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Remembering the summer Snohomish sent its band to Europe
The 1968 tour

SNOHOMISH — In the summer of 1968, Snohomish High's band students performed in six foreign countries on a European tour.
American high school bands playing overseas was unusual. An American band passing Checkpoint Charlie to play in the Eastern Bloc, though, was unheard of.
Band director Ed Peterson, now 92, speaking by phone, said when he looks back, "it was a dream come true. I'm humbled and happy that I had the courage to go for it."
The local community sent them through two years of fundraising. Car washes, bake sales, everything and anything. Everett's radio stations aided their cause and the business community gave help.
”You just do things, you throw caution to the wind," Peterson said, saying later in the call that "it's difficult to look back and say, 'yes, that really happened.'"
The girls wore red, white and blue dresses sewn by a few band members' mothers; the boys, smart gray slacks and blazers.
From playing in Norway to London to Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, there was something new every day. They had incredible stays with host families. The Herald embedded reporter Ned Carrick with the group who sent back frequent dispatches.
They felt eerie playing in a bombed-out zoo in Berlin, and stood in awe seeing the stark differences between West and East Berlin at the Berlin Wall.
The tightly controlled authoritarian state of Eastern Europe gave a big eye-opener.
Police badgered students for their passports on the train at all hours, Vicki Smith Mitchell, SHS 1969 on trumpet, remembered. These police had ammunition strapped across their chest, she said. Peterson had police confiscate and destroy his camera film after he took a photo peeking at something.
They visited Treblinka, the extermination camp in once-occupied Poland. "You never get over that, ever," Smith Mitchell said.
Brian Mills, SHS 1969 on baritone horn, said they were sponsored by a group that worked with foreign countries which helped arrange the itinerary.
“I think people were amazed” for how well they played “because we were kids from the United States.” A studio in Amsterdam recorded them playing their set of marches and classical pieces.
Peterson demanded excellence, said Paul Cowles, SHS 1967 on tuba, who said in appreciation that his time in band shaped his adult life.
Mills’ takeaway today is an appreciation for the people who worked so hard to get the group there.
“We were just kids, going on a trip, we didn’t know the complexities behind it,” he said.
Europe was the furthest from home practically any of the 78 band members had ever been. Some had never been to Seattle, Peterson said.
In 38 years holding the baton, Peterson took Panther Marching Bands to China to play atop the Great Wall; to Taiwan for its presidential inaugural as the United States' representing band; and to Dublin, Ireland to play in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where the band swept all seven award categories. Under Peterson, they played in more than one dozen more countries. He retired in 1996. His next act was painting on a professional level, focusing on Western landscapes because of the vivid colors. The bison is his favorite, he said.
Now in Kelso, Washington, Peterson has best wishes for each of his students and keeps in touch. "Hopefully they're doing great things in their community," he said.

Paul Cowles, SHS '67, wrote a report on the trip. The Tribune is printing an abridged version of his article below:

The Community That Sent their High School Band to Europe
By Paul Cowles

It was 55 years ago (1968) that the Snohomish community sent their ambassadors, the high school band, on an international goodwill tour of Europe. The band, led by Mr. Edward Peterson, toured Norway, then West and East Berlin, Poland, The Netherlands, England and Denmark. They left June 15 and returned July 14.
I was never prouder of the Snohomish community than the way they pulled together to make this tour happen. It was a 2-year effort of fundraising projects, community and family donations that went into raising the over $75,000 cost of the tour.

The Director Mr. Peterson
Mr. Edward Peterson became the new band director in the fall of 1958 to fill the position held by “Red” Eichoff, who had left for Bellevue High School. Mr. Peterson bested a field of 125 applicants for the position.
Under Mr. Eichoff the high school band would march in regional festivals. Mr. Peterson would change the focus of the band to two or three concerts a year and to play in support of high school athletics.
In the fall of 1966, Mr. Peterson got the school board’s approval for the European tour. It was originally planned for the summer of 1967 but postponed to 1968 to fully raise the funds. Mr. Peterson received school board approval to invite the band members of the class of 1967 to participate in the 1968 tour. Bill Wanser and I took Mr. Peterson up on his kind invitation.

