Band of Gold Story - 1968-69

posted Jul 14, 2012, 8:00 AM by Largo Gold   [ updated Aug 8, 2018, 4:49 PM by LBOG AA ]

During the winter of 1967-1968, Florida public school teachers were becoming increasing disgruntled over pay and benefits. Governor Claude Kirk and the Florida state legislature refused to consider the teacher’s requests for increased pay due to a lack of funding. On February 19, 1968, the Florida Education Association initiated a strike, and thousands of school teachers across the state resigned their positions. The Pinellas County School Board gave teachers one week to reconsider or face permanent termination. Statewide, many teachers returned after just a few days. However, the Pinellas County Teacher’s Association refused to call off the strike for this county. On February 26, Pinellas County schools started to reopen with staffs made up of non-striking teachers and supervisors, and on February 28, Superintendent Thomas Southard announced the opening of 1695 education jobs. On March 4, Largo High School reopened with many new faces, including the band director, Robert R. Cotter. Cotter had been approached by friends to see if he could help out during the strike. He was given a choice of Clearwater High or Largo. He chose Largo because he considered the program to be more of a challenge. On March 11, the Pinellas County Teacher’s Association agreed to allow striking teachers to return to work, however the school board refused their request and followed through with the terminations for the strikers. Bob Cotter, who originally was just a substitute, was now a full time faculty member at Largo High.

Cotter immediately set forth to change the attitude and image of the

“Packer Band.” It was to become the “Band of Gold,” and members had to adhere to a new set of rules. Those not willing to conform were given the option of leaving. Many did. During the remainder of 1968 school year and into 1969, Cotter started teaching music and values. He developed an acronym for the word “PRIDE” which stood for Practice, Responsibility, Integrity, Determination, and Enthusiasm. Structured rehearsals and hard work started to pay off.

A Band Camp started before the school year, actually for a week in August 1969. During this time, the Band learned much of the music they were to perform during the year. And since they were staying at a remote Boy Scout camp, Camp Flying Eagle in Manatee County, they started to bond as a group. The primitive state of the camp, with no mattresses, sulfur water, and outhouses served to bond the group even more, since they were all going through a rough, common experience.

The Band of Gold participated in many events in 1969, including school
concerts and local parades. A sophomore band was created, called the
“Blue Band,” and they participated in these events as a separate entity. The Band of Gold sported new gold satin uniforms, replacing the dark blue cadet style uniforms that were previously worn. Early on, the Blue Band inherited the dark blue uniforms until they were eventually replaced with blue satin uniforms. Both bands had to adhere to strict grooming standards, including short hair for boys and appropriate attire (no jeans). Local residents started to take notice, and it wasn’t long before the popularity of Cotter’s bands skyrocketed.