Saturday, October 26, 2002 - 2:21 AM
This post is in response to a request from Jeffry Mason who asked me to give some recollections of the 1970 corps. This was a pivotal year in the Cavaliers history and I felt his question deserved an in-depth response. I hope I have captured events correctly. If anyone from 1970 wants to add to my narrative, or needs to correct something I am saying, please feel free.
The corps in 1970 was very talented and very mature. Most of the guys had been in for several years so we were all pretty used to each other’s styles. The new guys that year were also very talented and you could tell in October we were going to be very good that year. Not only were we talented, we were experienced as many of us had started in drum corps with the Cavaliers and had already won many national titles together. 1970 promised to be a very special year: perhaps the best year in the corps history up to that point!
Our show that year was:
Ten Commandments – opener
Impossible Dream – flag presentation
Land of a Thousand Dances – into concert
Eleanor Rigby – concert
Bully – out of concert
Somewhere (West Side Story) - closer
The corps was contending that year with the Troopers for the VFW national title and we were trading victories back and forth although the Troopers won more of our encounters that year than we did. We had a very talented and mature corps and felt we could take the Troopers somewhere on tour and continue winning until nationals!
Well, things did not work out that way. We had one disaster after another that year. If I am remembering this correctly, we had at least three tires blow out on different busses along the way, and at least one engine blow, and these were the days when we rented our transportation along with professional drivers.
We went to Toronto for a show with the Troopers and had very intense rehearsals up to that point – getting closer and closer until the show that night where we put on our best performance so far that year. In the closer for the Troopers, they had a pick-up front; a center section of horns marked time while two additional sections approached the stationary section until they formed one whole front, which then continued, off the field. Well, that night they missed the timing by a mile and had three different sections of horns exit the field at different times. We were in the stands watching and cheering thinking we had won. Unfortunately the M&M judge thought he heard the gun go off (if you believe that one I have some land in Pakistan to sell you) and turned around to go back to the judge’s table. He didn’t even see the end of their show, nor all the mistakes and ticks this error caused the Troopers. We lost!
Toronto was an interesting show that year for several reasons. At the previous show (Utica I think) several of us had not picked up our luggage after the busses were unloaded, thinking the other guy was going to do it. When we got to Toronto, Don Warren made a point at length about being sure we removed our stuff from the parking lot quickly. As we were all sitting there listening to his point (and this is the absolute truth) Dave Davis, one of the bus loaders that year, walks up behind Don with something in his arms. Don turns around and sees this and says, “see what I was talking about?” Well, it turned out that everyone had taken Don’s words to heart and immediately taken their own belongings from the parking lot – everyone except Don. His suitcase was left in the lot and the bus, when backing up, rolled right over it. This was a brand new case that his wife, Jan had just bought for him. Everything was ruined: clothes, after shave bottle was broken, etc. Dave Davis swears to this day that it was truly an accident and not intentional!
Another interesting point was that we were staying at a college in Toronto (I don’t remember which one) and the groundskeeper was a little ‘odd’. He followed us everywhere. After the show, when we were ready to leave we found out this guy had been in the lead tank at the battle of El Alamein in WWII with British general Montgomery. I guess he was entitled to being a little ‘odd’. He called us “Bonny, bonny lads,” and said we could have served in his army anytime. We took that as a real compliment!
At the show, the Toronto Optimists, who also wore green, black and white, took their entire corps into the stands on the backside of the field and formed a gigantic #1 while we were performing. It was really something to see! They too saw the mistake in the Troopers show and thought we had won.
On the way out of Canada, one of the busses got stopped at Customs for some reason and was going to be searched. The other bus (which I was on) proceeded to Herkimer N.Y for a show that evening (“Drums Along the Bucktail”, for you history buffs out there). We got there with half a corps and the equipment truck and no way of knowing when the other bus would show up. The guys were at least an hour late when they finally did arrive and it was like a scene out of a WWII war movie directed by the Three Stooges! The group that arrived first had unloaded all the equipment, was already dressed and was standing at the curb with the other groups’ uniforms in hand. As a guy came off the bus we shouted out a uniform number or the name if we knew it and then both guys would RUN to the gym so the guys from the second group could change.
