Left, right … memories still fresh

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I'll admit it. I was a band geek.

Marching, pep, concert, symphonic, I was in it. Although, I never attended band camp.

I wasn't particularly good at playing the clarinet, but I was better at it than playing sports.

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And in a way, my band involvement started a tradition in my family. Both my brothers joined in high school as well.

On Sunday, I drove over to Albert Lea to see my youngest brother compete with the Owatonna High School marching band in the Festival of Bands.

It was hot on Sunday. I can hardly believe I marched on those hot summer days without passing out.

My brother has to wear the same polyester royal blue jacket and black pants. The same black Dinkle shoes and black hat. They don't, however, have to stick the yellowing white feather plumes into the top of those hats. After enduring so many rain and snow showers, the band director finally decided they didn't look as sharp as they used to. (They didn't smell very good either).

Summer marching band season started at the end of the school year and ended the middle of July. A couple overnight trips were usually planned, making them the highlight of the trip. Some people were in marching band for the competition. While I liked doing a good job and winning, I was there for the social aspect of it.

Which bus you signed up for was very important on those trips. You wanted to make sure all your friends were on the same bus. You also wanted to make sure you had seniority over the other riders so that you could claim the seats in the back of the bus. Most of all, you wanted to avoid the bus the band director was riding on.

On bus trips, friends shared candy and magazines. For awhile, my friends and I tried to convince the boys on our bus that quizzes in teen magazine revealed great insight -- or at the very least were fun.

When we got to our destination, all focus and energy was on getting ready for the parade. We'd haul our uniform bag, instrument, hat box and duffel bag to a dressing room/girl's bathroom/classroom to change.

Getting your hair to stay inside your hat was a challenge. Sometimes it required a hair net, other times just a very strategically place bun on top of your head, held with bobby pins. Lots of bobby pins.

After all that rush, rush to get ready, we'd end up standing around in the sun waiting to step off onto the parade route. The heat was like a magnet on our black pants and hats. We'd wonder why we couldn't have summer uniforms.

Then we were told it was time to go, time to make final adjustments to our hats and sashes.

"Mark time, mark!" the commanders yelled. "Forward march!"

And we were off. Thoughts about being too hot or wanting just one sip of water were replaced with remembering music notes and routines.

A loud, cheering crowd was best to keep us going. One comment would repeat itself no matter what town we visited. "They must be so hot in those uniforms!" Well … yeah.

Sunday's parade in Albert Lea was great because it was all marching bands. I have a lot of respect for those kids. Marching, using most of your air supply to blow through your instrument and wearing uniforms that don't breathe, is hard work.

Owatonna marched by in the hot sun, played their hearts out and I cheered for them.

Often and loud.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at :mailto:cari.quam@austindailyherald.com