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Between the Wars (1920-1940)

Charlie Walters' Drum

Orchestra Intruments

Instruments from the Charlie Walters' Dance Orchestra

The Charlie Walters Dance Orchestra, Napanee, was formed in 1916 and played most of the dances between Belleville and Kingston until 1932. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

Stella Walters was the pianist for the band. Born in Napanee in 1884, Stella was the eldest daughter of Ephraim Wagar and Henrietta Cole. She studied piano in Napanee as a student of Laura Ward, daughter of Dr. Ward, M.D. By age 17, Stella was playing for the Oddfellows Lodge dances.

After her marriage to Charles Walters, Manager of the Napanee Public Utilities Commission, the couple lived in Etta Cole's house on Pearl Street, south of the river, where they raised three children.

During the years of the First World War, Stella and Charlie formed a small orchestra. Charlie played the drums.

The orchestra was enlisted to play for dances at the mess of the Royal Flying Corps, Camp Mohawk in 1917-18. Irene and Vernon Castle, the leading dance stars of the period were there, with Vernon training as an aviator. Stella was always proud of the fact that she had played for Irene and Vernon Castle to dance.

The Castles were a husband and wife team of ballroom dancers who operated several clubs and studios in New York City and toured the country dancing. He performed in nine Broadway musicals. In 1914, he appeared with Irene in the Irving Berlin musical, "Watch Your Step". Vernon was killed in an airplane accident in Fort Worth, Texas, shortly before the end of World War One.

The Walter's Orchestra introduced all the great dance hits of the period to the Napanee district. The Orchestra grew over the years from a four to twelve pieces. Their son, Allan, also played saxophone in the band.

A four piece orchestra was used in the smaller venues such as parish and lodge halls. An eight piece orchestra was used in summer dance pavilions at Collins Bay, Beaver Lake and Napanee. In the larger venues such as the Napanee Armouries, a twelve piece orchestra was used.

By the twenties, cars made it convenient for young people to attend dances at the summer pavilions. Local bands like the Charlie Walter's Dance Orchestra played weekly dances at "Palmetto", one of the most popular summer pavilions in the Bay of Quinte district, Big city bands played occasional engagements. Built at Beaver Lake in 1924, it had a hardwood dance floor and a balcony over the lake.

Stella Walter's extensive collection of sheet music from 1895-1965 is in the holdings of the Lennox and Addington Historical Society, and includes a wide variety to appeal to various tastes.

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