They sent in the clowns

The Des Moines Still College Band

The framed photograph hanging above the DMU marketing office coffeemaker mystifies: Who was this motley crew of apparently musical clowns? How were they connected to Des Moines Still College of Osteopathy, now DMU? And why did the group include a skeleton on a bicycle?

The mystery was cracked thanks to Mary Ann Zug, DMU institutional historian, who has been plumbing the depths of the Log Book archive and working on the published history of the University’s first 100 years. She discovered that back in fall 1929, the 30-member Des Moines Still College band was invited to participate in the Des Moines Food Show parade, which started at the State Capitol grounds and wound up Locust Street, passing a reviewing stand at the Register and Tribune building.

The band “proved to be one of the main attractions of the day’s parade,” reported the Oct. 15, 1929, Log Book.

The band was led by Buster Sutton atop a tandem bike, with the rear seat occupied by the “splendid German skeleton” of distinguished faculty member and band founder/director H.V. Halladay, D.O., known as “Virge” to students. The skeleton “was pumping for all its might and enjoying the curious gazes by all,” the Log Book stated, “until a rough place in the pavement dislodged the skull, which went rattling to the hard surface without any serious results.”

Speaking of pavement, the Log Book reported the Still College band also performed that fall at the dedication of a new stretch of pavement connecting Ames and Huxley, IA; in a local Harvest Jubilee parade, attired in “treating gowns”; and at a campus assembly, among other events.

“The members and Dr. Halladay are to be congratulated upon their wonderful progress so early in the school year,” stated the Nov. 1, 1929, Log Book. “With this outstanding organization available in a college of the size and caliber of Des Moines Still College, there is not anything to be done that would be too much for every member.

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