The Skagit Historical Museum is hosting a unique exhibit about Hugo Helmer, a local man who made music and memories for local kids. Photo courtesy Skagit Historical Museum

The Skagit Historical Museum is hosting a unique exhibit about Hugo Helmer, a local man who made music and memories for local kids. Photo courtesy Skagit Historical Museum

Who was Hugo Helmer? New exhibit at Skagit Historical Museum strikes a local chord

Many folks who live in Skagit County know the name of Hugo Helmer because of Hugo Helmer Music. But who was the man behind the name?

The Skagit Historical Museum is hosting a unique exhibit about this local man who made music and memories for local kids.

From Sweden to Skagit

Hugo was known as a musician, but he was much more to those who had the fortune to learn to play the accordion from him.

In 1925, Hugo arrived from Sweden with his brother-in-law, Jack, to start a new life in the rapidly growing United States. Landing in New York, likely going through Ellis Island like so many before them, they immediately made their way out west to work as loggers. Why they went west remains a subject of speculation among family. Perhaps opportunity and adventure beckoned.

Jack’s sister, Gertrude, joined them the following year and she and Hugo were married and had two daughters, Carol-Anne and Lillian.

Hugo soon realized that what he really loved was music, particularly the accordion. He began to teach, and his joy was infectious. At one point, Hugo had more than 90 students.

On the move: Hugo Helmer’s band. Photo courtesy Skagit Historical Museum

On the move: Hugo Helmer’s band. Photo courtesy Skagit Historical Museum

Hitting the right notes: more than just a marching band

What does one do with a profusion of accordion players? Form a marching band, naturally! Established in the 1930s and the first of its kind in the US, Hugo Helmer’s Accordion Band became a fixture in parades across the Pacific Northwest.

As musicians, they were exceptional. “The average age of the players was 10,” says former student Selma Garberg Johnson.

Duane Bretvick recalls, “I can’t remember a time when we didn’t win money as a marching unit. Hugo would divide the prize money among the band, which usually amounted to $2 0r $3 dollars a person,” meaning the kids could go and have some fun!

Hugo had high standards and a big heart. Everyone was expected to practice, practice, practice. Uniforms were to be immaculate before the parade, and Hugo even kept a jar of white shoe polish on hand! A former student says that Hugo insisted that the band “look good together, be accurate together, be steady together, and stay together.”

Hugo’s high expectations taught self-esteem, self-respect, teamwork and accomplishment, and gave the kids great lasting memories. In the Second World War, money was tight, yet Hugo still got the kids up to Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia, or to Seattle to march in the big parades. Those trips were “as much anticipated as if we were going to New York City,” remembers Selma.

It was about more than music: Hugo was in it for the kids. His big heart shone through in his ability to notice when someone was having a bad day, helping the kids by talking stuff through.

A man with vision

Hugo opened Hugo Helmer Music because his kids needed hard-to-get accordions. He was the first to bring TV to Skagit County in the 1940s, selling the units through his shop.

While Hugo may be gone, his legacy lives on in the music store, still run by family, but most importantly, in the many young lives he made better in tough times by giving them the gift of happy memories, a sense of accomplishment and the ability to find strength in themselves.

Check out the amazing life of Hugo Helmer and the legacy he left behind. Museum exhibit runs June to the end of the year. Temporary hours are Friday to Sunday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

For map directions, click here. To learn more about the museum, check out the website.

Talk to us

The news and editorial staff of Sound Publishing, Inc. had no role in the preparation of this post. The views and opinions expressed in this sponsored post are those of the advertiser and do not reflect those of Sound Publishing, Inc.

Sound Publishing, Inc. does not accept liability for any loss or damages caused by the use of any products, nor do we endorse any products posted in our Marketplace.

More in Marketplace

main
Blue Man Group Seattle Tickets At Paramount Theatre

The Blue is back! Yes, that’s right! The Blue Man Group is… Continue reading

m
Whisky Myers Seattle Tickets At Paramount Theatre

Whisky Myers is scheduled to sweep the fans off their feet at… Continue reading

m
Carrie Underwood Seattle Tickets At Climate Pledge Arena

2005 American Idol winner and thriving country music artist Carrie Underwood is… Continue reading

m
Seahawks Vs 49ers Tickets

Are you a huge NFL fan from Seattle? If you are, it’s… Continue reading

m
Dave Matthews Band Seattle Tickets at Climate Pledge Arena

The American rock band Dave Matthews is coming to rock the stage… Continue reading

main
Seahawks Vs Panthers Tickets

How would you feel if you had the chance to attend a… Continue reading

main
Dear Evan Hansen Seattle Tickets At Paramount Theatre

Based on Steven Levenson’s book, the musical Dear Evan Hansen premiered in… Continue reading

main
Seahawks Vs Raiders Tickets

Have you heard about the upcoming exciting Seahawks vs Raiders game that’s… Continue reading

m
Grupo Firme Seattle Tickets At Climate Pledge Arena

Book show tickets immediately if attending a Groupe Firme concert is on… Continue reading

m
Seahawks Vs Cardinals Tickets

Are you a huge National Football League (NFL) fan? If you are,… Continue reading

main
Jo Koy Tacoma Tickets At Tacoma Dome

Joseph Glenn Herbert, best known as Jo Koy, is a stand-up comedian/actor… Continue reading

main
Seahawks Vs Rams Tickets

Are you excited about attending a Seahawks vs Rams game? If you… Continue reading