Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Harry Culley was surrounded by music from an early age. His parents, Harry and Ida, were professional pianists who practised several hours before their daily radio show. As a child Harry took piano lessons, but said he didn't think he was very good - it would have been hard to live up to his parents' expectations.

It wasn't his parents who started Harry on his musical career, but his grandmother Kate. When his parents went overseas to work during the Depression, he and his brother Ross went to live with their grandparents. Kate bought Harry a clarinet. Then she passed on a saxophone that one of her boarders had left in her basement. Armed with lessons from his Uncle Ed, Harry began his musical career.

He started working in a band in Deseronto, Ont., in 1937, travelling around Prince Edward County in a large Cadillac and playing dances in parish halls and pavilions. In 1938, Harry had his best summer ever, playing in a trio at the Royal Hotel in Honey Harbour, Ont. Rowing and swimming during the day, he entertained the guests with Gershwin tunes at night.

Story continues below advertisement

With the advent of the Second World War, Harry joined the Royal Canadian Air Force No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre Band. He met his future wife, Helen, at a dance he played in Ottawa where she was a volunteer server. They married in 1946 after being apart for four years while he was overseas.

Returning to civilian life in Toronto, Harry played in Norman Harris's big band at the King Edward Hotel, where he not only played saxophone and clarinet but learned to play the flute too. He grumbled that he wasn't paid the "tripling" rate for three instruments - the bandleader bent the union rules that time.

When big-band music went out of style, Harry began working for the Ontario government as an accounting clerk in 1952. He continued to play on Saturday nights and New Year's Eve, the biggest night of the year, when he was paid overtime - which probably helped make up for the fact he couldn't go out with Helen.

When Harry retired in 1979, his taste turned to classical music and he picked up the flute again. He joined a flute choir and had fun playing with musicians half his age. People said he was channelling his grandfather Teck, who had played flute in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout the years, Harry supported and encouraged the musical talents of his three children, Brian, Joanne and Norman, and four grandchildren by lending his instruments and giving practice tips.

Wherever Harry is now, I'm sure he's either playing or listening to music.

Joanne Culley is Harry's daughter.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies