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From the Archives: The Origin of the Traveling Men

For nearly 70 years, Gilman's Upper School a cappella group, the Traveling Men, have been singing through the halls of Gilman and beyond. During the 1949-1950 school year, a subgroup of Gilman's Glee Club formed an octet singing group, which formally became the Traveling Men during the 1952-1953 school year. Science teacher Bill Porter was the group's founding director for nearly two decades, from 1952 until 1970. In the 1997 retrospective album titled "Through the Ages: 1958-1997," Mr. Porter described the founding of the Traveling Men as follows:

"In September 1952, when I was newly-anointed director of the Gilman Glee Club, Carter Volz, the club's student president, asked if I would coach an octet he had gotten together. I agreed, and we decided on Wednesday evenings for rehearsals at my home, 'Windfall,' on Applewood Lane.

The first group consisted of Carter Volz, Hugh Ryland, Harry Thomas, Pete Bouscaren, Neal Bouscaren, George Urban, Charlie Mitchell, Charlie O'Donovan, Dick Allen, John Seiler, Bill Trimble, and Bill Meyers. Carter's brother was at Yale and in the Whiffenpoofs. He provided us many leads on catchy ditties to sing. Among them was 'The Persian Kitten,' from which the group took their name: the Traveling Men. Bill Dorsey later rearranged this song for the group in 1960. To become a Traveling Man quickly became an ambition among the younger students — we never had to recruit!

Once a week for the next 17 years, the Traveling Men descended upon my house to sing and harmonize. All worked hard to learn the songs, stay on pitch, keep in rhythm, and blend. That is until my wife brought in a tray of soft drinks and cookies. The focus then changed to what tests were coming up, how the football team was doing, or who was dating whom.

On warm spring evenings, the group performed on our garage's flat roof. My children raced around the neighborhood announcing that the Traveling Men were giving a concert, and soon our backyard was filled with people waiting in lawn chairs, listening as the group sang their latest songs.

I stayed on as a coach until 1970, when the group came under the excellent tutelage of Bucky Walsh. Coaching the Traveling Men was a wonderful experience, and I had many hours of fun. I owe many fond memories to the group."

Want to hear how the Traveling Men of the 20th century sounded? Listen to tracks from the 1997 retrospective album, "Through the Ages: 1958-1997."