Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” and I believe he was correct. But then again, maybe not so much. Recently my adopted hometown had its 150th celebration so we attended what celebrations we could. There was a great deal to celebrate and some changes which were not so good. Fifty years ago I was in my first year as the school’s band director which meant I had a responsible position. The high school band had a long tenure of excellence and I was supposed to continue this. That was also the year the football team won the state championship and that is still celebrated in the town. The fact that the band made first division ratings in all contests, not so much.
It was a very long marching season and the band did a different show for each halftime. It seemed, at the time, there were almost one-hundred games with a halftime but maybe I am not remembering “exactly” what it really was. I do know that we were one of the very few bands who did a separate show each week but the students I had were so good and so willing to learn that it was a good thing. After all, I thought, it would be boring to do the same show over and over. The students did not appear to mind and the townspeople seemed pleased that the “kids” worked so hard. As for me, I much, much preferred concert season. Marching season was a necessary evil but since we had to do it, we were going to be the best of the best and do everything excellently. The students did not want to accept anything less than the best and that made teaching them at that school a pleasure.
Those are the people I was hoping to see. Those and the ones who followed after them for umpteen years. ...and their parents and friends at the drug store. One friend drove up from Texas to spend the day with us, now that is small town friendship. I had other friends but Roberts Drug was my hangout and I knew a variety of people there as that was our “coffee place.” Almost every week day and then at various times on Saturdays, a group would form at the “special” table and discuss, agree on, disagree on and solve most of the problems of the world and society in general. Back in those days we could discuss almost anything and take whatever side we felt compelled to without any anger or getting all riled up. However, even back there in the dark ages in a well educated small town, there were some topics we didn’t really dwell on. Those men and those times are golden and I hope you have similar feelings and memories.
As in almost all friendly small towns, it was easy to get involved in the life and fabric of the town. While at the Museum grounds watching the mules turn the grinder to press juice from the cane, we saw many friends and former students. While talking to a former student as the last of the parade went by, he pointed out a young man riding by on a motorcycle. This was, years ago, a small, skinny younger brother of a boy who was very often at our house to play. This little boy, who was fun to tease and was about three-feet-not-much, is now about six-feet-thirteen and over 200 pounds. Time has a way of doing that. He is also superintendent of the school I still am very fond of and is doing a great job, from local reports. I am sure much of that is because he was at my house so much and (pause for gracious comments) I think he was in my fourth grade class when I did that.
Trying to have a life up here makes it hard to visit all the places we want to visit. That becomes obvious when one sees faces that have “almost” familiar features but unfamiliar voices. Some of those faces recognized us and we had happy reunions. That would make one think that the former students who were not in band avoided one if they did recognize that man who was described at the time as: “mean, that man is just mean.” Realizing that will be hard for you to believe but that was aimed at me. Not all non-band students felt that way, just the troublemakers.
Wolfe was not entirely correct as you can go back to where home was and still is in your memory. The metaphorical porch, paint, furniture and lawn are different, but the spirit is still there. If I ever retire, I am going back there on a Friday night so I can say one more time, quite loudly, “Yay band!”