Strike Up the Band - 47 Years Later
by Jo Perella Caldwell, UW ‘62
This story really began in September 1959, when the Husky football team that would surprise the conference and the nation opened its season with a 21-12 upset victory over the University of Colorado in the Buffalo’s stadium. That team would help return Husky football to national prominence – and the Husky Band to the Rose Bowl.
It was an era when the major football polls ended prior to the bowl games. Thus the Huskies, with their unexpected but thrilling victories over #6 Wisconsin (1960 Rose Bowl, 44-8) and #1 Minnesota (1961 Rose Bowl, 17-7), were never officially recognized as champions in the most popular polls of the day, AP and UP. But the Helms Foundation did a poll after the bowl games, and in 1961 it voted the Huskies #1 in its final poll.
In 2007, the University of Washington decided that the Huskies had won a national championship from the 1960 season, and the school made plans to recognize that championship team at the September 29th home game against USC. That was all Husky Band director Brad McDavid needed to hear; he wanted to include the 1960 Husky Marching Band members and cheer squad as a part of that celebration. So he contacted my husband, Bruce, and me to ask if we would be willing to put together a reunion for that day.
I was a little leery that we’d be able to get many of those “kids” out for the game. After all, when the band’s 75th reunion show and banquet were held in 2004, very few of this group attended. I was worried that even fewer would attend a reunion of just one year’s band. Boy, was I wrong!
The first thing we did was to set up a committee and divvy up responsibilities. The reunion committee became Brad McDavid (the current Husky Band director), Ken Noreen (president of the Husky Band Foundation and a “rookie” in the 1960-61 band) and me. The Lake Forest Park Starbucks became our conference room for the few meetings we had. Brad was going to plan the halftime, Ken the get-together after the game and I would take care of doing the contacting and communicating.
Researching the membership turned out to be the most difficult procedure – and the most fun. I used a copy of the 1961 Rose Bowl band press book to put together the list of names. I did a lot of phoning, on-line snooping, school alumni checking and sending people on the “whereabouts-known” list a copy of the “whereabouts-unknown” list. A lot of the “whereabouts-known” people helped with contact information, and soon the “whereabouts-unknown” list began to shrink in size. We were saddened when we received news of members who had passed away.
The most difficult group to get current information for was the women. Those who have not kept in contact with the university and/or those who had married and changed their last names were impossible to contact unless someone else could provide that information.
While we originally considered a Friday night reunion, Saturday morning rehearsal, game halftime appearance and post-game reception, the day before we were set to mail out our invitations, the UW surprised us by announcing that the game was being moved to 5:00 PM for TV. Of course, that meant a change in plans. Thank heaven they didn’t announce that change a week later! We scrapped the Friday reunion and decided to just have a gathering following the game.
Though many who we were able to locate were not available to attend, with excuses ranging from already-planned cruises to grandkids’ parties, the number of yes responses began to roll in. We were all especially pleased when Phil Ager, who had been assistant director of the 1960-61 band, confirmed that he would attend. Though Phil had contributed a significant amount of information on the Bill Cole era to the band’s diamond anniversary book, The Loyal Band, he did not attend the band’s 75th reunion. When he said he’d come to this, we all were delighted.
As the reunion approached, more and more alums said they were coming. Brad committed funds, matched by the UW Alumni Association, to purchase purple polo shirts for all of us, so at least we’d look good.
September 29 dawned with gray skies and rain, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of the 40 former band members who arrived that morning.
Many of us had not seen each other for 45+ years! While our shapes and faces, hairlines and hair colors had changed in those years, our enthusiasm had not waned. We gathered outside the Graves Building to check-in and receive our name badges. As each newcomer arrived, there were guesses as to who he or she was, followed by hugs and lots of conversation. (If we ever do something like this again, we should have the name tags sitting out for individuals to claim; then have them come to the registration desk wearing their name tags!)
Those traveling the greatest distances included Judy Greeley Hendrickson, who came from North Carolina, and Frank Foos from Bradenton, Florida. Other out-of-staters who participated included Jay Davis, Shelley, ID; Neil Mayes, Green Valley, AZ; Jim and Jacque Lyon Parks, Las Cruces, NM; King Rockhill, Harvard, ID; and Alan Van Ausdal, Ashland, OR.
