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Reprinted by permission of the Menominee Historical Society Museum


The Story of
Menominee, Mich.


William C. King
Business Manager 1953 - 1968


Harold Nowakowski
Scotty Bertrand
Robert Hutchinson
Leslie Pellon
George Paitl
Wilbur Shomacker

All former members of the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS Staff who have gone to their final reward

© 2004 All Rights Reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part
without written consent of the
author is not permitted


This is the story of the beginning and the first 16 years of the Northernaires Drum and Bugle Corps, some of the men who organized it, and some of the young men who were its members.

In a broader sense, it is the story of the Junior Corps movement itself, as the story of the Northernaires parallels similar stories that can be told from around the entire Midwest during that period of time. It now has become a series of happy memories of one facet of community life for me, and for the hundreds of young men who wore the Green and White of the Northernaires. In fact, just the name "Northernaires" has meant Drum and Bugle Corps to generations of Menominee and Marinette people.

The appearance of the Racine Boy Scout Corps in Menominee for the U.P. American Legion Convention at the end of June 1953 can be singled out as the event that triggered the start of the Corps idea. Everyone was talking, "Why can't we have something like that in the Twin Cities?" The Racine Corps, under the leadership of Pete Barry, perhaps one of the finest leaders to front a Junior Corps, gave the people of the Twin Cities a dazzling performance, both in the convention parade that Saturday afternoon in June and at the evening pageant at Blesch Stadium. That was capped by an impromptu serenade in front of the Menominee American Legion Post 146 Clubrooms on First Street late that evening that thrilled everyone and sent shivers down the spines of all who still thrill to "The Star Spangled Banner" and believe in motherhood, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. I was one of those thousands of Twin City people, and relished every moment of that eventful convention, especially the stimulating efforts of this marvelous youth organization and the long lasting friendship struck up with Pete Barry later that same evening. It didn't take long for action to spread on trying to form such an organization for the Twin City area.

The Legion Convention ended on Sunday that weekend and on Monday, Menominee's dean of newsmen Bob Macaulay, devoted his popular TALK OF THE TOWN noontime broadcast extolling the appearance of the Racine Scout Corps and their director Pete Barry and posing the same question so often heard that convention weekend....WHY CAN'T WE?

I took office as commander of the Menominee American Legion Post 146 shortly after the convention and as such, automatically inherited a seat on the Board of Directors of the D.A.R. Boy's Club of Menominee. At the very first meeting of the board, the possibility of starting a junior corps as one of the programs at the D.A.R. Boy's Club was discussed among a few board members away from the meeting itself... including Mr. Axel Thomsen and Mr. George Paitl, and myself. While the project wasn't proposed at that meeting, I had to agree, the Boy's Club would be the logical place to form a junior corps, although I personally would have liked to start it through the American Legion. The available facilities at the Boy's Club, plus a membership of hundreds of boys in the right age group to draw from, convinced me this would be the right move. We agreed to seek out personnel to staff an operation such as this, with the idea of proposing it to the Board of Directors at the Boy's Club as soon as possible. Conversation with other Boy's Club board members indicated we would be able to adopt such a resolution, but then Executive Director Walter Schmidt didn't wish to have any further programs added to his heavy schedule and indicated one of us would have to be in charge of the program thru the Board of Directors.

As the summer of 1953 progressed, I agreed to assume the managership of the Corps, and Misters Thomsen and Paitl proceeded to contact people to staff the Corps if the D.A.R. Board approved. Personnel lined up for key positions included Leonard Nordost as Director, Max Nohlecheck and Ed Wizner, bugle instructors, and Steve Harrington, drum instructor. Mr. Thomsen became our transportation director and Mr. Paitl our Equipment Manager.

At the October 1953 meeting of the D.A.R. Board of Directors, a resolution was adopted calling for the formation of an all boy junior corps, with an appropriation of $4,000.00 to cover cost of equipping the unit, and a storage cabinet built into one of the rooms in the club was to become the corps space for equipment and uniforms. A registration was scheduled and a rehearsal schedule was worked out for the gym area of the club with Mr. Schmidt.

Junior drum and bugle corps at that time were springing up all over the country as a means to combat juvenile delinquency, primarily on the east coast under the sponsorship of catholic churches and youth groups, and were already becoming popular in the midwest. Organizations such as the Racine Boy Scouts, Madison Explorer Scouts, Racine Kilties, and others had already been in existence some time and were well established. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there was the Manistique Boy Scouts and R.O.T.C Corps from Calumet, but there were none in Lower Michigan. Now a junior corps for the boys of the area was a reality. No longer would we have to hear....WHY CAN'T WE?

Needless to say, organizing a corps, even though we avoided grandiose plans, was a time consuming project. There were numerous meetings of the staff. Rules had to be adopted. Equipment had to be sought out and bought. A training program and rehearsal schedule had to be worked out and then executed. The question of economical uniforms had to be resolved. Fortunately I had struck up a friendship with Pete Barry of Racine, and we immediately decided to take advantage of his generous offer to help us organize in an advisory way. We contacted Mr. Barry and he responded by bringing a car full of Racine Corps instructors to Menominee for a meeting with our Boy's Club Corps staff, and later on in the winter and spring we made several trips to Racine to discuss our progress and seek further advice. I was to later find out that it was almost an unwritten policy for established corps leaders to assist new corps in forming, and in later years many NORTHERNAIRES members assisted others in a like manner, a fact that has always been a source of pride.

The first registration yielded about 60 boys between the ages of nine thru 15 for the corps, and rehearsals began on basics in every department; drums, bugles, marching. The services of Harold Nowakowski were enlisted for drill instructor, Bob Macaulay of Radio Station WAGN for Publicity Director, Robert Hutchinson to assist on equipment, and Myron Ross for first aid. Bill Paitl came in later on to assist on marching and the boy's club corps staff was complete.

Most of the corps early music was taken from basic bugle and drum instruction books secured from the equipment supplier and included such songs as Legion Drummer, Onward Christian Soldiers, and the like....with Pete Barry of the Racine Scouts writing Red Sails In the Sunset for us which, for a long time, seemed like the only song the corps could play and which many of us didn't wish to hear again for many years later. Drill was basic and consisted of block formations for parade use and single file movements. There was only a small color squad of four members and the Corps first drum major was Kenneth Bretl.

