Digging To Those Tunes Of Glory
Photos and narration by George Chevalier

Much has been written about how sports,clubs and fraternal lodges were incorporated into the daily lives of the Canal Diggers to enhance their spirit and well being. But we must not forget there was another important factor used to keep their heads high and spirits up when it might sag a bit under the work load. I speak of those tunes of glory that only a big brass band has the power to reach out and take hold of your emotions.

The Century had just turned with America pursuing it's manifest destiny in various parts of the globe and John Philip Souza was busy popularizing such stirring tunes. Each of the larger construction towns had it's band stand kiosk. At first only the Marine Battalion at Camp Elliot could provide such music and this led the ICC to authorize and form with professional musicians their own civilian band on salary. With the arrival in 1911 of the 10th US Infantry there were now three bands playing on the Canal Zone. These three band would tour the various communities giving concerts, playing at all manor of ceremonies and providing dance music where required. They can be seen in photos at funerals, athletic events and parades for numerous holidays. When the military bands were performing in concert at their camps the public was invited and welcome.

The ICC Band without any military duties was able to provide most of the concerts in the line construction towns and in this role imparted much needed cheer to the diggers. Sadly as the Canal approached completion the ICC Band was abolished and the new towns on the East Bank were not provided with band stands.

With the exception of the WW1 era the military slowly withdrew to the confines of their Posts and they still held concerts in their band stands with Zone Civilians welcome to attend. But to the diggers and those that chose to stay and operate what they had created the Tunes of Glory were gone and only now a part of their memories of the Big Dig.

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