Flyer 1 for Distribution

Just a few months after World II ended, the Fox River Valley barbershop chapter chorus, composed of singers from St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia, gave a program at Elgin State Hospital. Afterward, a quartet from that chapter sang for a party at the Elgin Elks Lodge. This prompted further interest and a committee was formed which invited the male members of other lodges and clubs in the area to attend a meeting on April 30, 1946 in the Elgin City Hall courtroom. The Elgin Barbershop Chapter was organized, with Ben Willey, a chemist with the Elgin Softener Corporation, appointed as chorus director. Ben had sung with the original group of Chicago Barbershoppers under the direction of the legendary Frank Thorne, and was part of the only father and son combination in the society at that time. The chapter initially continued to meet in the Elgin City Hall courtroom, hosted by Mayor Walter Miller

The first Elgin chapter show was held on May 21, 1947, at the Masonic Temple, with 1300 tickets sold at $1.50 each. The Show was called "The First Annual Parade of Quartets", and included choruses and quartets of the Fox River Valley and Elgin Chapters, as well as four quartets from the Chicago Chapter. Two of the Chicago quartets had already won the Society's international championship and another was destined to do so two years later. The Elgin Chapter was presented its official charter at this show by Frank Thorne, who was then President of the International Society, as well as the bass of the Elastic Four, the champion quartet in 1942, and also performed on the Elgin show.

The Elgin chapter has produced a show for the Elgin community every year since then, in various venues and with a succession of entertaining guest quartets, both male and female, some of whom were already, or about to become international champions. Another unusual and unlikely feature of that first show was an act billed as "Gay Nineties Piano Frolics", presented by two Elgin chapter members. One was Clarence (Ki) Eames, who had served as Drummer Boy, Company E, in the Spanish-American War!

Most members of the Elgin chapter, in its early days, were described as business and professional men, meaning business owners, doctors, and lawyers. Now our members tend to be former school teachers, engineers, real estate agents and an assortment of other services.

The highest achieving in-house quartet in the chapter's history was "The Valley Four-Gers", who won the District championship and competed twice in the International contest. One member of the Valley Four-Gers, Carl Missele, a lifelong Elgin resident is still active in the chapter and sings in the chorus. Carl received two honors in 2004 that speak to his stature in our society: he was named the 2005 Music Man by the Quartet Champions of the Illinois District and was named to the Elgin Chapter Hall of Fame for his extraordinary contributions to his chapter. Carl has also just been recognized in 2017 as a 60 year Barbershop Harmony Society member.

Another long-time Chapter member and now retired Fox Valley Harmonizers Chorus Director is Doug Smith. Doug was a member of five different Illinois District quartet champions: "Friends" 1980, "Piper's Alley" 1991, "Echo Lane" 1992, "Skyline" 2005, and "Stolen Basses" 2006. Doug was named Illinois District "Music Man for 2006" by the Quartet Champions Association. He was also a three-time International Quartet Medalist(two silvers) with the "Sundowners" 1969-1971. Doug's current competitive quartet is called "Panarama".

Our longest sustaining Elgin Chapter charter member, Mal Lloyd, attended Chapter meetings right up until his death in early 2005. In his honor, the Elgin Chapter has renamed one of its popular yearly social events as "The Mal Lloyd Memorial Corny Boil". This is a fitting tribute to Mal's wonderful sense of humor.

The first event ever held in the Hemmens auditorium was the Illinois District Barbershop Contest in October. 1969, hosted by the Elgin chapter. The chapter held its weekly meetings and annual shows there for a number of years.

Before 1969, our barbershop chapter was just known as the Elgin Chapter, but in the fall of 1969 the chapter hosted the Illinois District Contest and Convention at the newly opened Hemmens Auditorium in downtown Elgin. For the event, the chapter's name became the Leatherlungs. The name was actually an acronym. (Let, Elgin, And, The, Hemmens, Elicit, Raves, Learn the, Ultimate in, Non-parallelled, Good, Singing). In 1976, the chapter changed its name to the Elgin Minute Men of Harmony, a reference to Elgin being the Watch City. That year was also the 200th year anniversary of the USA so there was also the connection to original Minutemen who helped make it so. In 2003, the chapter changed its name once more and became the "Fox Valley Men of Harmony", a more fitting name. By that time Elgin was no longer associated with watches, the vacant watch factory was long gone, and chapter members were coming from all parts of the surrounding communities.

That name stayed with us until late 2018 when the Elgin Chapter, following of lead of its parent Society, the Barbershop Harmony Society, revised its charter to admit women into the chapter. In keeping with this change, the chapter chorus name was once again changed and today we are known as the "FOX VALLEY HARMONIZERS".

Revised RVF Feb 4, 2021.

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