When we arrived at the show, every other corps had performed and we were at least 1 ½ hours beyond our start time. To our amazement, the crowd was still in the stands waiting for the Cavaliers to arrive – they wanted to see us in the worst way (if you don’t know it, at that time of the year, it can get really COLD at night in upper N.Y. state and it was cold that evening. These people really took their drum corps seriously!). Also, while the Troopers were not at his show, the Skokie Vanguard were, and they wanted us to take a penalty for being late – something like 1.00 point for each minute late, or something equally off the wall! I think they finally settled on 5.00 – 6.00 points in penalties. Without any rehearsal or warm up, we put on our show and beat the Vanguard by at least 10.00 points – with the penalties. They were not happy campers!
Thinking that our luck had finally changed for the better, we then proceeded to leave for a motel we had booked in Jacksonville FL to get some time off the busses (yes, we DID stay in hotels back then). I remember going to sleep as we were going through Baltimore. The drivers wanted some coffee, so they pulled over at a truck stop about 2- 3 hours south of Baltimore. I remember this because I woke up and looked around to see what was happening. Since we were not getting off, I went back to sleep. The next thing I remember was waking up some time later, looking out the window and seeing a sign that said “Baltimore – 25 miles”. At this time some of the other guys had also seen the same sign. We pulled out a map and started looking at exits as we passed them. It became obvious we were going north instead of south. Our bus was not the lead bus so we got the driver to call the leader ( on CB radio no less) and tell him to stop. He thought we were joking and kept on going. We were almost through Baltimore before he realized his mistake and turned around! We lost a good 6 – 7 hours of travel time. Our thought then was to skip Jacksonville and go right to Miami ( where VFW was going to be) and right to our next hotel – the Ivanhoe (that’s right guys, ANOTHER hotel. This one was a QUALITY hotel to boot)! However, since we had already paid a hefty deposit for the rooms in Jacksonville that we would lose if we didn’t stop, we proceeded to Jacksonville to stay in the rooms for all of about 4 hours!
If you are getting the idea this was turning out to be a trip that was less than the quality traveling experience the corps was used to, you are correct!
Once we got to Miami, things started to get back to normal. We had great accommodations – each room had a kitchenette with a refrigerator so we could stock up on Cokes for a nice cold one after rehearsal. And, did I say it was hot? And humid? You bet it was. However, we were really starting to pull things together and the M&M was practically flawless by that time. The horns were good and getting better and the drum line was really very, very good. We felt we were going to take the Troopers and the title.
To give you an idea of how closely we were to each other, I remember going to ‘Wolfie’s Diner’ to get something to eat when we had free time. It was ( and maybe still is) a famous place in Miami to eat at. Well, we sat down and ordered. The waitress was coming around to pour coffee and happened to pour at least a cupful of coffee down Rich Martucci’s back. As he was yelling and starting to jump up out of his seat, all of us reacted like it was an attack on us all. Several guys came over with their T-shirts off to sop up the excess coffee. One guy threw his ice water on Rich and we all were very concerned. Thankfully, it turned out that no real damage was done. The reason for the extreme reaction was two-fold: we knew we needed everyone healthy if we were going to have a chance to beat the Troopers that year, and , all the crazy events on the tour that year just naturally drew us closer together.
However, a few minor details that surfaced along the way prevented us from winning.
The first minor detail was at Prelims. This was held at some out of the way high school football stadium and it was during the day (we were on around 11:30 in the morning – I think). We had gone through inspection right before the prelim show and, as I recall came through with only .1 in penalties.
For those of you that are new to drum corps – since about 1975 or so, at that time you stood inspection. A judge or judges walked in front of and behind the corps looking for things like scuffed shoes, ‘Irish Pennants’ (threads of the uniform material sticking out of seams on the blouses or on the pants), clean horns, drums, rifles etc. Although it seemed like a waste of time, everyone really put a lot of effort into looking sharp for two reasons – it affected our score and in a tight race every tenth counted. The other reason was Monk. You didn’t want to get ticked since he was responsible for the equipment. You would never hear the end of it if you got ticked by one of the judges. (you also got a swat with the board of education in front of the whole corps – we really did take this stuff seriously!)
Anyway, we moved to the starting line and got ready to go through the prelim show. Again for those of you new to drum corps – since 1975 – the prelim show was different from the full field show. The prelim show was shorter and had no concert. It did require some changes to the drill and sometimes to the music as well. it was not something we practiced at great length, but Paul Litteau – who wrote the drill that year – really expected us to do our best since we were going after the Troopers.
We got about half way through the show and suddenly the PA system came on with some radio program giving out a recipe for “chicken cacciatore.” Well we finished and, as I remember it would have finished about 5th or 6th! This was a terrible result and Sal Ferrera immediately protested the result saying it should be disallowed and we should be given another shot.
