Band and Orchestra

Scrapbook:  Events of the Sixties (1960s)

Oates Family Web Site




                  Snare_Drummer_SFA_JHS61  Chuck’s career in school bands and orchestras began at Amarillo’s Stephen F. Austin Jr. High School in 1960.  He’s pictured here in the fall of 1961 as an eighth-grade snare drummer in parade uniform.  Notice the long-obsolete underhand grip on the left-hand drumstick.

              Outstanding_Band_Member_SFA_JHS63  After three years of snare drumming, bass drumming, and tuneful percussion (persecution?) work in both marching and concert bands, Chuck was selected Austin JHS’s Outstanding Band Member as a freshman in May, 1963.  Band director Pat Jones is pictured presenting Chuck a plaque in honor of that designation.

The school’s colors, green and gold, as well as its mascot, the grizzly bear, were chosen by AJHS’s first principal, “Boss Ross” Larsen, a graduate of Baylor University and a former Amarillo High School championship football player.  Mr. Larsen was Chuck’s principal for five of his six years of junior high and high school.


                  New_Uniforms_AHS63  Upon becoming a high school sophomore in the fall of 1963, Chuck became a member of the Amarillo High School  Golden Sandie Band.  He’s pictured here in the new uniforms that replaced the “Old Gold” uniforms worn by the nationally-commended Sandie bands of the late 1950s.  The Amarillo High School mascot is the Golden Sandstorm, a personification of the severe dust (“sand”) storms that began in the 1920s and became part of the full-fledged Dust Bowl during the drought of the 1930s.  The Golden Sandstorm mascot was represented pictorially as a vaguely-tornadic golden cloud.  An example can be seen at the right end of the banner in the pep rally picture below or on the school’s official site.

                  On_Stage_at_Pep_Rally  The Golden Sandie Band was a perennial participant in sports pep rallies.  Pictured here is the fall 1965 pep rally for the AHS vs. (Amarillo) Tascosa High School Rebels football game.  That’s Chuck in the light blue (aqua) shirt under the “A” in SANDIES, playing snare drum. 

Notice the mixed group of cheerleaders at the front of the stage.  Texas schools in the 1960s had cheerleading squads composed of an equal number of boys and girls, while in Oklahoma, cheerleaders were then and remained for decades largely all-girl groups. 


                  The_Sandman  Since the Sandstorm was a difficult mascot to portray in person, The Sandman, instantiated here as AHS Senior ’66, Ben Ingam, fulfilled the mascot function at athletic events.  The Sandman, dressed in an old-fashioned early-1900s long nightgown, complete with stocking cap, carried a one-gallon Sandie Spirit Jug (little gold jug?) which purportedly contained the Sandie Spirit from all the preceding Sandie classes.  When The Sandman un-corked the bottle, the current Sandies yelled at the top of their lungs to capture more Sandie Spirit in the bottle and to keep the Spirit(s) stored there from escaping.  It was a pretty cheesy premise, but it worked at championship level!

                  Fortississimo_fff  Chances are Dimitri Shostakovich did not anticipate how literally the AHS Orchestra percussion section would take his fortississimo marking of this heavily accented cymbal crash (Richard V.), bass drum beat (Chuck) and tympani note (Susan B.)  Check the biceps on that bass drummer!

              AHS_Drum_Major_1965-66  Having won the AHS drum major tryouts in April 1965, Chuck became drum major of the Golden Sandie Band for the 1965-66 school year.  He’s pictured here in uniform for that task.

              During marching season, high school drum majors both lead the band in field performances and conduct the band in the stands before, during, and after football games.  Leading the field performances was great fun and a little nerve-wracking, too.  Since they’re rehearsed at least two hours for each minute of show (about 14 hours, total each week), most half-time shows for football games go very smoothly, but some go more smoothly than others.  At one Friday night performance, Chuck gave the signal to start the show, stepped off, and managed first to shed the large plume from his busbee (tall British-style helmet), and then to throw his signal baton about 20 yards—far beyond hope of recovery--while  making a sharp-cornered turn as the band came on the field.  These were but harbingers, not at all serious in themselves.  Things went well through the rest of the show until literally the final note.  With the band facing the press box and holding the last chord of a tune now forgotten, Chuck gave a somewhat over-exuberant cutoff signal, bringing both arms over his head with a jump and then down.  At the top of the jump, he felt all four connection points between his uniform pants and the suspenders holding them up gave way.  Only by the grace of the very high rise of the pant tops was Chuck able, with a gesture resembling a Roman centurion’s salute (but lower), to get both himself and the band off the field while remaining in possession of all components of his uniform.  It was close, but few of the band and practically none of the audience had any inkling of how near they had come to observing considerably more than they had come to see!

              Conducting the band in the stands was a pure joy.  The sound pressure wave made by a 120-piece marching band at the downbeat of a loud tune is absolutely overwhelming when it hits the conductor.  Being in control of that powerful a collective musical instrument has to be experienced to be believed or appreciated.  It’s really a rush and is quite addictive.  Almost forty years after putting down his baton for the last time, Chuck is still occasionally observed “conducting” music played by his computer’s iTunes application and often wondering what lay on a career path not taken.

