True confession: I was a drum majorette in my high school marching band.
For three years, I got to carry the big baton and lead the 50 or so members of the band as we worked football games and parades.
My dress was a cream color, with a backing of satiny gold material on the underside of the skirt, so that if I happened to spin or even swish my hand past my skirt, spectators would be treated to a flash of brightness. I don’t recall what I wore for panties, but there must have been something. Yikes.
I also had thick glasses for most of that time.
There was an array of brass buttons lining the breast plate of the dress, and braids of gold were draped across the chest; there were golden braided tassels with those little metal tips that hung down on one side. There were some crazy epaulets too. And a whistle–I had a whistle on a gold braid my grandmother made for me.
My hat was furry—kind of like a lamb’s wool coat, but with longer hair, and there was a brass eagle or something planted right smack in the middle. There was a white plastic chin strap too, but as I recall there was no way to actually use it to keep the big hat on.
My boots looked a bit like white cowboy boots, in white faux leather, and they had gold tassels hanging from them. When I saw my “replacement” a decade or so later at a football game, I called her over and told her my trick: to keep the tassels from slipping into the boots with every step, just take a piece of scotch tape and run it across the top, where the tassel was affixed to the boot—keeps ‘em out every time.
She probably thought I was crazy.
I think she was wearing my exact uniform, too. I know I wasn’t the first to wear it and probably not the last, although there was an interlude for sure as the next person to take the job was a guy. Since there never had been one before, he got a brand new outfit.
Oh, and the band. The first year, they wore these powder blue and red uniforms that were maybe a hundred years old. OK, not that old, but they’d been around a while. Our colors were maroon and grey. After that first year, so were our uniforms.
Each Saturday morning when there was a home football game, we’d assemble in the band room at the back of the middle school, which was directly across the street from the football field. We’d get ourselves in order (well, our band director, Mr. Ezzard would) and we’d march right across the street and onto the field, the cadence of our amazing drummers propelling us forward. Quick national anthem, quick school fight song, and then off to the sidelines to cheer.
First quarter, second…then our halftime show. Pretty prescriptive: End zone opening salvo (fanfare–here we come!), and then we’d march right up to the home side, make the letters E and H (for East and Hampton) and play the school song again. Next, a selection from the popular catalog (I recall “When I’m Sixty-Four”), march to the other side, make the letters of the opposing team and play their song (how sportsmanlike!). Then off the field, and, with the third quarter off, out for a slice of pizza (I remember some adult friends thinking it was hilarious that we got the third quarter off, scheduled school spirit and all).
Parades: Christmas at home, Newtown Lane to Main Street and back (almost like how we used to loop as we cruised in our cars on Friday night, except when driving, the turnaround point was usually the beach; St. Patrick’s Day, following the green line down the middle of Edgemere to Montauk Highway, thousands of people cheering us on; Memorial Day in East Hampton again, this time starting on Main and heading to the old burial ground behind Hook Mill. There may have been a few others too, but that was a lifetime ago and I don’t recall.
There’s nothing like the feeling of walking right down the middle of what is usually a busy street–no cars, no traffic…and always a unique experience.
Anyway, it was fun and it was social and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Fast forward a few decades to Havre, Montana. Festival Days weekend in September and I’ve been asked to ride in a car as a representative of our federal government. Not once, but twice. Holy cow.
Both times I took Andy, and both times I drew a two-seater car for my ride. The first time, there was enough room for Andy to sit in the car with me; a couple of years later, he was a couple of years bigger—and he brought a friend with him. Luckily, there was space in the town limo (I think there was only one) and they got to throw candy from the sunroof—they were pretty happy.
Both weekends involved the homecoming game, a county fair, and our first real live demolition derbies.
At one, I judged a beard growing contest, met the future governor (and met him years later at a function in Calgary—odd how he didn’t remember our meeting at the VFW pancake breakfast years earlier), and ran into White Snake (yes, the band–they were performing that evening-no, we didn’t go to the show).
At the other, someone put a full bottle of detergent into the fountain surrounding Mr. James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway. There were a lot of bubbles.
And here’s a piece of weird trivia I found while looking up the statue: Havre was originally called Bullhook Bottoms, but somebody didn’t like that, so the vote was on and it was changed.
After that, I was away from parades for a while, until I got to march with the university in a couple of Pride parades and, in the ultimate excitement, in the Calgary Stampede parade.
The Stampede parade is one of the biggest in North America; as many as half a million people can turn out to watch, it’s broadcast across the country, just like the only two that are bigger—the Macy’s Parade and the Rose Bowl.
I’ve seen the Macy’s parade live, once, as a spectator and have set, as a goal, holding down one of those giant balloons—sometime in the next few years. I’m working on it…Judith–this means you.
As far as the Rose Bowl goes, I have always loved the floats, and wanted to have something, anything to do with them. So I poked around a found out that, yes, you can apply to help decorate a float. Quick call to my friend Gina and she had us signed up last December for a shift with the La Canada-Flintridge Association to work on their float.
Holy cow, was it fun. But it was also very hard work. We showed up early in the afternoon, and worked underneath a busy roadway, the traffic at a constant rumble above our heads. Gina, her husband Scott and daughter Sophie and I and were given our assignments. It’s a very efficient operation, and it’s important to stick to your task…
…for Gina and me, that meant gluing hundreds of seeds, nuts, dry beans and grain to the foot of a turtle; Scott and Soph were assigned to the tree bark.
All the pieces that go into the float have to be natural, so through the course of the afternoon we worked with the lentils, with crushed walnut shells and black beans. Maybe some flax seeds too, I can’t remember.
It’s kind of hard to tell, when you’re at the beginning of the week of work, what the finished project is going to look like. Even though you’re shown the renderings, when you’re sticking hundreds of lentils to the foot pad of a turtle, you don’t really see much except lentils—and gobs and gobs of white glue. Messy for sure.
But guess what? We won a prize! The humor award!
(left rear leg of the turtle, check it out!)
So here’s a tip: if you decide to do this, search on line to find a float that works for you (start at the Tournament of Roses Parade main page). And if you want to get away for the seeds and nuts portion of the program, go later in the week; the flowers are the last things to get placed.
But do it soon, and book yourself to be in the LA area in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. You might even want to get a ticket to watch your work go by.