At 2:00 we joined the current band in Husky Stadium for our part of the rehearsal. Taking our places on the sidelines, we waited for the cue from our 1960-61drum major, Bob Flennaugh, to go onto the field.
The halftime show was a replica of the one presented at the 1961 Rose Bowl. With the current band saluting the 1962 World’s Fair, forming a track with a moving monorail and playing Ain’t We Got Fun?, we stood in a line forming a frame at the bottom. Next, Phil Ager climbed the director’s ladder to conduct Everything’s Coming Up Roses as the band formed the first four lines of a music staff, and we completed the fifth line. Hearing that tune brought back a flood of memories and smiles on all our faces. The last formation was planned to honor the 1960 National Championship team that won the 1961 Rose Bowl, accompanied by the playing of Bow Down to Washington.
Following the rehearsal, we walked to the Dempsey Indoor visiting with each other, enjoying the opportunity to get reacquainted. Inside, we were treated to lunch and spent time catching up on nearly a half-century of experiences.
Next came the Husky Band’s Pre-Game Jam. Were we ever impressed with the musicality and energy of the current band as they went through their routines before an appreciative crowd. Phil was called upon to direct the band for the playing of Roses. When the show was over, we were ready to return to the stadium for the game.
Soon it was half-time. We peeled off our warm jackets and raincoats and proudly took our places on the side line waiting our turn to go on. Some took their participation very seriously, with instruments and music at the ready; others of us chose to simply “march” onto the field and treasure the moment. As the show was being performed on the field, it was coordinated with a film of our old show filling the screen of the giant HuskyTron on the east end of the stadium. The crowd loved it...and so did we!
Though the Huskies lost the game to USC, we all felt like winners that day as we headed for the Conibear Shell House for the post-game party. Thanks to Lisa Buchheit-Ekdahl, HMB program assistant, the site looked lovely all decorated in purple and gold, and there was a delicious assortment of food and beverages for us to enjoy.
The program opened with a welcome from Ken Noreen followed by remarks from former football player and coach, Jim Lambright. Brad McDavid gave his welcome, addressed the former band and cheer members, and introduced Bruce.
Bruce called everyone’s attention to a replica of our band uniform displayed on a mannequin in the room. Over the years, plans have been made to display samples of all the Husky Band uniforms in the band area in the Graves Building. When it was discovered there was no remnant of any of the uniforms from our era, it seemed appropriate that those of us from this band do something about it. Through the generosity of the 1961 Rose Bowl Band, a copy of the uniform was made and donated in memory of our director, Bill Cole. The donations exceeded our wildest imagination. After the cost of the uniform ($1,000), the remainder of the funds was donated to the Husky Band Foundation.
When it came my turn to speak, I thanked everyone for attending and all those who helped make the event so memorable, then I introduced Phil Ager.
Phil recalled his days as the “designated bad guy,” who drove us hard in rehearsals and took pride in our performances. And he talked lovingly about Bill Cole, who we all remember with such great fondness – of Bill’s vision for the band and his contributions to it. Phil echoed our sentiments when he added how impressed he is with Brad and the current Husky Band, which has grown from our days so many years ago.
The formal program ended with the viewing of the film of the 1961 Rose Bowl trip, accompanied by lots of cheers and clapping. Then it was time to conclude the visiting and say good-bye.
It had been a wonderful day filled with lots of fun and many, many memories. Forget all the practices in the mud on “Pneumonia Flats” and sitting in the rain and cold during the games – we all treasure our memories of Husky Band days when we worked together to do our very best to entertain the fans at Husky Stadium and in other stadiums where our Dawgs played. We were a fortunate bunch: trips to Portland to play the Oregon teams, to the Bay area and, of course, the Rose Bowl trips in 1960 and ‘61. Most importantly, though, we remember the friendships we made and the life’s lessons we learned as part of this spectacular organization. We’ll never forget what a wonderful time we had on September 29. We are grateful to have been given the opportunity to reconnect and remember.
A special Thank You to Brad McDavid for providing this experience, and to Lisa-Buchheit-Ekdahl for all her behind-the-scenes work, making sure that all the details were taken care of and always doing it with grace and charm.