by Jack Weir
The result was the same for all of us. The circumstances leading up to it differed in many cases but the effect never varied. We were stricken by the “Drum Corps Virus,” i.e. chills, goose bumps, and an insatiable thirst to be a part of the group.
Like a young acolyte to be, the first call came to me from the pulpit of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church. During the children’s 9:00 A.M. Mass that Sunday in April, 1947, Father Glynn, during weekly announcements, stated that the parish was in the process of forming a drum and bugle corps! All boys interested, between the ages of 12 and 18, were invited to report to St. Mary’s Parochial School on Tuesday evening at 6:00 P.M. to join.
The second call came from the lips of Sister Ellen Louise, my sixth grade teacher, when she repeated the message at school the following Monday.
As I think back to that evening so many years ago, when I walked down the alley from Federal Street into the school yard, I can still vividly recall the picture that met my eyes. A group of boys were in a straight line, bodies facing to the front, heads turned to the right, left arms bent with left hands on hips, right arms straight down to the side.
I was later to learn that this was a “Company Front” at a “Dress Right Dress.” A man in his late twenties – early thirties – approached and inquired if I were there to join the corps. He had a rather malevolent look about him. Upon my answer to the affirmative, he quickly hustled me onto the end of the line and began to shout basic instructions at me.
Little did I know that a similar experience would happen to me again years later, albeit, in a more dramatic and language spiced way, at The Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
The man with the “big mouth” and all the instructions, I was later to learn, was Pietro “Pete” Nuccio. He was joined that memorable spring evening by his brothers Vincent, Frank, and Joe. All were adept at harassment and creating confusion in the minds of the inexperienced “Rabble” under their tutelage. (They were later to become my close and respected friends. Frank has since passed on and is greatly missed.)
It was “Pappa Nooch,” or Mr. Nuccio, father of the harassers, who was one of the quiet mainstays of the organization. (He was one of the few who knew how to properly put on a new drum head.) Joined by Mel Deveaux and Arch McNeil they formed the nucleus of the first committee.
I had the pleasure to find out later that “Pappa Nooch” could bellow as loud at his sons as they hollered at us, but I digress.
Brother Vincent initially sowed the seed of forming a corps by talking with the pastor of St. Mary’s, then Father John Degan, who would later be designated Monsignor. With the donations of equipment and uniforms from the Gabriel D’Nunzio Post’s 1939 Drum Corps, the rest became a part of drum corps history.
That first night, however, was the real beginning. As I walked home I thought about what had transpired. I had learned a lot about “Schooling of Soldier” (basics). The initial fear and uncertainty that had permeated my being as I entered the school yard had dissipated. New friends had been made – Gerry Marsella, Freddy Carnevale, and Tony DePiero, to name a few. (Gerry was to stay the course with me until our forced retirement years later, but that’s a story for another time).
Most important of all however, I had joined. I was a part of the “Herd” that staggered around the school yard that night and … it felt great!
- Note to would be fellow writer: Mot, you old curmudgeon, you had to use a ghost writer, you chicken ****!
- Next issue – The mystery of the G bugle and meeting Father Piscatelli’s Most Precious Blood Crusaders.