Walter Goral

Tribute to Walter Goral
March 6, 2000
A tribute to Walter Goral, by Gordon Laird

Walter and I were both members of the 1950 trip, Walter on trombone, I on clarinet. Walter had a remarkable musical background, which fit him to be called upon by Mr. D. in Bournemouth, when there was a musicians’ strike and Mr. D. was not allowed to conduct.

When we returned in 1950 we members lost sight of each other. I didn’t hear Walter’s name again for 40 years! Here’s how we got together:
In 1990 I was the Minister of St. Andrew’s United Church in Maple Ridge. This was the occasion of the 40th anniversary of our 1950 trip, and I decided to invite a band to celebrate this event in our morning service.

At least two important people came out of this event: Walter Goral and Tom Walker. Walter put his trombone away as soon as he returned from England in 1950. When I successfully encouraged Walter to get out his horn, his case still showed the array of stickers from England, and probably from the Hollywood trip as well!

Walter was hesitant to try his horn, but he did come out and played along with the rest. Tom Walker had been practicing his trombone in his closet for years but was playing only sporadically. In the front row of the Church was a gentleman, Nelson May, who asked Tom, Walter, and me to join the Maple Ridge Band. We didn’t even know there was a Maple Ridge Band, but it had been re-assembled just that spring.

So Walter, Tom, and I provided the “Kits Band” backbone to the Maple Ridge band. Bill Ingledew was also a member of that band. Tom went on to be band president, and, as a engineering technologist, designed the Maple Ridge Band Stand, which was erected in the centre of Maple Ridge at the cost of $200,000. It’s a beauty!

Meanwhile Walter and I with Marilyn and Walter’s wife Maaike (sounds like Mikey) became fast friends. Walter and I had jumped the 40 years in a trace, and became very close friends. You will remember Walter: he didn’t change! He was loud and boisterous, a great outdoorsman, who had been a very successful lumberman in Vancouver. Walter was well-known and well-respected throughout the lower mainland in lumbering circles.

Walter had suffered heart attacks and was often in hospital. One day a group of us (3 tombones, two trumpets and one tenor sax) took our instruments to Walter’s Hospital room in Maple Ridge and serenaded him. Walter was “in his glory” and become famous on the ward for this escapade. Then one day I was laid up with a back problem on the living room sofa, when Walter, fresh from the hospital, hobbled up the front steps to entertain me. I was privileged to be asked to conduct the funeral for Walter in 1992 and again we had a pretty good “Kit’s-type” band to send him off. Walter’s King trombone (the given to him by his mother years before, the same instrument and case he took to Europe) was there on display. A makeup Kits Band group played for Walter’s Funeral: “Hymn Fantasy for Band” “Deep Harmony” “Denton Park”, “Abide With Me” “Washington Post March” and we ended with Walter’s son Robbie’s favorite: “When the Saints Come Marching In”. I miss Walter very much!

Gordon Laird


Memorial Service – March 21, 1992 by Norm Mullins

As I was leaving home my wife said, “You’re not going to wear that red tie to a funeral?” I replied, “First of all, it’s not a funeral. A bunch of us are getting together to remember and reminisce about Walter Goral.” I then went on to explain to her what I will now point out to you. Notice the mandatory black shoes; the mandatory black stockings; the dark trousers; the white shirt. The tie is a touch to recall the scarlet silk lining in the cape. And so you see what I am wearing is just a slightly modified version of the uniform of the Kitsilano Boys Band.

We are gathered here today to remember Walter Ramon Goral, a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a friend. My recollections of Walter, like most of the “Boys in the Band” are of our work and play over many years in the Kitsilano Boys Band and, especially, the five months 39 of us lived and travelled together in Europe in 1950.

Let’s take this name first: Walter Ramon Goral. About this time 42 years ago, Arthur Delamont required us all to hand in birth certificates for a composite group passport he was acquiring. When Walter got his, he was surprised to learn for the first time that he had this second name “Ramon.” In fact he liked it so much he told everyone that henceforth he should be addressed by his second name. But “Ramon” or “Raymond” or even good old “Ray” was not what he wanted. No sir, the proper pronunciation was “Rah Moan”. I don’t know whether he had seen too many Xavier Cugat movies but, except for a few of the smallest kids who moved with a measure of awe for Walter, the rest of us wouldn’t buy this South American Mambo King nonsense and we gave Walter a choice of the name by which we knew him or a nickname he couldn’t live with. “Walter” was back in our ranks.

There were, however, two occasions in the 1950 trip when Walter was the undisputed boss of us all. In our first week in England we were booked to play three days in the beautiful seashore town of Bournemouth. Inconveniently there happened at that time to be a strike of the local City Band which usually played in the Park where we were to appear. Mr. Delamont, a union member through all his professional life, could not be seen to be a strikebreaker but we were only schoolboys not bound by such rules. All we needed was someone to lead the band. Guess who? Ramon got the call.

In the middle of the band Walter looked like any other slush pump player but Gordon Laird told me the other day that in fact Walter had a good grounding in the fundamentals of music, harmony, and tempo. He was the natural choice to stand in for our leader and he turned out to be a surprisingly good conductor. Unfortunately just before his first appearance, we were told all Bournemouth concerts were cancelled. Some talk about blacklisting us throughout Britain for crossing picket lines! Alas, the public missed a masterful performance but Walter stood high in our admiration – at least at that moment.

Walter’s next move to fill a breach took place in Holland where we had been entered in an international concert band festival near Arnhem, the great airborne battleground of World War Two. Perversely Mr. Delamont decided we should also compete in a marching competition. Now these guys don’t march. In fact in later years when they were getting married, most of them couldn’t make it down the aisle without tripping. For that matter, today, 42 years later, I suspect most of them couldn’t make it up the aisle without stopping half way to catch their breaths.

But the challenge had to be met and Mr. D. assigned the job again to Walter. He lined us up after a fashion on a sort of circular road around which we could tramp. Since this was his show, Walter put the trombones out in front where their true magnificence could be seen by all. Actually this is a lot better than putting them in the back somewhere. Marching in front of a bunch of busy slide trombonists can be very tricky at the best of times and no one in the band objected to this arrangement.

Up in front, Walter raised his arm and, like a starter of an Olympic foot race, dropped it dramatically on the command, “By the left, quick march.” His confidence and the sturdiness of his order made us instinctively do the right thing, that is, start with our left feet first. It was only after that when we became confused.

Staff Sergeant Goral at the head barking out commands was more than ably assisted by Lance Corporal Arthur Delamont running up and down in the ranks slapping on the head anyone who played a bad note or fell out of step. In an hour we were as ready as 39 left-footed bandsmen could be and in the test itself we were perfect and won first prize.

It has been said many times that music is the international language and certainly this was our experience in five months of foreign travel. We played Tchaikovsky in Scotland, Sir Edward Elgar in the heart of Ireland in Dublin, Brahms in Holland and John Philip Sousa everywhere.

Music has a way of transcending borders. A Berlin cabaret singer sang “Lili Marlene” to soldiers of the Afrika Corps in the deserts of Libya but British and allied troops adopted it as their own across the lines of battle.

Many years before there was composed for goose-stepping Prussian militarists a march called “Alte Kameraden”. The beat of the music and the underlying sentiment of the piece made it a favorite for armies everywhere. For us old-timers of the Kitsilano Boys Band who played it many times it has its special significance as well. For today we remember our Alte Kamerade – our Old Comrade – Walter Goral and all those who marched together around the ring road in Arnhem to our own day of glory 42 years ago.

N.D. Mullins, Q.C.


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