Hay, Herb

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                                      HERB HAY
                            Hay Named Freeman of the Town
                                 By Joanne Cadogan

CHATHAM – Former band leader Herb Hay will be made a Freeman of the Town of Chatham on Saturday, Nov. 26. Chatham town council approved the honor, proposed by Bob Murdock and Joe MacDonald, at its monthly meeting Monday night. The ceremony is set for the Knights of Columbus Hall at 7:30 p.m.

Pat McCluskey is preparing the address confirming Hay as a freeman of the town. His research touches the highlighs of Hay’s contributions to the community – his involvement in sports, his air force, business and civil service careers, and his devotion to music.

Hay formed his first band in 1946. He kept up his musical career in the service with another hit band that performed on Rimouski radio every Saturday night. When he returned to Chatham, Hay’s was a prominent name on the North Shore circuit. Herb played saxophone with his own band in Chatham and made many guest appearances with his brother Frank’s band, based out of Bathurst. Hay played with musical groups throughout New Brunswick, and was among the star performers in shows by the former Sanitoria club. It wasn’t unusual for Hay’s musical commitments to keep him out six nights a week.

During the day, he turned his hand to several different callings. He ran a radio and TV repair shop. He served with the RCAF as a wireless air gunnery instructor and air traffic controller. In 1963 he accepted the post of customs and excise officer for the Miramichi region. He retired in 1984.

Hay has seen several championship seasons, both as a hockey player and a golfer. Hay was a member of the Chatham Junior British consols when they won the provincial hockey title in 1936. He has held the title of club champ at the Miramichi Golf and Country Club eight times and is a two time New Brunswick Legion champion. Hay even tried his hand at softball, pitching with the Chatham Arrows for two seasons.

Hay is marred to Margaret (Midge) Clancy. They have three children.

Miramichi Leader – November 15, 1994

                                      HERB HAY
                                  By Joanne Cadogan

CHATHAM – Herb Hay says at first he was embarrassed, but now he’s pleased he’s going to be a Freeman of Chatham. Chatham town council announced the honor at its monthly meeting held last week. The ceremony is set for Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Chatham at 7:30 p.m.

The honor came as a complete surprise to the 74 year old Hay, who is recovering from a series of strokes which have left him in a wheelchair. “I didn’t know they planned to make me a Freeman of the town,” he said. “Bob Murdock and Joe MacDonald came to see me and said they were going to have a night for me around the end of October. I thought they had something planned for Halloween and they were going to play a trick on me. “

When Hay found out the men were working to have him named a Freeman of the Town, an honor bestowed only 14 times in the past 30 years, he was bowled over. “I was a little embarrassed at first, but now I’m very pleased,” he said. “I played this whole area for so many years with a big orchestra. It was good.”

Hay was about 13 when he first started to dabble with the saxophone, an instrument which would play a major role in his life for the next 50 years. “My father, Andrew, was in a band overseas during the first world war and he played a lot of instruments – the trombone, alto, bass and trumpet. “A lot of people will remember him because he played with the Chatham Citizen’s Band.

“For myself, my brother Frank had a saxophone at home and when he went to work I used to sneak in and try to play it. I didn’t get anywhere with it, so one day I told him what I was doing and that I wanted to learn.” Frank taught his younger brother what he could, then introduced him to Jack Martin.

Martin operated a little practice hall behind the former Creaghan’s building. That’s where Hay and many of his contemporaries learned their craft. “He (Martin) drew five lines on the wall and put in the notes for the scale. From that I started practicing and reading at the same time.”

“After I’d been at it about a year I asked Elwood if I could sit in for practice with the band, and he said I could. I played a year for nothing. Then for the next three years I played for $1 a night. In my fourth year with the band I got a big raise $3 a night. That was my salary for the next three years. It was only after seven years that I finally got a split of the band. I averaged about $9 a night after that.”

Hay was the youngest member of the band, but that didn’t bother him. “I really enjoyed it,” he said “I played third saxophone harmony six nights a week. It got to the point that I didn’t have to look at the music. I just played the harmony automatically. I loved every minute of it because I loved the music. I love all that old big band music.”

                   Remembers crowds of well behaved, good dancers

Herb Hay has had a number of careers, but music has been his abiding passion. Hay formed his first band – Herbie Hay and his Orchestra – when he served with the RCAF during the Second World War as a wireless air gunnery instructor.

After the war hay finished high school and went on to work at the government garage. Later he helped construct and then worked as a sulphate cook at Miramichi Timber, an early forerunner of Miramichi Pulp and Paper.

Hay re-enlisted with the RCAF and worked as an air traffic controller in Newfoundland, Manitoba, and at Pennfield Ridge near Saint John. He left the forces in 1958 and he, his wife Midge and their three children returned to Chatham, where they purchased and restored an historic house at 52 Howard St. Hay took a course in radio and TV repair in Moncton and opened his own shop in Chatham, offering those services and selling TVs and records. In 1964 he topped a field of 17 applicants to become the customs and excise officer for the Miramichi, a post he maintained until his retirement in 1984.

Through all those years and careers, the one constant in Hay’s life was his music. Wherever he went he played, either alone, with a combo, or with an orchestra – most commonly with various version of Herbie Hay and his Orchestra.

        After his final stint in the RCAF, Hay’s night life became almost regimented.

