A photo of Grandpa Kemmerer and I, from the summer of 1961, when I was seven years old.
Remembering Grandpa Kemmerer
By Richard Mabey Jr.
My maternal grandfather, Edmund C. Kemmerer, was a very smart, kind and deeply religious man. He was a very talented musician. He knew how to play a long list of musical instruments, but his all-time favorite instrument was the drums. I remember how patient he was with me, when he would help me with my drum lessons in grammar school. Then, when I got into high school, he continued to work with me, teaching me the importance of key places to put accents. He worked with me a lot, helping me to gain speed in my drum rudiments. Grandpa was an incredibly talented drummer.
For many, many years Grandpa played the drums in the prestigious Boonton Harmony Senior Drum Corps. Grandpa was a Fireman in Boonton for over 50 years. The Boonton Fire Department had, and still does have, an incredibly sounding marching band. Over the years, they have won many trophies and plaques in county-wide and state-wide marching band competitions.
My grandfather was a good, humble man. Even though he was outstanding at playing the snare drum, he just as much enjoyed playing the bass drum. I remember in freshman year of high school, I spent the entire year playing the bass drum in the school’s marching band. I carried and played the bass drum at every football game, in several parades, in various marching band competitions and in several indoor concerts.
I really didn’t like playing the bass drum at all. It was terribly heavy and I had my heart set on playing the snare drum. Grandpa often told me that the bass drum was the heart of a band. I know now, how very right he was.
In 1992, at the age of 38, I published a book of some of my short stories. The book was titled, Visions, Moments in Life. In this book, I included a short essay about my Grandpa Kemmerer. The story centered around how patient Grandpa was in teaching me the basic drum rudiments. I don’t think I would have ever become a good drummer, if it wasn’t for my Grandpa K.
I often think about dear Grandpa K. He was such a good man. He had a very kind heart. He was a deeply religious man. He truly loved the good Lord. When I was a kid in high school, my dad used to let me use his eight millimeter movie camera, from time to time. Oh, how I wish that I had taken movies of Grandpa K playing the drums. Grandpa could have put Ringo to shame. He was that good of a drummer.
It’s funny. I thought that living here in Gated Community Land in Central Florida, was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was wrong. I dearly miss seeing and hearing the incredible Boonton Senior Harmony Drum Corps in parades and concerts. When Labor Day comes, I sorely miss not being able to attend the big Boonton Labor Day Parade. Not to exaggerate, but it is probably one of the greatest parades on planet earth.
Somehow, whenever I would see and hear the Boonton Harmony Drum Corps, I would remember my beloved maternal grandfather. He was such a good man. Whenever I hold a pair of drum sticks, I reverently think of him. The time that Grandpa took to teach me to play the drums, was one of the best gifts that anyone has ever given me. I love you, Grandpa K.