Thanks to my Alberta, Canada, cousin's wife, when I walked to the mailbox a few weeks back, we found a packet of documents on another of my great uncles -- this time James (J. D.) Foster, brother of my grandfather, I. J. Foster, and a great uncle, George S. Foster. The packet also included documentation on their maternal uncle (George Sanderson, a safecracker no less and namesake of George Sanderson Foster) , who J. D. followed out west to Alberta in the latter part of the 19th century. They lived an incredible life that will make for a great read. We will be writing when the snows come this fall. Thank you Mary Joan!
But now, we will take a different tact and begin to build the story of my wife's family line, beginning with its renowned patriarch, his music and his boots.
Her great grandfather, Joseph Holick, was an Austrian (an area that later became Czech) immigrant. He was a clarinetist, bugler and band leader, and a cobbler and boot maker supreme. Joseph Holick served as campus bugler (playing Reveille and Taps) and then founded and became the first band leader of the Texas A&M "Aggie" band. He later fit and custom crafted highly prized A&M cadet "senior boots." Joseph Holick lived to be 103 years old and sired a generation of musicians.
We introduce Joseph Holick with this passage from the modern day Holick's retail website.
Holick was born in 1868 in Moravia which became part of Czechoslovakia after WWI. His main interest was in music which his parents considered frivolous so they sent him to cobbler school in Vienna, This was during the era of Strauss waltzes. Grampa [Joseph Holick's son] told me he missed several classes to attend concerts of Johann Strauss in the park. When he returned home he was still hassling with his parents over his not wanting to be a shoemaker. By then at least two of his four brothers had left for America so young Joseph, only 16 years old, stowed away on a steamer headed for America and the romanticized life of a rugged cowboy.
After several failed attempts at bronc busting and tired of cleaning stalls he hopped a freight train headed for Orange Texas and the salt grass trail. He fell asleep while the train was side-tracked and disconnected in Bryan and woke up stranded and penniless. Within a few days he had a part time job as a shoemaker in Bryan and another job as a shoemaker and bugler working in his dorm room at Texas A&M College.
His interest and talent as a musician attracted other musicians to gather in his room. After a few months he approached the military college with the idea of a military band which was established and funded by the Texas State Guard and all 12 members wore the Texas Guard uniform. Joseph was the first Aggie band master and served as band master intermittently for many years. Names of other interim bandmasters: North, Day and Dunn appear as names of streets which intersect Holick Lane in the area which was once his farm.In the picture below, Joseph Holick is the guy in the middle with the dark mustache and clarinet laying across his lap.
|The Aggie band in 1896. Joseph Holick is in the center with broad mustache and his signature clarinet across his lap, wearing a dark suit.|
The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band (also known as the Noble Men of Kyle or just the Aggie Band) is the official marching band of Texas A&M University. Composed of over 400 men and women from the school's Corps of Cadets, it is the largest military marching band in the world. The band's complex straight-line marching maneuvers are performed exclusively to traditional marches.
Since its inception in 1894, its members eat together, sleep in the same dormitories, and practice up to forty hours per week on top of a full academic schedule. The Aggie Band performs at all home football games, some away games, and university and Corps functions throughout the year. The band has also participated in inauguration parades for many United States Presidents and Texas Governors, major annual parades across the country, and the dedication ceremony for the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.Joseph Holick is recognized for founding the band. To summarize:
The Aggie Band owes its existence to Joseph Holick. In 1885, Holick and his brother Louis boarded an empty boxcar bound for Orange, Texas so that they could gain employment in a lumber mill. En route, the two stopped in Bryan, Texas, near the campus of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. The 22-year-old Holick began to doubt his choice, stating, "I was a small boy and couldn't do lumbering work", and chose to remain in Bryan working under Raymond Blatherwick, owner of a prominent boot shop. Lawrence Sullivan Ross, the president of the nearby college and a former Governor of Texas, stopped into Blatherwick's boot shop and noted how inconvenient it was for cadets to go to Bryan for their boots. Ross requested Holick be stationed at the new military college to perform cobbler duties.
