40th anniversary of the year the then Garfield Cadets went co-ed. As we hear from DCI's Dan Potter in today's Field Pass, the entire 1969 Cadets' color guard was inducted into the corps' Hall of Fame over the weekend.
credit Dan Potter, DCI Field Pass: .
Phil Kowalski kneeling left - Herb Burkert 51-54 kneeling right
Cadet History, 1950 - 1954
THE BOYS FROM GARFIELD Marching with Dave Shaw Phil Kowalski 50-54
Most of us Holy Name Cadets were actually just ordinary kids off the street, New Jersey boys, who lived within walking distance or near enough to Garfield and the old wooden Holy Name Church to attend practice all year round. (With the possible exception of Bobby Bella Rosa who was a kid but far from ordinary and came to practice all the way from out of state ..Brooklyn
I was a "blasto" solo soprano bugler. I could only play loud or louder on that solid brass single valve G bugle with my parduba double coup cushion rim mouthpiece. Pianissimo was not played on the open field. I remember the echoes in the canyons of buildings when we marched in New York City and how we startled the bejesus out of the mummers when we marched in Philadelphia.
The Rev. Ildefonse Gillogly, OFM, was our spiritual leader and chairman. Al Mura was our bugle instructor. Jim Costello was our drum instructor. Bill Kemmerer, Sr. (The Chief) was our Director, Business Manager and the heart and soul of our corps. All were recognized as among the best in the whole drum corps world ..ever! We paid 50 cents weekly dues which were returned as lunch money during trips. You could buy a hamburger and a coke for 50 cetns back then with change left over.
We went to "camp" at the Paterson Armory early in the season and practiced "close order drill." (Left foot first!) We went on paper drives around town to collect old newspapers that were saved for us all year by supportive Garfield residents.
We were known in song by a famous all girl drum and bugle corps from Audubon, New Jersey, as the "Oh Holy Socks" Cadets. We could not believe that a bunch of South Jersey girls, called Bon Bons for crying out loud, would ever beat the famous Holy Name Cadets in competition. But, they were a crack drum and bugle corps and they were damn good, and the did beat us …more than once.
Members of other drum corps in the New Jersey area, coming from the Cathedrals that sponsored them ..like St. Vincents, St. Josephs, or Blessed Sacrament (all national championship corps at one time) could hardly believe that the famous Holy Name Cadets practiced in the basement of such a small wooden church. They had difficulty finding our little Holy Name Church, tucked in among ..and not much bigger than the houses on short Marcellus Place in Garfield. But, they could hear us ..sometimes I wonder if that old wooden church had to be replaced because of structural damage caused by sonic vibrations!
I believe that our one bus load of 50 cadets was louder than the huge corps that are on the field today. I think that because those solid brass G bugles had a larger bore, they could produce a greater volume of sound. I always preferred evening competitions under the lights, when the air was still, cooler, and more dense. This atmosphere further amplified the sound and reinforced the ensemble, and you could hear the echoes from the farthest stands.
When the corps marched single file on to the field, shakoes in hand, precision military bearing already evident, there was a discernable hush in the stands. Then the oohs as the corps removed their smocks, donned their shakos, and stood on the starting line, uniforms sparkling under the floodlights. I always got a certain chill up my spine when the announcer boomed over the loudspeaker "and now on the starting line ..from Garfield, New Jersey, The National Champion Holy Name Cadets! (DM commands "ten hut" ..shined brass bugles flash ..Color Guard snaps to attention ..DM salutes the crowd ..tremendous applause!) Could we have won the competition already? At any rate, win or lose, we were always selected to play the retreat. At the end we all blasted our brains out marching off the field.
