Title: A founder of the Trilby String Band and the Mummers Parade
Birthdate: February 23, 1877
Death Date: July 24, 1934
Plot Location: Section 1, Lot 89 & 90
The Trilby String Band was organized in 1898 and the first Mummers Parade was held January 1, 1901. The band’s last appearance was in 2014. A brief history of the parade follows this profile of George Stroby, contributed by Eileen Stroby Toland.
This story was told to me by my Aunt Viola, George’s youngest child.
George Wesley Stroby was born on February 23, 1877 to George B. Stroby and Mary Wilson. His father was a “segar maker” (cigars) and was of Swedish descent. George was the youngest of four children and the only boy. He was baptized on March 13, 1879 at St John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
He loved music and was instrumental in founding the Trilby String Band, the oldest in Philadelphia, and helped in organizing the Mummers Parade. He played the mandolin and, along with a physician named Dr. Samuels, a shoe store owner, and a musician, the four men were responsible for bringing the city of Philadelphia to life on New Year’s Day every year. During their lunch breaks, they would meet in the park for a “jam session.” It attracted many others who joined them. What started out as a contest quickly became the beginning of an organized group, the Mummers.
My grandfather was an electrician by trade and worked for the McCahan Sugar Refinery, earning $12 a week. This was during Prohibition, and as a side business, George built coils used for bootlegging whiskey. He was a gentle, quiet man. He chewed tobacco and bit his fingernails. He liked candy, movies, and walks. Every Sunday, my aunt and her dad, George, would take the trolley to Mount Moriah to visit his parents’ graves. There was no stone, so he built a fence 18 inches tall from wrought iron and engraved a plaque that he attached to the fence. My aunt also remembers getting into trouble for playing in the cellar where her dad and brother, who was also a mummer, made and stored “Mumbrellas” all year.
Poor George got in trouble after the parade every year because he and the Stroby marchers wouldn’t make it home until 3 in the morning. They had to stop in at each other’s houses for cake. They referred to it as “cake cutting” but there wasn’t any cake. They would take a shot of whiskey “to stay warm” and have a traditional bowl of Pepper Pot soup which would be simmering on the stove at many of the homes.
My grandfather George passed away from heart disease on July 24, 1934. He is buried in Section 1, Lots 89 & 90. I have the original bill for his funeral, which totaled $393.70, including a stone, but my aunt said there was none. My great-grandparents are also buried here in Section 65, Lot 43.
Origin of the Mummers Parade:
In the 1600s, Swedish settlers to Philadelphia’s outskirts honored Christmas by beseeching their neighbors for dessert and liquor by dressing up, chanting and shooting firearms. The party eventually migrated to New Year’s Day and evolved into a series of neighborhood parades that often got out of hand. Then, as immigrants moved to the area from Ireland and Italy, each group added its own cultural flair to the local customs. For the public’s safety, it was decided to try to combine the celebrations into one city-sanctioned event where different groups competed for prizes. In 1901, the first recognized and judged Mummers Parade strutted on South Broad Street. The term “Mummer” is German and means “to costume or masquerade.”
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