Manitoba couple reunited with drum kit lost 75 years ago

By | December 9, 2019

They were gone for more than seven decades, but a once-lost and forgotten set of drums is bringing back fond memories for one Manitoba couple. 

Jock Carr bought the set new back in 1944. He played the drums in a Melita, Man., based orchestra that travelled the region — sometimes by horse and sleigh — entertaining in halls, the local colosseum and even farmhouses. The entire band was paid just $5 per night. 

That’s where he met Lois, who later played the piano for the group — named the Moonlight Melody Makers. 

“They used to have dances in the farm homes,” said Lois, remembering the short time she played alongside her husband. “The biggest houses had the dances. Every house had an old pump organ.” 

Both left in 1945 to farm and raise a family. The drum kit stayed with the rest of the group and was eventually sold after it disbanded, and the Carrs hadn’t thought much about it until Nelda Wilkinson cleaned her closets earlier this year.

Neither Carr plays musical instruments anymore, but hope one of their grandchildren or great-grandchildren can make use of the drums someday. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

It was Wilkinson’s parents who had bought the drums. For decades, they sat in storage in her family’s farm house outside of Melita. 

“I wasn’t involved with the orchestras … so I didn’t know anything about this,” said Wilkinson, who spotted the faint remains of the orchestra’s logo on the drum set and inquired with the Carr family about whether it was theirs. 

Drums stored for decades 

“It all just came [to] light not too terribly long ago,” she said, adding that the drums, while once kept at her family’s farm house, had been in storage since the late 1980s at her house in Melita, a town in the southwestern corner of Manitoba, about 285 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg. 

“They weren’t playing anymore so then they were just left at our place,” said Wilkinson. 

After exchanging photos with the Carrs and confirmed it was, in fact, their drums, the kit was reunited with its original owner. 

“It was really fabulous. It was wonderful,” said Lois. “It brought back many memories, especially for Jock … it really was emotional.” 

Wilkinson said she was happy to help the couple — who are now in their late 90s. 

“If it brought pleasure to them …. by all means,” Wilkinson added.  “It was another thing that I had to get out of my house too.”

“And we were glad to put them in ours,” said Carr. “It’s not in our way at all.” 

Carr admits that she didn’t think much of the drums over the years, but their whereabouts did cross her mind every now and then.  

“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s amazing.” 

In the right light, the Moonlight Melody Makers emblem can faintly be seen along the edges of the bass drum. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

“Not that Jock can play them anymore … it’s good to have them back,” Carr added. “It’s really good to have them here and that [Wilkinson] kept them so good all these years.” 

Carr said she and her husband plan to keep them on display in their home for now, but has no doubt they may even get used again some day, hoping one of her 16 grandchildren or 22 great-grandchildren might take up the drums.

“We were very fortunate,” she said, of the return of the musical instruments. “Never … I didn’t even think. It was certainly amazing.”