Dick Jennings

Really Old Drum Corps

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Lt. Norman Prince "Princemen" Senior Drum and Bugle Corps, Malden, Massachusetts.

There's a start. A little tarrot card in front of me tells me you might have heard of them, Dick. The numbers of marchers that came out of this Corps that went on to teach and judge up and down the east coast is vast and wide the card is telling me.

Have you ever heard of them ? Is this correct ?

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I really don't know if your kidding or not about if I ever heard of the Princemen? Well, let you bring you up to speed regarding Prince and my family. My father, Robert K. Sr. was the Businsess Manager for the Princemen from 1955 to 1967. He was instramental in having Prince being the first drum corps to fly to a National Championship. VFW Nationals in Miami chartered National Airlines. He was responsible for getting Prince into their first Dream Competition.. He also was responsible for putting together the ultimate inventational contest in Boston for the Propagation of Faith and he was the one who came up with the name "Mission Drums."

My brother Bob marched in drum corps from 1952 (St. Thomas More, Queesmen and Princemen) taught a number of corps throughout Mass. both in drums and marching. Had one of the best (not only my opinion) wedding bands in the Boston area and died much to young (44) in 1981 of cancer. Left a wife and 2 children.

For myself, I've been involved since I was 9 or 1952. (St. Thomas More, Queensmen, Christ Church, St Thomas More (again) Boston Crusaders, Princemen) and left for the Marine Corps in 1963. Got to march with the US Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps for about 5 months before being send to Vietnam for 2 years. When I got out of the Marines, Norman Prince was in disaray and they were about to lose their VFW sponsers. They needed a new headquarters and a new Commander. I became the youngest Commander at the time at 24 and they moved from Malden to Melrose. Also, took over for my dad as GM. Had big run-ins with members about the DCA and when Ed Trainor (financial secratary) voted for it, against the general membership I left and I believe they didn't field a corps for many years after. Haven't been involved with Prince since 69'. I also wrote a number of Marching manuevers for many prominent corps throughout the country but haven't done anything for about 20 years. When I was a wee teenager I decided along with marching with a drum corps, I would try my hand in writing about some. Back then you didn't have to have a degree or even credability to get a column, so I started writing in the Drum Corps New, Off the Line and the Eastern Review. Now if you remember those "rags" then you're as old as I am. It was a lot of fun and I got to give my opinions almost every week and for the most part, I didn't get any hate mail. I loved drum corps and I still do. Has it changed......Yes indeed. Is it for the good......all depends who you ask........will the old days ever come back...........not what we new of it. so I'd say.....NO............Is this a good thing...........Probably, you never can go back. One thing about the new to the old.......I don't think the new corps really play to the ordiance. Do the "Popecorn Eaters." (old saying) really know what the new corps are playing? I don't and I've been around music all my life. Is it good? It's greatly played but I wonder how many people actually know the name of the piece. Not many I'd bet.

So this is how I remember Drum Corps from 1952 to the present and how I remember Lt. Norman Prince. How about yoou?

Edited by Dick Jennings

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I often have to chuckle when I see a post from a "kid" who says that, "Back in the old days, when I marched, from '87 to '89...." The old days...

But I grew up in Massachusetts during the Fifties and early Sixties, in a suburb of Boston, and one could put together a very good Class A show without going more than twenty miles from the city. Hyde Park (Boston) Crusaders, St. Kevin's Emerald Knights, St. Mary's Cardinals, St. Thomas More Cadets, St. Francis Sancians, Pembroke Imperials, Danvers Blue Angels, Braintree Warriors, Holy Trinity Cadets, Norwood Debonnaires, I.C. Queensmen, I.C. Rockets, I.C. Rockettes, P.L.A.V. White Eagles, and a host of others were all available within a short distance of each other. In fact, Danvers, Beverly, and the three corps from Salem were all in contiguous cities (we could hear each other practicing).

Those days are long gone - for better or worse. But I do agree with your initial idea that we had better start educating today's "kids" that there was drum corps before DCI.

Andy: better not forget to include the Majestic Knights or the Cambridge Caballeros....:rolleyes:

.... and not for nothing, a valid questions is whether or not the current DCI Boston Crusaders are from Boston "in name only." How many of the BAC members actually live in/near Boston?

Edited by Navillus WP

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While you're absolutely right about New Jersey's Top Five, we can't forget that there were some pretty good corps from other parts of the country.

For example, I was just looking at the VFW and AL Nationals from '54. Three out of eight corps in the finals at the VFW in Philadelphia were from New Jersey and five out of the top ten in Washington at the Legion Nationals were from New Jersey.

And exactly the same thing happened in '57. At the VFW in Miami Beach, there were three out of eight finalists from New Jersey, while there were five out of ten in the top ten at the Legion's Atlantic City Nationals.

In each of the above cases, the remaining corps came from Greater Boston, the Chicago area, NYC, and Philadelphia/Baltimore. All in all, the geographic distribution was pretty good.

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Wanted to reply to Andyroo regarding the "pretty good" distribution of finishers in the national competions in the 50's. Jersey was well represented in the finals along with the othe "east coast" corps and of course we did have the "few" from the midwest.

