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of Freeland, Pa.
Edward Gabuzda and his big band
Eddie Gabuzda went to MMI for high school in the early- to mid-1930s, and in the mid-1930s he formed a swing band with a group of his MMI classmates! In 1935 they played many dates in Freeland at St. Ann's, the Y, MMI and the Public Park. The band was known variously as the Eddy Downing Orchestra and the Eddie Gabuzda Orchestra. When I asked his sister Marion whether Eddie was using his real name or a stage name for the band, she wrote: I was told that he chose the name Eddy Downing for his stage name.
The wonderful photo of the band and the accompanying information come to us from Marion Gabuzda Boyle Denion, her daughter Melissa Murdock, and her niece Mary Cooper. Melissa scanned the band photo shown below and sent it to me at Marion's request. Marion followed up with information about her brother Eddy/Eddie, and then Mary followed up with more information that she was able to find and compile about the band and its members.
Eddie was one of seven children of Stephen A. and Mary (Sarna) Gabuzda. Stephen and his brother George had several food businesses. The photo at right comes from Marion Denion and Mary Cooper and shows Eddie working at his dad Stephen's store at the corner of Centre and Chestnut streets, arranging a display of oranges in the store window. You can read more about the Gabuzda brothers' grocery stores in the Businesses section.
From Marion: Edward Charles Gabuzda was born at 899 Center St., Freeland Pa. on April 17th, 1918. He graduated from MMI in 1935. He graduated from Pennsylvania Hospital with an RN degree in 1939. He met his wife Marion Dalgliesh, who was also a nurse at University of PA hospital. He served in the US Army in the China-India-Burma theatre of war during World War II as Director of the OR at the 72nd Field Hospital in the Assam Valley, India. After the war he graduated from Temple University with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1951. He had many interests and was fascinated with the calculator when it came out. I write in my album, "Oh, how he would have loved the computer age." Unfortunately, Eddy died at the age of 56 on Dec. 14th 1974 of a massive heart attack. He had no children and lived in the Philadelphia area and Pottstown, Pa.
Then Mary Cooper sent this email: My aunt Marion Denion just sent me a note that you received the photo of Edward Gabuzda with his Swing Band taken in 1935. I also was curious about the ??? unnamed members which my mother listed on the back of the photo. Marion also shared with me two names she remembered. I started researching the names on Ancestry.com also with Newspapers.com. Here is my written conclusion that I plan to post on my blog when I have more answers. I also thought of your Freeland webpage. Here is a head start for you to post to attract friends & family members who might recognize the ??? & to possibly add more stories about the band. Thanks so much for all you do! One question: Do you know anything about the Salli Studio that took the picture?
First here's the photo and a closer view, along with the annotations on the back:
And here are the preliminary results of Mary Cooper's research, building on the names written on the back of the photo and additional suggestions by Marion Denion:
Edward Gabuzda of Freeland, PA, loved his music. He had golden fingers on the piano keyboard. Songs he played were Rhapsody in Blue, Kitten on the Keys and Dizzy Fingers.
He founded a local band with classmates from the Mining & Mechanical Institute in the mid-1930s.
The photo above was taken by the Salli Studio [location of studio/name of photographer unknown].
Eddie’s Band as listed in the local newspapers in the spring of 1935:
[Dates of newspaper with name of band]
3 April 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda & his Student Orchestra
2 May 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda in charge of the orchestra
3 May 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda & his 14-piece orchestra
29, 31 May & 18 June 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda’s M.M.I. Collegians
18 May & 8 June 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda and His Orchestra
17, 24 May & 6, 8, 18, 21, 24 June 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda’s Orchestra
12 June 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda & his musical band
14 June 1935 - Eddie Gabuzda & his band
Dates of performances and locations:
5 April, 3, 9, 10, 17, 29, 31 May, 7 June - M.M.I. gym
18, 25 May, 8, 21, 28 June - Freeland Y.M.C.A.
13 June - St. Ann’s Auditorium
18 June - Freeland Public Park (weekly all summer)
Information about each band member:
[Front row, left to right]
1] Gaetano “Dietz” Procopio with violin - born 26 March 1916 of 810 Ridge St. He served in the Army from 1941-1945, died 4 December 1983.
2] Eddie Gabuzda at the piano - born 17 April 1918 of 899 Center St. The band would rehearse in his home every Sunday afternoon. He served in WWII from 1944-1946, died 14 December 1974.
3] Anthony P. “Gabbo” Lutz with the baton - born 24 Oct 1918 of 433 Ridge St. Gabbo had his own band in 1938 called the Swing Masters & another called the Quints. He served with the Army in the war from 1943-1945, died 4 March 2012.
4] Anna McKiniry, vocalist - born 22 September 1918 of 936 Pine St. She married Raymond S. Shelly in 1938, died September 1993.
5] [Marion supplies this name: George Farrar with saxaphone]
6] Eddie's cousin George Gabuzda, who played violin [Marion speculates that her brother Steve Gabuzda also played in the band but wasn't there on photograph day, and cousin George may have been invited to sit in Steve's seat for the photo so as not to have an empty chair - as she says, speculation, but might explain why George who only played the violin would be sitting in the front next to a saxophone] - born 26 January 1920 He served in the war from 1943-1944; died 16 May 1975.
7] Harold Domschick with saxophone - born 15 June 1916. Graduated MMI 1934. He became the director of the Freeland High School band in 1941-1943 & 1947-1948. After the war, he played with the US Army Field Band of Fort Meade, MD. Also in 1950s with the West Point Band of US Military Academy.
8] Unknown with clarinet?
[Second row, left to right]
1] Unknown with trumpet
2] Howard “Lefty” Feist with trumpet - born 10 May 1920 of 929 Washington St., died June 1979.
3] Stanley “Statz” Ballen (Balon?) or Delacroce with trumpet
[Third row, left to right]
1] Bruno “Tubby” Procopio on drums - born 8 August 1920 of 810 Ridge St. Tubby was killed during the war as a tail gunner on a plane that was shot down over Belgium in 1944.
2] John Sosnowski with bass fiddle - born 18 November 1918. Graduated MMI 1938. He died during the war in 1944.
If anyone reading this can share any additional information about the band or its members, please let me know. Thanks!