By Pete Eckhardt, F119730, and Bob Toppe, F222739
Under the premise that Frustrated Maestros do not need a reason to make music together, just a chance to play, Pete Eckhardt, president and music director of the Frustrated Maestros Eastern Sharps and Flats chapter, decided to create such an opportunity.
The idea was to put together a music camp, sponsored by the Frustrated Maestros Eastern Sharps and Flats chapter, where Maestros could gather and play just for the joy of it. No early morning performance pressure or red-and-white uniforms; just music and jamming for fun. Pete, working with David Ricketts and Paul Justus, staged this event October 1 through 5, 2007, at the Briarcliffe RV Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Members in 20 coaches gathered to play, socialize, and enjoy Myrtle Beach for five days. The plan was whatever the group wanted to do. And what a great time it was. Pete said, “As a music educator for my whole life, I can say that this was one of the best adult bands that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” The 20-piece band was accompanied by seven chorus members, and the resulting music was pure magic.
Paul Justus, a Briarcliffe RV Resort member, made the arrangements and the park proved to be a good choice. Briarcliffe provided an indoor stage for us and everything was first class. We did perform an evening concert for the resort and the audience refused to leave, staying until the last note of the 90-minute program.
The concert featured vocal solos by John Colket (“On The Other Hand”), Margie Haig (“There’ll Be Some Changes Made”), Joan Webb (“Can’t Help Falling In Love”), Jerry Webb (“It’s Hard To Be Humble”), and chorus director Jim Bob Ealey, who brought down the house with his renditions of “My Way” and “Mississippi Squirrel.” The jazz combo, led by Jim Kitchings, featured Jim on trumpet/flugelhorn, Wilbur Greene on tenor sax, Cambridge Stone on alto/tenor sax, Hank Weber on electric bass, Linda Stark on drums, and Jean Eckhardt on keyboard. The crowd appreciated their performance of “Misty,” “Night Train,” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” Instrumental solos from Wilbur Greene (“Danny Boy”) and Linda Stark (“Wipeout”) brought the crowd to its feet. David Ricketts, playing his antique baritone sax, tested the foundation of the building as he beautifully rumbled through “Tuxedo Junction.” The band and chorus also performed a variety of marches, show tunes, dance tunes, and old favorites to round out a great evening for the audience, and a great music camp for the Frustrated Maestros.
The group voted unanimously to continue with this concept. We expect once word gets around about the great time we had, more Frustrated Maestros will come next year.
During the event, two Frustrated Maestros member couples were bestowed with lifetime honorary chapter memberships. Cambridge and Fannie Stone and Jim and Charlotte Honsinger were recognized for their longtime and outstanding contributions to FMCA’s Frustrated Maestros.
It really was a magical time for this group of music lovers, and everyone is looking forward to the next “music camp.”
Remembering An FMCA Charter Member
Frederic “Red” Cunningham, F42, a charter member of FMCA who was present during the formation of the association in 1963, passed away on December 4, 2007, at the age of 91.
Fred; his wife, Dottie; and their five children were among the 26 coach-owning families that gathered at the Hinckley School in Hinckley, Maine, on July 20, 1963, to view a solar eclipse. It was on that weekend that a group of those in attendance decided to create an organization for those who enjoyed traveling in motor coaches, choosing Family Motor Coach Association as its name.
The Cunninghams found out about the gathering in Hinckley through sheer luck. Bob Richter, L1, who organized the eclipse-viewing get-together, picked up a sailor hitchhiking in Danbury, Connecticut. When talk got around to “house cars,” the sailor said he knew a family through his church that owned such a vehicle. So Bob called the Cunninghams and invited them to the event, which coincided nicely with the family’s vacation plans to visit Fred’s hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, over the summer.
Fred was born in Halifax on October 28, 1916, the son of William and Bessie. The family survived the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917, which devastated the harbor town, and they moved to New Haven, Connecticut, shortly thereafter.
Fred and Dottie met as teenagers when he was working as a clerk at the local A&P market. “I went in to buy a dozen oranges and he threw in an extra one,” Dottie said. She also recalled walking home from school with a friend when Fred came along on his bicycle. “He was riding by flirting with me, not paying any attention to where he was going,” she said. “Well, the street had trolley car tracks and his bicycle wheel got caught in one of the tracks and he went flying off the bike.”
Fred and Dottie were married on November 29, 1941, and moved to Bethany, Connecticut, where they raised five daughters. Fred worked as a hardware sales representative at Bowman Products until his retirement in 1994. He joined the Bethany Volunteer Fire Department in 1943 and served as a fireman for 65 years, several as the city’s fire marshal. He helped establish the Bethany Ambulance Corps after having to use his own car on several occasions to transport injured folks to the hospital. He also was a member of the Pyramid Shriners and Hiram Lodge No. 1.
The couple’s first foray into motorhoming came in the late 1950s when, out of the blue, Fred surprised his family by buying a used school bus. “I just about fainted when I saw that thing in the driveway,” Dottie recalled. “I said to him, ‘We’re going to do what?’ But then he took it apart, fixed up the inside, and off we went.”
The Cunninghams attended numerous FMCA rallies and conventions when Fred didn’t have other obligations at home, and Dottie said that he enjoyed taking his family on trips. “He loved being with his kids, and set the bus up for all of us with six bunks. When we started the youngest was just 20 months old, so we had a small crib. As they got older two of the kids would sleep foot to foot in the lower bunk. He’d carry a motorcycle in the bus, and the kids would have a great time riding on it while we were traveling.”
Through the years the Cunninghams owned several other motorhomes, including a Flxible bus conversion, a Travco that previously had been used as a bloodmobile, and a Champion Eurocoach. Their last motorhome was a type B that the couple used until it was destroyed when a tree fell on it during a storm.
In addition to Dottie, Mr. Cunningham is survived by daughters Catherine Cole and her husband, Steve; Dorothy Toni and her husband, Richard; Nancy Cunningham; and Elisabeth Granoff and her husband, Bruce; sisters Laura Jouard, Evelyn Griffiths, and Elizabeth Haar; brother William Cunningham Jr.; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter Evelyn Panza.