Now remember back then and as you stated, the Jersey corps were dominate and a few from the midwest were there but not a lot. Boston area corps were in mass. If you listen to the mdi-westerners they dominated back then and with Madison, Des Plaines and a few others they were in the finals but no one were better than the Jersey corps and this coming from a true believer of the Boston Corps.

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You know back in the day when the "Dream Contest" was the greatest show on the east coast, it was a well known fact that any Boston Corps coming down for the show would never finish higher than 3rd in either catagory. Mickey Patrone, the greatest patriarch of all time and a dear friend of my father's and mine told us this. It wasn't that big a thing in the junior ranks but the senior show was always Reilly or Hawthorne and Archer Epler 3rd and Prince always last. Now the top 2 corps were great but when you beat the PA corps all year long and then lose to them at the "Dream" hard to handle. I asked my father once why we would go there if you knew we'd lose........."You just have too if you want to be with the big boys. It's not winning or losing but look who hasn't been invited."

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Andy: better not forget to include the Majestic Knights or the Cambridge Caballeros....:rolleyes:

.... and not for nothing, a valid questions is whether or not the current DCI Boston Crusaders are from Boston "in name only." How many of the BAC members actually live in/near Boston?

Corps are no longer defined by where the marchers come from. The Corps are defined by what region they primarily fund raise and where they get their money. ( ergo.. " Boston Crusaders" ) Many of the I.C. Reveries marchers ( and staff too ) in their early times used to live in Revere, and many were afiliated with the parish. But even back then it changed as the 27th Lancers that followed the Reveries could not have become a national Corps just by taking kids in that were from Revere. They branched out from Revere too, as I'm sure you are aware. That branching out trend just expanded outward from that over the years. The World Class Corps of today now have marchers from all over the world in their Corps. Its all changed. The Cadets in the late 70's almost folded, but it was an influx of marchers from the Univ. of Mississippi band one summer that helped keep this alleged New Jersey Corps afloat. Carolina Crown ( from South Carolina ) had a lot of marchers from Massachusetts,... more than Boston Crusaders, as their had staff at Crown from the Umass Marching Band. The Boston Crusaders used to have most marchers from Hyde Park section of Boston.... many from the Most Precious Blood parish. But even they branched out beyond Hyde Park in time... Dick here didn't live in Boston. He marched Boston Crusaders. this is the same as the Cavaliers did when they branched out from the City of Chicago itself.... and began to draw marchers from outside the City of Chicago... as most Corps have now done that have been able to survive by going " global ". Now the World Class Corps have marchers from all over the world.... but the naming rights go to where these Corps fund raise and where they get the bulk of their funds to run their Corps.

Edited by BRASSO

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So this is how I remember Drum Corps from 1952 to the present and how I remember Lt. Norman Prince. How about yoou?

I turned mt tarot card over and its sort of blurry, but its showing a picture of a white haired man with the name "Scotty Chapelle" on it. I then went to the next card and turned it over and it has a fellow on it and under his name is " Paul Palange ". Then for the hell of it, I went to the 3rd card and turned it over and it has a fellow and under his picture it says " Al Saia "....4th and final card has a rather large fellow and under his picture it says " Ed Denon ". I don't know what any of this all means. I need to get rid of these superstition cards nonsense and go see a priest or something for spiritual guidance on these Drum Corps mysteries. I wish Father Kierce was still around. He'd set me straight on this.

Edited by BRASSO

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Andy: better not forget to include the Majestic Knights or the Cambridge Caballeros....:rolleyes:

.... and not for nothing, a valid questions is whether or not the current DCI Boston Crusaders are from Boston "in name only." How many of the BAC members actually live in/near Boston?

Sorry, I certainly didn't leave out Charlestown and Cambridge for any reason other than a momentary brain pharde (which happens with increasing regularity at my advanced age). While Charlestown was around for a number of years, Cambridge had all too brief a lifespan.

As regards the second part of your post, in the large majority of cases, the members were, indeed, from the towns and cities their corps represented. As I've said at other times, for example, I was the only member of St. Mary's Cardinals for many of the years I was in the corps who wasn't a member of St. Mary's Parish in Beverly. It wasn't until the latter part of the Fifties that we took in members from other parishes and/or cities.

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You know back in the day when the "Dream Contest" was the greatest show on the east coast, it was a well known fact that any Boston Corps coming down for the show would never finish higher than 3rd in either catagory. Mickey Patrone, the greatest patriarch of all time and a dear friend of my father's and mine told us this. It wasn't that big a thing in the junior ranks but the senior show was always Reilly or Hawthorne and Archer Epler 3rd and Prince always last. Now the top 2 corps were great but when you beat the PA corps all year long and then lose to them at the "Dream" hard to handle. I asked my father once why we would go there if you knew we'd lose........."You just have too if you want to be with the big boys. It's not winning or losing but look who hasn't been invited."

You're almost correct, Dick. When we went to the Dream, we were "warned" by our instructors not to expect very much in the way of placement - even though we had a very good corps at the time. And they were right, we came in fifth, just a few tenths behind Audubon.

This happened to be one of the years when St. Kevin's went as well - and they won. We had beaten them several times that year already up in Boston, but....

For those several years, St. Kevin's was the anomaly - a non-Jersey corps winning the Dream.

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