Posted by: guinness222 | July 13, 2008

“T minus 31:00:00 and counting!”

No, I’m not blasting off to another planet (Maybe after the elections in November, but that’s a rant for another day!).
In 31 hours I will be sitting in the stands at Choctawhahatchee High School stadium, over in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, for the first ever “Emerald Coast Classic”, in Section D, Row 29, Seats 17-20 with my wife waiting in eager anticipation of one of my absolute favorite Drum & Bugle Corps of all time, “The Boston Crusaders”, and six other Drum corps to perform.
OK, so you do not share my “eager anticipation”, and probably don’t even know what I’m talking about, so here’s the story behind the story. Get comfortable in the “Time Machine” ’cause we’re going back to the 1960’s.
You in the back sit down and put on your seat belt or I’ll slap you silly. Too late to get off now! We Be GONE!
Ok, here we are at the A&P Supermarket where I used to work after Highschool, ok,….there I am putting bottled pickles up on the shelf in aisle 5, oooow, and there’s Pat, my current heart throb working at the cash register. Things were good back then. John F. Kennedy had just been elected President of the United States, the days were bright and sunny, I was joyously on about my fifth or sixth “Junker” (really cheap, like under $100 car. Drive ’em till they quit, take the licence plates off and go get another one if it was going to cost more than four dollars to fix it!), life was good, I was thinking about college in the fall, but looking to have fun and party all summer long. There was only one problem,…Pat. Seemed like everytime I’d ask her out on a date all I ever heard was “I’d love to, but I’ve got Drum Corps practice.”
Well as most of you who know me are aware, I’m stubborn, and you just don’t say “No” to me without a REALLY good reason in my judgement. (Oops , ego talking 🙂 ) So I decided I’d ask a few more questions and “pretend” an interest and see where this went, so we chatted a few times on our breaks and finally she said one day a week or so later, “Why don’t you come to practice and see what you think?” (Hell , they can’t practice whatever it is they do all night. If I’m lucky I can drive her home,…maybe stop for a Cherry, Vanilla, or Raspberry Coke, and yes we had them back in the caveman days!) “Sure, why not. When is it?” “We have M&M practice tonight at 6:30 at the Raytheon plant, you know where that is?” (What, you gotta practice to eat M&M’s?)
Well of course I knew where it was, so I headed down there after I got off at 6:00pm. Now this was in the days when there were gangs, yes we had’em before “Bloods” & “Crips” etc. When I turned the corner and saw the Parking lot at the Raytheron Plant there had to be about fifteen or twenty cars, kids all over the place, an old bread delivery truck that said
“Sir Thomas More Drum & Bugle Corps” in sort of Calligraphic Script on it. The scene looked like a “rumble” (60’s jargon for a gang confrontation) Everyone was just kind of hanging out,…oh there’s Pat, I’ll drift over and say Hi.
As I got about twenty feet or so away from her some guy blew this whistle, you know the kind the old cops used to have, you could hear it for miles. Then he yelled “Line it up, line it up, dress right, dress”. Everyone took off, the kids all were running over grabbing drums, hooking them to straps which ran over one shoulder, and then hooking the top edge of the drum to a clip on it and resting the bottom edge of the drum, which had a little metal strap that rested on thier leg, just above the knee. Other kids were grabbing these really shiny chrome horns of all sizes out of cases and they were all lining up side by side on this imaginary line that ran between two of those flourescent orange traffic cones about 150 feet apart. They all faced the same direction, thier right hand on thier hip, and thier head turned to the right, side by side. The line was perfectly straight! I’m impressed (Yeah, we know it doesn’t take much to impress me!)
This guy, about as old as my Dad, you know about 45 or 50, with white hair walks out to the middle of the parking lot and yells, “Too slow, too slow,….. you move when you hear a command. I sure hope you’re not going to waste my time tonight,….are you?” There is absolute silence as he turns and begins to walk away. Then he stops dead in his tracks spins around, puts his hands on his hip, bends forward and yells, “Well?” As one voice the kids all yell back “No sir Mr. Fisher!”
I’m just standing there in shock, what the hell was happening and who was this guy, and why didn’t the half dozen parents there say anything to this guy? What the hell did he think this was “boot camp”!
“That’s better, we’ll take it on the count of eight, off the line. Count your parts, ready? Together,…One,…”, then every kid out there chimes in with him together “Two,…Three,…Four,…..” and when they hit eight it went crazy they began to MARCH, in step, together, and sort of singing and humming and talking jibberish all at the same time! They went forward as a single line for about thirty feet, and then it looked like everybody freaked out. Some went left, some went right, some just stood in one place marching, later I learned that was called “marking time”, the sounds coming to my ears were actually hilarious, from one guy yelling “BOOM,……….. BOOM, ….BOOMBOOM” a guy near him sort of loudly talking and saying “par-a-diddle, par-a-diddle, flam, flam, par-a-diddle”, the rest of them doing “la, la, la, la, la, la, dee, de, de, ” after a few minutes the “la-la people stopped the la, la’s and the BOOM,..Boom and par-a-diddle people kept going and it looked like a chinese fire drill they were all over the place marching turning in groups of three and six and nines, and it hit me that they were all working this mess together. But there wasn’t any music!
I was intrigued and this kid with a cast on his leg hobbled over and introduced himself, “Hey I’m Jimmy, I’m a bass baritone”, “Aaah Hi, I’m Tom and I’m just watching.”
“Thinking of joining?” Jimmy asks. And before I can answer he turns around to this other kid and yells, “Yo, Bird, come here, meet the new guy”, this scrawny, sort of sickly looking kid comes over sticks his hand out and says, “Hi I’m Bird, I’m a French Horn, great to have you, we need more older kids.” Then this adult comes over and Jimmy doe the same thing and says, “Hey Dad, Tom here’s interested in joining.”
The adult comes over shakes my hand and says “Hey, nice to meet you, I’m Jim Patz, Jimmy’s dad, what do you play?”
“Aaaah, some baseball, sometimes a little basketball,..”
“That’s funny, No I mean what instrument do you play?”
“Aaaah, well actually,….none.”
They all look crestfallen, except Jimmy’s Dad, he puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “No problem,…we’ll teach you, you look like you could handle a Bass Bari ok.”
“Well actually I came to see Pat, I uuh really did’nt, I mean I don’t know anything about this, aah, I just thought,….”
“No problem!”, says young Jimmy, “I’m a Bass Bari too, there’s only two of us so you’ll be in our squad.”
“But I can’t play, hell I can’t even read music, you know?”
“No problem, we’ll put you in the middle of the squad so the judges don’t know and you can fake it until you pick it up, how ’bout it?”
“I can’t march either, you know two left feet.”
“No problem we can teach you.”

And thus it began, and for the next five or six years it was a blur, but the peak time of my life as a teenager until I was 21, got me assigned to the U.S. Navy Drill Team at the base I was initially stationed, got me introduced to my wife of 42 years now, (even though she wasn’t first choice right off, her siter’s girl friend was a lot “hotter”)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,….but I sure don’t remember any of the “worsts”.

Taking a short break here, be back for Chapter two in a minute. Read on!


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