When it came time to purchase uniforms there was no money available and parents of the youngsters were asked to purchase dark wash pants. White t-shirts were used and white leggings were purchased from an army surplus store, a source of considerable laughter later on when some of the youngsters put them on backwards. White paper hats similar to those used at the time in ice cream parlors, completed the uniform, along with cheap white cotton socks and street shoes other than tennis shoes, provided by parents, and khaki colored army belts for the pants provided by the Corps.

The summer of 1954 didn't offer many appearances for this eager bunch of youngsters other than local parades, with the annual Memorial Day parade perhaps the highlight of the year. Almost anything was used for an excuse to perform and I suspect some of the homes we paraded by saluting well wishers of the Corps on their birthday, might have wished we had stayed away.

The Twin City Amvet Post inaugurated a summer pageant at Blesch Stadium at around the time of our first year and graciously invited us to participate. Some of the units they brought to the Twin Cities, in particular the Militaires of Milwaukee, became very closely associated with the developing young corps from the Boys Club, and their more sophisticated performances became a source of inspiration and the target for development in the future.

After a layoff during the fall of 1954 high school football season, a registration was held for the coming 1955 season, the corps second. Of course a few older original members were lost, but some new were gained, notably a youngster by the name of Wayne Haasch, who originally joined the drum section and was transferred to the drum major's position. Wayne led the Corps as drum major thru the 1961 season and then remained as color guard instructor, assistant drill instructor, and generally filled in almost every job an operation such as this requires until retiring at the end of the 1968 season.

It was during this period of time that Leslie Pellon started working with equipment, a job he did for many years, and Scotty Bertrand became the corps bus driver and all around helper for many years. The corps had purchased a school bus from the Menominee High School system at trade-in value and had received a donation of a hearse from Lenwood and Anne Kell, which was converted to an equipment vehicle with pullout uniform racks and ample storage space for all the corps horns, drums, and other paraphenalia. The school bus was affectionately named "the Iron Horse." A Parents Club was formed to assist the Corps financially and the first president elected was Hugh Higley. The group functioned beautifully from its inception and staged bake sales, candy sales, rummage sales, circuses, food booths, and many other projects.

Uniform changes for the 1955 season included the modest addition of green overseas caps, green wash shirts, and green wash pants (for those who didn't buy green the first season). Black shoes were used, along with the white leggings from the first year. White t-shirts were worn underneath shirts and the belts were converted to white. All straps bought for the two flags and drums were also white. Thus the corps colors of GREEN AND WHITE came about accidentally.

Addition of the corps bus made it possible for the fledgling unit to venture beyond the immediate area, and the hi-light of the summer travel season was a trip to Calumet for the big Centennial Parade. The usual local parades were made around the area and the corps took part in the Amvets show at Blesch Stadium.

Music for the unit continued from bugle instruction books, with the exception of the ever present sound of RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET. The corps was progressing on drums, bugles, and marching, and while most of the music and marching worked on diligently all that year was strictly basic, it was felt enough progress was being made that a field performance could be completed, and the corps could think of entering competition in the 1956 season. Formation of the Parents Club had made it possible for the Corps to have a source of funds independent of the Boy's Club, and the equipment was packed away for the football season with one eye already looking forward to purchasing a better uniform for the 1956 season and the corps first in competition.


The third weekend in June 1956, at St. Ignace, that was the date and place of the U.P. American Legion Convention and the target date for the first competition ever for the Boy's Club Corps. As the winter months ground slowly into springtime 1956, little did anyone realize how good fortune was about to smile on a group of youngsters from Menominee and the people guiding them into an era of activity most such units around the country would be hard pressed to match.

Instructors continued to emphasize basics in both music and marching and everything was kept less sophisticated than music and drills the Northernaires would later get into. That appeared to be the best road for this brand new boy's corps from Menominee to follow, and a wise decision indeed. New uniforms were acquired however, and the overall appearance of the unit was thereby greatly improved. Pants were dark green with white side stripes. Blouses were white satin with dark green elastic cuffs, waist bands and dark green collars. A fringed dark green sash swung from the left side of the blouse, and accessories included white gloves, dark green overseas caps, white socks, and black shoes. When warm weather arrived in the spring of 1956 the corps took to the streets and fields and perfected their basically simple but highly effective parade formations and field routine, both of which were highlighted by a moving cross formation to the music of Onward Christian Soldiers. Although this particular formation would yield to more difficult drill patterns and music in succeeding years, this was perhaps "the" element that launched the Corps into prominence more than any other single thing.

Memorial Day 1956 arrived and the DAR Boy's Club Corps' season was underway but not without great anxiety right off the bat. The new uniform shipment arrived the night before Memorial Day and everyone had to receive their uniform and try and fit them properly in time for the Memorial Day parade. Little did the good people of Menominee know as the corps paraded down Tenth Avenue, that it was literally held together with safety pins, common pins, and a little thread. Axel, George, and myself spent considerable time picking up uniform parts as we moved down the parade route.

A few weeks later, it was time for our first contest, the U.P. Legion Convention Contest at St. Ignace, which in reality at that time was the state Legion championship. The Iron Horse and equipment van got us to St. Ignace in fine shape and the day passed without incident until after the parade, when we took to the field to practice for our very first contest that evening. Experienced units such as the Manistique Scouts and the Stambaugh corps decided to watch our rehearsal and very unwisely decided to roar with laughter at any mistake we happened to make. That proved to be just the thing we needed because that night, there was no laughter when the Boy's Club Corps won the contest, their very first.

Earlier in the afternoon at St. Ignace, in fact after the rehearsal session prior to the contest, John L. Farley, long prominent in Menominee and state Legion affairs, informed the Corps with my permission as manager of the unit, that the Corps would be invited to the State American Legion Convention in early August, if they would win the U.P. Legion contest. With this announcement and the laughter factor mentioned earlier, there was just no way the DAR Boy's Club Corps would be denied a victory in their first contest. Later on that summer, Mr. Farley and our mutual friend, Gene Houck, who was Department of Michigan Legion Commander, made good their promise and the Corps was invited to participate in the State Legion Convention, the first Junior Corps ever to participate. We were asked to participate in the State Convention parade, and to stage an exhibition during the Senior Drum and Bugle Corps contest on Friday evening August 3rd, 1956.