Holick accepted the proposal and moved to work at Texas A&M. Shortly after his arrival, the Commandant's staff discovered his musical talents. They requested him to play thebugle for Corps functions and for US $65 a month, he was assigned to play Reveille and Taps. Because the new job paid much more than his previous one, Holick wanted to give the school "more than just two tunes for its money and he asked the commandant for permission to start a cadet band". The commandant agreed and named Holick its first bandmaster. Under his tutelage and the leadership of subsequent bandmasters, the band grew from 13 members at its inception in 1894 to 75 bandsmen in 1924.Joseph Holick evolved from cobbler (shoe and boot repair and fittings) to boot maker.
|The Fightin' Aggie Texas Band, by Donald B Powell. p. 7.|
With [his successor] firmly established as both bandmaster and bugler, Joseph Holick could return to full-time cobbling and in so doing make his second major contribution to the history of Texas A&M. As a full-time cobbler, he built his own building on campus. It was a small wooden structure behind Gathright Hall, one of the original buildings at the college. Holick continued to work on the campus until 1929. In order to expand his business, he moved off the campus in that year. ...... Instead of just repairing boots and shoes there, Holick began to make the knee high, form-fitting riding boots that had been worn by senior cadets since World War I.
Until 1930, cadets had to order their boots from a firm in San Antonio, with Holick handling any necessary alterations after the boots had been received. With more space, Holick could now make the boots himself and ensure a perfect fit. Today's cadets [in 1994] pay $600.00 for a pair of senior boots from Holick's, but as the first Aggie bootmaker, Joseph Holick sold many pairs at $32.50 prior to World War II.
Holick gave birth to the band that became the nation's largest military band, but he also operated the boot shop that made more than thirty thousand pairs of Aggie senior boots. From the day a cadet enters Texas A&M, the dream of wearing senior boots begins. For many cadets, Joseph Holick made that dream come true. When Holick died in 1971 at the age of 103, Aggie Band members in their senior boots carried the first Aggie bandmaster to his final resting place in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Bryan.
The privilege of wearing senior boots is an integral part of the Corp of Cadets tradition at Texas A&M to this day.
Within the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, seniors are given the privilege to wear distinctive brown leather boots, known as "senior boots." These boots are one of the most visible and recognizable institutions of the Aggie Corps, and remain one of the lasting images of Texas A&M University.
The tradition of senior boots came about in 1914, when the Corps of Cadets changed uniforms from the West Point style. The seniors wanted a way to differentiate themselves from the other classes, so they began wearing riding boots, which evolved into the senior boots worn today. By 1925, the boot style was integrated into the official cadet uniform, as a "knee-height English riding boot, of a light brown or tan." Lucchese's bootery in San Antonio became the main supplier of boots.
By 1932, competition closer to campus sprang up. Joseph Holick, founder of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, opened Holick's that year, and his competition soon included Victor's, Russell's, and others. The average price for a pair of boots in 1932 was $32.50. During World War II, due to the leather diversion to the war effort, Aggie seniors had to buy or inherit their boots from former cadets. By 1977, the price had risen to $200. Today, senior boots are normally ordered during freshman year and cost nearly $1,200 but 85% of seniors in the Corps still purchase them. Those that don't purchase them for financial reasons are loaned a pair for their senior year by the Corps of Cadets.
Joseph Holick making boots.
To assist in removing their boots, seniors are allowed to yell "I need a fish!" at which point all available freshmen in the senior's outfit will race—and sometimes fight—to assist.
|Joseph Holick making boots.|
Here is more on the history of the boots.
Members of the Corps of Cadets look forward to Final Review at the end of their Junior year when they can finally step into their Senior boots which they will continue to wear throughout their senior year.
The making of boots dates back to 1914 when the Corps changed from the West Point style uniforms to the national cadet wardrobe. In 1921 they were made by Jack Alesci at Randolph Army Air Field in San Antonio.
In 1925, the English style of boot became the traditional Senior boot that we still see today, and the boot was officially designated as part of the Senior Cadet's uniform. To meet the needs of the Senior Cadets in 1926, Lucchese's in San Antonio started making boots.
|Holick's Boot Shop Ad|
The Eagle (Bryan Tex.), September 9, 1938
The local competition sprang up in 1929. Holick set up his shop adjacent to campus at Northgate. In 1932, Holick's price for a pair of boots was around $32.50.
During World War II, boots could not be made due to the rationing of leather. So, incoming Seniors had to buy their boots from former students.
Another change came in 1966 that made the look of each and every Senior more uniform. It was decided that all boots must be of medium brown color. In the year following, forthe first time ever, cadets adopted uniform privileges for the next year.
Stories of the founding of the Aggie band and the "small boy's" contributions have been told and retold many times over the years.
Joseph Holick's 100th birthday got him a visit by a nun, a decorated cake and a newspaper write-up.
