Starting in the summer of 1962 and continuing through that fall, the La Farge High School band became road warriors as they marched in 17 different parades throughout western Wisconsin. Part of the abundance of marching was to show off the new LHS band uniforms that had been acquired at the end of the previous school year. Purchased through a fund raising campaign by the LHS Band Parents, the new uniforms were gray in color, trimmed in purple with a white LF on the front coat panel. For marching in parades, the band members doffed gray hats adorned with a white plume reaching skyward.
Mr. Marlin Pendleton, the LHS band teacher, wanted to show off the new uniforms and the band’s talents, so every marching invitation was accepted. The LHS Band marched at the Horse & Colt Show Parade in Viola, the Labor Day Parade in Hillsboro and for Cashton’s Fall Festival. Besides the schools own homecoming parade, the LHS Band traveled to Barneveld and Ithaca to march in those school’s Homecoming festivities.
In August, the band marched in the Rockton Homecoming Parade, or at least tried to. The parade was part of the Rockton Centennial Celebration that year and lots of floats were entered – too many perhaps. The band unloaded from the school buses and formed into their marching lines on Lisney Road on the northwest side of the little hamlet. The LHS Band marched down to Highway 131 and headed south. When the band was about in front of the old Rockton schoolhouse, it stopped. And there it stayed, as nothing in the parade was moving. While the band waited in that spot for some time, Mr. Pendleton decided to have the band play several of the marching musical numbers that it played as it marched. After a half hour or so, the band began to inch ahead in the route until stopping again before reaching the Rockton Store. The band played some more numbers as it waited there for some time in front of the store and then the band broke ranks and walked back to the bus. We learned later that there were so many people in Rockton that day watching the parade that the parade units could not reach the end of the route. (Wouldn’t you know it; only Rockton could put together a parade that was bigger than the town.)
Besides the snazzy new uniforms, the LHS Band stood out in other ways as they marched in parades. Most high school bands of that era played musical marches, many composed by John Phillip Sousa, as they performed in parades. The LHS Band had played Sousa marches previously as well and continued to do so, but Mr. Pendleton introduced Broadway show tunes set to march music for the band to play. Using the show tunes for the marching music was new and no other high school bands in the area were doing that. When the LHS Band belted out “Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” as they marched along the many parade routes, many a head and ear were turned by the modern show tunes.
Mr. Pendleton also booked the LHS Band into college homecoming parades that fall. The LHS Band played in the LaCrosse State Homecoming Parade that year, marching along some of the same route used for the Music Festival held later in the spring. The band also played in the Platteville State Homecoming Parade, a real source of pride for Mr. Pendleton, as it was his college alma mater. After we marched in the parade in the morning we went to the football game in the afternoon. One of the captains of Platteville’s football team was Danny Rabata, a graduate of LHS. As a matter of fact, Dan Rabata led the Pioneers to victory that day with his punishing running from his fullback position. Just like the old days when Danny played for La Farge!
The LHS Band’s marching season culminated when they marched for the Music Festival held in LaCrosse in the spring. The Wildcat band garnered a first-place in the marching competition as well as another first in the concert competition.
During the 1963-64 school year, the LHS Band continued to expand in size and performances. To get a sense of that school year, I am going to use the write-up for the 1964 “Memories” yearbook. It went like this:
The fifty-one members of the La Farge High School Band had a whirlwind year during 1963 and 64. During the summer of 1963 the band marched at La Farge for the 4thof July Parade and later that month at Farm Progress Days in Viroqua.
In September the band marched in the annual Horse and Colt Show Parade at Viola. In Octoberthey again went to Viola to play during half of the Viola-La Farge football game. Later in October they had the opportunity to march in the Homecoming Parade at Platteville and the Apple Festival in Gays Mills.
Here at our own Homecoming, the band presented a show during the halftime of our game. They used a variety of new drills and formations, which were devised by Mr. Pendleton.
The first appearance on stage was the Mid-Winter Concert on February 13, which took place in our new gymnasium.
In May the band will enter the Concert and Marching competitions at the Music Festival in LaCrosse
They will conclude the school year by taking part in the Commencement and Memorial Day exercises.
