Music and memories: TRM band reunites

Published 9:48 pm Friday, September 23, 2011

Things have changed a little bit since the first T.R. Miller Band walked onto the field 70 years ago in 1941. Through the efforts of some former members of the band, this year will be a celebration during the festivities of homecoming next Friday.
T.R. Miller Band Director Lance Gainous said the idea of having a reunion of band members came about because of a former band director, Johnny Folsom.
“He organized a reunion at my high school in Cairo, Ga., and I thought that it was a good idea,” said Gainous. “When we started to talk about it, we realized that this is the 70th anniversary of the first band here at Miller. This would be the perfect time to have a reunion.”
As word got around, more and more people got involved and excited about getting together once more to talk about old times in the band.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Frank Scott, who was in the first band in 1941 and graduated in 1946. “ I got in the band because I lived out in the country and that allowed for me come to town. It was an exciting time. Sometimes there were things going on in the crowd that were even more exciting, because there were certain people that couldn’t come to a ball game without getting into a fight.”
Ethelene Harold, who was a 1945 graduate said things were very different in those days.
“The band wasn’t very big, but we got to make a lot of trips,” she said. “That was during World War II and a lot of the boys and men were serving in the military so girls were able to do more. We didn’t even have enough boys around to go to dances and proms. Our fathers would go down to Whiting Field and get some sailors to come back to escort us to the dance.”
Jouette Land was a 1951 graduate and her memories were a little bit more painful.
“I served as a drum major part of the time but I was also on the second line sometimes,“ she said. “Leo Page marched behind me and every time he blew his trombone, it would hit me in the back.”
Libby Dantzler, who was a 1973 graduate, said she played the clarinet and the trombone, and was a majorette.
“I first played the clarinet,” she said. “But then (dentist) Dr. Dasinger said that the clarinet was making my teeth stick out and if I didn’t stop playing it, I would have to have braces. Well, I decided to get another instrument to play because I certainly didn’t want to wear braces. In those days, even the majorettes had to be able to play an instrument.”
Carolyn Jennings, class of 1960, said the band was able to make some fun trips, including to Mardi Gras and even to Mexico.
“We liked those trips,” she said. “That meant that we would miss two days of school and get to stay in a hotel. That was really a lot of fun. I remember one time we went to one parade in Mobile and everybody that didn’t make the trip was hanging around the few televisions in town waiting for us to come by in the parade. Well, lots of people got mad and didn’t eat Bama peanut butter for a long while. Just as we were to appear on the television, Bama put on a commercial about peanut butter and we were missed. Everybody got pretty mad and boycotted Bama for a while after that happened.”
Spike Maxwell, who graduated in 1966, said he remembers that in 1962 the band got new uniforms.
“They were really good looking and we were proud of them,” Maxwell said. “We went out to perform and it started to rain. We were absolutely drenched. Those uniforms were made out of wool and when I took mine off, my whole body was wrinkled from that wet suit and very, very red. That was one time that most, if not all, the uniforms were actually sent to the cleaners.”
Barbara Carden, a 1954 graduate, said that was probably one of the few times they were actually sent to the cleaners.
“Usually they weren’t cleaned but about once a year,” she said. “I remember that most of our band directors were men, but there were two women who were directors.”
The group fondly remembers all the different band directors that worked with them over the years. They did agree that Mr. Beckett, who was the band director for many years, did not ask you what you wanted to play or if you wanted to be a majorette.
“We were told what we were going to do. If Mr. Beckett said ‘be a majorette’ then that’s what we were. We had no choice as to what we did,” the group agreed.
They also said they stayed after school to practice and sometimes practice went on for hours.
“It’s not that way anymore,” said Gainous. “I have three band classes and some of them never play together except on Tuesday and Thursday after school.”
The band is also much more detailed than it used to be and no one marches in a straight line anymore. Also, no one marches with their sheet music in front of them. It is all memorized.
“We have 84 members of the band now,” Gainous said. “We will play at the National Championship this year and one of the other band directors asked me how many members we have. I told him 84, and he replied that was about the size he had. The difference is that his school’s population was several thousand, and ours came out of a student body of around 400.”
Gainous said that today there are too many other things to distract students from becoming band members.
“There used to be football and band,” he said. “These days there are so many other activities or sports in which to be involved. We are right in the middle of volleyball season.”
The schedule for Friday, Sept 30, will bring the former members together from 8 to 9:45 a.m. for extra practice and information at the band room.
The alumni will have a reception from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the tent in front of the band room followed by a pep rally at 1 p.m. The former members will gather for the parade and be ready to line up at 2:30 p.m. and the parade will begin at 3 p.m.
After the parade there will be a band alumni reception and everyone can meet all former band members. At 5:45 p.m. the combined bands will gather to march down to the stadium at 6 p.m.
The reunion isn’t the only special event ahead for the T.R. Miller band, Gainous said.
“We have made the decision to resurrect the Dixieland Band contest this year,” he said. “On Oct. 8, we are expecting 10 to 12 bands to come to Brewton. We think it will be a good thing to get back to the contest. We had a couple of years when it was rained out and it was bad economically. We hope this year the weather will cooperate. Our band may not be as large as some others, but heart and quality is what counts, not size.”