To get the corps to Lansing was no little matter. No funds would be available until after the convention, and the Corps and Boy's Club had no funds for such a trip. Through the efforts of Mr. Farley, people from the Menominee American Legion Post organized what was called a DAB-athon on WAGN Radio, now owned by Vernon Uecker, Larry Koesling, and a group of Menominee businessmen. Entertainment was scheduled throughout the day from WAGN's studios, and pledges were received over the phone. Coupled with cash contributions received on the spot at the radio station, enough funds were raised to make the trip to Lansing. With enough left after, Hr. Houck was to reimburse the Corps, to purchase new Shakos for the next season. Unfortunately, Hr. Houck died suddenly while watching a football game a short time later and of course, the funds were never received. Money was raised for several years by staging a street carnival, primarily through the efforts of Mr. Farley from the American Legion, Chuck Charles from the Legion's Drill Team, along with John Sullivan, and the mayors of that era .. James Kehoe, Otto Eickmeyer and John Reindl.

The Corps made the trip to Lansing by private car and the equipment van, which made for a considerable caravan. And the unit was housed at the YMCA in Lansing, where the unit stayed several times in succeeding years. The unit responded to the warm welcome extended by the people of Lansing and the American Legion for this first-time appearance of a junior unit, and the Corps was given a standing ovation on completion of the show at the Senior Corps Contest on that Friday night.

They had literally stolen the show from the Senior Corps, who eagerly pressed up to the sidelines to witness this all new entertainment form from the distant U.P. Coupled with their fine performance on Friday night, the extended coverage given them by the Lansing newspapers and radio stations the following day, the Corps was thunderously received all down the Convention parade route that Saturday afternoon August 4th, 1956, which led to a fine overhead photo of the Corps on the front page of the Lansing State Journal's Sunday edition.

The 1956 season came to an end in September with another important trip, that to the National Convention of the AMVETS to participate in their huge parade down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee. The corps did capture 2nd place honors in the parade, to climax a highly successful first season, that also had the Corps winning the Wisconsin Amvet State Title at their Convention Parade, in addition to the Michigan American Legion title. Before the Boy's Club Corps was to become widely acclaimed in 1958, they had to take their lumps in stiff competition in 1957. Although they did win the 1957 U.P. American Legion championship again, and the Wisconsin State Amvet parade title again, 1957 was a year of learning in strong competition, and it all paid off.


Springtime 1958 approached and we all felt we were ready for the coming competitive season. We had survived our first year in stiff competition in Wisconsin during the 1957 season and had learned a lot. We dropped most of our old basic music and incorporated new music written mostly by John Zeran of California into a marching routine written and taught for the first year in 1958 by the writer. Bob Tordeur had joined the drum section as instructor and was able to initiate rudimental drumming into the section. And the bugle section continued to be taught by able people such as Len Nordost, Max Nohlecheck and Ed Wizner. Harold Nowakowski, Bill Paitl, and Nick DeDamos instilled basic marching into the overall group, incorporating movement I planned for the field routine into regular basic movements. More emphasis was put on the color guard, with the hope of expanding it into a large section as an integral part of the whole corps. Unfortunately little physical evidence remains of the 1958 season. It is the only year missing from the complete file of Northernaires field routines thru 1968 and the music played and events of the season largely escape memory. A contest was held to name the Corps, and the name NORTHERNAIRES received the largest number of votes from the boys themselves, with the GREEN KNIGHTS coming in second. The Northernaires again won the U.P. Legion championship at Crystal Falls, competed in the American Legion National Convention contests for the first time, where they placed 19th out of 65 units, and presented a half-time exhibition during a fall Packer Game, which was carried nationally on CBS-TV. At that time, former football star Johnny Lujack was half time announcer for CBS and it had been previously determined that if a unit followed the TV network's timing schedule and started their performance exactly 1 minute into the halftime, their entire performance would be shown. Wayne Haasch was the Drum Major at the time, and he hit the CBS cue right on the button, giving the Northernaires national exposure. I was down along the sideline with Wilner Burke, Packer Band Director, and of course witnessed the whole performance from that vantage point. Bob Macaulay, who was Publicity Director of the Corps at the time, and who had made the arrangements with Mr. Burke and CBS to start with, was lucky enough to watch the whole performance on a TV monitor, and reported after the game that CBS did indeed carry the whole routine, and that it was a very good performance. Many letters were received from around the country following the Northernaires TV debut. The Northernaires were the first unit to perform at halftime in the very first league game at Green Bay's Lambeau Field, and at the time I left management of the Corps, had appeared during half times at Packer home games more than any other unit in the area. It has always been debatable whether 1958 or 1959 was the best year the Northernaires had, as both were fabulous. In 1958 the corps won 8 out of the 12 contests entered, including American Legion Nationals as one of the 12. In 1959 the corps won 9 out of 13, but no national contest was involved. As summer drew to a close though in 1958, the Northernaires were already playing "Land of the Pharaohs", their 1959 opener. And plans for their completely new uniform were already on the drawing board. Bob Hutchinson was the Equipment Manager at the time, and he enlisted the aid of Don Warren, manager of the Chicago Cavaliers; Herb Lathrop of South Milwaukee, who named himself (with our approval) as the Northernaire's southernmost representative; and several people from Lake Band of Milwaukee; along with Doc Patin of South Milwaukee, who was a real doctor, a dentist and was in charge of the Spectacle City Mariners.

Of course funds were lacking for our new uniform project. The DAR Boy's Club was financed by United Fund, and there was usually a shortage of funds to keep the club operating, much less have anything extra for a major expenditure such as uniforms for a corps. We decided that if we were to get our new uniforms at all, and they were desperately needed by the end of the 1958 season, we had better launch a campaign early. This we did both through the mail and by personal contact. I believe we were asking contributions of $85.00 for one complete uniform and were outfitting somewhere around 65 people. Needless to say it took until springtime in 1959 before meeting our goal the night before Memorial Day of that spring, the start of our 1959 season.

bill king w/shako

That the Northernaires uniform was original no one can ever deny. Colors had remained green and white but had been refined down to Kelly Green, Forrest Green, and white. The satin blouses for drummers and buglers were Kelly Green on one side and Forrest Green on the other, so that quick turns written into the corps routine changed the color scheme of the corps. The white accent on the cross sashes, belts, white bucks, socks, and 12 inch plumes, gave the Northernaires a distinctive look. After introducing our new uniform in 1959, which gave us an unusual effect of being able to change color during a routine, we continued to seek ways of being a little different than the average corps.