All in all this year has been quite an experience for the members of the band.
It was quite a year for the LHS Band, but it did not end all that well at the Music Festival competitions held in LaCrosse. Mr. Pendleton was always looking to improve the band’s performance by playing in more demanding competitions. For that spring Music Festival held in LaCrosse, the band, for the first time, competed in the Sight-Reading Competition. In that competition, the band was given two musical numbers to play that they had never seen before.
Mr. Pendleton talked the band through the first number as we saw the music for the first time. I remember the piece being some sort of minuet and when the band started playing the number, it was immediate confusion. Finally after a minute or so of pure musical mayhem, Mr. Pendleton stopped the band and had us start over. It went a little better after that.
The second selection for the Sight Reading Competition was a march and it looked easier than the first number. The band quickly picked up the march’s tempo and was playing the number pretty well. However, a certain cornet player sitting in the third section fell behind in the number and struggled to catch up. When the band reached the final note, all finished together in glorious unison except the struggling cornet player. Yours truly had one more note to blatt out of his silver cornet, putting a nice closing button onto the tune, when one wasn’t needed. If looks could kill, Mr. Pendleton’s glare towards me regarding my concluding blunder would have been fatal.
Of course, we did not get a first in Sight Reading that morning. To make matters worse, the judge for the LHS band’s dismal showing was one of Mr. Pendleton’s music professors from Platteville College. He dutifully laid out our woes in the new musical field of competition and mercifully gave us a second place ranking. To make matters worse, it wasn’t the last of the second places for the band that day. To everyone’s shock, the band also received a second in the concert competition.
The band played more challenging musical numbers than in years past for the Spring Festival Concert competition, but hard and constant practice throughout the year had left everyone in the band feeling that a first place could be achieved. Perhaps it was the holdover from the earlier Sight Reading Competition that day, but the band did not perform well and had to settle for a second place in Concert competition. Well, the LHS Band could always be counted on for a first place in the Marching Competition, but there was a little catch to that as well.
Because Mr. Pendleton had concentrated all of the band’s practices on preparing for Sight Reading and Concert competitions, we had never marched once that spring – no practice whatsoever. When we assembled on the LaCrosse streets on that May afternoon, it was the first time for some of the band’s newer members to march or play the music for marching. We had to assemble quickly into our newly formed marching lines and then head down Main Street towards the LaCrosse downtown. Our odds did not look good, but by the time we had gone a few blocks the percussion section had us strutting our stuff. When we neared the judge’s stand the LHS Band belted out one of their new show tunes, which brought shouts and applause from the big crowd. Some things are not easily forgotten and the Wildcat band could march and play anywhere at anytime.
We did not know our rating when we left LaCrosse that day, but we were not surprised when the band received another first place for the Marching Competition.
During my senior year at LHS, the band continued to grow with 60 students making up the concert and marching band. I was elevated to the second chairs section of the cornets. Dean Steinmetz, Carlyle Stoleson and Brent Waddell comprised the first chair cornets while I joined Nathan Larson and Kevin Alderson in the 2ndchairs and Phil Muller, April Melvin and Rhonda Jacobson played in the third chairs. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the band and can’t seem to remember any major screw-ups that I committed that year. I remember that the 2ndsection had a dynamite counter-melody part in one of our marching numbers that we really enjoyed belting out. That is if we all had a horn to play.
It seems that when we marched in the Horse & Colt Show Parade that year, I forgot my horn at home. When I told Mr. Pendleton about it, I thought that I wouldn’t be allowed to march. But he would have none of that since I was a row leader in the band formation. So, I marched without a horn as the La Farge Band marched down Viola’s Main Street. At one point, the band stopped and played a number. As everyone in the LHS Band played the marching selection to its best ability, I stood mute at the end of my row. I stood there in dumbness right next to the crowd on the sidewalk, and I seem to remember when the musical number ended someone in the crowd (with a voice that sounded very similar to my brother, Kent) yelled out, “Where’s your horn, Bradley?”
I might not have been much of a musician, who was prone to occasional mistakes, but I really did enjoy my time in the La Farge High School Band. My memories of the experience fondly live on to the present.