Notes from the Past: Some Grinnell Musicians of the 40’s and 50’s By Dave Adkins


The Skyliners was a dance band of Grinnellians – musicians from town, high school and college – which kept a busy schedule in the early 1940’s of engagements at service club and high school dances as well as at colleges and country clubs in the area.  Tom Sangster, front and center playing tenor sax and the youngest in the band at age 14 and who later played in the University of Iowa Marching Band, shared some of his memories of his fellow Skyliners and Ann DeLong Haase, GHS class of 1957 and daughter of trumpeter Chuck DeLong, provided the band photo from 1944 for use on this blog site.

The players are as follows: in front, leader and on clarinet, Ken Simmons, Grinnell College band instructor. Left to right in front row: Maynard Mattingly, GHS alto sax; Dean Scandrett, GHS alto sax; Tom Sangster, GHS tenor sax; Paul Behm, piano, GHS band teacher/ instrument instructor.

In the back row: trombone is Bob Smith, GHS class of 1944; Chuck DeLong, trumpet and also self-taught organ player; Richard Dawkins, tuba, then a GHS student, later was a highway patrolman in Fort Worth, Texas.  Grinnell College students played from time to time as did John Sangster, older brothr of Tom, when home on break from the University of Iowa and The U.S. Naval Academy.

Tom Sangster, the teen-aged high school student and tenor sax player in the era of The Skyliners, recalled in a correspondence with this writer, that the only dress requirement for the musicians was to wear a suit or sport coat with tie.  He also remembers that they often had problems with their sounds systems.  However, Chuck DeLong and Paul Behm came to the rescue with the aid of the tech person at the dance site.  A typical gig was from 7:30 or 8:00 pm to 11.30. Sangster wasn’t old enough to drive at that time and relied on other band members to drive him home.  They rehearsed at the Music Building on the Grinnell College campus through Ken Simmons, the college band instructor.

The Skyliners selected numbers made popular by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey,  Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnett and Glen Gray.   Sangster remembers “Stardust”, “Tea for Two”, “South”, “Woodchoppers Ball” and others.  It was the era of the slow dance with some fast tunes for “jitterbuggers” mixed in.


Chuck DeLong, trumpet player, self-taught musician with Skyliners.  Class of 1931 at Grinnell College.  Founder and partner in DeLong and Sons Jackets in Grinnell along with Snap James and Marty O’Connor.  Chuck was also an excellent athlete – golfer, swimmer and tennis player

delong home

Two very prominent Grinnellians at home of Chuck and Kate DeLong 
on 16th Avenue in Grinnell.  At left is Dr. John Parish at the piano
and to the right is Chuck DeLong playing the organ.  Kate DeLong
is sitting with back to camera.   Chuck DeLong,  jack of all trades 
musician and athlete and founder of DeLong and Sons, graduated 
from Grinnell College in 1931 and lived to age 90 passing away in 2001.  
Dr. John Parish, born in Grinnell in 1904 and lived 93 years, was a 1927 
Grinnell College grad and Harvard Medical School in 1931.  He was a 
commander in the USN Medical Corps in WWII.


1949 GHS Homecoming Parade at corner of 4th and Broad St.  Stan Korfmacher, standing behind car, and the band along with other spectators, mainly students. Stan, son of Dr. Edwin Korfmacher – Grinnell physician in 1940’s and 1950’s- also became an MD in Redlands, California and played the clarinet in the Redlands Symphony Orchestra until his death in 2010.


GHS Band Paul Behm.jpg

82 Piece Grinnell High School Band and its conductor, Paul Behm.

On apron in front of stage (all names left to right):

4th Row Left: Orville Hanson, Stan Korfmacher, Del Gaylor, Roberta Hanson.

        3rd Row Left: Patsy Jo Ohl, Doorthy Van Donselaar, Norm Dille, Donna Rae Gove.

        2nd Row Left: Joan Mintle, Marilyn Strasser, Louise Jones, Jeannine Lee.

        1st Row, Semi-Circle: Ruth Swindal, Mary Louise Goff, Robert Couper, Helen Halstead, Helen Keeney, Robert Hall, Joan Padgham and Paul Bucksbaum.

        2nd row right: Donna Maron, Betty Kaisand, Alyce Powers, Bill George.

