I’ve owned so many different articles of clothing. Some were highly significant, such as my two wedding dresses, each cherished, while others were valued, though not particularly significant, such as my favorite, most comfortable underwear. I want to share the description of an article of clothing that I never owned, but that represented something priceless to me. It was the uniform that I wore in the 60’s as a member of the color guard of St. Mary’s Cardinals Drum and Bugle Corps.
The uniform was a long-sleeved, knee-length dress, with a cream colored bodice, a maroon skirt, and a shiny gold cummerbund. With it, we wore a helmet with a feathery plume, white cotton gloves, and white leather mid-calf boots, which we polished before competitions or parades.
How did I come to join this organization? At church one Sunday at Mass, an announcement was made about upcoming tryouts for girls for the color guard. I didn’t even know what a color guard was! Nevertheless, I decided to try out. Tryouts were to be held at St. Mary’s parochial school, around the corner from the church. As I entered the parking lot where tryouts were to take place, the corps had just put on their uniforms, in preparation for an event. It was the first time I had ever seen them. The gold cummerbunds were shining in the bright sun, as were the bugles, the horns — I was dazzled by the sight and determined to succeed in being chosen to be one of the people wearing the striking uniforms. I wanted to shine in the sun, too!
At tryouts, which took place during several sessions, we learned to march, to stand straight, to ‘stick them out,’ and to respond to commands: about face, mark time, march, parade rest, and more. We learned how to line up in perfectly straight lines and to march in unison. After several sessions, selections were made and I learned that I was chosen! I was to be in the color guard, carrying a flag. Only the guys played the horns.
After tryouts ended, we began to learn the color guard routines to recorded music, while the guys practiced their music endlessly. We practiced our own routines about five nights each week, then began to practice with the rest of the corps, with their music.
All I could think of was that I would wear one of those beautiful uniforms! When the day finally came to try them on, I was deliriously happy. We didn’t get to take them home, but left them at the school. Before the first competition, we were instructed to purchase our own boots and gloves.
During the year, we competed in local and national competitions, plus marched in every local parade. Our corps was considered one of the top ten in the country. I never tired of wearing that uniform or of marching to the glorious music of the drums and horns. Some of the tunes we marched to were Begin the Beguin, Mr. Wonderful, and We’re Having a Heat Wave. Because we rehearsed or competed almost every night of the week, we got to know each other well. So well, in fact, that one of the drummers became my first husband!
Interestingly, I just received a call announcing the death of a good friend of my ex, one of the other drummers. I haven’t seen him for years, yet that long-ago closeness left me feeling sadness at his passing. That uniform that I wore represents a special time in my life, when most of my life awaited me. It also represents the first time I was conscious of taking a risk, trying something new and different, and experiencing success and more than success, a joyful excitement that I feel now, just remembering that time.
Copyright © 2021 Carole Rein