                  AHS_ROTC_Band_Volunteers  One of the duties of the Sandie drum major was to recruit the male members of the band for duty as the ROTC Band (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) for the annual Inspector General’s inspection.  Pictured here are the none-too-happy-looking members of that illustrious group practicing for the inspection in the spring of 1966. 

                  Crowning_AHS_Band_Queen  Crowning_AHS_Band_Queen_Closeup  A much more pleasant drum major duty was to crown and, afterwards, kiss the Sandie Band Queen.  These pictures show wide-angle and narrow-angle views of the crowning at the half-time of the 1965 AHS vs. Tascosa football game.  The Tascosa band (on the left) did their crowning first.  Their drum major and band queen had been dating for quite some time, and during the post-crowning activities it soon became a matter of concern whether or not they would require resuscitation.  In due course, it became apparent that they were in the process of resuscitation, though it wasn’t at all clear who was resuscitating whom.  When the Sandie couple’s turn came, Becky received her crown, rose to her feet, and presented her cheek, whereupon a mildly disappointed drum major respectfully bussed her cheek and continued with the half-time festivities.

                  Escorting_Crowned_Queen  Almost stepping on the hem of Becky’s dress, Chuck escorts the newly-crowned queen from the field, as the whole entourage is blown laterally ten yards or so by a gust of ever-present Texas Panhandle wind.

              Chuck's_Band_Jacket..As is indicated by the patches on Chuck's letter jacket, pictured here, the Sandie Band took Outstanding Band honors in 1964 at the Enid Tri-State Music Festival.  The band’s most memorable performance included a very difficult piece by Percy Grainger, the Lincolnshire Pos(e)y, a collection of English folk songs arranged for wind band in the very early 1900s.  The inclusion of one section where different groups in the band played in different time signatures ( 2 ½ / 4 and another that escapes memory), as well as the use of rarely-seen instruments such as the A-clarinet and the English horn (similar to an oboe), in addition to the overall technical difficulty of the music made Grainger’s composition a challenge for high school players.  Interested readers may listen to samples of the six folk song arrangement that comprise the Lincolnshire Posy at the Amazon website.

              In 1965, the AHS Orchestra took similar honors at Enid with a performance that included Chuck’s all-time favorite, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter [Festival-] Overture.  Russian composers are known for writing nationalistic, soul-stirring music, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter is the epitome of that tendency.  If the reader can listen to the Russian Easter, particularly the last three minutes or so, and remain unmoved, (s)he should check immediately for the presence of vital signs.  In a noon-time school assembly in 1965, the AHS Orchestra brought an audience of mostly-sophomore high school students on their lunch hour to their feet for a standing ovation lasting more than two minutes with this stirring piece of music.  [I will never forget that!  It nearly made a band director/orchestra conductor of me.  Carri, if you’ll make sure that at least the last few minutes, but preferably all of this piece is played when I leave this old world, I’ll be grateful. –Dad/Chuck].  Readers who wish to listen to a very short, and somewhat non-representative sample of the Russian Easter can access’s UK website.  Those US readers who might wish to purchase a recording can find copies at’s US website and at Apple’s iTunes site. The 1990 performance by the Gothenburg Symphony on Deutsche Grammophon CD 429984-2 and the Chicago Symphony’s RCA Victor recordings are highly recommended.

              Amarillo Symphony  Occasionally, the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra employed college students to fill in for vacationing symphony players during the summer months.  Chuck played auxiliary percussion (tubular chimes, concert bells, cymbals, etc.) for the Symphony during its 1966 (’67?) summer season.  An ASO concert performed in the amphitheater of the Palo Duro Canyon is pictured here.  That’s Chuck on the far left behind the tympani (“kettle drums”), facing the tubular chimes.

              Barely visible behind the announcer at the far left of the picture is the Tascosa high school (Rebel) cannon.  This was used in the performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture later that evening.  The orchestra had a little unexpected help during that performance from a rather large thunderstorm whose first gust reached the amphitheater just as the 1812 performance reached the section that calls for the cannon shots.  Quite a number of the orchestra’s music stands blew over and not just a few copies of the individual parts departed for locations unknown.  Just as the first cannon shot fired, a huge clap of thunder considerably augmented the cannon’s very formidable roar.  In possibly foolish compliance with the maxim “the show must go on,” the orchestra finished its performance of the 1812, playing from memory with Mom Nature’s improvised accompaniment.  All of the audience and the orchestra members survived, mostly unscathed.

                1966 - 67

                  Bass_Drummer_RiceU_Fall_1966  In the fall of ’66, Army ROTC scholarship in hand, Chuck struck out for Houston and the hallowed halls of “The Harvard of the South,” William Marsh Rice University (at an average of three feet above sea level, also known as “William Rice’s marsh” when hurricanes came close).  He’s shown here in his Rice Band uniform, summa cum bass drum, in the parking lot of Rice stadium, once the site of the Bluebonnet Bowl, before a football game with Texas Tech. 

