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The Wizard of Ahhhs, by Barbara McCalister

posted Jul 22, 2012, 7:40 AM by Largo Gold

Seven years of memories of Band of Gold members, yes, all of you, parades, concerts, contests, seemingly endless bus rides, dirty spats, wet wool trousers, gold shirts to be ironed with no crease in the sleeves, brushing plumes, upset stomachs, cooking at band camp, "the pig table", the "A" lecture, inspections, rehearsals, and the Wizard himself. Too many memories to include here, but I'll share some of them now.

In the summer of 1971, our son Bruce came home and said he had volunteered my help with the Blue Band uniforms. I went to the band room and met Shirley Dill, whose son Philip had done the same for her. Shirley and I have been close friends since then. You know, friendships forged in the band are strong. Eloise Hussey was in charge of the BOG uniforms and spoke the unforgettable words about working with the uniforms, "There's really nothing to it." Do you have any idea just how much sand wet spats can hold? Far too much. We knew when you didn't have your suspenders hooked. We learned who didn't know how to hang up their uniform properly. We even had some ironing sessions for those who couldn't understand why we made such a fuss about it. We told you not to lock your knees during inspection. Then there were those among you who liked to see just how long your hair could be before you had to come in and have one of us give you a trim. The unfortunate ones received a trim from me... the world's worst haircutter. Sorry!

Our first big contest with the BOG was the 36 hour, straight through to Minneapolis trip on Greyhound busses, the summer of '72. Get off the bus and hit the parking lot for practice. On the trip home, how about the dinner stop in Nashville? Some people climbing back on the bus with a steak and baked potato in hand.

The next years were a whirl of parades, football games, The Festival of States, contests. Then The Magnificent Sound of Gold, and getting ready for Kerkrade and the tour afterward.

Walking alongside the band on the way to football games or contests, What an experience. It was like walking alongside the Roman Army. How proud, how sure of yourselves...magic! The Festival of Lights Parade when the Drum Major forgot his hat and marched along, proudly wearing a black cowboy from the Tuba section. Right Dave?

Over the years, people would come up to us and ask if we were with the Band of Gold. (we were wearing blue and gold ourselves). They would tell us how much they enjoyed seeing and hearing you, many said they had never heard anything like it. Then there were the ones who were amazed at how well behaved you were. The people in Europe would follow the band and try to have you play more music. They loved you.

Seven years of memories. I can't write them all, it would take a large book, but here are a some.....

The marks on the uniform room door as Kevin Gulliver grew taller.

Betts Barlow coming to us before the tryouts for the first World Band. Everyone was nervous, some even threw up, Betts donned her uniform and played perfectly.

Bill Schrader walking up behind me and lifting me off my feet.

Ken East eating an entire loaf of bread, with peanut butter and jelly for lunch at band camp.

Vonnie Wilson believing her roommates that the bidet in the bathroom in their hotel room was a large flower holder.

Pete Howdeshell putting his glass eye in a glass of water in restaurants.

Steve Farquhar tripping coming down a hill in Abbeville, and never missing a drum beat.

Charlie Lancaster telling me that he needed a gorilla costume for Mag Sound in two days and expecting me to make it for him, which I did, including six pack abs.

Tuba serenades on our comer, on some nights.

John Norris telling me that his eye wouldn't fall out, when he had a profusely bleeding cut above the eye, which he received while loading Festival flags after the Gasparilla Parade.I had told him he was in big trouble if it did. I didn't do eyes.

Wes Reppeto playing Taps as they cut the tires from the flagpole in front of the auditorium. How did they get those tires over the top of the pole?

Those of you who had to be restrained from marching when you were sick or injured.

Newly painted rifles hanging in our garage.

Painting the snaps on spats.

Saving a neck or two by making you take the Cheech and Chong record off before The Boss walked in and heard it.

The Boss going out on rainy days and saying, "It will stop". It usually did, except for one horrible night at The Flag Pageant.

Billy McCalister sucking the water from a tuba valve just before the judges arrived for inspection in Minneapolis.

The staff, Joe Donahey, Bob Jr, Roy Aerts, Dusty Durst, Ken Moore, Phil Dill.

The Klein family at virtually every performanceno no matter where we were.

