Century of memories at Pioneer Park bandstand

Those with a few birthdays and those with many gathered at Pioneer Park to celebrate the bandstand's 100th.

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A crowd listens to Walla Walla Valley Bands play during a 100th anniversary celebration of Pioneer Park's bandstand on Sunday.

WALLA WALLA -- Memory lane took a turn into Pioneer Park on Sunday, when close to 150 people gathered to celebrate the bandstand's 100th anniversary as they listened to music from 1909 while sitting under shade of the park's century-old trees.

"Our grandfather (Robert E. Berry) helped plant some of these trees ... and we played on these old trees as we grew up," said Anne Gradwohl, 79, who was sitting next to her cousin, Margaret Berry Corcoran, 77.

"We used to love to play on the cannons. We climbed all over those things, and the hill, too. If it got an inch of snow on it we were over there sledding," Corcoran said.

"We would freeze to death and go home and stand over the furnace," Gradwohl added.

Back then, Sundays in the park were the place to be, and the bandstand was the center of it all, the cousins agreed. They described how hundreds would gather to picnic, and sometimes the soldiers would play ball.

"While the soldiers (from World War II) were in town we used to have softball games on Sundays," Corcoran said.

Music was a big part of the scene, they said, but added they were too young to have seen John Philip Sousa play at the bandstand.

"Oh that was way before us," Gradwohl said.

Corcoran jokingly corrected her, "Well not way before. She's the older of the two of us."

For Corcoran, the best Pioneer Park memory was her first roller skates.

"The first time I learned to roller skate, that was the most fun," she said.

But her cousin had her beat.

"My husband proposed to me in the park. We parked there (motioning to the hill) and we smooched a little bit. And he proposed and handed me a ring," Gradwohl said.

Three generations later and on the other side of the sprawled out crowd, Angel Rohrscheib and her family also came on Sunday to celebrate. And though they've only lived in Walla Walla for 10 years, they are regulars here.

Here children, John and Shanna, were 10 and 8 when they attended their first bandstand event. Now they are 20 and 18.

"Fantastic. It's a nice park," John said, noting that he's still a regular and likes to play bocce and ladder golf here.

Shanna added that as she grew up, she especially liked Fourth of July, the Easter egg hunt, free concerts, community festivals and weddings.

"We came here once and there were three weddings going on," she said.

So newbies and natives came together to celebrate for another Sunday in the park. They listened to the Walla Walla Valley Bands, which performed the "Notre Dame Victory March," "Fairest of the Fair" by Sousa, the "National Emblem March" and a medley of popular 1909 tunes.

It seemed as if the cousins knew some of the tunes pretty well, as they hummed along and tapped while sitting in their chairs. The only time they stood was at the beginning, when the national anthem was played. And as patriots often do from� their generation,� they sang every word with hands to their hearts.

Their only complaint was that more people did not come to celebrate, and the occasional use of the word gazebo.

"What gripped me is when they call this a gazebo. It is not a gazebo, it's a bandstand," Gradwohl.

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