SNOW WHITE & SEVEN DWARFS' BAND FROM 1940 TO 1942

In fall 1940 I started in the Male Real-Gymnasium Osijek my 5th grade. [Explanation: Real-Gymnasium is a natural science oriented secondary school with 8 grades and ends with "Matura" alias a baccalaureate as the final examination.] Time came for me to learn dancing and I entered the TOPALOVIC DANCING SCHOOL holding dancing lessons at Casino's biggest hall. CASINO was the place where burghers from Osijek's Upper City met there in a café or reading rooms or card playing rooms. We learned dancing accompanied by a pianist who must be rather bored repeating the same tune so often. At the beginning I wore knickerbockers only and got my 1st dress with long trousers for the final school's dancing-party only. The coronet, as it was called, had been held at the largest hall of HRVATSKI DOM (= Croatian Home was a center for various cultural and social activities). A proper music band played for entertainment and dancing on dancing parties like the CORONET one. Parents and invited friends congregated then and all had a lot of dancing and fun altogether.

I stopped playing violin after long last some time after we moved to parents' new house in Krezmina street late 1936. My teacher was very happy about and said that World was spared of a non-enthusiastic violinist with no proper sense of hearing. However, mother insisted me playing some other instrument. She got hold of Military musician who taught accordion and started learning to encourage me too. Thus I started my band player's career on a HOHNER dark-red accordion having 84 basses but registers.

Soon I played accordion (a wind instrument) quite well. Even I contemplated composing a musical probably as a result of continuing composition tutorial at Musical school. Our neighbor's son Zdenko Kljunic had heard my accordion playing and suggested we create a band. Zdenko was 2 years older and played violin and clarinet well. Soon joined us Slavko Vanicek who was about my age but liked saxophone most. During 1940 summer holidays the band was almost complete and we had many working sessions. By fall of the same year our band got ready to go public and we offered our assistance to TOPALOVIC's dancing school too. Soon our band became quite popular and played at most dancing parties held in Osijek. We could afford buying few new instruments by saving from compensation and gratuitous payments. Slavko was our cashier and economic adviser -­ he was studying economics then.



The SNOW WHITE & SEVEN DWARFS BAND 1942 ­ 1944

The Band's name was SNOW WHITE AND SEVEN DWARFS - thus it had eight members. Posters on each of the 7 note-stands depicted the dwarfs from Walt Disney's movie. Peter, our piano player, had a large Snow White's poster standing on the instrument. Sometimes it collapsed when band's playing became too furious or Peter didn't fix properly its one-leg rear support. I got on a new black & white HOHNER's accordion with 108 basses and few registers (!). Sometimes I accompanied the band on a guitar or drums too. Could you guess now which dwarf's poster did I have on my note-stand?

Well, I was the dwarf named SLEEPY - despite that I was often the busiest one of all others. Our Band had been quite busy until World War Two reached into Yugoslavia on 6th April 1941. Later in autumn we came together again and offered Band's services to re-opened Dancing School first. Now, we had to watch what to play and had to make changes to our repertoire too. Lambent-walk craze was out and dancing of Swing or English Waltz was not allowed either. Instead we would play for dancing any fox trot, slow-fox, tango or waltz. Slavko or Zdenko, acted as Band's music's arrangers and were quite busy and responsible for pounding of correct rhythm at play's start. It wasn't an easy task at all because dancers asked for a faster rhythm. Band would easily go to Swing tunes that weren't allowed at all and could bring us in jeopardy of loosing our license too.

Band couldn't continue playing as a team of eight in the long run. We couldn't find a party organizer capable of paying for a big band as ours anymore. Thus Slavko relieved one the other team's member occasionally. We would play as a smaller group as required or an organizer was prepared to pay for. An accordion player can entertain and play music alone any time. Therefore, I was playing accordion or guitar in such a smaller team. It has consisted of Zdenko (violin or clarinet), Peter (piano or drums) and Slavko (saxophone or clarinet) and myself.



Zvonko as accordion player ­ the Dwarf named "Sleepy"

We took orders from and went playing in suburbs and in several villages in vicinity of Osijek. We had traveled there on horse drawn carts or by railway. The dancing sessions ended late at night often so we couldn't return home the same night. We played in inns or taverns where people used to stay after agreed (paid for) dancing hours until the police closure time. Often waiting persons ordered drinks and started singing popular or native songs. The accordion player would be invited to accompany this small crowd ­- after the regular time paid for expired. What to do when my companions were not invited or refused to join the party? Well, I took my accordion accompanying crowd's demands as good as I could. I got tired or didn't know tune asked to play sometimes too. There is no mercy for an accordion player and one must continue playing because he gets extra money. Do you know how an accordion player gets paid with his both hands holding the instrument? The paying person takes a money note, spits on and "glues" it on accordion player's forehead! Well, it wasn't pleasant at all being the last of band's team paid this way, believe me.

The general situation worsened as the war protracted into 1943. Snow White's band has dispersed and we didn't play anymore even in a smaller group. Zdenko and few other band's members went into Army and we younger ones were preparing for the final examination and Army service after too. The Band never came together after World War II ended ­ many died or disappeared forever. Slavko became a communist and entered into politics in Tito's Yugoslavia and could still living now a day. All Snow White Band's instruments bought before were gone including my black & white big HOHNER accordion. My own red HOHNER accordion survived somehow few pillages at parent's house after the "liberation" of Osijek on 14th April 1945. Looters took all items that seemed or looked like, as belongings of a War criminal like me.
At that time I was just about to surrender to the Liberator's Army some 500-km westwards near Slovenjgradec. Few days later I was marching back eastwards in a column of Prisoners of War this time. I arrived in Osijek on 2nd June after a murderous march of some 500-km barefoot in 17 days. The victorious Tito's Army didn't care a dime regarding the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War at all.


Epilogue


I played an accordion only once more. It was in OZNA 3 (Yugoslav Army's Secret Police) prison in the Citadel of Osijek. I had been kept there in custody in June and July 1945. After thorough interrogation there I was exempted of charges against me as a War Criminal. I could get out from a prison cell for a walk in prison's yard twice daily. A soldier was "torturing" an accordion trying some Partisans' tune. First, I offered some help teaching but soon I discovered that my fingers would fit the keys anymore. Playing Partisan's songs didn't go with my state of mind at that time either. We sold my red HOHNER accordion several years later we were a young couple with little of financial means. Thus, my accordion helped for our domestic needs for a while in 1952.


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Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at