Young Messengers recall fond memories

Karen Donato, Special to The County
4 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The two words “remember when” echoed through the United Methodist Church on Military Street in Houlton as members of  “The Young Messengers” singing group reunited Saturday, July 6, to honor their director, Kaye Trickey.

Many of the members had not seen each other since the 1970s, when they formed a singing group and traveled throughout the state in an old school bus and private cars. Then teenagers and now adults in their 50s and 60s, they recalled stories about their travels. A scrapbook and photos were passed around, some of which had not been shared before. Jim Hughes, one of the members, had put together a slideshow of photos from some of their performances. His dad had been one of the bus drivers.

Kathy Downing Hall, right, presented a plaque to Kaye Tricky for organizing a musical group in the ‘70s. It reads, “Presented to Kaye Trickey in dedication for establishing and directing, ‘The Young Messengers’, creating memories of  life and love through the word.” (Courtesy of Karen Donato)

The guests enjoyed a luncheon hosted by the church and a special cake decorated with the words “Love-Life” the names of the two shows performed nearly 50 years ago. Gary Byron travelled from California, Dixie Ross Levinsky from Virginia and Nancy Thomas Nagleout from North Carolina, others were from various places in Maine.

Kathy Downing Hall from Bangor, said that she created strong friendships participating in the group. Kaye was a great leader and had expectations. She told us that if we didn’t practice, we couldn’t perform. The parents had great trust in Kaye, there were no cell phones then, so, once the kids left town there was no communication until they got back.

If the kids weren’t housed by church members while on the road, they often slept in a church, in the pews or on the floor. Sometimes the pews were wooden, while some were padded. They even slept in basements on bare concrete. Trickey, too, roughed it, sleeping in the middle, to keep an ear out for any activity in the night.

“It was the greatest time of our lives,” said Wendy Bickford Vermette.

Members of the group at the time represented 18 churches in the area.

Gary Byron from California, surprised Kaye Trickey at the event honoring her time and dedication to the musical group, “The Young Messengers.” (Courtesy of Karen Donato)

Unfortunately, Trickey was unable to attend the event at the church due to being ill earlier in the week, but following the luncheon many met with her at her home. She was able to greet them on her porch and at that time she was presented with a corsage and a plaque which read “Presented to Kaye Trickey, in dedication for establishing and directing ‘The Young Messengers’, creating memories of  life and love through the word.”

As Trickey recognized the names or faces, memories of those years came flooding back. As she recalled the beginning of the group she remembered that it was Carole Byron Bates, Cheryl Bates Nason and Susan Siltz who had come into her office at the Houlton Pioneer Times to tell her about a group they had seen out in the Midwest. They wondered if they could get some kids together like that. They approached Trickey because she was their music teacher. Her response was, if they could get 30 kids, she would try it. They not only got 30, there were more than 50 who showed up for the first meeting.

Once they were committed, Trickey began working on the Otis Skillings music and also had to do some choreography. For that she used matchsticks with individual names on each stick. She would lay them out on her dining room table and move them around to various positions. Then she would know where to place each student at rehearsals.

Former members of  ‘The Young Messengers’ musical group gathered to view scrapbooks and photos at a reunion of members and to honor Kaye Trickey, their director. From left: Kim Trickey Larkins, Carole Byron Bates, Carol Sloat and Debi Byron McCann. (Courtesy of Karen Donato)

Trickey recalled how at times one member. Gary Byron was a chatterbox and she would ultimately say in her most stern voice, “Gary, it’s my turn to talk!”

To her delight, when she told this story, Byron, who had travelled from California walked up to give her a hug.

The reunion brought friends together from a lifetime ago to honor a woman who had taken the time to believe in their love of music and sharing it with others throughout the state. She was married with a family of four youngsters, who travelled on an old school bus, slept on the floors of churches and kept the participants safe.

Judith Brown shared this final note, “We were blessed with a gift, few others experienced; a gift of trust, responsibility, faith and innovation.”