THE MARCHING BAND MARCH 4, 2013
When our two older sister’s had vacated the nest to marry their high school sweethearts, Bud was still at home in high school, then there was Viv and I bringing up the rear in grade school — in the low grades. We had a lot more room with the two gone, but there was an old upright piano taking up one wall of the living room so Mom decided if it was going to be sitting there, it may as well be used. It was Sis’s piano, and she was 15 years older than I. Her Granny Thomas had given her the piano when she was a little girl. Granny Thomas was Mom’s first mother-in-law, she was also Aunt Mae’s mother, and Sis would entertain the family with her singing away to her own accompaniment. During the 1920’s the music belonged to the flapper era with the cloche hats, and dancing the Charleston. So when she left home, there was no more tinkling the ivories.
Mom had a piano teacher come in once a week to tutor us, and I’ll bet it was mighty exciting around the house listening to us try to get the hang of it — learning the do-re-mi’s and making a terrible racket. I persevered for a couple of years but my heart was just not in it. I wanted to play the trumpet, which reminds me about how I always wanted a football for Christmas and always got another doll, so I had to punch out Lennie Tanner and grab his new football. (That story was told in July 2011, All I Wanted For Christmas.”)
All was not lost with the piano lessons. At least I learned how to read music, and then one day Aunt Mae took me off to a music store where she bought me a nice, shiny trumpet that I ended up sleeping with many a night. After a few nights, it stayed in the case — more comfortable. I took a few lessons, also joined in the music class where I learned more. I don’t think I was very popular around the house when I was practicing, blowing that horn — they wanted me in the bedroom with door closed, and wishing the room was sound-proofed. They probably wanted me in the next County if the truth be known. I thought I was doing great.
And you know what? Some guy by the name of Mr. Chapman blew in to town in an odd-looking bus, and his gig was having a bunch of kids with their band instruments gather together and he would make us into a marching band. There were tryouts, my trumpet stood at attention, I blew, and made the “team”. Chapman had been doing this for several years. I guess he would have a group so long until he was tired of that gang, move on to another area, then the same old story. We were called CHAPMAN’S MARCHING BAND, and we went all over Southern California wherever there was a parade. Lots of towns had a parade every year: Glendora, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Huntington Park to name a few but but somehow we never made it to Pasadena on January First. The band had about 30 members, and we were all from FullertonUnionHigh School. There were a couple of other girls in the band, Bobby Jo played the flute, and Ella Mae played that metal triangle thing.
We had uniforms. The corduroy striped jacket was predominately blue stripes merging to a lighter blue, then to bluish gray. Hey, they were mighty good-looking. The boys wore white pants, and the girls were in white skirts. Everyone had one of those caps like the military one that folds flat, then you spread it open to plop on your head. It was not a beret. I would know what they are called if Aunt Mae and my Mom had let me join the Navy.
Chapman’s bus was quite a novelty. It was medium size, designed like one of those teardrop aluminum siding vacation trailers. Driver up front (so he could see where to go,) then 30 passenger seats for that great band, then the engine was in the rear where the bus came to a pointed tail. Band instruments were stowed in compartments on the outside under the passenger area. Mr. Chapman had a driver, then he would sit in passenger area where he could keep an eye on us and the bus would remain all in one piece when we reached our destination. You can just imagine a bunch of teenagers in the 1930’s cooped up in a bus for an hour or so.
While we were out trudging along on the parade route, the Driver would stay with our tear-drop transportation because it was so unique that the parade goers probably spent most of the time looking at the bus and crowding around it. The Driver had to keep the looky-loos far enough away so there would be no dents made in that aluminum siding.
Now it is no easy task to march in a parade. Even after practicing hour after hour, keeping the lines straight, using the right foot at the right time, playing the tune that everyone else was playing and being in the right key. Yes, indeed it was no easy task to march along playing my little heart out at the top of my lungs, I also had to keep a corner of one eye on the street, and what might be on it. No way did I want to get any of that horse doo-doo on my nice old comfortable Buster Brown oxfords!
We did that for a couple of seasons, and then just like he blew into town, Mr. Chapman blew out. He was sick and tired of us, and we had all gotten sick and tired of all those many miles of parade routes. He would be out looking for another band, while our band would sit back in the comfort of chairs continuing to play in the school orchestra. No more marching, and no more John Philip Sousa.
I never did make it to First Trumpet. My classmate, Harry, played trumpet and his Dad was the Music Director — need I say more? At least I had a lock on Second Trumpet — but that was not good for my psyche, and that’s when I made the decision to change my career from playing trumpet to playing softball.