“We played the Exhibition in Chatham on Tuesdays and Saturdays; in Sunny Corner on Mondays and Thursdays, on Wednesday in Nelson and Friday nights in Newcastle,” Hay said. “That’s not easy work. At 7 p.m.every night you had to start getting ready, and you usually weren’t home until 3 a.m. But if you like it, you can do it. I had a great group of guys and they co-operated with me pretty well.” Herb’s brothers Frank and Maurie were frequently among the band members. All three played the saxophone.

Hay remembers seeing many of the same faces night after night at the dances. “Some people would go every night, which explains why we have so many good dancers on the Miramichi. The price of the dance was only 35 cents. That’s why people could afford to go so often,” he said, “It was quite a life.”

                                    Way to stop fights

-While most of the crowds at Herbie Hay’s dances were perfect ladies and gentlemen, there were some exceptions. “The odd time someone would have too many and start to fight,” Hay said. “When they did, I’d play God Save the King or Queen. That would always stop them in their tracks. Unfortunately when the song was over a lot of them would do right back at it.”

                                Hay eight time golf club champ

Herb Hay reckons he has met thousands of Miramichiers at dances he played over the years. And those he didn’t meet at the dance halls, he met on the golf course. “I took up golf in 1946, three years after Midge and I were married,” he said.

Hay applied the same dedication to golf he did to music. “I used to practice for two hours before I’d play. I used to love practicing hitting golf balls.”

Again, Hay proved practice makes perfect. He is a two time New Brunswick Legion champion and an eight time club champ at the Miramichi Golf and Country Club. He even served as acting pro at the Miramichi Club one summer.

“When I first started the club championship was always decided on match play. If you won the most number of holes over the whole season you’d win the championship,” he said.

“I was 65 when I won the club championship for the last time, 1985. That year it was decided on stroke play. With that you had to beat everybody else’s score – you had to have the lowest score on the field over two days. I think that’s the one I’m proudest of, because at 65 I beat all the young fellows.

Miramichi Leader – November 22, 1994

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                                     HERBIE HAY
                                 Freeman of the Town

About 200 people packed the K of C Hall in Chatham on Saturday night to salute Herbie Hay.

Hay was made a Freeman of the Town in honor of his many contributions to life in Chatham.

Since Chatham becomes part of Miramichi city Jan. 1, he may be the last person to receive that honor.

The emcees for the evening were Bob Murdock and Mike Davis. The principal address was given by Pat McClusky. Chatham mayor Rupert Bernard presented the award.

Hay responded, expressing his gratitude to the planners of the event, the workers, those at the gathering, and all participants.

Mike Davis read letters of congratulations from Newcastle mayor Peter Murphy and from the Chatham Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. McClusky read a congratulatory letter from Premier Frank McKenna, and another from Geneva and Don King.

Danny Murphy reminisced about the days when the band Hay played with was in full strength and operation. He was followed by John McAloon of Fredericton, who spoke of the days when he played both with and against Hay in the hockey arenas. Rev. B.M. Broderick brought good wishes on behalf of the clergy of the area and on behalf of faculty and students of the former St. Thomas College of Chatham. He said Hay added his musical talents to special observances conducted at St. Michael’s Basilica over the years.

A presentation was made on behalf of Miramichi Heritage Incorporated by Agnes Keoughan. It was an aerial photo of the former Miramichi Exhibition building taken by Chuck Dewey several years ago. The Ex was the scene of countless appearances by Hay and his band over many years.

After the more formal portion of the evening, a number of local musicians took turns performing.

Hay also received a number of cards and gifts from those present and there was a steady parade of people offering congratulations.

                   Like Frank Sinatra, Hay did it “his way”

Here is the text of the tribute to Herbie Hay read Saturday night when he was made Freeman of the Town. The tribute is by Pat McClusky.

“I was pleased to be asked to participate in a variety of ways in the tribute we are according this evening to a man whose association with the good things of the Miramichi is almost legendary. Herb has been and done many things, and in so doing, he was a contemporary of Frank Sinatra in that he did, indeed, do it ‘his way.’

“I’m told by a local historian who once worked in the William J. Connors General Store across the street from the Hay residence, that Herb made his presence known while yet young by contriving to tumble fruit and vegetable displays in the store.

“His educational career is characterized by progress from one academic institution to another, that is to say, from the former St. Joseph’s Primary School, through St. Michael’s Academy, and on into St. Thomas College High School, an establishment many of us remember with varied feelings. Herb was to complete grade 10 before the war, and the remainder afterward. Herb also permitted himself a year at St. Thomas College and a year training in Moncton for a brief career in radio and television repair before immersing himself in the tedious requirement of earning a living.

“Without belaboring the point, let it be known that Herb experienced two careers in the RCAF. His first stint was primarily as an instructor in wireless air gunnery, and the second as an air traffic controller. He made a stab at civilian life and occupations in between, but they were not to his liking.

“Herb had started his own band here in 1946, before he re-enlisted. He retired finally from the RCAF in 1962, and while in the service he conducted his own musical group.

“It seems that music followed him wherever he went. And one wintry day in Mont Joli, in 1943, he married Midge Clancy, which goes to show he was capable of making wise decisions when called upon to do so.

“Herb thrived on competition of all kinds, and sports captured his attention in many ways, and he has a collection of trophies to attest to his skills in hockey, golf, softball, and other such undertakings. He became a skilled bridge player, too, and he also served well, in an executive capacity, to the sports he loved so much.

“It should be added that nobody ever cut a more dashing figure than Herb did when he stepped forth in uniform as a local representative of Canada Customs and Excise, in which profession her served for 20 years, from 1964 to 1984.

“But oh, the music!”

Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – December 2, 1994

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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