The old bass drumhead tells a story that goes beyond its faded appearance.
Adorned with “Eden Prairie School Band” in red around the edge and the word “Consolidated” centered in black, the drumhead caught the young Mike Flavin’s eye more than 50 years ago.
Flavin stepped in just before it was tossed out and gave it a new lease on life.
He cherished the drumhead from his childhood in Eden Prairie to his recent retirement as a youth pastor. Alongside his wife, Amy, he took the drumhead on a journey spanning thousands of miles — from California to Philadelphia, and finally to New Jersey. He spent 30 years in New Jersey before moving back to Minnesota in August 2022.
Now, reminiscent of the steady beat of a bass drum, it has found its way back to Eden Prairie. The drumhead is now on display at the Eden Prairie History Center Museum.
“It was a privilege to have,” said Flavin, who lives in Corcoran near his daughter. “It sounds weird; it’s a drumhead, but it was like a privilege to hold on to that and just the history of it. I love Eden Prairie. I always felt like Eden Prairie was well-named. I thought that’s just a beautiful name for a beautiful, giant piece of land that goes all the way out to the river. It’s great.”
Flavin admits it’s “kind of an unusual story.” He’s amazed it survived all these years, with himself being the main reason for its preservation.
“They’re getting ready to celebrate the consolidated schools’ 100th anniversary (in 2024),” he said. “So that head is probably 80, 90 years old. I don’t know exactly how old, but it’s ancient, and it exists. So it got carted around 5,000, 6,000 miles and ended up back where it started.”
Finding the drumhead
When Flavin was in eighth grade in the late 1960s, he was invited to play in the high school marching band by then-band director Emmett “Em” Stark.
In those days, Eden Prairie was predominantly farmland. Flavin cherished his childhood there, emphasizing that children need a nurturing environment, and the town provided just that.
The band used to practice in what Flavin described as an “old, dungeon-like, windowless band room” north of the old gym. That space was inside what has since become the Administrative Service Center at 8100 School Road.
Constructed in 1924, the building was first used as a school for all grades in Eden Prairie. Later, it became Central Elementary School. After that, it changed to Central Middle School up until 1980. It was also used as the Central Kindergarten Center.
When it was time to move to the new band room across the street, now known as Central Middle School, Flavin was asked to assist. Central Middle School, 8025 School Road, was built in three stages: 1959, 1962, and 1968. It was renovated and expanded in 2021 and 2022.
“It was this makeshift, windowless cave,” he remembered of the old band room. “Then in eighth grade, the day came to move everything to this spectacular new building. It’s the junior high school now, but it wasn’t the complex it is today.”
He remembers asking Stark what he should do with a bunch of drums and other “junk” sitting in a pile.
“Emmett said, ‘Just grab all that and throw it away,'” Flavin remembered. “There was a drumhead there, and it was cool. So I asked him if I could have it, and he said ‘Yeah.’ They were going to throw it away, so I kept it. That would’ve been around 1968. That was a long time ago.”
Flavin has always had an affinity for vintage items, explaining his attraction to the drumhead made from cowhide and secured by a wooden loop.
“The history of it just caught my eye,” he said. “It’s like Mike (Wolfe) on ‘American Pickers’ will always say: ‘It’s unbelievable that that even still exists, even though it’s pretty beat up.’ It would have been thrown in the dumpster if I hadn’t asked Emmett Stark that I could have it and he said yes.”
Despite having it for many years, he never really hung the drumhead on the wall of his house.
“My wife put up with my collecting of junk,” he joked. “I like going to estate sales and stuff. But this was meaningful to me.”
In the 1970s, Flavin spotted a photo of a familiar-looking drumhead while flipping through a high school yearbook from the 1930s. He was convinced it was the very one he’d rescued from oblivion.
Further proof came from a 1953 image on the page, showing the same unmistakable drumhead.
Why was he so sure? A unique mark, present in both images and on the drumhead he’d kept all those years.
“The reason I know it’s the exact head is because it says, ‘Eden Prairie Consolidated Band,’ and under the second “e” in Eden, there’s a rub (that appears on the photo) from the 1930s,” he said. “There was a discoloration, and it’s the exact same one on the one I had. Maybe a little discoloration where the bass drum beater had hit or something like that.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the historic photos with the drumhead indeed speak volumes for Flavin.
“Did you ever see ‘Dead Poets Society’? When Robin Williams pulls the boys in and he starts talking out of the side of his mouth like it’s the old pictures talking, you know what I mean? Like from the past they are speaking to you?” Flavin said. “A picture like that (the 1930s band photo), especially having the object that was in it, is very moving to me. I think what makes (the drumhead) special are those two photographs, to be honest.”
Flavin, who now lives in Corcoran, about 20 miles northwest of Eden Prairie, gave the drumhead to the museum earlier this year. He had no qualms about doing so.
“Something like that really doesn’t belong to me,” he said. “It kind of did, but it kind of doesn’t. You know what I mean?”
“It’s an amazing story! We’re grateful to Mike for sharing such a wonderful piece of history,” Achartz said. “The drumhead will allow museum visitors to reconnect to a place and time that no longer exists. History and home are intimately connected. I suspect Mike had a sense of that interrelatedness when he journeyed with the drumhead all those years.”
Reconnecting with Stark
Last July, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eden Prairie Community Band, Flavin shared the drumhead story with Stark.
“He was the band director here forever in the school district and so heavily influenced kids, myself included,” Flavin said of Stark, who also served as the community band’s first director.
The two hadn’t seen each other in decades. Their paths crossed again a few weeks later at Prairie Community Church in Eden Prairie. Flavin, who serves as the church’s pastoral advisor, was delivering a sermon that day.
“He was my No. 1 percussionist,” Stark recalled of Flavin earlier this month. “And in his senior year, he was the recipient of the John Phillip Sousa Award, which was given to the outstanding band member. I hadn’t seen Mike for 40 years, so it was kind of fun to renew with him.”
Regarding Flavin saving the drumhead, Stark commented, “Mike had a real thing with that drumhead. It was kind of a toy to him. And I think there was much more to it than that. But that’s as far as I got with the story.”
Those wishing to see the drumhead can visit the Eden Prairie Historical Society Museum on the lower level of City Center, 8080 Mitchell Road. The museum is open most Mondays from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
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