We expanded our flag section and began moving color guard members and their flags within our marching routine. We introduced flags made of all green and white material by my sister, Mrs. Eugene Paulsen. These were light weight and added to our overall color effect. We perfected a unique marching style all of our own that gave the effect we were literally gliding down the street or across the field. An arm swing that I used to explain, "make believe you are polishing your belt buckle with your hand made into a fist, but not tight," added to the gliding effect. At one time we had our Color Guard Captains and Drum Majors wearing Indian head dresses made at the Boy's Club, to emphasize an Indian number we were playing, along with an Indian dance by a little Drum Major at the time, Terry Heckel.

We also introduced dancing buglers into our marching routine, an effect that went over very well. And we carried a mascot....a pet Woodchuck and/or a rabbit nicknamed the "Northern Hare," out on to the field for finales at contests as a good luck omen. Of course not all the things we tried worked to our benefit. For example, on a trip to Iowa and Minnesota, we painted a baton white with the end green and a white N painted on it. The idea was for the drum major to throw the baton into the stands following a good performance, as a souvenir for some spectator. This proved disastrous when a contest director promptly assessed us a penalty for same and we lost the contest we should have won, along with the money involved from a 1st place finish to a 2nd place finish. That was the end of the green and white batons.

Our marching routines during the years from 1958 on were always somewhat wide open and were designed to please the crowd and cover the entire field, not just one side. In addition we tried to get the best effect possible out of using the music to it's best advantage. Our routines were planned thoroughly, down to the last minute detail, and were always written so that a marching member could cover and dress properly. When the Northernaires were fired up and execution was at it's best, they were a Corps that was mighty hard to beat. People wondered how we won so much but yet, really seldom had the highest score in any of the categories; marching, bugles, drums, and general effect. We accomplished this by primarily good basics and scoring well in every category. When each caption was assigned 25 points, we could score 20 in each and win the contest.

It was during the great years from 1958 on, that the Northernaires became a charter member of the Badgerland Drum and Bugle Corps Association, an organization composed of Drum and Bugle Corps, Bands, Drill Teams, and Color Guards. Purpose of this organization was to promote the drum corps movement as an effective youth program in combating juvenile delinquency, in keeping young people occupied with a worthwhile activity. In addition to being occupied with the numerous and tiring rehearsals involved in learning to play a horn, a drum, or carry a flag, there were innumerable marching sessions. And these were year 'round for the most part, not just a month or two. There were sessions dealing with behavior and on rules of conduct. There were money making projects to participate in. When spring came, putting together a field routine required every night of the week when possible, along with Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Summertime was consumed rapidly with trips to one or two contests each and every week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and usually after a one day rest, rehearsal every day or night possible. Trips themselves involved traveling, parade, rehearsal, preparation time, competition, and then maybe an hour or two to find a snack or a bit of relaxation. Yet with all the work involved, belonging to a drum corps meant meeting people and making friends, going to strange places and seeing new sights, and the excitement and thrill of entertaining and performing in parades and competitions, sometimes before huge crowds of people. To a corps that developed into the calibre of the Northernaires, there was the thrill of victory as from 1958 'thru 1968, the Northernaires competed in 135 contests, of which they won 51, came in second 51, and in only 33 were they lower than 2nd.

The Badgerland Association proved to be invaluable in the years ahead in booking contests and parades. There were meetings to attend during the winter months and clinics were held for units to improve themselves in marching, bugles, drums, and color guard departments. And each fall, a fine convention was held in the city of one of the member units, with one of those conventions being held in Menominee.

The Badgerland Association was very much misunderstood in the Menominee and Marinette area, as many times I heard the expression "those da** Badgerland Judges." The association itself never did have judges belonging to the association. Instead, whenever judges were needed by the association for a contest or parade they were running, they were hired from a judges chapter such as the Wisconsin or Michigan All American Judges Chapters, or from Central States Judges Assn. It was when the Badgerland Association hired Central States judges that the Northernaires seemed to score their worst and I believe local frustration was misdirected as a result.

The Northernaires instructors primarily worked along the same lines as books put out by the All American Judges Association recommended, mostly because the bulk of our contests were judged by All American Judges. Central states judges were primarily from Illinois and younger men and the Northernaires didn't run into them very often. The main difference was that Central states judges marked mistakes by using multiple ticking, or in other words, considered a mistake to be several mistakes. I opposed that method of judging from the start, as well as the fact that Central states judges taught Corps sections during the winter, and then later on judged those very same sections in contests during the summer. Even though such judges were not associated with that corps other than being a paid instructor in the winter, I couldn't see how we could expect to come up with a good score in comparison to a unit taught by that judge, as I wouldn't think he would mark someone he taught lower and thereby admit he was a lousy teacher. I was very much afraid such practices would lead to the demise of lesser known corps away from the population centers, and I was afraid also such goings on would encourage corps parasites into becoming instructors and judges. Both matters did come about just that way before my time as a Corps Manager ended, although perhaps not to the great extent I thought it might. The Badgerland Association was however not really involved in any of this, other than as the place we would meet and talk about such very matters.

It was also during the early years of belonging to the Badgerland Association that we made long and wonderful friendships with people who would also become known to many Twin City people. There was Maggie and Gene Pawlowski and their children A.J., Sonny, and Peggy. Maggie was adjutant of the association until replaced by another friend Anne Mixdorf of Cedarburg. The Palowkski's were from the Milwaukee Militaires and AJ went on to help the Northernaires in later years, with Sonny teaching drill to several high calibre midwestern units. Then there was Clarence Beebe of the Madison Scouts, Bill Loebel of the Cedarburg Thunderbolts, Howard Dehnert of Racine Scouts, Chuck Dadian of the Racine Boys of 76, Bob Suerth of the Wisconsin Rapids Scouts, Joe Mayrand and Jim Medlyn from Ishpeming, and so many, many more.

