Walcks are part of minstrel tradition

Bud and Marley Walck are longtime volunteers with the Rescue Hose Company Minstrel Show. They enjoy friendships with the other participants, and find the antics during the Sunday afternoon rehearsals as much fun as the actual performances.

Bud Walck and the Rescue Hose Company Minstrel Show are 75 years old this year, but the show started before he was born.

Perhaps the longest running minstrel group in the United States, the songsters and jokesters of Greencastle have been performing since 1929, with a break taken in the 1950s with the advent of television. Then citizens welcomed live entertainment again, and in 1963 the show went on. Bud joined the chorus that year and has been singing ever since.

His wife Marley, 74, performed a bit as a child under the guidance of Al Richards. As a teen she even roller-skated on the stage. She says she went through a bashful phase, but about a dozen years ago joined the chorus. The two sit together and enjoy the camaraderie of the participants, especially during rehearsals.

"We have more fun at practice than at the show," Marley said. "And for Bud, it comes first. Everything else takes a back seat to the minstrel show."

She recounted that director Russ Clever always urges the chorus to sing louder, louder. "I don't know how much louder we can get."

They laugh at the unexpected mistakes, which are as amusing to the audience as they are to the performers, and have come to be anticipated at each show.

The Walcks cherish the memories of the people who have passed on, but were integral parts of the show in earlier days. The location has changed as well, from the old school to the old fire hall to the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium. The RHC auxiliary used to sell candy and popcorn at intermission. Children from the Milton Wright Home in Kauffman came on Thursday nights to watch. The show ran for two weekends. As warmup, it traveled to area veterans' hospitals. The last show in blackface was 1963 and then the front line became hobos.

Lately, the minstrel troupe visits nursing homes the weekend before the actual show. Bud and Marley went to Quincy Home Friday night and Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Saturday to make the residents laugh. The response always warms their hearts.

The couple is similar to many other families in the area, whose history includes generations joining the group. Marley's father Clark Elliott sang, and now their daughter Pam and her husband Elmer Landis are part of the crew. So are their grandchildren, Kevin Landis and Jamie Landis Forrester.

They are happy the chorus has grown in number, with over 70 volunteers this year.

Other regulars to the show are Clever and Benny Thomas as premier end men, Greg Hoover as interlocutor, and Larry Keener, Harry Gsell, Tom Shook and Todd Roland as end men. They all sing with whatever talent they have. Musicians include Trevor Timmons on piano, Lanny Haugh on banjo, Craig Wolfe on drums, Durand Walter on bass guitar and Bud and Dave Wolfe on "bones."

The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 4, 5, and 6, at 7:30 p.m. Early birds can grab a seat at 6 p.m. All proceeds benefit the fire company. A spaghetti dinner Saturday from 5-7 p.m., sponsored by Greencastle Rotary, will benefit the Greencastle Organized Youth Foundation at the old highline train station.

And next year, when the Minstrel Show turns 76, Bud will be right there to celebrate.

Ben Thomas Jr. almost blended in with the curtains. The hobo moved in close to the audience during a weekend performance.