On September 25, 1946, the Port Angeles Chapter declared their sponsorship of a proposed chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA) in Tacoma. Port Angeles president, Roy Jensen, and secretary H.B. Melchoir signed the documents, which were completed by N. Stanford (Sam) Saari, the temporary president of the Tacoma organization.
The charter fee of ten dollars was forwarded to the International Secretary in Detroit, Michigan where it was approved by F. (Frank) H. Thorne, International President and by Carroll P. Adams, International Secretary. This is the performing chorus of the Tacoma chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA).
The Totem-Aires were officially chartered on September 27, 1946, in the shadow of the landmark totem pole by the old fire station—now Fireman’s Park—at 9th and A Streets in downtown Tacoma.
The Society was formed in 1938 and has a membership of over 35,000 men. The Tacoma Chapter is one of 800 other chapters in the world. There are affiliated Barbershop groups in England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The chapter choruses and quartets perform at their annual shows and in contests between chapters in their own area. The best chorus quartets from each of the 16 geographic areas (districts) are chosen once each year to represent the area in the International Contest held annually in some large city in the U.S. or Canada.
In regional competition, the Totem-Aires have made placement in the Puget Sound area. Many times they have placed in the top ten in the Evergreen District which consists of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta.
The Totem-Aires chorus and quartets have an active performance schedule. Their past performances have included the reopening of Union Station, opening of the Sheraton Convention Center and the opening of the King Dome. They regularly perform at the Puyallup Fair, Bicentennial Convention Center, and sing the National Anthem for the Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Mariners. The Totem-Aires sing for community events such as First Night, Cancer Runs in Tacoma and Gig Harbor, Hospice, hospital and retirement homes and for special parties.
The Totem-Aires are well known, both in in the Evergreen District and Internationally, for their special giving spirit and their generous support of the Society charities and other charities close in their hearts and in their local community. Their contributions over the years exceed $100,000.
The Tacoma Totem-Aires have a rich quartet loving history, with the great honor of being the home chapter of The Most Happy Fellows, International quartet winners in 1977. Several other chapter quartets have won the District competition. This chorus is always well represented in quartet competition.
In addition, this active chorus has produced many district officers for the Evergreen District.
At the close of each rehearsal the going-home cry is “it’s great to be a Barbershopper - it’s great to be a Totemaire,” and that’s the truth.