The second minor detail had to do with the judging. Without going into a lot of detail, and dragging up old ghosts, there was already some controversy that year even before this. It seems that one of the judges on the panel for the finals show had written some of the arrangements the Troopers were using that year. We felt that it was not fair from him to judge the finals since he would be judging / evaluating his own work. I understand this may be more commonplace today, but back then it was not. The corps took it all the way up to the VFW National Committee for a decision – we lost the vote and the finals slate was going to stay the same. Did I mention this judge did not really like us that much that year?
So when the silliness at prelims happened, we were already thinking someone was having a little fun at our expense. Since we were close to the end of prelims anyway, it was decided we would have another performance to make up for the other one. During all this time, we were just standing around waiting and there was no shade anywhere. It was hot, there was nothing to drink and we had nothing to eat.
We did not go on again until almost 2:00PM. Because of the heat, there was a small tent that was for the judges between corps and under which the scorer’s table was places as well. as we took the starting line for the second time that day, we noticed all the judges were huddled under the tent. We set up and then stood there waiting for them to come out. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. Finally Rodger Roussell, our drum major that year called us to parade rest and we waited some more. The judges eventually came out, but by that time the edge had worn off and we were in big trouble. Well let’s just say it was not one of our better performances. We finished in 11th position – the first time ever we were lower than 3rd at any show in 14 or 15 years! Needless to say we were a bit shell shocked! Corps beat us that day that I had never even seen before!
At this point our maturity came to the fore and I feel – even today – that things could have been very, very bad unless we all pulled together. And quickly!
The third minor detail was the lack of time between our second prelim show and finals. Since we were on towards the end of the prelims, there was not much time before the finals. We went back to the hotel, changed quickly and went to practice. We only had time for about 1-2 times through the drill. People have told me years later that this rehearsal was the finest performance they had ever seen us put on! I tend to disagree. We were all so upset because of all of this, that it is impossible for me to judge if this is true or not. Anyway, we rushed back to get into uniform for our VFW dinner – that’s right guys, at that time we had a sit down dinner before finals every year with people from Park Ridge post and others that had helped the corps that year. Well, you could hear a pin drop – people were very, very upset over recent events. I can remember sitting at my table with the other old guys and not being able to eat very much because I was so angry with what was happening! Then Rodger Roussell got up and said what was on all our minds – we were about to get screwed big time, but we were not going down without a fight. That seemed to break the ice and things started to get back to normal – but would it be enough? I still couldn’t eat anything, but now it was anticipation at getting even and not anger that killed my appetite!
We left for the Orange Bowl for finals and I can vividly remember being on the starting line while the sun was still up! We never went on at nationals when the sun was up! Coming in 11th place in prelims meant we were going on second – a lot of the people hadn’t even gotten into the stands yet, it was so early. Well, sun and all, anger and all, few people in the stands and all, we put on one hell of a performance that night! People knew it too because by the time we finished our show, the stands were almost full! Now it was time to wait. In all my years of being in drum corps and watching drum corps, I had never see a complete show. Well, this year I saw the most corps I had ever seen perform at one show.
To make a very long story short, we came in 3rd. Boston was very good that night. We saw their performance and we knew they had beaten us. We did not see the Troopers because we were forming up for the finale and assumed they had won. We were right, they came in first. After the show we found out we had won M&M, and I think we came in 2nd in drums. Horns were another story! One judge had us 3rd: the other judge had us 11th! It kind of makes you wonder how one horn line could produce such different results on with the same performance? I am pretty sure that a more reasonable placement in horns would have at least put us into second place. However, Boston had a great corps that year, so maybe we would not have seen any improvement in our placement.
The reason I have gone into such detail is that these events were directly responsible for the 1971 Circus show. The feeling generally was that we needed to really do something different the next year or we were going to be passed by many other corps. That feeling was right, but not because the judging community no longer liked the Cavaliers. We were passed by because we did not put a quality show our on the field the next year. it relied too much on gimmicks that the score sheets did not give any credit for. that is why the corps took such a nose-dive that next year. We still had a very talented corps, but choose not to do the right type of show with it. The rest is history!
By the way, that 11th in horns still rankles to this day! That is why I’m sure everyone from 1970 feels so proud of the 2002 corps for winning the horn trophy this year. It kind of makes up for 1970. Here’s hoping the 2003 corps can continue winning – especially horn trophies!
FMM 1964 - 1971