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Palmerton Area Heritage Center hit the right notes

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Samples of the old gray and red band uniforms of the Palmerton Men's Band hand on display at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center.
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Samples of the old gray and red band uniforms of the Palmerton Men's Band hand on display at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center.
Published November 30. 2012 05:02PM

There's "Music in the Air" at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center.

The center is featuring the new display, "Music in the Air," which highlights the history of the Palmerton Band.

The Palmerton Band celebrated its 100th anniversary last year with over a century long tradition of providing concerts for the people of Palmerton and surrounding area, since 1911. The band was under the direction of band leader, Stuart Prutzman at that time.

As part of the display, there are photos of the band from 1913, 1916, 1927 and 1936 and the 1911 constitution and by-laws.

Gray and red uniforms and black uniforms are displayed along with some of the former members' instruments.

Tribute is paid to two long-standing members of the band, Ralph Costenbader and Carl Costenbader

The Palmerton Men's Band was formed at a meeting in the Neighborhood House after J.E. Hayes, the then superintendent of the Zinc Company plants, helped bring the musicians together.

Stuart A. Prutzman was elected leader. With Zinc Company librarian P.A. Bartholomew, they purchased music, trained the band and began to take on concerts, picnics, and other events that required music.

Bartholomew succeeded Prutzman as director in November of 1921.

In the beginning, it was strictly an all-male band, known as the Palmerton Men's Band, with a Palmerton Boys Band also forming in 1923, which dissolved in the 1940s. The Boys Band had between 75-100 members. When combined with the 40 members of the men's band, they made quite an impression when they played together.

Women members were accepted into The Senior, or Palmerton Men's Band, after World War II and the name slowly changed to the Palmerton Community Band.

The band has been entertaining at parades, picnics, reunions, Palmerton Hospital Festival, which became the Palmerton Community Festival; and West End Fair, in addition to its concerts.

Some members became professional musicians. Two became well-known like Carl Costenbader, who became the conductor of the Air Force Band, and Ray Lichtenwalter, who became the director of the University of Texas at Arlington Band. Gerald Serfass plays professionally in New York and Pennsylvania, and Jeff Cortazzo plays with and directs the Army Blues in Washington, D.C.

The New Jersey Zinc Company had been a major influence with the band, many of its directors and members were also NJZ Co. employees. Rehearsals at one time were held at the NJZ Co. building on Third and Delaware, and later in the remodeled NJZ lab.

Joseph Plechavy has been the band director since 2000. Today there are about 35 members from all walks of life, including students, comprised of members not only from Palmerton, but Lehighton, Jim Thorpe and Northampton, among others.

Through photographs and artifacts, the history of the Palmerton Band comes to life, telling the story of people who were, and are, musically dedicated to bringing music to its community.

The public is invited to visit the Palmerton Area Heritage Center, located at 410 Delaware Ave., on Wednesdays, 1-4:30 p.m., Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Fridays 12-4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information, call (610) 824-6954 or email:

In addition to different featured historical displays periodically throughout the year, there is a permanent extensive display on the history of Palmerton from education, health care, churches, recreation, the Zinc Co., homes and schools.

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