Stavanger, Norway
We checked in to the hostel (a traveler hotel) and our first concert was at the town square, As we were setting up for the concert Mr. Peterson ask where the chairs for the band were. There was a miscommunication and chairs were not ordered. We had less than an hour before the 6 p.m. concert. I asked the equipment driver about obtaining chairs. There was a language problem, I didn’t speak Norwegian and he did not speak English. Out of desperation, I ask in German “Sprechen Sie Duetsch”, I was happy he replied, ”Ja.” I then asked “Ein und ein hundred stuhle, bitte.” The chair problem was solved five minutes before the concert.

Bergen, Norway
Our next stop was Bergen, Norway where band members stayed in residents' homes as guests. My group of band members went swimming in the North Sea.

Oslo, Norway
Oslo was our next stop. It was a beautiful city. We played our concerts and played at a professional soccer game that unfortunately ended in a zero-zero tie.

Allied Sector West Berlin, Germany
Remember 1968 was during the Cold War era. Berlin was separated into four sectors after World War II. West Berlin in 1968 had the British, French and United States sectors and East Berlin was the Soviet Sector.
The Western sector was very bright.
We played our concerts, visited museums and the site where President Kennedy stated “Ich bin ein Berliner.” He thought he was saying I am a citizen of Berlin, but some say the literal translation was "I am a donut." Berliner was a popular pastry.  

Soviet East Berlin Sector
On the third day we went through checkpoint Charlie into the Soviet sector.
There were no people on the streets. We visited the Soviet War Memorial garden of massive statues depicting Soviet troops.

The train ride to Warsaw, Poland
We then boarded the train for our next destination Warsaw, Poland. We experienced no less than five stoppages during our trip to Warsaw. These stoppages were equivalent to stopping at a country border in the U.S. When we got to a new jurisdiction, it was "everyone out. Present your passport, trip authorization and your money."
The most unsettling part of the journey was the VoPos (peoples police) that were stationed approximately every 1,500 yards along the rail track. They were armed with AK-47s. I haven't taken my freedom of movement for granted since that day.

Warsaw, Poland
The band spent the next two days playing our concerts and seeing the sights of Warsaw. One we visited was the Polish Parliament building, It was beautiful, especially the carved wood crest of the two headed eagle displayed in the parliament's assembly chamber.
After our tour of the Parliament the band adjourned to the park across the river. We sat and laid on the grass. Within 2 minutes two soldiers seeming to be upset and were speaking loudly at us. It seems in Poland parks were to be appreciated but not used.
When we visited Warsaw the country had been liberated from the Germans for almost 23 years. Everywhere we went there was new construction and repair construction going on.
Lastly the Polish toilet paper had more slivers than rough lumber, It took some getting use to for sure. Thank God that is behind us (I am sorry for the bad pun. I just couldn’t resist.)
I came away with a great admiration for the Polish people. They are industrious, hard-working people who have suffered greatly. I am also glad they no longer suffer under communism.

Treblinka former death camp / national cemetery
One day we boarded tour buses for an hour's drive northeast of Warsaw to Treblinka Death Camp. For me this was the most important place we visited on the tour.
When we parked and exited the buses there was an eerie silence. I expected to hear the birds chirping but we were greeted by silence. It remained that way for our entire visit.
This visitation impacted me for the remainder of my life. To me it is a very somber and sacred place.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam was a beautiful bustling city, The buildings were brightly painted, especially the windmills. Many canals augmented the street network in the city.
Among the concerts we played a concert that was taped and to be played at a future date on national radio. The producers were extremely complimentary of the quality at which the band played, saying it compared to professional bands.

London, England
Our next stop was London England, We stayed with local families.
Unfortunately, we encountered a major transportation problem. The Tubes (subways) went on strike. The subway system shut down the evening the band went to see a movie. When the movie let out there were no subways operating. I didn’t get to my host family’s home until 1:30 a.m. The transportation problem was worked out the following day which was July 4th, our independence from England.
We played our concerts. My favorite was the concert in Hyde Park.

Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen, Denmark
This was the last stop on the tour. We played two concerts a day under the covered outdoor stage and marched around Tivoli Gardens once a day, Thank God for the covered stage because it rained for the four outdoor concerts we played for the two days.
On Sunday I went to Catholic mass with Pat Freal and others in a church that had been built around 900 A.D.

Home again
Copenhagen was the last stop of the tour. Truly it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience but everyone agreed there is no place like home.



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