1958 passed into history and with music already underway and a complete new uniform in the offing, 1959 was eagerly anticipated. The youngsters that once wore white paper hats and wash pants for a uniform were now young men who had become better and better and better at their main pastime, the Northernaires. Music for the coming competition season in June included Land of the Pharaohs for the opening, followed by Battle Hymn of the Republic for a Color Presentation. This was followed by a medley of Blue Moon, Tea For Two, during which our dancing buglers were featured, Sentimental Journey, Bye Bye Blues, and Hoop De Do. Following that was our Indian Number "Waters of Minnetonka", with our dancing drum majors Wayne Haasch and Terry Heckel in Indian head-dresses. Closing number was RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET, the only song retained from early music. The Northernaires enjoyed a very successful season in winning 9 out of 13 contests including the U.P. American Legion and the first State of Michigan Statewide Junior Championship. The Northernaires also made the finals at the Wisconsin Spectacle of Music at South Milwaukee and the finals of the famous Madison Scout contest, in addition to winning the State Amvet Parade championship once again. But the highlight of the season had to be defeating the Racine Kilties in the first contest of the season at Pardeeville. We paraded in our old uniform that day and entered the field covered by jackets as much as possible. When we appeared with our sparkling new uniforms and complete new routine, I honestly believe we psyched the Kilties right out of their shoes. And how sweet it was.


Growing pains experienced in the late 50's seemed to make a change in the official structure of the Northernaires organization desirable and necessary in the early 60's. The number of people participating had increased, the space needed for rehearsal and storage had to be larger, and the time needed increased steadily. It came about through D.A.R. Boy's Club board of Director meetings that the Corps should become a separate organization, incorporated, and completely separate financially and physically. All of the Corps equipment, uniforms, and possessions were turned over to Menominee Northernaires, Inc. and the corps headquarters became the Beach House. Subsequently the Corps Headquarters was moved to the 2nd floor of the Ihler Building at the corner of First Street and 6th Avenue, rent free courtesy of Mr. Fred Ihler. This building served as headquarters until the former Danish Brotherhood building on 13th Street was purchased.

Moving the corps from the D.A.R. Boys Club of course made it necessary for additional rehearsal space and the group was fortunate enough to always find adequate space from St.John's School to the Episcopal Parish House....from Menominee High School gym to the Technical School gym in Marinette, from Jordan Seminary gym to the Armory in Marinette, the V.F.W. Clubrooms and the Eagles Clubrooms, Roosevelt School classrooms to Menominee High classrooms.

Music for the 1960 season continued to have Land of the Pharaohs for the opening number, followed by Battle Hymn of the Republic for a color presentation once again. The Pop Medley from 1958 with dance step was used again and so was Water's of Minnetonka, along with Red Sails for a closing number. The whole marching routine other than for the Pop Medley was changed and I believe the concert number was changed. The file of Northernaires Marching routines doesn't list the concert numbers played, but it was a policy to at least change that one song, if nothing else. The Northernaires won both the U.P. American Legion and the State Legion Championships and repeated again as Wisconsin Amvets parade champions. While the corps didn't fare as well in 1960 as they did in 1958 and 59, it should be noted that as the Northernaires became better, so did everyone else. A large number of members who were with the unit from the start had now also become too old to participate and the corps was in somewhat of a rebuilding period.

In 1960 Bill Evans was elected President of the Northernaires Inc. and held that position as long as I remained with the Corps. Bill proved to be a very valuable asset to the unit and traveled extensively with the corps, pitching in wherever needed. Fred Hemenway was President of the Parents Club at this time and he too was very valuable in assisting wherever needed, and also was Assistant Business Manager for several years.

The end of the 1960 season was also the period of time when health problems would plague me for several years. In November of 1960 I had to undergo emergency goiter, or thyroid, operations and it was only because there were able people to keep the corps together that the Northernaires continued, and in the same strong vein they had in the past. Max Nohlecheck, Wayne Haasch, Bob Tordeur, and Rick Sonntag along with Fred Hemenway, all kept things humming. In fact, much new music was introduced, and Rick and Wayne assisted me in writing and teaching the corps 1961 routine. Land of the Pharaohs was kept for the opener, a song we all liked very much. Then came Rise and Shine, and Battle Hymn of the Republic was again used for a color presentation. Concert number noted on the 1961 drill sheets was "Just in Love". Then came Waters of Minnetonka, followed by a beautiful rendition of "Temptation" to which the corps drill was written to flow into two different wide open maneuvers, and as I recall was very well received wherever the Northernaires went. The closing number is missing from the 1961 drill sheets, but it may have been when we needed a short closer, and took "Blue Skies" from our medley of the previous two years and used it for a closing number. I believe it was. Once again the Northernaires won the U. P. American Legion Championship and also won the State of Michigan Legion championship. This was also to be the last year the Northernaires would dominate Michigan competition, as the L'Anse Golden Eagles and the Ishpeming Blue Notes were coming on strong and there were now many units in the Lower Peninsula as well.

While 1961 was the year the Northernaires would last dominate State of Michigan Legion competition, it should be noted that the Corps won the 1962 State VFW Championship and didn't go to the Upper Peninsula American Legion contest that year. This was the only year from 1956 thru my final year 1968 that the Corps did not compete at the U.P. Contest.

Music for the 1962 season included a new opening number "Everything's Coming Up Roses," which proved to be very popular and was perhaps the best opener the Northernaires ever selected and performed. That was followed by "Rise and Shine" and "America I Love You" for color presentation. The concert number was "Moon Love". Going out of concert the corps used "Sheik of Araby" followed by "Temptation" along with a new drill, a portion of which appeared in a photo that summer in the color section of the Milwaukee Journal. The closing number was "When Day is Done". During mid season, a new opening maneuver was written and introduced for "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rise and Shine" was replaced with "Moon Love" in a wide open routine. The concert number was changed, but was not noted on the corps drill sheets. (Webmaster Note: Concert in 1962 was "Volga Boatman")

The Northernaires had become a very stable unit by this time and were known far and wide as a corps that would always give the public a well executed and entertaining show, and were usually well up in the standings, if not the winner. The highlight of the season was of course winning the State of Michigan VFW title and once again, the very first time the Northernaires had entered that particular competition. What I remember in particular is that the night before our trip to Sault Ste Marie for the VFW State Convention that June, the discipline board had suspended five buglers from the trip for some incident that I no longer recall for which they had been placed on report. While the matter of course bothered me, I kept saying over and over that we would win with quality, not with numbers. We rehearsed as much as possible at the Soo and then took a good rest period before the competition late that night. It was after midnight when the Northernaires finally took the starting line and by then it was quite cold. The Northernaires came up with an excellent performance in spite of having five horns benched for the night. The quality was there. And when the finale came an hour or so later, so was the VFW State Championship.

