Fight Song of Pelham Memorial High School

The Pelican Parade

The “Roaring ‘20s":  the end of the first World War brought American prosperity and, with it, advances in technology and support for greater creativity in art, architecture and music.  Pelham Memorial High School had been open for seven years in 1928 in this age of the automobile, moving pictures, radio and a new musical form called “jazz.”  Amidst the trends in raccoon coats, sports enthusiasm and cheerleading, Jordan C. Smith (PMHS 1929) wrote a fight song for the brand new high school. He called it “The Pelican Parade” with the cover prominently featuring the Pelham Memorial High School pelican mascot.

The music of "The Pelican Parade" is written in a key appropriate for teenagers – almost a falsetto (think Cole Porter). Here are the lyrics:

“Trio cheers, for our alma mater, three cheers for Pelham High. You’ll live in our hearts for ever, memories that will never die.
Pals who have been so loyal, we grieve as we say good bye.
Best of luck as we part, hand to hand, heart to heart,
give three cheers for good old Pelham High."

The Pelican yearbook from 1929 reveals Smith as a gifted student:  literary editor of the Pelican, sports editor of the Pelmel, president of the Knight & Lamp. He was voted by the 55 members of his senior class as “most likely to succeed” and “destined to be a symphony conductor.”  He was involved in pretty much everything musical at PMHS: glee club, orchestra and musical productions of the “Dramatic Club” (before the name was changed to Sock ‘n Buskin).  Musical genes seemed to run in the family: his maternal grandfather, Julian Jordan, was a composer, song-writer and conductor who was well-known in the late 19th century. 

Jordan Smith from the 1929 Pelican yearbook
 (Digitized photo from the Pelican, 1929, Pelham Town Historian Collection)

Members of the Knight & Lamp Honorary Society in 1929 with
Jordan Smith, president of society, seated in the center.
(Digitized photo from the Pelican, 1929, Pelham Town Historian Collection)

"The Pelican Parade" is dated 1928, indicating that it likely made its debut in the fall of that year when the PMHS band first began playing at football games.  As reported in the 1929 Pelican yearbook:  “Last fall, the band, a new organization in the school, made its debut at some of the football games. It has rapidly gained in popularity among the students and with outsiders as well. Uniforms for the members were purchased early in the spring and made their appearance at the first home baseball game. They add greatly to the looks of the musicians, and provide a touch of color that is lacking in most school bands.”  

The Pelham Memorial High School Band
(Digitized photo from the Pelican, 1929, Pelham Town Historian Collection)

"The Pelican Parade" was sung at high school football games into the 1950s. The classes of the 1940s knew it well and sang it enthusiastically (from memory!) at their decade class reunion in 1990.   Listen to a video of that reunion and you may think it is a bunch of teenagers singing; in fact is was a group of people in their 70s.  "The Pelican Parade" seems to have fallen out of use by about 1958.   (A random survey of alums from the 1960s have no memory of it.)  

In a recent conversation with the Town Historian, PMHS Band Director, Campbell Whitford, PMHS '62,  recalled that during his school years, the band played the music to "On Wisconsin" as the school's fight song at football games.  (Eastchester used the same song, making it comical when the schools played each other and the bands would play the same song after scoring.)   After Mr. Whitford became the band director in 1972, he happened upon a version of the Pelican Parade written for orchestra.  He wrote a new arrangement for the band and re-introduced it at PMHS.  It was again re-introduced in 2021 at the Centennial Celebration of PMHS.

Whatever became of Jordan Smith?

On the 25th anniversary of the writing of "The Pelican Parade" in 1953, then Town Historian, Ed Brown tracked down Jordan Smith.  He was married by then to another Pelhamite from the same PMHS graduating class, Elsa Wolfe (PMHS 1929).  They had two daughters and were living at 29 High Street in East Williston, Long Island.  Smith was working as Procurement Officer at the United Nations, but he reported in a letter (which remains in the Pelham Town Historian collection) that he was still playing the violin and writing music, “for fun, for pleasure and for the indescribable and unique thrill, which comes from hearing something performed which is your brain child.”  He reported having one piece published, another recorded on a Victor record and that he had sold several songs to Republic Pictures “one of which was used in the last picture Roy Rogers made for Republic.”  Although the pieces are not identified in his letter, the following songs written by Smith have been discovered:

In 1947, Jordan co-wrote the music for a song called “Jenny Kissed Me” played by the Delta Rhythm Boys and recorded by RCA Victor

The piece that Smith said was purchased for a Roy Rogers film was called "Beyond the Great Divide" and can be heard in the background at the very end of a 1951 movie titled "Pals of the Golden West."  (Fast-forward toward the end to 53:33 to find where Smith's music starts.)

In Smith’s 1953 letter he conveys a sentiment that is still found among PMHS alums:

“I’ve been turning in my mind the idea of writing to Mr. Fairclough [Principal] at PMHS suggesting that I try to organize a 25 year re-union for the class of one-nine-two-nine!  It would be good to see my classmates again – it’s a funny thing that I’ve never had the desire to attend a college reunion – but I’d sure like to go back to the high school. Those four years, in retrospect, mean more to me than college ever will.”

On the 100th anniversary of the opening of PMHS, the Town Historian located Jordan Smith's daughter and, at a meeting in 2022 in Babylon, New York, she opened up her family albums and shared more about Jordan Smith and his life-long devotion to music:

"During my grammar school years, I learned to play the violin.  I played better than the average child of my age and progressed rapidly....  During all four years in Siwanoy School I was the main stay of the small orchestra."  ~ Jordan Smith

Photo and text courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke

According to this article from the Pelham Sun, Jordan Smith continued to compose, even while in high school.

Undated article from Smith Family Album, courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke.

Below, left to right:  During high school, Jordan was one of a group of four boys who drove across country with PMHS music department head, Albert J. Fregans;  Two years later, Jordan was on of a group from Pelham who traveled west again and hiked Mount Rainier;  Jordan graduated in 1933 from the NYU, Guggenheim School of Aeronautics with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and served as Class Secretary.

Photos and information courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke

"After I left college, I joined a dance orchestra and for a full winter we cruised the West Indies and parts of Central and South America as far south as Caracas, Venezuela.  We were all well paid for the work we did.  We were well acquainted with the cruise director of these trips, and since we visited the same ports many times in the course of the winter and usually kept off the well-beaten tourist trails, we became well acquainted with native life and the geography of the various cities and ports."
~ Jordan Smith 

(Photo and text courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke)

"My father fulfilled the prophecy of his PMHS classmates when they declared in his yearbook that he was 'destined to be a symphony conductor,'" his daughter Linda told the Pelham Town Historian.  While working at the United Nations in procurement, he became the United Nations Symphony Orchestra Conductor as seen above.

(Photo Courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke)

Photos of Jordan Smith as a child
(Courtesy of his daughter, Linda Burke)

Arthur L. Scinta, Town Historian

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