The Gramophone Salesman
A popular story in the folklore of High River involves Bob Edwards, the publisher of High River's first weekly newspaper "The Eye Opener". The story goes that one Saturday afternoon in 1903, a gramophone salesman came to High River hoping to sell religious music on phonograph records to local congregations. He gave his pitch to the Methodist minister, saying that the mid-week choir practices could lead to "moral hazards". Temptations were inevitable when the young male and female singers headed homeward in the dark after practice. The solution to this problem was the installation of a "Gramophone Choir"!
The minister was impressed and agreed to let the man give a demonstration the next day at church. The salesmen selected some of his recorded hymns and placed them in proper order for the evening service.
Happy with his potential sale, the salesman headed to the local bar in celebration. He took his leather case of records with him and played a few tunes for the 'gang' at the bar. One of men present was suspected to be Bob Edwards who later wrote:
"When Sunday morning dawned, the professor was in horrible shape for lack of sleep and too much of Jerry's Finest Old Glenhorrors. Anyways, when Sunday evening came and the fateful hour arrived, he had a hang-over and was very nervous.
All of High River was at the church to hear the Gramophone Choir. The 'gang' was thickly bunched in the back pews. Sure enough, there was the instrument perched on a little table, with the professor capering about arranging records.
'Hymn number 471,' announced the preacher. 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing, hymn number 471, omitting the third stanza.'
'See here,' interrupted the professor, 'this here choir omits nothing. I can shut 'er off at the end of the third and omit the fourth, if you like, but no hops and skips in the middle.'
"All right, let 'er go! Hark the Herald Angles Sing by the Edison Quartette."
As the notes of the beautiful hymn wafted through the church, the professor stood beaming at the congregation, as much as to say, 'Got 'em faded!' The people were evidently charmed and the minister looked gratified, the latter afterwards adding a few appropriate words on the marvelous advances in science and the many wondrous inventions and discoveries vouchsafed to us by the Almighty through the medium of human genius.
The next hymn announced in the course of the usual service was 'Nearer My God to Thee', and the congregation bent forward expectantly. The professor took a fresh record from the pile and wound her up. The preliminary coughing and shuffling into comfortable positions drowned the announcement from the gramophone itself, but it was not long before it dawned upon the congregation that the new choir was singing 'Just Because She Made Them Goo-Goo Eyes'. The professor hastily stopped the machine and started to put on another record but the minister stopped him with the remark:
'The resignation of the Gramophone Choir is accepted. Let us pray.'
Next morning a scrubby-looking individual with large satchel, immense horn and tremendous jag, might have been seen wending his way over to the depot, bound for Macleod. The professor's idea was all right but poorly executed. It called for at least a small modicum of sobriety. His records must have got mixed on Saturday night." (September 21, 1918 from Eye Opener Bob, The Story of Bob Edwards by Grant MacEwan, 1957)
Rumors flew around town that Bob Edwards knew more that he let on and that it was he who switched those records in the bar on Saturday night. His silence after the story was written caused great suspicion and church opinion against him grew. After this, and a few other run-ins with the church, Edwards decided to leave High River.
Eye Opener Bob, The Story of Bob Edwards by Grant MacEwan. Published by The Institute Of Applied Art, (c) 1957