Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Galloping Ghosts March On.

Picture it.  A crisp, November evening, 1976.  Our marching band had done a lot of marching that year; after all, it was the Bicentennial of the United States, and we lived just outside of Philadelphia.  We'd marched in Memorial Day parades, marched the trek from the high school to the stadium approximately a mile away for every home football game, participated in THE biggest 200th celebration of America's birth by marching in the Philadelphia Independence Day Parade -- in full wool uniforms, I might add.  We'd competed, valiantly, against the likes of our competitive archenemy, Plymouth Whitemarsh, and it was all culminating in the All-Conference Cavalcade of Bands Championship in Veteran's Stadium.

Astro-turf is nothing like the turf fields we know today.  If you've ever been on the back porch of someone with plastic grass carpet over cement, imagine dropping down into a one count kneel, with precision and authority.  I dare bet that I am not the only one who has had a knee replacement as a result of the repetitive nature of the drill of marching band and indoor guard competitions.  Marching in a professional football stadium is unlike anything we'd ever done, and being one of the largest bands, we competed in the last bracket, adding the large lights to the magic of the evening. 

And when the winners were announced that night, I'm pretty sure that the planning for our 40th Reunion of the State Champions began. Okay, so that may seem a bit premature, because we certainly went on to celebrate in our own ways, including the best darned end of season Band Banquet held in the school's history.

Veteran's Stadium is Gone...

Standing on the grounds of the site where we marched 40 years ago is Citizens Bank Park.  It is there that a group of more than 100 bandos will gather this evening.  Facebook has been abuzz with yellowed pictures, wool Varsity jackets with winning patches and letters, and lamentations over attendance.  We've buried a few friends in the last 40 years, and really haven't stayed in touch as a large group, yet the memories of a week away at Band Camp at Susquehanna University in 1976 is not a distant memory to any of us.  

We were assigned our roommates in alphabetical order, matching genders.  Joyce Denelsbeck and I were not really friends then, but we were roommates.  Marching Band is one of the biggest team-building extra curricular activities with magical properties.  Forty years later, we are very good friends, who have communicated more regularly in recent years than we did the entire week at Susquehanna.  Many of the band members are now sharing homes and children, as more than a few intermarried.  We've been in each others' weddings -- two of my closest friends even played their flutes as a prelude in mine -- and we've hugged each other standing graveside as we buried one of our own.

Extracurricular activities are viewed by colleges as something of great importance on applications. It isn't possible for a freshman in high school to fully comprehend the power of what happens after 3 pm on any given school day, and the long-term, life-long connections and relationships that are forged.  

Tonight, as we toast our accomplishment of 40 years ago, as well as the accomplishments of the reunion planners who have pulled together this amazing party,  there are bands polishing their white bucks and Dinkles, in preparation for their own championships through Cavalcade of Bands and Tournament of Bands competitions.

I pray that they clear their calendars for November, 2056.  They're not going to want to be anywhere else.