In the early 1900’s, local jeweler O. V. Hart put together a band of boy musicians. Their practices, held above Mr. Hart’s store, were noted for rigorous standards of discipline and musicianship. It was said that when they appeared before the most critical of audiences, they won both their acclaim and their hearts.
April 1, 1909, marked the band’s first public appearance. Composed of boys whose ages ranged from 12 to 21, Hart’s Boy Band quickly developed a loyal following. They won first prize at the 1912 Ohio State Fair and were present at the inauguration of Governor James Cox. Road performances outside Ohio included Washington, D. C., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg. In Philadelphia, after they marched to the theatre where Amelia Bingham was performing, she dismissed the pit orchestra and asked the Hicksville boys to finish the evening.
The Hicksville Centennial book gave this contemporary description of Hart’s Boy Band: “It is in a class by itself. The boys feast in the classics and frolic with the ditties. No band exceeds Hart’s in tone, harmony, or volume. Their appearance is strikingly beautiful, keeping with the high grade of program rendered.”
When the nation asked for volunteers, thirty of Hart’s boys joined up to fight in World War I, bringing to a close one era and opening another.
News Accounts of Hart’s Boy Band:
The following three news accounts came from band leader Hart’s daughter, Edith Hart Smith, who kept a scrapbook of band memorabilia.
Excerpt from The Saturday Evening Post — (July 192?)
…Musical America got its start in the silver cornet band. Many romances might be written around the silver cornet band. For instances, there is the romance of Hicksville, Ohio, and the Swilley House. Hicksville is on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad near the Indiana boundary. It has a population of about 2500—has had it quite a while. It is a regular rural community. The Swilley House is its hostelry. Mrs. Swilley, long its proprietor and manager, was the mother of the great American actress Amelia Bingham. Amelia underwrote the Hicksville Boys’ Band, while O. V. Hart, better known as Oz Hart, the jeweler, was the teacher.
Oz was a devotee of art as exemplified by band music. Sitting in his jeweler’s main street window repairing a balky watch, Oz would espy Hale Byers, now saxophonist with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, and Eck Greer, now one of New York’s leading tuba players, idling the happy hours away; whereupon he would seize them or their kid companions and set them to practicing in the jewelry store’s back room. He was a fiend on rehearsal, was Oz Hart. Hale Byers, who then played piccolo, sat directly under Oz Hart’s baton and many a time had his skull whacked for nonattention or for slipping in a blue note. The Hicksville Boy’s Band became the official Ohio state band and played in Columbus in bright red uniforms, each with a white heart embroidered on the left breast. Oh, halcyon days!
Excerpt from Lima Daily News — (June 16, 1909)
“From Hicksville Was One of the Popular Features of the Day’s Doings”
Hart’s celebrated Boy Band from the town of Hicksville was one of the leading attractions of the big meeting today. The organization cam in today in the morning and gave a concert of two well selected numbers as a serenade in front of the News office on High Street. There are twenty-six members of the band and every one of them is a musician. The ages of the lads range from ten to sixteen years and they are the pride of their hometown. The boys are the sons of merchants and bankers and their entire time outside school is devoted to practice—the secret of their splendid attainment.
Prof. O. V. Hart, teacher and director of the band is an optician, watchmaker, jeweler, and professional musician in the home town of the band and too much credit cannot be given to him for the excellent results of his efforts. The band has only been organized a little over two years…and now has over $4600 invested in its selections of music and instruments. The organization gave a concert in the front entrance of the court house after the parade.
Excerpt from Paulding Times — (1918)
“Thirty Band Men for Uncle Sam”
Professor O. V. Hart of Hicksville deserves recognition from the government for his services in training musicians for the war…. Thirty of the boys he educated and drilled in his famous Boy Band are now making melody for Uncle Sam in the Army and Navy. Mr. Hart had a purpose and clung to it through all obstacles. If he never accomplishes anything more in his life, this contribution of talent for his country’s service is deserving of the high honor and remembrance of all loyal Americans.
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