In the Summer of 1960 I just finished my 3rd year in High School. My respect for this Corps dates back when I was 5...My career short but I did march with some of these guys... At least 2 members were instructors in our junior Corps the N.Y. Kingsmen, State Champs 1951... What made these guys the best EVER?... "VERY SIMPLE". THEY GREW UP IN THE SWING ERA....Horn driven music. R n R...Guitar driven music, THAT music as I remember introduced back in 1954... By 1960 approximately 30% of the Corps were Veterans of WW2 & Korea. The band formed after these young soldiers returned from the European and Pacific Theatres of war 1945. Several other great Drum & Bugle Corps enjoyed similar roots. The competition extraordinary, their 13 minute program judged on points in three areas: General Effect 40%, Marching and Maneuvering (M &M) 30% Music 30% prize money awarded.
The Junior Corps' were most oftened sponsored by some of the Catholic Parishes, where they would of course draw the boys and girls 11 to 18 in conjunction with the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War Legion Posts. In most cases, the boys played Drums & Bugles the Girls, the Color Guard, carrying the flags. The Junior Corps, the members too young to go off to war marched in parades, and held exhibitions. It was a time of extraordinary Faith, Patriotism, Joy and Sadness. Today we know them as the Greatest Generation; but just who are these people?
Long before computers and E mail... The soldiers and their families would write to the Parish Bulletin's these were expediciously sent out to the soldiers the bulletins had an extraordinarily positive morale effect. I came into possession of several of these... I share these to reflect who these men were... who came back in 1945 formed this Corps as an activity that they so loved.. They were not professionals... they had day jobs, many went to college or back to College.
MARCH 1944 Parish Bulletin: Mrs. Bolger of Heath Ave. mother of a boy killed in action and another wounded in action was there enjoying the show. Her boy wounded in action improving. Mrs. McCarthy mother of Lieutenant Thomas and his wife attended. The names of their loved ones in prayer, added to the Holy Name Honor Roll. Sidelights of this great show, put on by the boys & girls of the parish; Gene Le Cleric overheard, now Top Sergeant cornering to tell Vinnie Egbert about Jap Treatment in his Guadalcanal Campaign. The performance of the Corps by the boys and girls will be long remembered by those lucky enough to be in attendance. Herb Mausolf writes from his base in the South Pacific where he has seen plenty of action, seems to have liked the way our Fleet blasted Japs...Who doesn’t?
MAY 1944 Parish Bulletin: We are told by Lt. Tim Lyons lovely mother that her boy, Killed in action was a daily Communicant. That is great news and came straight from his Chaplain. We are relieved that Vinnie Pesature is safe rescued after his ship went down in combat operations...His brother Bob "How could Vinnie miss with all the prayers from his family and friends". Charles (Red) Heaney Coxswain in the U.S. Navy, overseas for the past 18 months, put stars in the eyes of Eileen Oehmig April 5th when he sent her a diamond ring for the third finger on her left hand. Jerry Murphy says England is beautiful.. big operation shaping up can’t wait to get back misses his old Corps. James Cass listed as missing in Action has been revealed as a prisoner of War in Germany His wife had just completed the Novena when the happy news was revealed in a telegram... Lt. Chas. Gallagher after much action in the Pacific is in the Fiji Island recovering from injuries... Safer here he says then some of the spots in N.Y. especially with girl taxi drivers around.
JULY 1944 Parish Bulletin: The July 4th field Day and parade headed by our fine Drum Corps who marched to the War Memorial then gave a wonderful standstill concert will be long remembered as one of the most upbeat days since the beginning of the war. With our troops now in France poised to strike into Germany, Tom Donnelly the Drum Corps Director had a special number added to the Corps repertoire dedicated to the bravery of our troops... It was particularly well received and wildly applauded for its particularly meaningful message for our diocese parishes and all New Yorkers; A heartfelt rendition of Goodbye Broadway, Hello France. FROM THE BOYS IN SERVICE: Dennis O’Leary is on an Aircraft Carrier in the Pacific his brother Mike is also chasing the Japs. Alfred Cpl. Charlie Margro is in Italy and hopes to catch up with his brother Tony who has been chasing the German Army. Eric Hafenecker of the glider Troops is back in England after being in the invasion; He has been injured and awarded the Purple Heart. Let’s remember Eric in our prayers. He has written his mother not to worry. Tommy McKnight landed in France with his parachute full of holes.. his fine bugle playing must have distracted the Germans. Jim Stanley was killed in action; missing since March when his plane went down his loss has now been confirmed Allie Martin of the USS LCI (L) 510 served mass aboard his ship June 5th and the Chaplain couldn’t believe it had been 15 years since he last served mass. The Chaplain sent a special word to “Rene”, Allie’s wife on how well he did, and Rene is keeping it as one of fondest memories.
SEPT 1944 Parish Bulletin: Pfc Louis Nicotina has been wounded in action in France. Please say a prayer for him. Andy Giuriceo is on Saipan Island after seeing hard fighting. Andy has been oversees over a year and has never had a furlough. His family and girlfriend Judy would like him to get one and see him. Arthur Jameson has been wounded in the capture of the Island of Guam. Artie belongs to the 305th inf of the 77th Div. Cpl Sam Harris has been killed in France. Edward Arneath has also been killed in France. We urge your prayers for these grand young men who have gone before us paying a supreme sacrifice. Mrs. Leddy mother of Andrew who was killed in action tells us her boy was very close to a French Padre and a letter from this priest her greatest treasure.
These are..."Just A Few" that reflects the caliber of men who won the war, came home in 1945 and formed the N.Y. Skyliners and become the greatest Drum Corp Ever.
The screemplay is about Gabriel Black. Gabriel’s father Buddy Black was considered the greatest Horn in Drum Corps. Killed on D. Day, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, young Gabriel, a quiet boy, told by his mother... Gabriel, aged four, "the spirit of your father will always be with you"... Even at a young age... No-one could blow a Horn like Gabriel.
The Parish Bulletins: I was 1 year old, My brother 10 my sister 7...We were ALL members of the Kingsmen...The Horn next to my brother, my brother, his best man at his wedding...Captain Sonny Lee would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 1966 for service in Viet Nam.
The screenplay was inspired by my involvement with the Corps COMBINED with the influence of the above Church Bulletins. A few of the entries have been modified... All names and events however in the Church Bulletin are AUTHENTIC except for the Drum Corps entries, that were not apart of the bulletins but very close to being authentic that helped me with the storyline.