Four-Elderly Men Behind Famous Aggieland Band
COLLEGE STATION, June 11 -- When the famed Texas A. and M. college band, 250 pieces strong, breaks into the Aggie War Hymn and a slight tingle runs up and down the spine of those listening, it is quite possible that four elderly men might be present to stick out their chests just a little bit further and exclaim, "Yessir, our band has come a long, long way."
|Valley Morning Stary (Halingen, Tex.), June 12, 1955|
The Four would be Dudley (Cy_ Perkins, McKinney; John K. Woods of 5645 Gaston, Dallas; Adolph W. Amthor, La Feria, and Joe Holick, College Station, the only known surviving members of the first A. and M. band, organized in 1894. And what a story they would have to tell!
Arthur N. Jenkins, the corps bugler, and Holick, a boot and shoe merchant for the cadets, were talented musicians who were interested in both band and orchestra music, so they organized not only the first band, but the first orchestra. Jenkins was considered a particularly talented cornetist, while Holick, although preferring the clarinet, played a half dozen other instruments equally well.
Holick, who retired many years ago and turned his boot and shoe business over to his sons, was not only one of the first two organizer but was the first bandmaster of the A. and M. band. This first group originated the two-strip trousers and received $5 per month as musicians but they added priceless value to the appearance and dignity of the early cadet companies in gray uniforms.
Maybe too, the four surviving members are particularly proud of the fact that their country grew from the same numerical beginning. The United States also had only thirteen original members.Joseph Holick organized his own performance band, and was a moving force in organizing the town of Bryan's first community band.
At Turn Of Century Community Band Was Active In Brazos County Life
By MILTON MALONEY
Eagle Staff WriterStrike up the band!
Bryan and College Station have known the stirring sound of band music through the years, the history of such activity stretching from the turn of the century until recent years when radio, television and the development of really fine school bands have gradually shoved the community band back into the shade of history.
The scroon and screen of the horns, the brrrooom of the big drums and the rattling fusilade of the snares are sounds that come echoing back as one drifts into the past when the community band was marching in the parades, entertaining with concerts on the courthouse square or playing a vital part in political rallies, community get-togethers, festivities and special events.
There is a tramp of marching feet as one joins them on the march down Main swinging along in an array of color that only the flashy uniform of the bandman can provide. Names that shine like stars in a parade that dates as far back as 1893, when the first cadet band band at Texas A. & M. was formed, include Joseph F. Holick, organizer of that first Aggie band, Dick Newland, Alois Slovacek and Henry Locke.
The Eagle (Bryan Tex.), February 3, 1957
Bryan's first community band, and rated the best by both Joseph F. Holick and his son Ed who has also played part in Bryan's band history, was active form 1900 to 1903 under the leadership of Dick Newland. It was not only a community band but also was a Texas National Guard unit and wore the colorful band uniform and the guard's khaki uniform.
This band played many concerts, most of them on the northwest corner of the courthouse square and teh turnout was always large, for a band concert was a big event in those days and one of the rare opportunities for residents to come together for entertainment. The Newland band, also known as the Third Regiment band, rehearsed in the old Harrison building across from the courthouse approximately where the telephone building now stands. Rehearsals were also held in the thrid story of the Padgitt Brothers building at West 23rd and Main.
The complete roster of the Holick band and the instruments they played includes Dr. Mondrick, flute: John and Chales Konecny, Paul (Tony) Perrella, Hugo Stasney and Theodore Krenek, clarinets; John Olenik, John Krenek, Louis Hanus, Paul Syptak and John Nedbalek, cornets; Anton (Tom) Hanus, Lawrenece Krenek and Pete Maltesky, ebaltos; Frank Olenik and Harry Marwill, baritone; Frank Konecny and George Nedbalek, valve trombones; Jim Turek and ten-year-old Ed Holic, slide trombones; Pete Konecny, Joe Turek and Joe Kosh, basses; Frank Elbrich, bass drum and cymbals; Tom Konecny and Jack Zenetti, snare drums.
The uniforms for the Holick band, following the same style as that of the Newland band, included maroon coat and cap with black braid and royal blue pants with a bright red stripe.
This band did no concerts but was very active at special events, political rallies and community get-togethers. They first rehearsed upstairs in the building now occupied by Patranella's next to the First National Bank, the first floor then being occupied by Nedbalen and Syptak Grocery. They then went to the Padgitt Brothers store on the third story which also housed the Athletic Club. Padgitt has since moved to Dallas and is widely known for its leather goods, an occupation in which the Holicks also have been active.
One of the biggest affairs for which the band played was a big barbeque and political rally at Wheelock when Joe Baily brough a campaign speech in his race for the United States Senate. Band members made the trip by hacks, leaving Bryan in the early morning hours in order to arrive at 11 a.m.
Their last appearance was at a political rally held at the Old Fish Pond.
