The memories remain the same

by Gary Schumann

This article was originally published in the June 1, 2007 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 36, Number 3).

I was taking a trip back in history (on my computer) when I came to the realization that, while the faces have changed, the memories remain the same.

With the prospect of losing our alumni Website (Skokie/Norwood Park Imperials), I spent a few moments reading the history of the corps and looking at the pictures from “the glory days” (the late 1960s and early 1970s “daze”) and whether you marched then or during the final struggles of the 1980s — which no one likes to talk about — it was the memories that remained the same.

Technology has grown over the years and it seems as of late, no one can keep up with this high pace of change. Titanium has taken the place of the leather sling, but the drums still weigh the same in the middle of a 2.5-mile parade. The evolution to three valves from no valves has added a whole new range of notes to be explored, but the look on the judge’s face when those new notes are “fracked” is still pained. And while the poles are shorter, the rifles are lighter and some newer equipment is not even recognizable to most, they still hurt just as much when you miss that toss.

While clarity and color in the photographs only got better through the years, the subjects changed, leaving the memories the same. A black and white photo of a pyramid of corps members matched up with a color photo — same corps, same pyramid — only taken decades apart. Different faces, same memories.

It doesn’t stop there. Pictures of members having fun on the buses or of lifelong friends arm-in-arm, along with shots of grueling rehearsals on the field that should have been evidence in a class-action abuse case, and memories clipped from the local newspaper by mom and dad who were proud to see their little boy or girl made it in the newspaper and not in “police beat.” The corps photos taken after every big show are almost identical, except for the changing of uniforms and the declining numbers.

Whether you marched division I or division III, the only experience that differed between your corps and mine was when we left the field during retreat. The road to that show was the same road we traveled, along with the identical process.

I have kept involved in the drum corps activity to the extent that I watched my sons participate and, no matter what corps they we were with, what uniform they wore or what division they performed in, their memories were my memories.

I know that I am a better person for having experienced life in drum corps and I know the same holds true for my sons. I would like to believe that each and every person who received the same experiences from their time in the Imperials — and any drum corps — did so, too.

So, thank you to the founders of the drum corps activity and thanks to all those who work to keep those memories alive.