When the band marched at football half-times, this uniform’s cap was augmented with a sliver metallic plume that resembled nothing so much as a long, slender Brillo soap pad.  Unfortunately, no pictures of the infamous accouterment survive in my collection.  They are, however, possibly visible behind President John F. Kennedy when, in 1961 at Rice Stadium, he gave his famous “
We Choose to Go to the Moon speech.  The “Why does Rice play Texas?” phrase from that speech, at about 2:50 in the linked video, has always resonated with Rice students, this writer included.  :^)

              Rice-Navy1967-PgmCover  Rice-Navy1967-PgmP34-RiceBand   In the spring of 1967 Chuck was appointed assistant drum major of the Rice Owl Band, later known as the Marching Owl Band (Da MOB!).  When band director Holmes McNeely retired at the end of the spring semester, however, drum major Ron Placek, a senior physics-electrical engineering. double major, decided that he would rather not break in a new director in his senior year and quite unexpectedly left Chuck the un-assisted drum major of the Rice band.  The pictured page from the program for the Rice vs. Navy football game contains an article on the new director, Bert Roth, and mentions the name “Marching Owl Band” for the first time in print.  The somewhat oddly-posed picture of the twirlers and drum major resulted when no uniform was available for the newly-appointed outsized drum major.  (What’s new?)  Chuck put on Placek’s two-sizes-too-small uniform coat which, thankfully, buttoned up one side, and stood at the back of the twirler corps to cover the fact that the coat wouldn’t begin to button and that he was wearing jeans in lieu of uniform pants.

              Drum_Major_RiceU_1967  Some scrambling on the part of a band uniform company representative from Houston produced a very usable uniform in fairly short order.  There was, however, one small problem.  The uniform looked fine when viewed from the front, but when viewed from the back, it presented an uninterrupted sea of solid white to the viewers, who most often were the Rice bandsmen behind Chuck in formation.  References to “The Easter Bunny,”  “Harvey,” (the six foot imaginary white rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey [1950]), and other indignities followed, including, at one point, a puffy cotton tail loosely (too quickly) fastened in the appropriate anatomical area with an unknown adhesive.

                  Show--Powderpuff Football, 1966, bigger  ShowScript1966  Despite the turnover of leadership, the Rice Band survived the fall 1967 marching season.  As usual, bandsmen occasionally gathered for spoof half-time performances at powder-puff football games between Rice’s Jones and Brown Residential Colleges, then all-female.  A script for the 1966 powder-puff half-time performance, written by the noted and notorious Rice Owl Band Secretarial and Administrative Committee (ROBSAACo) is available via this link.  As the years passed, spoof scripts descended from these were developed into full-blown half-time shows for NCAA football games.  These were often received with amusement, approval, and an occasional standing ovation (U. Texas, 1973), but sometimes with catcalls, threats, and—at least once—physical assault of a trombone player and unlawful detainment of the whole Rice MOB in their own stadium for a number of hours after a football game (Texas A&M Univ. at Rice, 1973)  See these articles for further information and entertainment: Rice MOB, The Half-Time of Infamy, Rice University.

Unfortunately, though Chuck completed the 1967 marching season, he did not survive the fall 1967 semester as a Rice student.  Enrolled in 23 credit hours his first sophomore semester, after having successfully completed 38 credit hours during his freshman year, his overworked, overstressed, and under-rested body finally said, “Enough’s enough,” and it was off to the hospital in early December with a myriad of symptoms, but no diagnosis other than exhaustion.  (Try telling that to your draft board.)  Fortunately, the University of Oklahoma’s spring semester began in early January, 1968 and things had improved enough by then to get back in school and get on with an OU engineering degree—plus or minus a bout with mononucleosis—leaving behind a shattered dream of a Rice physics degree and a concentration in Russian*.


              Epilogue.  Unwilling to risk another academic and physical disaster, Chuck brought his avocational music career to an abrupt end, to be resumed only briefly years later when daughter Carri, a percussionist also, recruited him into OU’s Summer Band to ameliorate a decided dearth of summer drummers.  Oh, and there was a two-year stint as ice and ice water-boy for the Norman North Band—a life-saving task, as it turned out—when in 1998, the late-August 106°F (41° C) kickoff-time temperatures mixed with wool-blend band uniforms to produce high heat-stroke risk in the band, of all things.  Only one person went to the hospital, but it was Chuck’s Plymouth minivan, overloaded floor-to-roof and bumper-to-bumper with ice bought from every 7-11 store in Moore and south Oklahoma City, that saved a good many from the same fate.  Perhaps the uniform of the day should have been jeans and band tee-shirts.  (ya think?!)




* A thousand thanks go to the late Bert Roth, Rice Owl Band director, and to Roy Jones, Rice Russian instructor, for assistance and consideration during and after this very trying time.

Entire Website contents copyright © 2005-2007 Charles L. Oates, except for 1966 La Airosa photographs that are believed to be in the public domain