I'll never forget the thrill of that victory, the excitement of the Menominee VFW members at the Convention, Al and Glady Turner, Len and Stella Therriault, Harry and Juanita Johnson, and many, many others. There was Wayne and the VFW gals dancing on the field, the barnstorming session afterwards thru the streets of the Soo and at the Ojibway Hotel and the party for the boys at the parking lot of Glady and Al Turner's motel that included all kinds of goodies brought along in anticipation. For some reason, this had been one of our best wins ever, maybe because we had done it under adversity or maybe because we had defeated the Sarnia, Ontario corps, something no other Michigan corps could accomplish up to that time. It was seldom that I would ever consent to barnstorming by the corps, but that Saturday night at the Sault was something different. Later on in the summer of 1962, the Northernaires lost their State of Michigan American Legion title to the L'Anse Golden Eagles. To this day I have felt that this loss was engineered, at least to some extent.

It seems that when enroute to the State Convention which I believe was at Lansing that year, we encountered trouble with one of our Wisconsin-Michigan charter buses at Manistique. The bus had to be returned to Green Bay and another sent up to Manistique to continue the trip. Before waiting for hours to exchange busses and make the trip for nothing because we would arrive late, I called the Music and Drill Chairman Ray Duffy at the Hotel in Lansing, and told him of the breakdown and that we couldn't arrive in time for the preliminary contest. I suggested that we would turn around and go home. Mr. Duffy wouldn't have that, because we were defending champions and one of his better units would be missing from the contest. He advised me that the Northernaires wouldn't have to compete in the preliminary contest as defending champions and there would be no penalty. On arrival in town the next day, we were instructed by a messenger who met us at the YMCA, that we had one hour to dress and get to the field for the preliminary contest, or we would be disqualified. When we arrived at the field, we were told there would be a two point penalty for being late, carried over into the night contest. Needless to say, there were some very harsh and blue words exchanged. Mr. Duffy claimed the committee over-ruled him, in spite of the fact he had assured me there would be no preliminary needed, nor penalty assessed, and that he had the power to act. We did lose the contest at night along with the State Legion titIe. This was one time I should have stuck to my intuition and have turned around and gone home. In spite of that, we were warmly greeted by the people of Menominee with a big reception at the Band Shell, something that had become the custom following our oft repeated title victories.

This incident was one in a long series of incidents that marred the Northernaires participation in state American Legion competition. Some that I can recall included a sudden rule introduced by the Music and Drill Committee requiring all flags to be 3 by 5 feet and that they would be actually measured at the inspection line before a contest. While I felt this was deliberately done because the Northernaires had introduced the use of a multitude of flags in the marching routine, all of our flags were of the proper size. My sister Marie had made all the flags for me and she had obviously taken great care in the measurements. Unfortunately, this rule did hurt some of the smaller corps and the newer corps and the units that had small Legion Posts for sponsors, who couldn't afford to purchase a $200.00 Post flag just for a Corps to carry once or twice a year. I argued about this rule until the year I left the Northernaires, without success.

Two other incidents I can recall that cost the Northernaires the state title included a two point penalty assessment on the Corps because I was not personally at the managers meeting. I had Fred Farley of Lansing represent the corps for me in order that I could travel with the corps and not have to leave a day early. Mr. Farley was a member of the Menominee Legion Post. No where in the rules was there anything that indicated the manager had to be personally present at the Managers meeting. He did have to have a representative there, one who was a member of the Post sponsoring the corps. The fact that Fred Farley had done this before for myself and the Northernaires and was known to the State Legion Committee, made no difference and the penalty was allowed to stand.

Another incident occurred at Detroit, when the bugle judge forgot to mark in a build-up caption score amounting to five points, a score to which all units are entitled to even if it's only a half point or two points or whatever, depending on the quality of the repertoire. When checking the score sheets following the finale, which is something we always did whether we won or lost, we discovered the missing score, which was more than enough to give us the victory. Wayne and myself searched the downtown hotels, one after another, and finally located the bugle judge. He saw the error right away and contacted the Music and Drill chairman informing him of the error and notified him he would correct our sheets which would give us the win. The chairman, once again Ray Duffy, advised that this was certainly correct and that the announcement would be made at the morning convention session, that the Northernaires had indeed won the State Championship the night before. However, come morning the announcement was, not made. We were informed by Mr. Duffy that the secretary of the committee had decided he "wouldn't upset the applecart for anyone", and that everything would stand as was. And the case was closed. Mr. Duffy once again had failed to assert his authority.

I recall at Gladstone a couple of years ago giving a prominent Michigan legionnaire who was a candidate for a high Legion office, a ride to his motel and asking him a number of questions while en route. He was a member of the state Music and Drill committee during the times we were having difficulties with the committee and he answered my question by telling me that the committee had indeed introduced certain rules and procedures aimed specifically at the Northernaires. One in particular was that only a percentage of members could be from out of state. After incorporation as a separate entity from the DAR Boy's Club, the corps opened up its membership to participation by boys from Marinette or Peshtigo, or anywhere within reason. However, little did the committee know that we actually were under the percentage allowed, and the rule in no way hurt the Northernaires.

* Going back to 1962 however, this was the year that health problems continued and after a series of tests at the local hospital, a small ulcer was found and I was advised at that time already to give up the Northernaires activity. This I didn't do for several more years and once again Bob Tordeur and Hayne Haasch, along with Bill Evans, had to shoulder much of the burden. Forrest Ames had by now become our bugle instructor, along with Steve Hudson, a former Corps member. During this era it developed that more and more Northernaires would become involved in training not only our own unit and the Rookie Corps we formed called the Northernlites, but would move on to other units. Wilbur Schomacker became our equipment manager during this time and Harold Jenkins was treasurer of the Corps for many years. Tom Rynish and Mark Ennis formed and instructed the new Rookie Corps at the end of the 1962 season and into the 1963 season.