Following this a group in the Shiloh school area made up a band from among those who had played in the Holicks. The Krenenks, Stasneys and Tureks were active in this ban.
Joseph Holick's 100th birthday got him a visit by a nun, a decorated cake and a newspaper write-up.
|The Eagle (Bryan, Tex.), March 5, 1968|
Aggie Band Starter Marks 100th Year
By JOYCE PALUMBO
Eagle Staff WriterJoseph F. Holick, a Czechoslovakian cobbler who attended concerts in Vienna featuring Johann Strauss and conceived the famous Texas Aggie Band, celebrated his 100th birthday Monday in Room 210 at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Hospital personnel baked the native of Prajague a cake and members of his family helped him celebrate the occasion.
Holick, the first bandmaster of the A&M band, came to the United States in 1885 at the age of 17 with an older brother. He farmed in Kansas for two years with his brother. In 1891 they parted and Joe came to Texas. he went to an uncle's home in Taylor where he spotted a newspaper ad for sawmill hand in Orange. "I didn't get there. The trains stopped and I saw a Bryan depot sign," he recalled.
Holic took up his family trade, shoe making, in Raymond Blatherwick's Main Street, boot shop in Bryan. Lt. Ben Morris, the Corps commander and a graduate of West Point, asked Holick to make him a pair of shoes. Shortly after that, he became the college cobbler.
Morris learned that the wandering cobbler could play musical instrucments and asked him to play the bugle. After palying Reveille and Taps for his $65-a-month salary, he asked permission to form a college band. The A&M administration, headed by Lawrence Sullivan Ross, agreed in 1893.
Holick and a student, Arthur N. Jenkins, rounded up 11 other musicians, some Texas Militia uniforms, and instruments. The Texas A&M Band was born.
When Jenkins left A&M, Holick became director of the band. Previously he had been director but had to quit to recuperate form influenza.
When the first Aggie bandmaster retired in the early 1900's, he remained on the campus doing shoe work for cadets. In 1929 the Czech's leather working shop was moved to the North Gate business area.
Holick married the former Helen Winzentel of Kurten. She died March 24, 1950. They had seven children. Four sons live in Bryan and College Station: E.A. Holick, G.C. Holick, J.W. Holick and Joe Holick. His only daughter, Mrs. Helen Huebner, lives in Seattle, Wash.Though much is repetitive, read on to get the full story of how Joseph Holick came to settle in Bryan, Texas and make his mark, from The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, by Joe Powell (1994).
Joseph Holick and his older brother Louis had spent two years working as farmhands in Kansas. It was hard work and not exactly what they had in mind when them came to America from Czehoslovokia in 1885. Joseph had been an apprentice cobbler in his native land, but Louis had told him he would have a better life in America. The younger Holick wasn't so sure now. In Europe, Joseph had heard Johann Strauss conduct concerts in Vienna. The experience inspired him to teach himself to play the clarinet. Sun-up to sun-down farm work, however, gave the young man little time for his music.
One day Louis told Joseph that he had heard there were good jobs -- at good wages -- available in the lumber mills near Orange, Texas. Believing any job would be better than the farm work, Joseph, then twenty-two, quickly agreed to go with his brother. Because the pair had no money for transportation, they climbed aboard an empty boxcar on a southbound freight train early the next day.
When the awoke the next morning, the train was not moving. As the older brother, Louis was probably the one who first ventured out to explore. The boxcar was standing alone on a railroad siding near a small-town depot the rest of the train was nowhere to be seen. The two young men jumped down from the boxcar and walked toward the depot. As they approached, they could read the sign: Bryan, Texas. They were still a long way from there destination, but luck was with them. They had an uncle who lived in Bryan. They could stay with him until they found a way to continue to Orange.
Joseph, however, was having second thoughts about the lumber mills. Seventy-five years later, he would would remember his reluctance to continue his journey. "I was a small boy and couldn't do lumbering work,' he said. During his first days in Bryan he had met Raymond Blatherwick, who owned a boot shop on the town's main street. Upon learning that the young man had trained to be a cobbler, Blatherwick offered him the chance to remain in Bryant and work in his shop. That sounded better than farming or lumber mill work to Joseph, so he stayed, while his older brother went on to seek his fortune elsewhere.
Holick became a fine cobbler under Blatherwick. Some of the work he did was for members of the faculty at the military college located a few miles south of Bryan. It was the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, a land-grant school still struggling to emerge from its infancy. By the early 1890s, the school was finally making some progress under its new president, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, a former governor of Texas.
