Sweet Adelines: A look back

March 6, 2013

LIMA — The ladies just couldn’t be left out.

The Limelighters Chapter of the Sweet Adelines, a women’s barbershop-style singing group, was organized locally in 1954. The men’s group, The Lima Beane Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, started in 1948.

A newspaper story reported March 25, 1954, of the start of the Sweet Adelines here.

“Sweet Adelines Club, an auxiliary to the Lima Beane Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, was organized last evening in the home of Mrs. Charles E. Kohl Jr., 450 Runyan Ave.” the story reported. Officers were Miss Barbara Kersker, president; Mrs. Charles Kohl, vice president; Mrs. Ray S. Moore, secretary; Mrs. C.M. Kersker Sr., treasurer; and Mrs. Robert E. Crider, reporter.

The group’s charter was approved at the national headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., later that year, and the group was off in earnest. There were 20 women in the group, as of an Aug. 15, 1954, story, and women were pushing a membership drive.

“Purpose of the Sweet Adelines is educational: To teach and train its members in singing four-part harmony, barbershop style, without instrumental accompaniment, the parts being tenor, lead, baritone and bass; to create and maintain choruses and quartettes; and to promote the spirit of friendliness everywhere,” the story reported. “A trained voice or technical musical background is not necessary.”

The local Sweet Adelines had already formed a quartet, the Debutunes. Mrs. Dewey Shaffer is listed as director of the group.

The group held open houses/membership drives at the YWCA and picnics at area parks in addition to singing at various functions around the area. The women continued even after the 1955 death of president Olive M. Kohl in a fiery head-on car crash, singing at churches, dinners, fairs and other events.

In 1956, the Limelighters sang in association with the Lima Beane Chorus at Faurot Park for a concert series, directed by Ronald Williams.

All the while, they were working to improve and often sent quartets to competitions.

“Twenty-five musical Lima women headed by Mrs. Raymond Ford compose a unique club called Limelighters-Sweet Adelines. Organized about four years ago, the group meet weekly in homes of members to vocalize. The club makes frequent public appearances and are currently planning an autumn pocket show centered around the harvest theme,” according to a July 28, 1957, story.

The first “Harvest of Harmony” show was Oct. 5 at Washington-McKinley School.

In 1958, Rollie Bushong began directing. The women continued their “Harvest of Harmony” concerts at various locations around town. That same year, the chorus went to competition in Toronto.

Quartets sprang up — perhaps the women felt more confident in their abilities — and the names were musical in and of themselves: Clef Dwellers, Tune Teasers, Mis L Tones, Debutones, A-Dora-Belles, Derby Dolls.

The next big change came with a new director. Lane Bushong, Rollie Bushong’s son, took over at the lead.

“Twenty-seven gals, members of the Limelighters chapter of the Sweet Adelines, left early this morning for London, Ontario, Canada. Also going along was their director, Lane Bushong, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R.N. Bushong. The senior Mr. Bushong was formerly director of the organization,” an April 13, 1962, story reported.

“Judging will be based on five categories — stage presence; blend, balance and expression; harmony accuracy; arrangements; and attacks, releases and diction.”

At that particular international contest, the Derby Dolls earned third place. At regionals the following year, the chorus won third place. The Treble Checks did well, too, and the other “gals” gave them sparkly note-shaped brooches.

In 1967, the chorus won first place in the regionals. At that time, there were 44 women in the chorus. In 1969, there were 50 members, and the group held a drive to increase membership.

As late as 1987, the Sweet Adelines were still performing.

“There is a lot of satisfaction to singing in the Limelighters for the simple reason there is so much more to it. There is the costuming, choreography, the opportunity to sing, the variety of music,” Judy Heath, president, is quoted as saying in an Oct. 18, 1987, story. The group had 24 members at that time. That story mentioned the charter would be revoked if the group went below 20 members.

The papers mention a Sisters in Song group and the All American City Chorus of the Sweet Adelines, based in Sidney, in the 1990s and more recently. Both have disbanded. Currently, Ohio Northern University has a few men's and women's quartets.



The Treble Checks