Winter came and winter went and the spring of 1963 had the Northernaires out with pretty much the same routine used in 1962, with the exception of the concert number, "The Dipsy Doodle," which proved to be excellent. The opening number was once again "Everything is coming up Roses" followed by "Moon Love". Next was "Onward Christian Soldiers" revived for color presentation, followed by "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and into the concert formation. "The Sheik of Araby" followed concert, and then it was right into the exit number "When Day is Done." It was around this time that the total marching time required was cut down from 15 minutes to 13 minutes and routines could be shortened by one number.

It is also during this time during the early 60's that the Northernaires introduced the idea of a spring work camp at Wells Park, a very popular and worthwhile practice that was continued to the end. It was usually around the first weekend in June or the first weekend that school was out. There were four cabins for the various sections to sleep in and rehearse in if necessary to do sectional work and there was the main dining hall that also served as a rehearsal site for sections in the event of rain. This is where we completed our marching routine and timed it out. By this time, we always tried to have our bugle and drum music down and the idea was to perfect everything in time for the first contest, usually the U.P. American Legion contest the next weekend.

For the most part, this is exactly what we did. This was also the time and place for initiation into the Corps for the present crop of rookies. This was planned and carried out by the members themselves, however the plan was approved by the corps management and was supervised by them also. Nothing was allowed that could possibly hurt anyone and the affair WAS a fun time enjoyed by all, followed by a lunch put on by Bill Evans, Les Pellon, and their crew. Bill and Les also usually had charge of the kitchen and the menu for the work camp. The weekend concluded with a family picnic at the drill field site and a performance of the corps completed routine before going home. After a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of nothing but music and drill and more music and more drill, needless to say no one went dancing on Sunday night. As far as I know, the Northernaires were the first drum and bugle corps to inaugurate a Work Camp for this purpose, although we adopted the idea from an Illinois marching band that made use of Wells Park for this very same purpose. The tourist season had already begun when we held our camps and many times there were hundreds and hundreds of spectators for our rehearsals and final performance on Sunday afternoon late. These were also the years when we made use of Great Lakes Memorial Park for a rehearsal site all summer long and there were many times there were hundreds of spectator tourists along the sidewalk and on the grass watching these workouts.

The era from 1962 thru 1964 was also the era when the Northernaires Color Guard came into its own and when the corps proper wasn't winning state titles, the Color Guard did. Part of my theory in operating the Corps was that all sections, bugles, drums, and color guard, should be equally important to the overall unit. The Color Guard worked hard as a separate section and as a unit in itself, entering its own competitions in winter time and summer time. Their efforts were rewarded with State of Michigan VFW Championships in 1962 and 1963 and the American Legion Championships in 1963 and 1964. Perhaps the most memorable Championship won by the Color Guard was in the State Legion contest in 1963, when the finals ended in a tie score and the color guard had to compete again for the title. This was one of the most magnificent Color Guard performances I had ever witnessed and the judges were hard pressed to find even the slightest thing wrong. John LeBouton was Guard Commander at the time, one of the finest anywhere, and he led the Color Guard to victory. Meanwhile there were no titles for the Northernaires Corps proper for the 1964 season. There were first places but no state titles. The other state competitors at the time included the Grand Rapids Green Hornets, Wyandotte Lancers, Madison Heights Marauders, Blue Notes from Ishpeming, and the L'Anse Golden Eagles. The Northernaires now had to settle for close seconds in what was now tough Michigan competition.

Of all the competitors, the Wyandotte Lancers became bitter enemies of the Northernaires. Tricks were employed like loosening the Northernaires' drum heads while we were gone to dinner and taking one of the bugle sections soprano horns. At that time we couldn't afford the luxury of an extra horn.

For the 1964 season the Northernaires uncorked another new opening number called "Parade of the Charioteers." This was followed by "Temptation" and a new color presentation called "Walk Hand In Hand," which proved very effective. "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was moved to going into concert. After concert we used "Blue Skies" and into our closing number "When Day is Done". It may be noted that our marching routines were designed for both preliminary and final contest timing. We needed 7 to 8 minutes for a preliminary contest and would use our routine up to the concert number and then immediately go into our closing number from concert formation to the finish line. That gave us one little part of the routine to revise and we felt it would give us a little edge in preliminary contests. However, if all the units did the same thing, we gained absolutely nothing, and I don't recall where we ever really gained anything, except to make things easier on ourselves.

As we had started the Northernlites the year prior, the Northernaires had secured all new equipment including silver and green drums, all new horns in two tone green cases to match uniforms, all new chrome flag poles and new flags, and all the equipment to carry plumes, rifles, shakos, and the like was made of plywood painted green, and all made by Les Pellon. Needless to say, the Northernaires made an impression on townspeople whenever they arrived and departed and unloaded or loaded. The Corps had also acquired a small equipment truck that was fitted with racks and painted in the Corps colors. Everything was fitted into this small van and the Northernaires became very mobile.

During these years we used to employ everything we could think of to psych out the opposition. We would march into a field single file at an extended interval and at a very slow pace, while another unit was performing and another being inspected, just to detract the crowd. Many times we would carry our instruments in cases and wear our jackets even if it was hot, then casually line up and deposit our equipment cases and jackets and move up to the ready line, all just to distract. We had every available person come to the ready line, preferably in a Northernaires jacket or with a Northernaires cap on and assist in the primping and preening before an inspection. For the most part this was not necessary, except to distract the audience. One time we even waited til the last minute and pulled our busses right up to the starting line and unloaded right into our starting line formation, much to the delight of the audience in Lower Michigan, but to the consternation of the judges. One thing we never did was to arrive too early and then have to stand and wait and wait. When there was a choice, we always felt it was better to rest up a little and get there just with enough time to be on the ready line at the previously appointed time. This we continued to do long after inspections were abolished and were never once officially late for a contest. I must say we came mighty close on several occasions.

