I probably won’t be watching the Parade on New Year’s Day~ it isn’t like when I was a small child and would sit way up high on my dad’s shoulders to watch the bands march by. It has become a bit rowdy now-a-days and somehow some of the magic is gone.
But, let me hear a few strains of Oh, Dem Golden Slippers and I instinctively feel the urge to begin a strange weaving/dancing/walking maneuver while my pumping arms are held out to the side all the whilst singing the only four words of the song I know.
Leading the group was Joseph A. Ferko, who worked at the drug store. Ferko was able to convince Fralinger to buy a banner and sponsor a 28-member band in the annual Philadelphia New Year’s Day Parade. The philanthropic Doctor was a logical choice, being extremely well regarded for his leadership and interest in promoting promising young people. In fact, two years earlier Dr. Fralinger helped Ferko realize his career dream by subsidizing his tuition at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.
The Fralinger family was already well known in the area. Dr. Fralinger’s uncle, Joseph Fralinger, founded Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the late 1880’s. Dr. Fralinger also sponsored the J.J. Fralinger Field Club, which competed as one of the top semi-professional baseball teams in Philadelphia and many of whose ranks later became musicians in the string band.
With a mere two weeks’ practice and preparation, the newly-formed J.J. Fralinger String Band made its debut in the annual Philadelphia Mummers’ Parade on January 1, 1915, led by Dr. Fralinger in a horse and carriage. The marching front man, or Captain, was none other than nineteen-year-old Joe Ferko. The band entertained its way to a third prize out of five, wearing pink and white costumes and playing “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. The $25 prize was split twenty-eight ways among the bandsmen, or a whopping $.89 apiece. It was a memorable day and the dawn of a great performing organization.