How the high school band got started


My, how far they have come.  There was a picture in my hometown paper, the Lamar Democrat, of the high school band. The caption said there were 110 of them plus ten majorettes.
I hope somebody there remembers the beginning; we pioneers who paved the way, me’n Dupree and Ross and James and Sarah Kate and Charlotte and Ann and Jane and Danny. Oh, we went where no one had dared venture before.
I take that back;  there had been a trial effort many years earlier. I bought my trumpet from one of the survivors of that earlier venture. But that was a long time earlier.
Our band started when I was in the 11th grade, and I didn’t get in it ‘til after Christmas. 110?  We had maybe 15 or 16 people. Mr. Goodwin started from absolute scratch. Most of us had never seen a trumpet or clarinet up close.
They found an old mellophone and baritone and sousaphone up in the attic. James got the baritone, Ross got the mellophone, and Dupree got the sousaphone. Sooner bought his own trombone.
Mr. Goodwin, when he wasn’t running his cafe uptown, patiently taught us section by section. We learned what buttons you were supposed to push, and the scale, etc. I will never be able to sight-read, I mean fast, like you’re supposed to; but I had a pretty good ear, so after I learned which valves to mash to make which notes, I could play the melody of almost any song I heard, as long as it was in the key of C, D or G.
This frustrated poor Mr. Goodwin, who wanted me, by God, to play the piece the way it was written. We worked at it. It was fun. Me’n Ross and James missed the bus one time, and we played our own little simplified versions of sousa marches and such as we walked along: trumpet, mellophone and trumpet.
Mr. Dink Reeves had a bunch of mean old dogs of no particular breed. They’d challenge you to just walk down the public road. But when we came along, playing vigorously, they tucked their tails and ran, whining pitifully, under the house, and  moaned ‘til we were half-way to Aunt Lessie’s.
Ross and James were a year ahead of me. Cousin Tom (mellophone) and brother Jack (baritone) took their places. They were in the band when we made a concert tour of the other high schools in the county:  Kennedy, Millport and Sulligent.  Oh, yes. We wanted to show those backward souls the joys of having a real band.
On later reflection, I imagine we set their musical program back by several years.  People have wondered how I managed to be in the band and still go out for football. Simple. We never got even close to having a marching  band. We were strictly for concerts.
We played at some kind of ceremony in the courthouse square. I managed to hit the high notes in the national anthem, sigh of relief.
And Mr. Goodwin drafted me to play Taps at a military funeral. Now, that is a trying experience. I wasn’t sure I could even keep my lips on the mouthpiece, but I did.
And, of course, there was the famous teachers’ picnic that made Dupree famous.
I hope those well-trained band members at my old school , all 110 of them, remember once in a while who started the whole thing. I’ll bet they don’t have as much fun as we had.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at


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