Robert James Cringan (1922-2000)

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Bob Cringan, October, 2000; Bob liked to use this antique foot-operated pump organ for arranging music for his "Georgian Sound" Big Band, right up to the time of his death.

Robert James Cringan (1922-2000)
Sex: Male
Birth: Sept. 20, 1922
Death: Dec. 23, 2000
Father: John Waugh Cringan (1885-1949)
Mother: Evelyn May Craig (1890-1959)
Spouse/Partner: Jeanne Gordon (1922-c2006)
2nd Spouse: Florence Edith Robinson (1924-1977)
3rd Spouse: Dorothy Millar (1927)


Name Birth Death

Robert James Cringan (1922-2000) was the oldest of five children of John Waugh Cringan and Evelyn May Craig.

Bob was born at home, as was his brother Craig, born in 1924. Younger siblings, Alex (1926), Mary (1929) and Arthur (1931) were born in the hospital.

Our family doctor was Frank Park. Dr. Park, we were told, was a World War (= of 1914-1918) veteran who had been mustard-gased while on active service. When making house calls, he would park and lock his car, then carry a large brown Gladstone bag into the house. He kept his stethoscope and other intstruments, along with his drugs, in this bag. We understood that he did this routinely, because once, when he had left the bag in his car, a thief had broken into his car and stolen the drugs that he carried with him.

Bob Cringan, 1922-2000


This photo-essay is a tribute to my brother, Robert James Cringan, who was born in Toronto on Sept. 20, 1922, and died in Meaford on Dec. 23. 2000. I have written this essay because I wanted to record some of my memories and thoughts about this remarkable man that accumulated during the more than 70 years that I knew him, and I wanted to pass these impressions on to his children, grandchildren, and other close relatives so that they too could share the memories.

Bob loved music of all kinds, and was especially fond of big band music, show music, and New Orleans-style jazz. He devoted his professional life to music. By the time he finished high school in 1941, he had mastered the saxophone and clarinet, and conducted his own dance band and arranged the scores.

Between 1941 and 1949, Bob sharpened his musical skills, first at the University of Toronto, then on active service in the Canadian Army Show Band, and again at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1949. Together, these years gave him much valuable experience in conducting and performing, and in arranging. He learned the crafts of doing dance music, show music, and marching band music, and with his degree in music, he carried his skills to Earl Haig Secondary School [1] early in 1950, and then taught instrumental music there for 30 years. He was the Musical Director there for his last 28 years.

At “The Haig”, Bob was a popular and effective teacher. Peter Mussen, a former student there, wrote:

“Bob was everything a great teacher could be. Passionate about his subject, always willing to stop and chat for a moment - you always knew he sincerely cared for your welfare.”

In his private life, Bob was a popular central figure to his five children and stepchildren, nine grandchildren, four siblings, 11 nephews and nieces and 23 cousins. Bob enjoyed an outgoing personality, and his homes were always available for family activities and gatherings of friends. Bob and Dorothy were very devoted to each other up until his death. They were real parents to his second wife’s children and grandparents to their children. He had enjoyed a very happy although short marriage to his second wife, Didi Robinson Bodkin. When Bob and Dorothy were building their home at the farm in 1980, they were good enough to hire June’s and my sons, Alex and Doug, along with Art’s son, Stewart, as carpenters. It was a great opportunity for our boys to renew their Canadian connections at that stage in their lives.

It is interesting to reflect on the source of Bob’s musical talents, as he perceived them. His essay, “Grandpa and Grandma Craig” reveals a lot. He acknowledges the Cringan grandparents as the source of his musical drive, and credits Mother and her parents with the love and patience to share their considerable musical skills and their love of music. I do not remember my grandparents well, but what he says of Mother is true. On several occasions in his last few years, Bob confided in me that he thought Dad made a special effort to find some common interest through which he could bond individually with each of his five children, and I concur. Dad would take Bob to shows and concerts. He would take Craig to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, where Craig sailed and Dad bowled. He would take me fishing, and would see that we attended at least some of the Royal Canadian Institute Saturday night lectures on natural history at Simcoe Hall. He and Mother together took Mary to concerts and recitals, and otherwise encouraged her musical interests. At the cottage, he saw that Art learned the skills associated with boating and fishing, to greater enjoy his leisure activities.

Many people have helped me in providing illustrations and anecdotes that have gone into this photo-essay. I have tried to show credits where appropriate. Some materials reached me too late to be included. The quotation on the frontispiece is from the inscription of an award recognizing Bob as an Honorary Director of the Earl Haig Secondary School Foundation, given to him on May 13, 2000. I am particularly grateful to Bob’s widow Dorothy Millar Cringan, Bob’s and my sister, Mary Cringan Janes, and my wife, June Campbell Cringan, for their reviews of the essay in its sub-final drafts. I accept full responsibility for any errors and oversights that may have occurred.

I consider myself greatly privileged to have had Bob as a brother. Although his world was very different from mine in many respects, we always managed to get a great deal of pleasure out of our getting together for a visit, whether back in Ontario, or here in Colorado.

1. 1920s

2. 1930s

3. 1940s

Army Show Years . . . 1943-1946

Bob volunteered for service in the Canadian Army Infantry Corps in 1943. When he told his officers that he was a musician, he was assigned to the Canadian Forces Army Shows as a musician and arranger, just as his friend and neighbor Denny Vaughan had been. Officers knew that it took about six months to train a good combat soldier, while it took 10 to 15 years to train a good musician who would entertain weary troops and boost their morale. As leader of the “Rhythm Rodeo” show band in “Pass in Review”, Bob toured Canadian army bases in Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands and other areas of western Europe. He returned to Canada in the fall of 1945. Bob married Jeanne Gordon of Petawawa in Carluke, Scotland (where his father had been born) in 1945. Jeanne and Bob had two children, John [2], born in 1946, and Fraser, born in 1950. Bob and Jeanne were divorced in 1962. John and his wife Sheila live in Vancouver, B. C. Fraser lives in Kingston, Ont. Fraser has a daughter, Taes Levitt-Cringan, who earned a degree in music from Queen’s University. Taes is in show business with her husband, under the name of "Splash 'n Boots"[3].

UofT Years 1939-50

Bob studied Architecture, then Music, at the University of Toronto from 1941 to 1943. In those years, he trained with the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps. He was on active service from 1943 until 1946. After being discharged, he resumed his studies in Music, and earned his degree in 1949. While on campus, in addition to his studies, he conducted the Varsity Marching Band.

Bob continued to lead his own dance band throughout his years at Varsity, providing music for school and fraternity dances on campus, and conducted show bands for various schools and faculties.

Shortly after graduating, in January 1960 Bob accepted a teaching position at Earl Haig, to begin his 30-year career at “The Haig”.

5. The Haig Years 1950-80

1980 - Retirement

Bob retired in the spring of 1980, after teaching music at Earl Haig Collegiate for 30 years. There he taught thousands of students, and helped them to produce 30 musicals in 30 years. More than 700 persons attended his retirement show at Minkler Auditorium, Seneca College, and then moved to the Inn On-the-Park to dance away the night! Bob married Dorothy Millar shortly after he retired, and they moved to their farm south of Meaford, to begin their busy, active and happy retirement.

7. The Farm 1980-97

8. Georgian Sound Band

9.` 1989 Family Reunion

10. Meaford's Music Man

11. 2000

12. Bob's Life

13. Grandpa and Grandma Craig, by Robert J. Cringan

14. An Aud. Tale, by Robert J. Cringan

15. Acknowledgments


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