it launched me on a quest to find out all I could about the Elgin Hawaiian Guitar Band. Before it was over, I was to make several journeys to the Chicago area in an attempt to locate artifacts and memories of this cultural phenomenon from days gone by.

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