- Grove City, Pennsylvania


November 9, 2013

Pipes and drums

GROVE CITY — Commencing with the rich “skirling” of bagpipes, The Grove City Historical Society hosted the final seminar of the 2013 season.  

“Fifty Years of Pipes and Drums” was presented by members of “The Committee to Preserve the History of The Grove City Highland Band,” at the society’s museum, 111 College Ave., Grove City, on Oct. 21.

Committee members Lawrence Bubeck, James McClelland III, Rolf Reynolds, and Ross Williams explained the community’s Scottish cultural history and the events surrounding the founding of the band by Pipe-Major George C. Ketler and a small group of other enthusiastic World War II military veterans.

Included within that founding group were Dr. Eugene Liggitt, William McKay, and Frank Shaffer, who was the last charter member to retire after 42 years of active duty.

Each member spoke of his service time with the band, how the band grew and changed, and its significance to the history of Grove City. After first appearing in the 1949 Grove City Memorial Day Parade, the group piped and drummed in hundreds of parades, performances and Highland Games, and garnered numerous wins in Pipe Band Competitions in the United States and Canada.  

Each committee member spoke of his individual experiences in joining, learning, and participating in the band, and the change from heavy woolen military uniforms to today’s more comfortable civilian attire was explained.

The displayed photographs of the Pipe and Drum Majors who served during the band’s 50-year history were presented: P/Ms G. Ketler, A. Laverock, H. Reed, E. Zimmerman and D. Thompson, and D/Ms  G. Johnstone, F. Hall, J. Paton, W. McKay, R. Silverthorn and M. Bubeck.

An explanation of the parts of the uniform, and the historical significance of several items within the display were mentioned.  

Particularly noteworthy are the restored original bass drum, the aluminum pace stick made at Wendell August Forge, and the authentic Indian leopard skin cape worn by all of the band’s bass drummers, a tradition started by Scottish Highland Regiments whilst stationed in India.  

Those in attendance were then treated to a fine rendering of piping and drumming by former band Piper Ross Williams, pipe-major of the Veterans Memorial Pipe Band in Meadville, and Sgt. James McClelland, a former lead drummer of the Grove City unit.

The recipient of appreciative applause, Mrs. George C. Ketler (Alice) was recognized for her family’s active role in support of the band, as were several family members of former bandsmen, also in attendance.

The committee was pleased that former drummers Bruce Ketler and John McCoy could attend.  

The committee was especially delighted that Ralph Silverthorn, past president, business manager, piper, and drum major was in attendance.

He was recognized for his many contributions to the band during his years of service.

A question and answer session followed.

At the conclusion of the program, the committee revealed future plans to provide more scanned documentation, photographs, and paraphernalia to the growing exhibit.

The future digitization of about 1,600 feet of -- and 60 year-old 16mm film, a compiled roster of all band members, and a complete digital file of all scanned items will be forthcoming.  

As the piper again sounded a traditional march, the committee members retired from the room.

Committee members George W. Ketler and Pipe-Major David C. Thompson where unable to attend.

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