Country Music Enlivens Cattaraugus Historical Assn. Picnic

OTTO – Members of the Cattaraugus Historical Association recently enjoyed their annual picnic-style get-together at the Medora Ball Historical Museum in Otto. The main entree of beef on weck was provided by a Jamestown-based catering team, while a variety of supplementary dishes were furnished by the group’s own constituency.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the great music put out by Goin’ Country. This is a group of young-at-heart musicians, who’ve been playing “country” for more years than they care to count. Their ages range from 72 to 80, and Virgil Polling, who plays rhythm guitar, typifies them all.

“I picked up my first guitar when I was 18,” he said, “and I never stopped since.”

At 80, Polling claims to be the band’s senior member, and none of the others piped up to disputed him.

“We’re just a bunch of young kids getting started,” joked lead guitarist, Clayton Hutchinson, who also sings most of the lyrics, and more or less leads the group. That more or less is an essential part of the description, because Dorothy Stoll, on keyboard, often sets the beat, the key, plays an intro chord, and belts out quite a few of the songs, herself.

“I started out playing piano,” she said, “but when we began traveling around, I switched to guitar so I could stay with the band. Then along came the electric keyboard, and it was easier to lug around than a piano, so now, that’s my instrument.”

Dorothy’s husband, Donny Stoll, doesn’t talk much. He just pushes the slide up and down his old steel guitar with the ease that comes from years of experience. Don Dechow, a more recent recruit, keeps the beat going on drums.

Although these five have been at this for years, it’s easy to see (and hear) they love it still. They play with all the energy of youth, and they’re happy to keep churning out music for as long as their audience wants to hear it. When the party finally breaks up and folks start thanking them for the great entertainment, they turn the tables and thank the audience for listening – as though that’s hard to do.

On this night, as the band started tuning up, picnickers loaded their plates smorgasbord-style, and settled into the building’s historic old wooden pews to enjoy both the food and the music. Later, when the band “took five,” their “groupies” gathered around to chat, while others browsed among the many old Cattaraugus Central “graduating class pictures” displayed along the church walls. Quite a few found themselves “hanging” there.

The Medora Ball Museum was accepted as a part of the Cattaraugus Area Historical Association several years ago, and the Cattaraugus and Otto museums have been administered jointly ever since. The building has been carefully preserved and in recent years has become the chosen site for the annual Cattaraugus Historical Society picnic.