The Swift Current Boys Band

The man with his face in shadow riding the horse and holding the banner is my father, Joe Gowan. The woman holding up the other side of the banner is my Aunt Juanita.

Charlie Warren was the Bandmaster of The Swift Current Boys Band, the proprietor of Warren’s Funeral Home in Swift Current, and a close friend of my grandfather, Nelson Gowan. It was Charlie Warren who gave my father the manual from which he learned the art of taxidermy.


The last time I said good bye to my father was in Warren’s Funeral Home.

He didn’t answer.

Formed as The Swift Current Air Cadets Band in 1944, The Swift Current Boys Band became ambassadors for the city as it entered its greatest economic boom in the 1950s. Nelson Gowan volunteered his children and his horses (taking them to Calgary at his own expense) to lead the band into competition at the 1950 Calgary Stampede.


The band won first prize. Here’s how a booklet published to celebrate its 10th Anniversary described the event: “Juanita Gowan on a prancing steed, carrying a small banner first caught the eye of the spectators. Behind her came her brothers, Howard and Joe, carrying a new banner between them. They were also mounted on beautiful horses. Then came sisters Shirley and Carmel in a rope spinning act, the majorette corps, drum major Lloyd Payne, and finally the musicians themselves.”


Aunt Carmel and Aunt Shirley had seen Bobby Hill, the rodeo clown, trick-rope at the Frontier Days Fair in Swift Current in 1942. They were impressed enough that they started practicing every day. More than anything else, it was their distinctive skill that differentiated The Swift Current Boys Band from all the rest and led them to three straight titles at the Calgary Stampede.


In 1952 the band and horses travelled by train to Toronto to compete against marching bands from across Canada and the US at the Canadian National Exhibition. This time they finished third. My Uncle Howard donned a uniform that had been worn by Major General Frederick Middleton (who led troops west to crush the Riel Rebellion) and my father wore Superintendent James Walsh’s NorthWest Mounted Police uniform (according to Walsh, he once rode into Sitting Bull’s Sioux encampment at Wood Mountain with six men and told the chief and a few thousand warriors, some displaying the scalps of American cavalrymen, that they’d better behave themselves if they were going to stay in Canada).


It was the girls, though, with their magic ropes, who created the greatest sensation.


I wonder what happened to all those boys. If you know any of them (or any of the majorettes), please leave a response in the box below.

14 thoughts on “The Swift Current Boys Band

    1. According to the family history book, the prancing steed that Juanita lead the parade on was Sparky. I never thought of Sparky as a prancing steed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You mean, the same Sparky we remember? I suppose it’s possible. I think Sparky was thirty when he died.


  1. Your posts are so rich with history, Lee. Really enjoying your blog. To say you’re a natural at this is just plain silly, but you ARE! Were you old enough to see the Queen come to Swift Current?


  2. What an excellent article. So nice to see you keeping a rich history of a great city and area…alive and remembered. Great job. I also believe you could write an excellent article on Caramel and her travels with her roping.


  3. Sept. 23rd, 2020 – Jerry Wiebe – This was certainly a great time of life. Toronto was a special time that we will never forget. This also is the time when I decided to move back to Toronto. In October, I will have lived in the east for 67 years. I worked for TCA–Air Canada for 37 years and have been retired for 30 years. I have many happy years playing the clarinet in the band.
    Greetings to all who travelled by train in 1952 Swift Current to Toronto.


  4. Thanks for this! My father was in the Swift Current Boys Band when he was a teen. He played the trombone, and although he has some memory loss now, he remembers travelling to Toronto by train. He says they won an award for the band that travelled the farthest. I will show him your article. He will be thrilled. I wish I could find more information with photos for him, as he is in his ninetieth year.


      1. Truly amazing. My dad has such fond memories of those days. I will mention your father to him when I visit this week. If you come across any more photos, I would love to see them. Thank you!


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