Young Messengers to reunite

Karen Donato, Special to the Houlton Pioneer Times, Special to The County
4 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The United Methodist Church of Houlton will be hosting a Young Messenger’s reunion on Saturday, July 6, from noon until 2 p.m. Dozens of participants will reunite to reminisce about the time they spent performing in this musical group of the 1970s. 

Many have not seen each other or been in touch since they were young teenagers. They will reunite to honor Kaye Trickey, who took the reins and provided guidance and musical accompaniment for a group of youngsters 48 years ago.

Back in 1971, who would have thought there would be 50 or more teens travelling on the weekends and vacations from one end of the state to the other to perform religious music in all sorts of venues? It wasn’t limited to churches, but included school assemblies, the Rockland Lobster Festival and even performing at the Maine Mall in Portland. They showcased their talents for a handful and to audiences of 1,000.

It all began as an idea by some local teenagers who had attended a national conference in the midwest.  After seeing a group of teens performing, they brought the idea to Kaye, who taught piano and assisted with events at the United Methodist Church.

“The Teen Gosplettes”, which included Cheryl Bates Nason, Carol Byron Bates and Susan Siltz were the forerunners to the Young Messengers and planted the seed for a larger ensemble. That group recorded two professional records.

These teenagers made a great choice. Kaye, a young mother of four, told the group if they could get 30 friends interested, she would give it a try. About 50 came to the first rehearsal. These teens represented 18 different churches, their commonality was their faith and love of music. They rehearsed once a week and made decisions by majority vote.

Kaye said, “The music and actual performance was my responsibility, but I was always open to suggestions.”

The first local performance was “Life” in May of ’71 in front of an audience of 600. Riding on the success of that initial performance they took the show on the road and travelled 2,500 miles that first year from one end of the state to the other and even to New Hampshire. Each time they performed they had more requests to go to other places.

The group travelled in a reconditioned school bus with Harold Hughes, one of the fathers, as the driver. If they were going short distances, parents provided transportation in private cars. In order to acquire equipment they put a plea out for “Top Value” trading stamps. At that time one could get a piano with 326 books of stamps and another 100 for microphones.

The students performed on large stages, as well as very small. For each place they often needed to adapt their show to the space at hand, often not even having time to rehearse.

Judith Brown, one of the participants remembered how appreciative the audience was each time they performed. Especially the small town churches, whose members weren’t always able to enjoy many special groups.

This was the bus used for transporting the Young Messengers in the 1970s as they performed at a variety of places throughout the state.
(Contributed photo)

When travelling, they often stayed in churches or with church members. Kaye recalls that the girls would be in one area of the church while the boys were in another. She often was the only chaperone. Somehow she did it, while juggling a family and 50-70 more who ultimately became family, too.

On one of their trips to Portland to perform at the Catholic Youth Convention for more than 1,000, the group was planning to stay at St. Dominick’s Rectory. It took them an hour to find it after the concert and then upon their arrival around midnight found out that they were expecting 15 rather than 50. The girls slept on wall to wall carpeting, while the boys slept on concrete in the cold, cold basement.

As the group travelled the state, more students wanted to be included from other towns. No problem. They would learn the songs and meet up with the group as they travelled to perform in various places. Sometimes they would have time to rehearse; sometimes they just had to wing it.

Parents helped a lot. Someone needed to be a manager for bookings and costumes were made by many moms and their friends. The girls had a couple of outfits, blue gowns or white jumpers with pink satin blouses. That was a lot of material! The boys had white shirts, bow ties and black pants or white vests with their shirts and black pants.

There was no admission charged, but donations were accepted and that usually took care of the fuel for the bus and music for the group.

After the first year, the group added a second show, “Love”, another musical by Otis Skillings.

Even when some of the students graduated and went off to college they often would meet up with the group wherever they were singing and join in. The music was upbeat, lots of movement, hand clapping, drums and guitars. 

Through correspondence kept by Kaye through the years, she closed an informational letter used to share their mission like this: “These are today’s teens. They laugh and talk (sometimes, too much) and have a great time together. They have faith and try to live it. They know the value of prayer and use it to give them guidance and strength. We ask your prayers to travel with us.”

As these former members reunite, they will undoubtedly recall many other stories along with offering their gratitude to Kaye’s family for sharing her with them. The experiences they had has forever left a long lasting impression with all that is good, growing up in a small County town.

Some members of the group were: Debi and Gary Byron, Kathy Downing, David Gardner, Kim Trickey, Debbie Hammond, Cindy Woodworth, Beth Henderson, Judith Brown, Laurie Matson, Cheryl Bates, Carol Byron, Susan Siltz, Diane, Brian and Brent Haggerty, Brenda Lovely Sewell, Diane and Sandra Kennedy, Doug Gentle, Danny Thomas, Tracy Burlock, Greg Lezotte, Robin Walton, Michael Varney, Eric Evans, Dixie Lee, Carol Sloat, Janice Briggs, Teresa Watson, Bea Broder, Wendy Bickford, Tammy Hovey, Valerie Coolong and Bob Thompson.