Four thousand fans turned out on a cold Thanksgiving Day in 1936 to watch Lima’s two high schools – South and Central – in the inaugural football game at the city’s new stadium, which had been completed earlier that year.
The South-Central game, though no longer played on Thanksgiving Day after World War II, continued as a Lima Stadium staple through 1954, after which the schools were merged into Lima Senior.
The game was joined in 1941 by another, much different annual event, which flourished for a decade at Lima Stadium. Each year as spring melted into summer, a Musical Jubilee with massed choirs, bands and community sings was held over several nights at the stadium.
“Plans for a Lima Musical Jubilee, featuring four big outdoor music events between June 22 and July 2, were announced Saturday,” The Lima News wrote June 15, 1941. “The series of programs will be held at night under the brilliant flood lights at Lima Stadium.
“Sponsored by Lima business interests affiliated with the Better Business Bureau in cooperation with school officials and others interested in promotion with music, the Jubilee music series will be under the direction of William G. Tempel, musical director of Lima public schools. Outdoor programs including community singing by thousands of Lima and district residents, concerts by the combined South and Central high school bands and other features have been scheduled.”
The first concert on Sunday, June 22, 1941, “featuring a well-balanced program of marches and other selections by the combined Central and South high school bands,” drew a crowd estimated at 3,000 people, who “packed one side of Lima stadium,” according to a story in The Lima News.
The spectators at that first concert were asked to select 10 songs from a list of 20 suggested songs for the following Friday’s community singing program.
About 2,000 men, women and children showed up on Friday to belt out the selections, including such favorites as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” in addition to “God Bless America,” and “America the Beautiful,” while the 75-voice male chorus of the Lima Choral Society also entertained. Concerts on the following Sunday and on Wednesday, July 2, were equally successful.
The Lima News reported July 3 that “another crowd of 3,000 persons attended Wednesday’s concert. It brought the total attendance for the Jubilee to 12,000.”
The jubilee was a welcome distraction from newspapers filled with news of a war that would soon engulf the United States. A story on the front page of The Lima News the day after the second concert in the 1941 Musical Jubilee series gave the war immediacy: “The Army probably will call up about 50,000 selective service trainees a month during the last half of this year,” the Associated Press reported June 30.
The following year, with the U.S. fully involved in World War II since the bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous December, the Musical Jubilee took on a more patriotic edge. Selections by the all-city summer band in the third Jubilee concert of 1942 included John Philip Sousa’s “U.S. Artillery March” and “There’s Something About a Soldier,” while the audience, numbered at 3,000, joined in singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Faith of Our Fathers” as well as the national anthem and “America.”
Much of the concert focused on Lima’s centennial, which was being observed in 1942. “The centennial observance opened with the stadium lights being extinguished,” The Lima News reported June 29, 1942. “A blue flood light was cast on a log cabin erected in the center of the field.” Local actors then appeared in front of the cabin to give a short talk on the city’s history.
“As the observance started, a huge bomb exploded over the stadium and a sign was raised in the center of the field upon which a spotlight was thrown. The banner read: ‘Lima’s 100th Birthday,’” The Lima News noted.
Because the Musical Jubilee fell around Father’s Day, a special tribute to fathers was often included in the concerts. This was given added significance during the war years with so many fathers in the military. Father’s Day in 1944, The Lima News noted in June 1944, was particularly worthy of celebrating “our fighting ‘Dads.’”
Some of those fathers, the newspaper added, “haven’t seen their children for months, for years. Others have never seen their children at all, born while they were away at the front. Still others will never see their sons and daughters.”
On June 22, 1945, with the war in Europe over, The Lima News urged its readers to get out and enjoy the second of the four concerts in the Musical Jubilee series.
“Last week approximately 2,000 persons braved probable storms to hear a capella choir numbers, solos, instrument selections and to participate in spirited community singing,” The Lima News wrote. “All of them went home enthused over the program and most will undoubtedly return for the remaining concerts in the series. If you haven’t sampled this sort of restful and relaxing entertainment, you certainly ought to. Sunday’s the ideal night to begin.”
With the template set, Lima’s “music under the stars” took off in the years after World War II, with mostly local talent providing the entertainment. Soloists and groups representing schools, factories, and occupations participated. In 1945, Lima’s Westinghouse plant was represented by the Westinghouse Symphonic Band as well as the Westinghouse Male Quartet and the Westinghouse Choral Club.
Nineteen forty-five also saw the initial appearance of the Lima Memorial Student Nurses’ Choir. In 1950, the combined choirs of Memorial and St. Rita’s performed, while a handful of “choir-librarians” helped distribute some of the 3,000 sheets of music used in the 1951 Musical Jubilee.
Lima’s schools, meanwhile, contributed marching bands and choirs to the annual festival. Also popular were the mass festival choirs of 300 voices or more from the city’s churches, which had an added benefit for some of the churches.
“Since the institution of the festival choir as opener for the Musical Jubilee series in Lima Stadium during June,” The Lima News wrote in February 1952, “choir libraries have been enlarging with the anthems used in the concert.”
Unfortunately, there would be no Summer Jubilee in 1952. In April 1952, The Lima News announced, that Lima’s 12th annual Musical Jubilee series would be postponed until 1953 because of the illness of the Better Business Bureau’s L.W. Mannon, a driving force behind the jubilee, and a general lack of personnel to handle the planning.
The postponement became a cancellation, and the Summer Jubilee was not held again after 1951.
In September 1955, Tempel, the Nebraska-born director of the Lima Public School Music Department and, along with Mannon, a founder of the Jubilee, died at the age of 49.
“Mr. Tempel succeeded Prof. Mark Evans in Lima and during his 15 years here has been a leader in nearly all musical activities of the city,” The Lima News wrote in his obituary on Sept. 13, 1955.
This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.
See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce
Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected]