The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 6, 2007

Schell's Hobos lose a leader

Les Magers once swore off music

NICOLLET — When the distinct oompah sounds come ringing down the street, everyone on the parade route knows the Schell’s Hobo Band is on its way.

The signature music of the Hobos is a staple of community events and an integral part of the New Ulm brewery.

This week, the Hobos lost their founder.

Les Magers, the Nicollet man who started the band 60 years ago, died Wednesday at age 92.

Magers, who played the tuba in an Army Band in one of the coldest spots on Earth, swore off music after the service — but only for a while.

“He always said you can do a lot of other things, but once you learn music, it’s always with you in life. Music was most of his life,” said his son Dwayne Magers of Nicollet.

Les was in the 85th Army Band for five years during World War II, serving three years in Kodiak, Alaska.

When he got out of the service, he worked as a butter maker at the Vernon Center Creamery, and said he had no interest in picking up a horn again.

But two years later, he got the itch to play and got some family members and Army buddies together to play at a VFW. When they asked what to wear, he told them “whatever you wouldn’t wear otherwise.”

Thus started the rag-tag hobo look that would eventually garner them their Hobos name.

At their first parade appearance, in Glencoe, the truck that was to carry them never showed, forcing the eight-member group to walk the parade route and earning them an award against some 100-member bands.

Ted Marti of Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm said the Hobos are closely identified with the brewery.

Marti’s grandfather, Al Marti, picked up the sponsorship of the band a couple of years after it started in 1946, changing the name from the Nicollet Novelty Band to the Schell’s Hobo Band.

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