Written in 1983 after Steamboat Days
Iím one of those sentimental souls who canít be in the presence of a marching band without experiencing a lump in the throat. So when Dick Lindner and his troop of Winona Municipal Band campaigners (some of which grizzled veterans I remember from my days of service with that outfit) went by, my eyes as well as esophagus swelled with the recollection of a younger, more limber version of myself, gasping down the main street of Arcadia on a sweltering Memorial Day, with a heavy load of bass drum strapped painfully over my shoulders.
Before that year my dad, who directed the band for years, had always been able to fish Freddie Heyer into assuming that duty, but I guess Fred must have heard the weather report for that particular weekend and run short of his usually inexhaustible fund of good humor. In the face of his refusal, and being that Jerry Gleasonís strong back and expertise were indispensably required for tuba duty, the job of bass drummer fell to me. You could say I was volunteered.
In those days, the uniform of the Winona Municipal Band was of heavy woolen serge in brown and browner, with a bit of gold braid for dash. Trousers came in one size - waist 40, (which skinny people simply cinched up with their belts) and legs that had to be hacked off at the ankles, being certain to hem up the extra material so that they could be refitted for the possible giraffe upon which they might devolve next year. The coats did not fit as well as the trousers, but were equally warm enough for the long march to Moscow. If Hitlerís army had been as warmly dressed, world politics would be a great deal different these days. Band members who were of age (about sixteen years and a hint of a beard was what Arcadia required in those days), might ward off heat exhaustion through massive doses of cold beer, both internally and externally, but you couldnít drink cream soda fast enough to be of any help. I donít know who my dad got to carry the bass drum the next year.
My grandfather defied a heavy weight of disapprobrium from the other members of the Church of the Brethren out in Worthington, Minnesota, by teaching his sons to play brazen instruments. But he never could go along with marching bands, summer festivals, and the attendant beer drinking. ďPhew, phew, phew,Ē he would say, referring to the Worthington Band, ďall it is, is an excuse to go over to Jackson, get drunk, and puke all over their fancy uniforms!Ē
I wouldnít accuse Doc Lindner and his troops of those shenanigans, but I would say that times havenít changed a great deal.
Ed. Note: You can catch the Winona Municipal Band every Wednesday night during the summer at 8 p.m. at the Lake Winona Band Shell. It is now under the direction of Myron Haug.