        3rd row right: Ann Peters, Jane Lang, Marjorie Mitchell.

        4th row right: Marilyn Lincoln, Patricia Nolan, Helen Staffanou.

On stage proper:

        First row seated: Janice Dempster, Jack Rilea, Willis Rayl, Tommie Sangster, Nancy Scurr, Margaret Ann Jones, Margaret Hoyt, Bob Noyce, Margaret Lowrey.

        Second row seated: Beatrice Mattingly, Ray Ray Swart, John Scott, Wandal Mackin, Grace Lang, Imogene Newcomer, Marilyn Parmley, Elaine Lincoln, Mary Ann Nelson, Graeme George, Eugene Smith and Maynard Raffety.

        Third Row Seated: Susane Muckler, Gen Taylor, Serge Phelps, Mildred Phipps, Lela Mae Stroves, Jerry Laros, Richard Knowles, Joan Fritz, Maynard Kenyon, Jackie Swaney, John Padgham.

        Fourth Row Seated: Bill Simmons, Evelyn Pederson, Robert Staffanou, Kenneth Cessna, Chuck Christison, Robert Gault, Richard Dawkins.

        Back Row Standing: Thomas Playle, Bladys Smith, Paul Behm, Sally  Van Riper, Joan Anderson, Phyllis Rube, Rosemary Talbott.

        Standing on either side of stage, not in uniform:  Patricia Ditzler and Rosemary Morrison.

        Absent from picture:  Dowal  Dickerson, cornet, Seymour Raffety, cornet; Marjorie Edwards, baritone and Buddie Hatcher, sousaphone.

Willis “Bill” Shaner owned and operated businesses in Grinnell in the 1940’s and early 1950’s including the Shaner Hotel, later known as the Park Hotel, and Shaner Music Company between Main and Broad on the south side of 5th Avenue just east of United Food.   He was an accomplished, professional musician having played the tuba and strings and appearing with Bing Crosby and Jimmy Durante in Chicago and New York. He traveled as a musician with the Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1920’s before returning to Iowa in the 1930’s.  He also played first chair tuba with the Navy Pre-Flight Band in Iowa City. Willis Shaner, Jr. was a musician and athlete at Grinnell High School in the  mid-40’s and is Professor Emeritus at Colorado State University.


Louis “Satchamo” Armstrong, see above with his famous trumpet, and his famous band played at the Grinnell College Homecoming at Darby Gymnasium in 1967.  Born in 1901, Armstrong passed away in 1971 and is credited as fundamentally impacting jazz.  He came into prominence in the 1920’s. 

Herb Hancock was born in Chicago in 1940 and played in concert as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of 11.  He matriculated to Grinnell College as a student in engineering and used his understanding of that field to experiment with electric instruments and different technologies, which gave him the versatility to play a wide variety of music including jazz, rhythm and blues, funk and electro-funk.  Leaving Grinnell in 1960, one class short of degree requirements, he returned to campus in 1999 to help dedicate the Bucksbaum Center.  Highlight of his performance was a solo of “Dolphin Dance”, which he dedicated to his professor and mentor at Grinnell, Norman Goodbrod, who had turned 100 the week of the ceremony and was present for the program.

During the spring of 1955, Buddy Morrow gave a two hour concert as the GHS Auditorium on a Wednesday evening.  Morrow was a world renowned trombonist and band leader and was at one time in the Tonight Show band.  Two of his better known pieces are “Rose, Rose I Love You” and “Night Train.”  He led the Tommy Dorsey Band from 1977-2010.  (This writer attended Morrow’s performance at GHS.  The program had received very little advance publicity and there was a sparse crowd present to hear some spectacular numbers presented by the great Buddy Morrow and Band.


GHS (1922-1961) scene on second floor, southeast corner of the building, where many talented people trod in their school days including musicians.  The newspapers to the right are just outside the Principal’s Office, occupied by T.T. Cranny from 1922-1953.  The drinking fountain to the left is in front of the study hall and the photo of three students in the upper right hand corner shows the 1902 national high school championship track and field team. The Tiger three man team of George Longshore, William Hodgdon and Karl Kiesel captured the national championship at the University of Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Field. 

Dave Adkins

GHS ‘57


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s