First Photo of band and members, July 1885
The first musical director, Frank Wehrberger, then sixty-eight years of age, established a music class in which he instructed the younger members of the society. At that time the society was able to pay him only ten dollars per month for his services. The members paid for the instructions, and also provided their own musical instruments.
After a period of six months the members of the bond felt confident enough to go out on parade. The director who was soon called father by the young musicians, continued to direct the band until his untimely death, he being lost in the fateful flood of May 31, 1889.
His loss was mourned by all the members.
At the re-organization of the society after the flood, Frank Partsch was made musical director and served for three years, when eye trouble forced him to Jay down the baton. During his term as director, the band made two trips to Pittsburgh, Pa. At one of these affairs, at the invitation of the Pittsburgh Allegheny Austrian Society, the Austro-Hungarian Counsel Max Schamberg was honored with a serenade. Schamberg was so impressed by the event that he presented Director Partsch with a gold medal representing the musical lyre, the emblem of the German-Austrian Society.
His kindness and generosity did not end there, for he also gave the organization cash, and donated the silk streamers that were used on the first society’s flag. This flag was donated by the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Society, which was dedicated in 1893, and was destroyed by fire one year later.
In 1905, the society passed a resolution to establish a new music school, an object much discussed, in order that good musicians might be developed from among the younger members. For this purpose, the services of Prof. P. V. Olker, of Missouri, were secured at a salary of seventy-five dollars per month, and being a thorough musician and organizer his work proved successful. But he resigned after only four months of service. He was followed in this capacity by Carl Baruch of Detroit, Mich., who met with very little success, and succeeded in disorganizing the bond to such an extent that it was upon the verge of dispersing and the music school was entirely abandoned. He was succeeded by Ernest Bishop, who again took up the task of directing the band, and by his efforts the band was once more united, and worked in good harmony.
On December 19th, 1887, the society was incorporated by the Court of Cambria County and was named the “German-Austrian Music and Benefit Society.”
In later years a law was passed to have the band participate at the funeral of all members who are in good standing, and that an assessment of fifty cents a person be made to form a fund to be donated to the survivors of the deceased.
A few months before the great flood of May 31, 1889, the membership of the society had grown to 140 persons. The original headquarters were already too inadequate and the society moved into the O’Shea Hall. The flood of May 31, 1889 swept through the valley, and destroyed everything belonging to the society, and not only caused a heavy financial loss, but also the loss of lives of four members—John Riedel, Charles Murr, Charles Oswald and Frank Wehrberger.
After a period of three months, the Society began giving a series of balls or dances, bazaars and other entertainments, and soon had a snug sum of money in the treasury. It was then decided to buy a piece of ground, on which to later build a permanent home.
Undated photo of an early band.
Pictured at left is Joseph Bittman as a young musician. He later became one of the Presidents of the Society.