THE BOYS FROM GARFIELD
Marching with Phil Kowalski
Dave Shaw 50-58
Phil shared so many good memories with us in the preceding part of this history, that I thought I would return the favor. Most of you, of course, do not personally know either Phil or myself. I’ll try to fill you in on Phil at least. Physically he could have been a poster boy for the Cadets. He was extremely good-looking, a legendary girl magnet, full of energy and fun, and his most impressive credential of all…he had a car. Most of our group were a couple of years younger than Phil, so with his maturity and wisdom, he became the leader of the pack. I was 13 my first year, and I guess Phil was around 17 or 18. I don’t know why he included me in on his never-ending series of adventures, but I sure am glad he did.
We were the Cadets’ social ambassadors. Most corps rehearsed twice a week in the winter at that time. We were however at a rehearsal every night, most of them not our own. Newark Armory , Jersey City Armory, Paterson Armory…if someone was rehearsing in one of them we were there. Weekends were either devoted to parties or indoor winter color guard competitions. It didn’t matter where they were held either…we were there. I remember one trip to the Philadelphia area in particular. It was snowing in our area, with a prediction that it was going to change into a blizzard. What better reason for driving to Philadelphia right? So off we went, and it snowed all the way. You’d think that we would be concerned about the return trip right? Wrong! On the way back home Phil decided to take a detour to drive us to the Jersey Shore so we could see what it would be like to walk barefoot on the beach in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, snow about a foot deep, and a big gorgeous moon. It was magical. The police patrol that found us thought we were crazy. They thought right! Oh yeah…forgot to mention…there was no heater in the car.
I tell you this story so you can get some sense of why the young men of the Cadets thought Phil was Mr. Cool.
That year was 1951, and at the end of that season we traveled to Miami to defend our American Legion National title. There were no major interstates at that time, so a trip that long involved three overnight stops down, and another three back. This was in October, when all the normal kids were in school. That alone made the trip doubly memorable. It was early evening when we arrived in Miami Beach, our bus traveling down Collins Ave. to our South Beach hotel , swaying and rocking from side to side, as we celebrated finally arriving at our destination . Part of that celebration involved most of us roaring out a rousing rendition of Liberty Bell’s signature musical masterpiece Tiger Rag.
As soon as we got settled Phil gathered his acolytes together and we headed out into the early evening looking for adventure. We found it in Pompano Beach, Florida. I have no recollection whatsoever on how we got there. Anyway, we stumbled on a football game in progress between Pompano Beach and some rival school. We were very unimpressed by Pompano Beach’s band, so we decided to lend a hand. We borrowed some instruments from them, and introduced them to a couple of northern yankee fight songs. Phil was the star. By the time he was finished he had the entire stands rocking and rolling and singing along. It was, in a word, awesome! A large part of the band showed up later to watch us compete incidentally.
So that’s a glimpse at the man behind the story. Phil subsequently went on to fame and fortune as an architect, after serving our Country in the military and returning home a little worse for wear. He’s still a little bit crazy and a lot of fun, and I feel fortunate as hell that I got to share my early Cadet years with him. He was and is one of a kind.
I’m attempting to get him to continue on with his recollections on what life was like in the Cadets in the 50s. It was a different time for sure, and it’s particularly nice to remember 1951 in this year as we celebrate our 75th year and The Holy Name Cadets live again. Phil’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org (I swear to God that’s his real email address, pjkrapp. Who else but Phil?). If you enjoyed what he wrote about life in the 50s why don’t you drop him a line to tell him so. He has health issues that pretty much keep him homebound, so I suspect he would really enjoy some attention. Oh yeah, don’t forget to encourage him to write some more. Go to it Phil!
Off to the Competition
Phil Kowalski 50-54
Everyone mentioned in the article is in that picture. (although I know not where.)
It’s Friday evening. Up on Garfield's Belmont Hill overlooking the Legion Post, under the water tanks, with my girlfriend Pat busy watching the sun go down. Me shining my solid brass, single valve 'G' bugle with a blitz cloth. White polish for the shoes. Bugle back in case – don't touch it with bare hands. Shoes back in bag. How romantic.
