A few days ago I wrote “Who Are These 1930s-1940s Musical Acts And Were They Ever In York County?“. The story explored a few music-themed postcards from my grandparents photograph collection. I was unable to track down information on most of the entertainers, including the young orchestra members shown in the image below. With the help of reader “JimmyBear” and his keen local knowledge, we now know who this youthful group actually was.
Pint-sized performers revealed…
Lehr’s Family Orchestra originated in York County and consisted of John and Mable Meisenhelter Lehr’s eight children: Hazel, Stanford, David, Katheryn, Theodore, Virginia, Jay, and Victor. Realizing the names in the family seemed to “ring some bells”, I decided to search through my family research to see if there was a connection. Sure enough, Mable shares some of the same genes as I do, and we are distantly related through the Stough family, although her grandfather spelled his surname with a “c” as in Stouch.
To be precise, Mable is my third half-cousin, four times removed.
The group appears to have performed from the 1920s until the 1940s, but it’s impossible to pinpoint the precise dates. They performed at churches and civil gatherings throughout York County, Gettysburg, and even in Frederick, Maryland. They appear to have traveled at times, as Jay received an award at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, Century of Progress Exposition. Victor even received an award for his abilities in New York City where he was trained by Frank Goldman of the Goldman Band.
An excellent resource for additional information about this group and the music of yesteryear Mike Brubaker’s blog, “tempostanzatempo: A Photo Gallery of Timeless Musicians“.
A look at the young artists…
Using the research that my good friend and cousin Jay Stouch has performed on our family over the years, I’m able to offer some information about the members of this musical family. As with any research, information was limited about some of the subjects we will be looking at. I listed an instrument that each child played, but some were proficient with more than one.
Hazel Mary Lehr was born in 1909 and played the trombone. She married Harry Breirer, but it is unclear if the couple had any children. She passed away in 1977 and is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, Springettsbury Township.
Stanford Isadore Meisenhelter Lehr was born in 1912 and played the violin. In 1937 he married Naomi Husson, and together they were the parents of at least two sons. Stanford served as a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representitives, 95th District from 1969 – 1984. In 1992 he passed away and is buried in Mount Rose Cemetery, Spring Garden Township.
David Samuel Lehr was born in 1914 and played the clarinet. He married Leona Waughtel and is known to have at least one daughter. David had passed away in 1979, but the location of his burial is unknown.
Katheryn Mabel Cunningham was born in 1916 and played the saxophone. She married Charles Cunningham in 1939 and together they had at least two children. She passed away in 1951 at the young age of 34.
Theodore John Lehr was born in 1919 and played the drums. In 1940 he married Flora Mummert, and together they had at least two children. In 2011, Theodore was the only surviving sibling listed in his brother’s obituary, and I’m working to verify that sibling’s current whereabouts.
Virginia June Lehr was born in 1921 and played the saxophone. She married Carlton McKinley in 1945 and they are known to have three children. She passed away in 1969 and is buried in Gravel Hill Cemetery in Lebanon County.
Jay Philip Sousa Lehr was one of the only family members that I was able to find information about. He was born in 1927 and played the drums in the group. He was married to Ruth Haare and it is believed that they had four children together. There appears to be a second marriage according to other records found.
His obituary, found on the website of Pines Funerals in Carthage, North Carolina, shows he passed away in 2011. Music seems to have always been a part of his life, as he was a choir member and also a member of the Golf Capital Chorus and Barber Shop Quartets.
At the time of his death, Jay was survived by his wife Cassie Myrick Lehr, his brother Theodore, three sons, one daughter, and two step-sons in addition to several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It’s interested to note that some references I found show Jay’s name actually listed as John. Perhaps John is a name he went by at times, or it was a mere error at some pint in time. The fact that his name is listed as Jay in his obituary is proof enough for me.
Victor Herbert Lehr was another family member with information available online. He was born in 1932 and played the drums and vocals. His listing on the Find-A-Grave website states he was a graduate of North York High School and retired from Sprinnt after 30 years of service. He was also a veteran of the Korean War, where he served with the United States Army.
At the time of his death in 1997, he was survived by his wife of 43 years, Marian Miller Lehr, a son, two daughters, and two brothers who were Theodore and Jay. He was also survived by six grandchildren. A daughter proceeded him in death. Victor is buried in Cumberland Valley Memorial Gardens in Cumberland County.
I would love to hear from those with a connection to the Lehr Family Orchestra. There are many family members still in the area, and perhaps one is a reader of Preserving York.
- I now have at least 20 old postcards from musical acts that may be from the area. As I write about them in the near future, hopefully we can learn some are from the area.