The Boss coming up and telling me that the uniform boxes wouldn't fit in the hold of the plane before we left for Kerkrade in '78....every neatly pressed and packed uniform taken out and stuffed in the overhead compartments.

Yes, I remember each and every one of you that I had as my kids in 9th grade Band, Blue band, and two years in the Band of Gold.

When our son, Brad, was going into the 9th grade, I was drafted to work with them. It turned out to be wonderful, four years with that group, who were the seniors in the "78 World Band. They started out with old, heavy woolen uniforms, then became The Golden Colonials for the upcoming Bi-Centennial, then Blue Band and two years in the BOG.

Then there was Mag Sound, when we had the first small Fife Corps, and the Wizard told us we had a one minute change of costume for those in the Corps. Some of them had to run the entire length of the Bayfront Center, remove their shoes and trousers, put on the fife corps knickers, shirts, put their shoes back on, then had silver buckles tied onto their shoes. I said we couldn't do it in that amount of time. Nonsense, It will be done! I went to Herb Mellaney and told him. He said no problem, he'd just stretch the introduction and wait for a signal from us. It worked perfectly. The Wizard said, "I told you it could be done." Then I told him he was right, and how we managed. Over the years there were a number times we had to do things without telling him until later. We used to laugh about it in later years. He said it was probably for the best that he didn't know some things.

Did you know that on the '74 Europe trip, The Boss would come out after a performance and help Clay Smith, Phil Dill, and Billy McCalister load the equipment?

Before we left to for Kerkrade in '78, the Wizard said he wanted us to lengthen the skirts of the Guard. Wails of dismay from the Guard!!! Lorrie Lundeen, Barbara Proplesch and I told them to take it easy. We had them switch skirts, or unzip the skirts and let them hang down, held by the suspenders. The Wizard had the Guard stand on stage when the change had been made. He said they looked great. They looked awful! We told the girls to roll up the waistband each time they dressed, just a bit at a time. I would ask how he liked the length. He was always happy. Then, when the girls had their original length, I asked him one more time. He snapped that he was tired of my asking him about it all the time. He looked, and said the length was perfect, exactly what he wanted. I smiled, I may have even saluted, and promised I would never ask again. I did tell him what we had done, but not until much, much later.

There was a time in in '75-'76 when a small delegation came to see me and said The Boss didn't seem to love the band anymore. He was too soft, letting them get away with too much. Would I please go and tell him so? One of those "kill the messenger" times. I had many of those. I went into the office and told him. He didn't kill me, but I thought he was about to come over the desk and throttle me. "Who said that? It isn't true! What do they want me to do, yell at them?" I refused to tell him who they were and he glared at me as he left for band class. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to see what would happen. Things started off fine, but before long he was in great shape, yelling and fuming. I looked out at those who had spoken to me. There were no smiles then, but after class, they smiled and were happy. They were still loved.

Do you know what a wizard he was at getting you to peak at exactly the right time? He would bring you along, scolding, praising, always knowing what you needed at a certain time.

I remember one night when we had returned from a trip. It was very late, and school started very early. There were a number of kids still hanging around, in no hurry to leave. The Boss came out and said, "Why don't you go home?" Someone yelled out, "This is home." You all know what he meant.

Band camp and the "A" lecture. I wish I had recorded it. He was right, you know. The other favorite saying was, "Don't do it for the band, do it for yourself." How many times did you hear that one?

I hope you know how much he cared for you. He really did. He worried about you. You have no idea how much we talked about you. It was like having a very large family. Over the years we would talk about how well you were doing. He was proud.

Band of Gold uniform ladies had a special privilege, to be there when you tried on your BOG uniform for the very first time. There were many reactions, some were serious, nervous, smiling, some had tears in their eyes, excited, proud. It was a wonderful moment, to see you standing there in uniform for the first time, really a member of the Band of Gold. Do you remember?

Now about the Wizard of Ahhhs. He asked me why I called him that. I told him I was lucky enough to be like Dorothy. I had been able to see the Wizard there behind the curatin, operating the machine with the smoke, and mirrors, thunder.and lightning. The kind and caring man who was able to show you that what you were looking for, what you really needed, was always there, right inside yourself, all the time. The Wizard of Ahhhhs.....