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I made another trip around the sun last week. It started me thinking about corps memories from nearly six decades ago.

I remember the night my best friend and I tried out for the color guard, but I don’t remember anyone else who tried out that night. There were nearly a hundred of us (all girls at the time), and I remember that my friend, Jeanne McGinness, and I were the only two who made the cut that night. Jeanne’s older brother, Paul, was a soprano then (they call them trumpets now) in the hornline, and they’d just come back from the 1962 Nationals in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Just listening to the stories he told was magical.

I remember my first and only practice at Boston Armory under Drill Instructor Larry Buckley, but I don’t remember how I got there or how I got home. I remember being scared to death of Mr. Buckley, but I don’t remember why.

Jack Whelan took over the corps right after that practice, but I don’t remember that I was ever afraid of him. He was a teddy bear with a booming voice and an ever-present cigar. My Dad and Jack became great friends and Jack was at our house often with his daughter, Jeanne, who was probably only about six years old back then.

Jack Whelan and Cardinals

On left: Jack Whelan, Arthur Kirwan, Al Saia. Fr. John D’Arcy standing on right. Holiday Inn, Cleveland, OH, 1964

I remember the year I joined St. Mary’s Cardinals, but I don’t remember our first show except that I think we played “Lawrence of Arabia” or maybe “King of Kings” off the line.

I remember who my roommates were in Cleveland, Ohio at the Holiday Inn in 1964. My sister Lisa, Jeanne, and Joan Hamor, but I don’t remember marching in the Nationals parade, or much about the finals. I remember the pool and all the fun we had as a group, and I will always remember laughing at the pool when suddenly the laughter stopped because one of the adults came and took Ellen and Joanne Sheehy away because their Dad had just died. They had to go home. We were devastated.

St. Mary's Cardinals by the pool in Cleveland, OH

St. Mary’s Cardinals around the pool at the Holiday Inn in Cleveland, OH, 1964

I remember taking one puff of a cigarette that week because it was supposed to be “cool”, but I don’t remember why the others took up the habit. Never again.

I remember the night I was driving a bunch of kids home after a corps party (where, yes, we imbibed), and my sister, who was in the back seat next to the window, suddenly said she felt sick. We all yelled “Roll down the window!”. She thought she did. She didn’t. It took weeks to clear the air. Nobody would ride with me. I remember why.

St. Mary's Cardinals in Cleveland

Check-in at the Holiday Inn in Cleveland, OH, 1964. On the left are Paul Genest, Bob Lebel, and Bob Harrigan.

I remember Lois McRae was my Guard Sergeant when I was Captain. We were friends in corps, but better friends for half a century after we marched.

What I remember is the people. The friends I made that have lasted a lifetime. Frank Raffa has been one of my dearest friends in the world for over 55 years. He and Karen (Kelly) Raffa are family to me. Ginger Campbell Waksmonski and I have been traveling buddies to Allentown for decades.

Beverly Cardinals Alumni Christmas carolling

The Cardinals Alumni Annual Dump Truck Christmas Caroling in Beverly, MA, 2006. Frank Raffa is wearing a gray hoodie and Ray Novack is the accordion playing Santa Claus.

Jeanne and Paul McGinness both died a few months ago, just eight days apart. And Lois passed away just before Jeanne. Jimmy Tallo, the longest tenured Treasurer in drum corps history and a dear friend for decades passed away in July.

Our Cardinals organization has lost twenty­-seven people since our last DCI show in July of 2019. Friends I knew and loved because the drum corps activity brought us all together. I missed drum corps terribly in 2020, but I couldn’t tell you one of the shows I saw in 2019. I don’t remember the shows.

Beverly Cardinals Alumni

The Beverly Cardinals Reunion at King Grants Inn, Danvers, MA, 1991

It’s the people whom I most remember in nearly six decades of drum corps. It’s my friends that I cherish and remember most to this day. It’s the memories we made, the stories we still tell, the times we shared.

That’s what I remember.

I may not remember the “routines”, or a lot of details about shows, but I remember the people. All of them. And, hopefully, I always will.

Beverly Cardinals Reunion

The Beverly Cardinals Reunion at the Spear Post in Beverly, MA, 2015


  • Feature Photo: Lisa Littlewood and Judy Pellizzaro displaying the JFK flag, 1965
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