According to one story recounted by the Holick family, President Ross himself came into the Blatherwick Boot Shop one day to have a pair of boots repaired. As Holick was working on his boots, the president mentioned it was difficult for the cadets at the college to get to Bryan to have their boots repaired. Ross reportedly added that it would certainly be of great help if a cobbler could be located at the college. He asked if Holick would be interested in moving to campus, promising that the school would provide a room in the dormitory and there would be plenty of work for someone who knew how to repair boots.
The young cobbler was still single, and this sounded like a wonderful opportunity. Holick moved to the collge and set up his shop in the dormitory. As promised, there was plenty of work and he enjoyed it. In the evenings he had time to pursue his love of music, playing his clarinet to entertain himself -- and, as it turned out, others on the campus.
When the school's commandant, Lieutenant Be Morris, learned of Holicks musical talents he approached the young cobbler with a new opportunity: in addition to his duties as the campus cobbler, would he be interested in becoming the college bugler? Lietenant Morris suggested a salary of sixty-five dollars per month and Holick agreed to add the playing of "Reveille" and "Taps" to his duties as cobbler -- just as soon as he could teach himself to play the bugle. Learning the bugle calls and how to play them proved to be even easier than learning the clarinet. Soon, he was beginning each day by awakening the cadets with "Reveille" and ending their days with "Taps" -- and receiving sixty five dollars a month.
It was more money than Holick had seen before. He figured the college ought to get more than just two tunes for its money, and when he had established himself as bugler, he asked the commandant for permission to start a cadet band. He knew the interest was there -- cadets had often come to his room at night to listen to him play his clarinet, and he knew several of them wanted to learn to play an instrument as well.
With the help of a student named Arthur Jenkins, Holick found thirteen cadets who were interested in being in the new band. There was much enthusiasm but little money available for instruments. One of the cadets, J. K. Woods, knew of a band that was no longer in operation in his hometown, Del Rio, where they could borrow some instruments. A mathematics professor named Robert F. Smith donated a $100 to get the organization started. With this help, Holic was able to properly equip the band with both instruments and uniforms.
******After getting the band started, Holick returned to his cobbler's bench and Arthur Jenkins became its leader for a year.
According to Joseph Holick's son, John Holick, his father was called back to direct the band each time a new bandmaster left abruptly. John Holick speculates that some of those early bandmasters were fond of the bottle and did no set a good example for the cadets. When Tyrell left in the middle of the semester Holick was loaded down with work, but the college president, David Franklin Houston, convinced him to once again take up the baton when Houston could no find anyone to come to the college to be bandmaster. It is interesting to note that the college was going through presidents about as fast as bandmasters during this period. Houston had been the third president since Lawrence Sullivan Ross's death in 1898.
Anxious to get back to his real duties as a cobbler, Holick contacted Bradford Pier Day of Brenham, Texas about the open bandmaster's position. Day was a member of the Second Texas Infantry Band and seemed well qualified to direct the cadet musicians. He agreed to come to the college and he like what he saw. Finally, the college had a bandmaster to stay and, with that commitment, give some stability to the still young organization.
With Day firmly established as both bandmaster and bugler, Joseph Holick could return to full-time cobbling and in so doing make his second major contribution to the history of Texas A&M. As a full-time cobbler, he built his own building on the campus. It was a small wooden structure behind Gathright Hall, one of the original buildings at the college. Holick continued to work on the campus until 1928. In order to expand his business, he moved off the campus in that year to the present location of Holick's Boot Shop at 106 College Main, just north of the college in the area now known as Northgate. Instead of just repairing boots and shoes there, Holick began to make the knee-high, form fitting riding boots that had been worn by senior cadets since World War I.
Until 1930, cadets had to order their boots from a firm in San Antonio, with Holick handling any necessary alterations after the boots had been received. With more space, Holick could now make the boots himself and ensure a perfect fit. Today's cadets pay $600.00 for a pair of senior boots from Holick's, but as the first Aggie bootmaker, Joseph Holick sold many pairs at $32.50 prior to World War II.
Holick gave birth to the band that became the nation's largest military marching band, but he also operated the boot shop that made more than thirty thousand pairs of Aggie senior boots. From the day a cadet enters Texas A&M, the dream of wearing senior boots begins. For many cadets, Joseph Holick made that dream come true. When Joseph Holick died in 1971 at the age of 103, Aggie Band members in their senior boots carried the first Aggie bandmaster to his final resting place in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Bryan.In the obituary below, pallbearer Charles Wagamon Jr., is my father in law. May Joseph F. Holick rest eternally in peace.
|The Eagle (Bryan Tex.) March 29, 1971|