Up early Saturday morning. Off to Holy Name Church. Our charter bus is already there. Manhattan Lines, the best bus line in NJ. Always a new, latest model bus. Banner on bus reads 'Holy Name Cadets - Garfield NJ. The best for the best. Our driver is always Mickey, the best driver and practically a member of our Quartermaster Corps. Lots of activity. Drums in baggage compartment under the bus. Uniforms in maroon Holy Name Cadets’ trailer, pulled by the Chief's (Bill Kemmerer Sr.) maroon Ford Mercury with whitewall tires. We are looking sharp already. ?
All aboard. Pull out to cheers from the bystanders, us singing the Holy Name Hymn.
Down U.S. 1 to U.S. 131. No Turnpike or Garden State Parkway yet. Stop at Bordentown Diner for lunch. Collect lunch money from the Chief. Hamburgers 15 cents. Coke for a nickel. Off again. Drummers practicing on their pads. Blackjack for leftover lunch money in back of bus. Nearing our destination, a Lords's Prayer and the Rosary to guide us. Pull into schoolyard. The Chief and the Quartermaster Corps are already there, setting up our headquarters in a classroom in the basement of the school. Time for a little warm-up. We must sound pretty good judging by the audience that we attract outside the windows.
Pick up our freshly pressed uniforms and begin to dress. March out to the field with smocks on, carrying our shakoes and bugles. We are to be the last corps to take the field in this competition again, thanks to the Chief's incredible ability to draw last place position almost all of the time.
St. Vincent’s Cadets are performing on the field. Their color presentation is National Emblem March arranged by Jim Donnelly. Terrific soprano obligato. They are good. We are better than they are. We must be really good. They march off.
Quartermasters race up the line collecting our smocks. We don our Shakoes and stand for inspection. Perfect, no points taken, thanks to the Quartermaster Corps. Loudspeaker booms, “Now on the starting line ,The Holy Name Cadets from Garfield, New Jersey.” Entire Corps snaps to attention. Drum Major marches out to center field and salutes the crowd and then turns, signals bugles up …one, two, three, four.
The stadium fills with the powerful brass sound of our off-the-line. March onto the field in a dead-straight company front. West Point would envy us. Precision marching and maneuvering into our color presentation formation. We are playing Sousa's “Stars and Stripes Forever,” arranged by Al Mura. Better than St. Vinnies. Who could beat us with Jimmy D’Amico, Gene Clayton and Don Angelica playing solo soprano, and a horn line that includes Ray Cappicille Dave Shaw and the indomitable “Kid,” Bobby Bella Rosa? Plus Jim Costello's precision drum line? We are really very good! On to our concert formation. Great applause from the stands. Our routine is 15 minutes of precision marching and martial music, capped by our traditional “Beyond the Blue Horizon'”as we leave the field and turn to the crowd with a final thunderous crescendo. ?
The Bon-Bons take the field as we march off. They are the sponsors of the competition and are giving an exhibition. An all-girl drum and bugle corps for crying out loud. I don't know a single female bugler or drummer where we come from. But listen to them. Great drum line and bugle line. And good looking too. They are damn good!
All Corps massed on the field for the retreat. Drum Majors front and center for the Awards Ceremony. All scores have been announced except for ours. Corps snaps to attention. Dead silence, eyes straight ahead. Then the announcement, “And in First Place, with a score of …” Always a few tenths of a point ahead of the second place corps...”The Holy Name Cadets. “?
We march off the field victorious once again, blasting as loudly as our lips would allow. And that was really loud. Back to our basement headquarters to change. We are almost too exhausted to celebrate. Back on the bus to get some sleep. Except for the drummers. They are at work on their pads, but hey, that's not our drum routine, that's St. Joe's routine they are playing. Some guys are never satisfied. ?
The bus squeals to a stop. It ‘s late. We are in the parking lot of a White Castle. You have to be really hungry to love those belly burners. We are really hungry and could eat a bagful no problem. ?
Home again, home again, jiggety jig. Another great day for the Holy Name Cadets. We are really really, very very good. FHNSAB…