In 1968, I was fourteen years old, a freshman in high school, and on the drill team of the Carlisle High School Marching Band. Being that our sports teams were the 'Carlisle Indians,' our drill team was known as, the 'Indianettes.' This meant that, not only did we march in parades, but, almost every Friday night, we would get on a school bus and be transported to other schools and march on their fields at football halftime. It served as a guaranteed way to be out with my friends.
We had band practice every Saturday, marching for hours, all over the football field, and getting yelled at by our music teacher and band leader, Mr. Wyrick. Before each practice would begin, Mr. Wyrick would tell us that when and if he had to call us out by name and yell at us, we were not to take it personal. He assured us that he wasn't meaning anything by it, except directing us as to where we were supposed to be marching, or standing. He said that we were 'working together as one big machine,' and when he yelled, he was just trying to get the machine to run smoother. He gave us an analogy of 'keeping us oiled, and working out the kinks.'
While he stood on a bench on the edge of the field, he yelled and cussed us all out through a bull horn. He would yell so hard that blue veins would actually pop out of is forehead! At first, it scared me, but the older kids stood in the field and snickered while he referred to us as a bunch of 'losers and shit heads.' He would call out the kids that laughed and said, "You can laugh all you want to, but you're still a big machine made up of a bunch of little-bitty nothings from the middle of nowhere, and that's all you're ever going to be!"
We quickly learned how to judge for ourselves what we were supposed to be doing, to save the poor bastard from stoking out. When practice was over, he would have a big smile on his face and graciously thank us for our hard work, and point out the slightest improvements that any of us made.
After several weeks of marching in the cold wind and rain, we developed some not-so-elaborate formations. Some of us were bright enough to be bored with, and ashamed of them, especially when we marched on the football fields of other schools.
For instance: One of our routines involved marching out onto the field to the tune of the jingle from the 'Excedrin Headache' commercial. The first group marched in the form of a person's head. Two lines, marching in single file was his throat, and a group of us marched closer to the bleachers, forming an oval shape, which was supposed to be a person's stomach. At the end of the song, around the last six beats, and a drum roll, the drill team captain, Jeanie Shumaker and her best 'frenemy,' Vicki Carpenter, would appear on the field. Each would be carrying a large, white, circular piece of cardboard, with a big letter 'E' on each of them. They were supposed to be a couple of Excedrin aspirins.
Then would run past the kids that were supposed to be a pair of lips, opening as they ran through. Then, they would run in the center of the two marching straight lines of the kids that were the throat. When they finally reached the oval shape of us that were supposed to be the stomach, the cymbals clanged, and the trumpets and tubas would do a 'TA-DA!'
After that, everything stopped to a silent stillness. The crowd in the bleachers would be sitting there, very perplexed. At the same time, all at once, the whole town took one big deep breath and said, "Huh?"
As we marched off the field to a pathetic rendition of, "Winchester Cathedral," the feeling of disappointment among us kids, was so thick, that we couldn't march away fast enough!
The few times that I ever looked out at the crowd of people in the stands, they were pointing and laughing at us, and as I marched, I felt both anger and embarrassment. There was never any applause.