Fondly remembering drum corps . . . as it was

by Jerry Fritz

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My dad was very involved in the American Legion (Indiana State Commander and U.S. National Vice Commander). As such, he normally took the family on a vacation that surrounded the dates and location of the annual national convention.

At the young age of seven, he introduced me to drum and bugle corps at one such convention. That was 54 years ago and my love for the activity has never waned.

Now that I am 61, many of those memories have long since faded. BUT, to my excitement, I was able to relive one very special memory through modern technology. Back in February, I visited my good friend Steve Vickers at his home in Madison. I was reading through the latest issue of DCW and came across his advertisement for old drum corps on CDs and DVDs.

Lo and behold, available on DVD was the 1967 American Legion Nationals that was held in Boston, MA, at Finway Park. I couldn’t believe it!

I was 19 in 1967, a sophomore at Indiana University and home for the summer. So before school resumed that fall, the family once again made its pilgrimage to the American Legion Convention.

As a family we had never been to Boston, so when dad wasn’t attending Legion events or meetings, we did the tourist thing.

We went to all of the historic places in Boston, stood on board the USS Constitution, saw the Old North Church, ate some unbelievable seafood and had a wonderful time.

I DO remember that very early Saturday morning (August 27), my dad taking me out to the field on which both the prelims and finals would be held. He had Legion things to do so he left me there (I had done this the year before in Washington, D.C.). Drum corps paradise! I got to sit and watch all of the prelims of both the senior and junior corps.

I faintly recall watching corps that have long since faded into history — Blessed Sacrament, St. Joseph’s of Batavia, St. Lucy’s Cadets, St. Mary’s Cardinals, St. Kevin’s Emerald Knights, Chicago Royal Airs, Blue Rock and the Grey Knight Crusaders.

And there were many that are still around today — Connecticut Hurricanes, Hawthorne Caballeros (my dad’s favorite corps), Chicago Cavaliers, Boston Crusaders, Garfield Cadets and Syracuse Brigadiers.

WOW, what pageantry, precision, patriotism and wonderful music. Until this past February, they were only distant memories. Then I discovered the DVD. I immediately ordered it.

Just a couple of weeks later, the prize arrived. I couldn’t wait to open the package and get that DVD onto my player. The program consisted of the top four senior corps and the top seven junior corps from the 1967 American Legion Nationals.

My mom, dad and I sat there on that beautiful August evening to be totally entertained. As I watched the Hawthorne Caballeros first, the wonderful memories of attending all of those drum corps shows with my dad instantly came back to me. I literally sat there in my living room in Colorado watching the performances in tears.

Tears of joy and memories and fun and spending those special times with my dad. As I sit here at my computer typing this article, the tears have come back. How I have always loved this activity called drum and bugle corps.

And now, to be able to relive some of those championship performances I experienced in my youth, well, I am just overwhelmed with emotion.

For all of you older drum corps nuts out there, I encourage you to check out these recordings and take a trip into your past. I am sure they will conjure up a variety of emotions, memories, relationships and just plain fun.

Ahhhh, drum corps as it once was. I surely do miss the flag presentation . . .