After an unsuccessful attempt to form a string band in 1955, Illustrious Sir Arthur Kromer, in 1957, appointed a committee consisting of Nobles Dale W. Woomer, Randolph M. Clark and Fred Wicker to get this unit underway. Prospective members were contacted and instructed to bring their instruments for a ‘jam session” and a general meeting. As a result of that ‘meeting”, the String Band was formed. Noble Randy Clark was elected President, Fred Wicker, Secretary/Treasurer, and Dale W. Woomer, Director. There were 23 charter members.
The office of President changes annually. The office of Secretary/Treasurer was separated into two offices after the first year and the offices of 1st and 2nd Vice Presidents were added. While almost every original member served as president, only 5 have served as secretary - Fred Wicker. Randolph M. Clark, Ken Rhodes, Robert Akins, and John A. Dively, Jr. As Treasurer — Fred Wicker, Don Yarnell, Ted Orkus, Roland Musser, and William Helsel. As Director — Dale W. Woomer, Paul Mitchell, Bob Shallop, Louis Lambert, George Glashauser, and Tom Moore.
Members of the Jaffa Temple String Band came from Indiana, Johnstown, Monroeville, Greentree, Clymer, Cherry Tree, Williamsburg, Mount Union and Huntingdon as well as the Altoona - Blair County area. Rehearsals were held every Tuesday for years, but due to the distance to be travelled, meetings were reduced to 2 per month. Playing dates can be any time — and usually are!
President Randy Clark appointed a By-Laws Committee consisting of Paul Eicher, Chairman, Fred Wicker, and Dale W. Woomer. This culminated in a set of By-Laws establishing the purpose and operating rules for the band: i.e. to play and entertain at any Shrine function, participate in ceremonials. Shrine parades and other parades approved by the Potentate or Major of Units, entertain at hospitals and church homes for the aged, and play and entertain at Masonic functions when invited.
Jaffa Temple String Band was not formed as a marching unit. Instrumentation of the band included all strings, sax, clarinets, piano and percussion instruments. Uniforms were the work uniform (blue shirt with String Band patch, and blue pants with a white leg stripe) and the formal dress uniform (red tux. coat, Fez. etc...) — no feathered head pieces. The band was not meant to be a “Mummers” type String Band - it is a riding unit.
A 16 foot flat bed single axle trailer served as the first riding unit and was hauled by Clarence Yon’s old Army Jeep. Members of the band converted it into a band wagon and borrowed sound equipment from the Juniata Gap Fire Co. With the growth of the band, this proved too small, and after a series of borrowed trailers, trucks and even a hay wagon (truck from i.e. Williamson, Loganbell Farm), a committee was formed in 1960 to provide suitable transportation for the band. The committee included Nobles James P. Cherry, Dale W. Woome, Clarence J. Yon, Otto Dietze, Warren Biddle, Milton Gibson, J. Fred Wicker, Glen Sharpless, and Bob Hutchinson. All members contributed to the construction.
The first big trailer was built on the frame of a burned out house trailer. Steel for the construction was donated by Fred Pechter, President of the Altoona Pipe & Steel Co. George S. Glashauser (not a member at this time) got diamond plate steel for the decking in New Jersey and donated it to the band. The result was a ‘back yard unit” made by real professionals. Contributions of time, labor and materials were made by every member of the band. Noble Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson. portrait painter for the Temple, did the lettering on the truck and trailer. The present trailer was designed by Noble Bob Shallop and constructed under the direction of Noble William Helsel with every member of the band contributing labor. This trailer has been updated with state-of-the-art sound equipment by Noble Phillip Reigh.
Since the band did not have a band room, business meetings and practice sessions were held in the 22nd Street Lounge. The Room Committee, chaired by Warren Biddle and members Paul Eichcr, Otto Dietze, Earl Burkholder, Jim Cherry, Dale Woomer, Glen Sharpless, and Don Yarnell received approval of the plans and permission from the Potentate and the Improvement Association to remodel the second floor room presently occupied by the String Band. Don Yrnell negotiated a purchase of chairs and carpet from the Pennsylvania Railroad officials. This room was refurbished once and a “kitchen” was built in for convenience in preparing refreshments. Business meetings, rehearsals, receptions and parties are held in the room. Prior to the Temple steward serving meals and refreshements during circus week, the band “kitchen” was used to this purpose.
In 1970, the five Mid-Atlantic Shrine Temples, Irem, Salaam, Jaffa, Crescent, and Boumi formed the Mid-Atlantic Shrine String Band Association – MASSBA. Noble Dale W. Woomer, Director of Jaffa String Band, was appointed chairman of the committee to write the By-Laws for the MASSBA and to seek approval from the Mid-Atlantic Shrine Association. During 1975 and 1976 he served as president. Jaffa Nobles who also served as president were Kenneth F. Rhodes, Henry D. Beerman and RobertE. Akins. The Jaffa String Band has taken many trophies in competition over the years, and at present time the band is considering a special trophy case to protect them.
Jaffa String Band participates in all Shrine activities and entertains at nursing homes and charitable organizations requesting their services. The band averages 12 to 15 performances per year in addition to their Shrine assignments.