September 10, 2009

Bigger than Ourselves

(There is a better post below this. This is just a post... of my thinking of my past.)

I went to high school in a little town in the panhandle called Gonzalez. Unless you're from Pensacola, you've not heard of it.

Most of the families were farming type families, I think. Many of the Dads worked at the local papermill. When Officer and a Gentleman came out, the main lead female character supposedly worked out in that papermill. I was one of the few Navy kids actually. The Navy bases weren't close to this little town, but my folks picked the area so I could attend this high school.

This was back before FCATs and school ratings... my folks did their own research on school districts.

My Mom immediately got me private flute lessons and by my sophomore year, I'd joined the marching band. I knew they were good, but not being into bands much at the time, I didn't realize how good.

They weren't just good. They were the best.

It was country out where we went to school. It was known to be the biggest agricultural school that side of Jacksonville. When I tell folks my high school was country, I tell them, "We were Cuuuntry". Pick up trucks filled the parking lots, boots and cowboy hats were the norm.

And in this bastion of country music, pick 'em up trucks, and gun racks, was the best damn band in the land.

The Showband of the South.

We won the Grand National Championships that year, my first year. We marched nearly 200 kids. We practiced three hours a day every day. Then there was sleep away band camp.

Just a bunch of country kids, ages 14 to 18, but when you put on the band uniforms, put an instrument in their hands, everything was stripped away except for a well oiled marching machine that entertained and people loved.

People would come to our football games to watch the band.

Our band director used to say to us, "Don't be a hot dog band! Don't you be that band where when they come on the field, people go get their hot dog!"

I've been thinking about my old band days a lot tonight. I don't spend a lot of time living in the past, but I had a conversation with my son's band director tonight and it brought back a flood of memories.

We were speaking and he said, "I used to be the asst band director at ABC HS. We were a marching powerhouse in the 90s. We were going to a band competition. You wouldn't know this, but you can win a band competition by 1/10th of a point..."

And I replied, "I know. I was in band. I was in the Tate High School Marching Band..."

And he said, "MBA Grand National Champions..."

I finished, "1980. I was there. We marched under Bill Slayton."

He was quiet a moment and said, "I know the history of that band..."

And so I've spent tonight reflecting on those years. They were good years. I made good friends. My best girlfriend, PFB, and I are still thick as thieves.

So a shoutout to PFB. "I found this on the 'net, girl. Give it a listen. There's no vid, but you can hear us."

I can still remember our drumline. They were the best.

You can hear us country kids playing our hearts out and winning. My boyfriend played the bass drum. My best girlfriend played the sax. I'm back in the back somewhere, playing the flute.

We were part of something bigger than ourselves.

And we were the best. Good times...

Posted by Boudicca at September 10, 2009 09:16 PM

I wasn't expecting goodebumps and tears at 6:30 this a.m. so thank you for that. Mr. Slayton was a genius and thanks to him(well, maybe not his yelling "hey Bailey, you've got a monkey on your back") and all the friends we had, band was absolutely the best part of hs. I remember the night we won, where my placement was on the field (at the end of our performance) and the certainty in my heart that "surely we've just won. You can feel the electricity of "us"". Thanks for finding this. I am excited for your Number 1 son and his future with band. It's going to be magic.

Posted by: pfb at September 11, 2009 05:53 AM

I do beg to differ, I would have to say my high school marching bands was the kickassest marching ever!!!!

5 Grand National titles since the 80's and placed in the top 10 in Grand Nationals every year since the 80's and State champs every year but one since te 80's.

They have also been invited to perform at a couple college bowl games.

They rock like no other!

Posted by: Quality Weenie at September 11, 2009 08:38 AM

That brought back a flood of good memories. I was in Marching band all four years. We had 180 in the band in a high school of 500. Good times.

Posted by: Jerry in Indiana at September 11, 2009 09:47 AM

Band changes everything, man.

Posted by: Toluca Nole at September 11, 2009 03:13 PM

And at the same time as this, I was at the high school across town...with the smallest band in town. The band director's name was Kibbler...they called themselves 'Kibbles and Bits'. They so dreamed of being in Tate's band.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at September 11, 2009 07:44 PM

As a fmr band parent, I recognize the quality of your sound (even with the crackles and hiss for the album transcription).

Love that drum line ... such clarity.

My eldest daughter was a flautist too. I do not miss chasing all over the state going to band competitions.

Posted by: The Thomas at September 12, 2009 12:45 AM

Let me just say ... Farookin' WOW! I have never heard a high school band play that well. Is it a rural thing? I know that my high school band (I wasn't in it; I was playing in a rock band) really stunk. Hell, that was better than the Rutgers band, at least when I went there.

And yes, the drumline was fantastic.


Posted by: Jim - PRS at September 12, 2009 08:36 PM