It has been written that leadership traits can be detected at an early age. Tommy Loy's youth would provide solid support for this premise. He was clearly a cut above the rest in Miss Lewis' first grade class at Denison's Central Ward School. He was also a star drummer in the schools Rhythm Band (see photo Ð Tommy is standing in front of his teacher, looking to his left and with his drum at an angle). For the remainder of his years at Central, Tommy would be a standout whether as a student, musician, or second baseman on the softball team (our only "organized" sport). The same behaviors continued through high school.
An old stereotype of musicians was that they were sissies. This notion may have been held by the school's largest bully the day he "picked on" Tommy. What a mistake! The best left hook you would ever see brought the bully to his knees and greatly improved his disposition. You might wonder how a little guy like Tommy would take on a big fellow. Truth is, Tommy was one of the larger male students in our 8th grade. He just never grew a lot afterwards; at least not physically. He grew in every other important way.
Most of us freshman boys in high school couldn't get a date with age-mates; they wanted to date more sophisticated upperclassmen. Tommy normally escorted a great looking junior. In his eleven years of public school (we skipped the 6th grade), Tommy was in at least four musical groups; the Rhythm Band, Ms. Bodamer's orchestra, the Denison High School Band and the Jacket Jivers (a small dance band he formed).
At age 11, Tommy played first trumpet in Ms. Bodamer's orchestra. This middle-aged, German woman, with dark eyes that could stare an extra hole in a clarinet, was our teacher. I wrote "age 11." What I meant was that I was eleven and Tommy was eleven going on twenty. He was always mature beyond his years. At fifteen he was a three-year veteran in the high school band (recruited right out of Central) and served as an agent for several of us.
Tommy got us our first gig (or whatever it was called in 1945) with a black band led by a gentleman named D. X. Brooks (Theme song: "The Green Grass Grows All Around, All Around."). We were booked for only one night at a local nightclub, Tropical Gardens, but made a whopping fifteen bucks each, not bad in 1945. We became professionals overnight. That summer, he got us another job lasting six weeks at Rio Vista, a boy's camp near Kerrville. Tommy included me, Charlie Beggs (trombone) and George Mosse (saxophone) who still plays in Las Vegas. (We are all in the Rhythm Band picture). Our task was to play at dances involving our camp and various girls' camps in the area. The problem that summer, a huge one, was a polio epidemic that restricted us to the camp. We did entertain some during the lunch hour but mostly it was tennis and canoeing on the Guadalupe. We also played in a basketball tournament but because we musicians kicked tails, we were soon removed from the competition by the camp's administration. Can you imagine how this went over with Tommy? He was determined to be the best he could be in every pursuit and was very competitive, including athletics.
Several years ago, Tommy and I resumed corresponding; this time via the telephone and Internet. I had the trumpet bought from him in 1944 reconditioned and e-mailed him a picture. He seemed pleased that it appeared to be in such good shape even though it hadn't been used in quite a few decades. The most recent topic was our upcoming 55th high school reunion in which he was to serve as master of ceremonies. When the time came to perform, for once in his life, he was simply too exhausted to make an appearance. It took a huge obstacle to keep him off stage.
Tommy's memorial service reminded us that he was not just a hero of his classmates, but was highly respected and loved by others representing many age levels and walks of life. I had a brief conversation with Jim Cullum two years ago and he related how much he admired Tommy personally and his outstanding talent. His appearance at the service seemed to confirm this sentiment. Tommy's passing leaves a huge void.
Bobby Noe, DHS Class of '47
Elaine Nall Bay
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