Mummers the Word
by Cate Murway
Mummers, ["to wear a mask", "to mum"], has been the word for six generations for the Bradeis Bunch. To define them simply, Mummers are costumed entertainers that welcome in the New Year.
Everybody loves a parade!
The Mummers parade is a celebration of the New Year but it is serious business in Philadelphia with the animated, happy and fun, always upbeat String Band tunes along with the rehearsed antics. Mummery, preserving the sense of nostalgia and tradition in America is as unique to Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love", as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.
Mummers' celebrations in America date back to colonial times, when the boisterous Swedish custom of celebrating the end of the calendar year with noise making and shouting was combined with the tradition of the British mummery play. In 1790, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States and in 1901, Philadelphia's city government decided to sponsor the popular parade with 42 fraternal organizations who received permits to participate and prizes were awarded for costumes, music, and comic antics.
The Philadelphia Mummers of today total over 15,000 marchers who work on the costumes and practice all year for their one day in the sun, or the wind, rain or snow.
Saxophones, accordions, banjos, and glockenspiels are the most common instruments played, but no brass is allowed.
Derek [meaning ‘rules the people’] Stephen Bradeis, BHS ‘12/ Neumann University ‘16 is looking forward to marching in his 20th Mummers Parade this New Years Day. As he shares his life story, he passionately exudes confidence, energy and ambition.
Derek’s mother, Jennifer Margaret Bradeis-Crawford had him marching in his first parade right before his first birthday.
His grandparents Air Force Sgt. Kenneth Dennis, Jr. and Kerry Joan [Hett] Bradeis encourage this upholding of the family tradition. Kerry “married into the mummers. I marched for 10 years with the Murray Comic Club with our daughter, Jenn. I even became a Marshall, checking costumes and props.”
Kerry’s brother, Ricky was a classmate of Ken’s and the two of them worked on cars together. Ricky introduced Ken and Kerry. Their first date was the annual St. Mike’s fair in Tullytown.
Derek’s late great grandfather, Army veteran Kenneth Dennis Bradeis, Sr. coincidently was born on a New Year’s Day. His great grandmother “GG” is Margaret Catherine “Marge” [Adair], affectionately known as a “two streeter” who attended South Philadelphia High for Girls. Marge’s Uncle Bob was Hall Of Fame Mummer Pop Adair and he paraded with his sons in the early 1900’s.
Marge shared, “Girls weren’t allowed in the parade, only men and boys. I helped make the costumes.” Derek confided, “They tucked my mom’s hair into a bun so she would look like a boy.”
She and her husband Ken had five sons and now there are 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Time and the family marches on.
Derek looks up to his grandfather as a role model and mentor. “He molded me into the man I am today. He was a living Boy Scout. He taught me to shoot a gun, a rifle, and a bow and arrow.”
They have hunted deer and squirrel, and caught trout, bass and catfish together, often at Levittown Lake, and sometimes in the Poconos, or Big Woods State Forest by State College, in Ringing Rocks Park and in the Delaware Canal since he was 5 years old. “He is a big father figure in my life.”
The admiration is mutual. This Friday's child is loving and giving.
“Derek is the son I always wanted. I am very proud of Derek. He’s a good kid.”
The family Mummer tradition is carried on. “My grandfather doesn’t dress up anymore but he helps with the floats and the props.” Derek plays the sax and he assures, “Grandpop and I were the best strutters.”
He had the opportunity as a youngster to march with the Mummers when they participated in the Bristol Christmas Parade.
Derek is part of The Cara Liom [Gaelic translation of "Friends of Mine"] Wench Brigade, the newest very fun but competitive division added to the Mummers Parade. He performs the wench brigade dance and is accompanied by the Quaker City String Band.
His mom shared, “He has been a comic, in the string band and most recently a wench. He has won awards in his groups along with individual awards.”
He was a co-captain of a team when he was just two years old and a captain when he was 13.
Traditions are everything to him. Derek always wears his mom’s 1982 Mummers badge during the parade.
The 2013 theme is Zombies. Up to this point, Derek’s favorite is the 2011 “Curse of the Wench Doctor Voodoo.”
To Derek, the Mummers Parade is a “very big deal. I pray every night to Saint Clare for good weather. In 2009, the parade was postponed until the next week. Worst week of my life!”
Derek has powerful academic aspirations with his criminal justice major and the possibility of a psychology minor. He may have internship opportunities in Philadelphia and MD.
He knew he “wanted to be a cop” when he participated in the Bristol Township Police Explorers Cadet Program, an early introduction to the various aspects of law.
He enjoys history, especially about the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in America. He and his grandfather take trips to the Gettysburg battlefields.
Hands down, he likes his gram’s cooking best, especially her stuffing and meatballs but he often goes to Cesare's Ristorante for “pizza, obviously”.
His favorite music includes country, rap and rock and roll; as well as the strutting tunes like Golden Slippers.
This year will be an especially exciting Mummers Parade for Derek, his 20th year, twirling, sashaying and strutting up Broad Street. It begins in South Philly in the morning and winds its way up to City Hall around dusk. Each club is embroiled in a friendly yet fierce competition for local bragging rights. Leave your car behind and take public transportation into the city. Remember… Mummers the word!
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