Professor dedicated life to music

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

Harry Barton spent 39 years as a music teacher to thousands of Clovis High School students. He was one of the best known and beloved teachers in high school, a gentleman all the way.

Harry E. Barton was born Aug. 22, 1901, at Plymouth, Ind., and came to Clovis in 1928.

Jack Winton, formerly of Clovis and a 1951 CHS graduate, tells how Barton, music and choral director, taught music:

“Mr. Barton would work and work to produce two or three really big shows each year. We did Fred Waring’s musical ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ We also did ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘South Pacific.’

“He had a unique way of teaching us the music. He would pass out the music and say, ‘Look at your part.’ Then he would turn to the pianist, Barbara Myers, and he would have her play it. She was a student and a wonderful pianist. ‘Don’t anybody sing,’ he would say. ‘Just look at the music as she plays.’

“We would follow through all the way, then he would have us pass it in. The next week he would pass it out again, and have Barbara play it again, and we would just read, not sing it. Then on perhaps the third or fourth week, he would pass the music out again and have Barbara play individual parts with each group following along, hearing but not singing. Then about the fifth or sixth time he passed the music out he would say, ‘OK, now let’s sing the first few bars of this.’

“By the time he turned us loose to sing it, we found that we already knew it! He was a truly great teacher. We did complicated musical scores, like ‘South Pacific,’ which was my favorite.

“I sang in the chorus, but the boys quartet performed ‘There is Nothing Like a Dame,’ with backup by the chorus. Our quartet was good enough to get invited to perform at the Kiwanis Club and other gatherings. We took a mop and dressed it up like a woman. My part, as second tenor, was to carry the melody and at that certain point I would step out in front and sing solo: ‘Lots of things in life are beautiful, but brother there is one particular thing that is nothing whatsoever in any way shape or form like any other.’ Then they would all come in and sing, ‘There is nothing like a dame.’ … and so on. We had a lot of fun doing that musical.”

Barton retired in 1967. He was honored March 20, 1970, by being elected as Hall of Fame entrant in the Eastern District Education Association. In 1974 he was further honored by enrollment in the National Education Association of New Mexico Hall of Fame.

On July 5, 1974, Barton was presented a scrapbook that contained letters of nomination for him to be installed in the hall of fame, some 80 letters or more written by the most noted men and women in Clovis. The scrapbook was over an inch thick.

In 2005 Duffy Sasser showed me the scrapbook he was given long after Barton died. He wanted me to have it. I was embarrassed, but I took it finally. Now in 2007 I feel it should be given to the Clovis High School Music Department to be placed, possibly, in the school’s library.

There are several good photos of Barton in the scrapbook. One is the 5-by-7-inch photo with Barton, wife Helen, Norma Jean Berry, and Vi and Norman Petty at the 1958 groundbreaking of the new CHS music building. “A great day for the music department!” was written on the back of photo.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com