Salvation Army Music Memorabilia Leads to Advisory Board Membership

Feb 28, 2024 | by Major Frank Duracher

Salvation Army Music Memorabilia Leads to Advisory Board Membership


By: Major Frank Duracher

Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. Still more collect baseball cards. I even knew a guy that collected butterflies. But Ron Plunkett, now a member of the Charleston, South Carolina Advisory Board, has a marvelous collection that would make any Salvationist envious.

Ron admits his two passions in life are music and history. So, it was the perfect intersection of interests when he discovered the music of Gowans and Larsson and a newfound fascination with Salvation Army history.

Ironically, his discovery of the music and plays penned by the renowned duo came long after his first encounters with The Salvation Army.

We have to go back to Ron's childhood, some 70 years ago.

"I grew up among the cotton mills of Atlanta, near the Fulton Corps," Ron says. "We'd go to the Red Shield Boys Club and watched some high school athletes play. Then later, I worked summers for the highway department, and Salvation Army ladies came through every week selling ‘The War Cry.' I loved reading those papers."

He also often saw the familiar red kettles every December in downtown Atlanta.

Fast forward (big-time) to 2020 and the COVID pandemic. A lifelong Episcopalian, Ron had to be content to watch worship services broadcasted from his church online. He did that every Sunday morning, but on Sunday evenings, he soon found broadcasts from The Salvation Army corps in Cambridge and Bromley, England, and watching these became his Sunday night ritual.

“Watching the Bromley Corps services, I'd always pick out General Larsson and (his wife) Commissioner Freda Larsson, and (Gowan's wife) Commissioner Gisèle Gowans sitting there on the second row," Ron marvels. "It wasn't until then that I learned General Gowans was Promoted to Glory years ago (in 2012)."

Exposure to Salvation Army musical forces online soon led Ron to discover the plays penned by Generals John Gowans and John Larsson. He uncovered a treasure trove of Gowans and Larsson compositions on YouTube.

He couldn't get enough.

Ron began collecting everything Gowans and Larsson, and later everything Salvation Army— books, biographies, photos, flags, CDs, and more. Over the past three years, his library has expanded to include treatises on and by noted Army authors.

The more Ron became immersed in Salvation Army lore, the more he was impressed with the evangelical ministry and social outreach worldwide.

"My maternal grandfather, Samuel David Evans, was a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference," Ron says. "He was ten years older than the Founder (William Booth) and died ten years after Booth's passing.

"But grandfather was very evangelical and one time, he and six of his buddies were ‘called down' for having a little too much enthusiasm in their preaching!" Ron explains, laughing.

"The more I read of William Booth, the more I likened [my grandfather] to the Founder. I could see a lot of Booth in [him]."

Ron brings that same brand of enthusiasm to his work on the Charleston Advisory Board, as well as being something of a Salvation Army ambassador to his church and community. He is a member of the William Booth Society and wears his advisory board pin, even to his Episcopal church every Sunday morning. Each December, he joins his corps officer at a local Hobby Lobby to accept the National Commander's Red Kettle Challenge.

"Captain Mike (Michels) plays his baritone, and I ring the bell and talk to everyone. What impresses me most is the number of people who come straight to the kettle!"

His kettle efforts do not stop with the National Commander's Challenge. During the Christmas season, Ron enjoys volunteering with his bell at various locations. He also supports Army events throughout the year.

Ron's favorite Gowans and Larsson musicals are "Glory!" and "Blood of The Lamb." In fact, the latter immediately reminded him of a reading assignment young Ron had in high school: Vachel Lindsay's "General William Booth Enters into Heaven" (another unanticipated Salvation Army connection many years ago).

His favorite songs in our Songbook are "O Boundless Salvation" (known to Salvationists as "The Founder's Song") and "Joy in The Salvation Army."

"I once heard the Archbishop of Canterbury exclaim, ‘I've never seen a gloomy Salvation Army Officer'—and, by golly, he's right!" Ron agrees.

He calls the Army's mission and ministry "evangelism by example."

"The world being topsy turvy as it is today, we must exist in saving souls, growing saints and serving suffering humanity," he says, "and that's what differentiates The Salvation Army from other well-intentioned organizations."

Ron says he agrees with his pastor who once said, "I want to go to Heaven, and I want to take as many people with me as I can!"

"The Salvation Army is helping me do just that!" Ron exclaims.

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