1965 would end up being the year the Northernaires would decide to make some change in the original uniform adopted at the start of the 1959 season. Many of the parts had become badly worn and it was decided to make some changes to add a little more flash. But that would come at the end of the season. Staff changes included Lloyd Pesola heading up the bugle department with Steve Hudson and Tom Ennis assistants, Ron Carriveau in charge of the drum section, Jack Farley handling transportation and Joe Fronsee out of town publicity. Music arrangements were secured from Glen Weber of Minneapolis, formerly of the St. Paul Scouts, and drum scores from Percussion Enterprises of Elgin, Ill. The Northernlites were now headed by Dick Seidl, with Greg Mitchel and Harold Stewart as assistants. This is the first year also a pretty good record of the Corps scores in contests, exists. The Corps routine consisted of a new opener from the theme of "Great Escape". This was followed by "Temptation" and the color presentation "Walk Hand in Hand". Out of concert the Northernaires went into the theme from "Goldfinger". This was followed by "Everything's coming up Roses" and the corps new closing number, "Sheherezade" from 1000 and 1 nights. This was a great closing number and in my estimation the best we had ever had. It also received excellent comments from various bugle judges throughout the season. The Northernaires routine for 1965 was a wide open and crowd pleasing drill. It scored very well at every contest and received comments from marching judges that it was the nicest drill the Northernaires ever marched to, and one of the nicest they had ever seen. Although the Northernaires only took one first that season of 1965, they scored well in marching in all contests in comparison to other captions and I recall defeating the Chicago Cavaliers in marching in at least one contest. This was no small feat in the heydey of the Junior Corps in the Midwest. The 1965 marching routine was one that was very hard to judge. It had constant movement in one place or another all the time, except during concert, yet it was possible to keep lines covered and dressed at all times. I often wished in the next couple of years that we would have kept that routine and only changed music to fit. Drills hardly ever worked out however, when music was changed and you tried to fit a drill to it. The marching routine had to be written to fit the music, trying to get the most effect out of the music itself. Drills were. also written from the concert formation back to the starting line, or from the finish line back to the concert formation, once a person had a general idea of what the music would sound like and just what type of marching routine you wished to come up with. Over the years, Wayne, who followed the same theories as I did in writing a marching routine, and myself, had a great deal of success in writing and teaching the Northernaires their routine and there was really no good reason to change. Don't argue with success. As the 1965 season came to an end, the 1966 season really started. A major uniform purchase had to be made and it was time to perhaps make some change in the Corps uniform design, without abandoning the original concept.

The major change came for the Color Guard, which had now been used extensively in the Northernaires marching routine for many years. This consisted basically of new blouses which had one sleeve and half of the blouse on an angle in white, and one sleeve and the other half of the blouse in Kelly Green. New belts were made for all, and were twice as wide as the previous belts, and were hooked together with a huge chrome belt buckle. All worn bugler and drummer uniform parts were replaced, and all new 12 inch plumes were purchased. Berets replaced Shakos for drummers.


We were beyond the middle 60's and things were rapidly changing. The mood of the country in general was different and the attitude of the young was becoming more difficult to deal with. Efforts to roll with the times were made within the NORTHERNAIRES organization. The by-laws were revised to include more young people on the Board of Directors and efforts were made to expand the younger leadership in roles that dealt with planning the Corps routine, equipment to be used, and scheduling the Corps.

A move to include girls on the Corps roster was turned down however. Sentiment favored forming a separate all girls unit, instead of running a mixed unit with all its inherent problems. I still believe this was the right decision at the time, primarily because of the lack of sufficient leadership and the funds to hire professional leadership and instructors, as many of the major units were now doing. Some Corps had by now attained membership of 100 to 125 youngsters and used three or four buses to travel, massive equipment trucks, and had instructors flown in from all over the country.

The Junior corps movement was spreading westward and now the units from Casper, Wyoming, Hutchinson, Kansas, and Santa Clara, California were challenging the Midwestern and Eastern corps....and winning! The age of majority movement had taken hold and the overall age of Junior Corps seemed to be pushing closer to the 21 year old limit.

Some of the Junior Corps the NORTHERNAIRES competed against during my final years of 1966-67-68 were lucky enough to have banks or other financial and industrial institutions as sponsors. Some even budgeted funds from 25 to 40 thousand dollars to assist their local unit and thus, some of these corps were already flying to their weekly contests. During this same era, the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS was having a difficult time trying to make ends meet. It didn't make much sense to me to compound matters by adding more people, boys or girls, or to form a second unit.

The NORTHERNAIRES were not without support however. Funds were raised in 1967 and 1968 for new equipment and uniform changes. Chuck Charles and his crew from the Menominee American Legion Post continued to stage winter carnivals and fishing derbies at River Park, the Marina and eventually Shakey Lakes. A group of local business people headed by Roger Williams, Publisher of the Menominee Herald Leader, and Harold Derusha of Marinette Marine Corp. raised funds from other businesses and industries as well as their own, for this much needed equipment. Without their efforts and the hard work and help of a lot of other Twin City business people, there is no doubt the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS would have folded in '67 or '68. And we continued to field a financially manageable unit of 70 to 80 members. The Twin Cities had shown they would support the NORTHERNAIRES at this size but most of us felt the communities would become very reluctant if we became greedy.

In any event the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS was a very active competitive unit during the years of 1966-1967 and 1968. The Corps traveled to more contests and parades than ever before, traveled greater distances than in the past, and tried to include two or even three contests or parades in each weekend trip in order to help pay the expenses. Bus transportation was becoming very costly and without the use of Sequin's buses, I don't think we could have hacked it. Then too, we enjoyed traveling with Barney and his two drivers, George and Jim. They were like a couple of extra staff members and pitched in and helped wherever needed. During those years the NORTHERNAIRES established some exciting rivalries, notably St. Patrick' s from Milwaukee and the Eau Claire Boys, and it was close competition almost every time we would run into one another.

Starting with the 1966 season, the NORTHERNAlRES started holding an annual banquet near or at the end of the season, at which awards were presented for the Rookie, Guard Member, Marcher, Drummer and Bugler of the year, beside the top award of NORTHERNAIRE of the year. These were well attended by parents and boosters. For the banquet we published a mimeographed booklet that included complete information about the NORTHERNAIRES travel schedule of the past year, about everything that made up the corps performance and who did what to put it together, financial reports, and a lot more, including scores from contests attended in the 1966 and 67 booklet. These were given to all in attendance. Fortunately the booklets from the years 1966-67-68 survived and are included as part of this story of the NORTHERNAIRES.


The 1967 season ended much as the 1968 season began....with a hassle. The NORTHERNAIRES had an appearance at a Green Bay Packer halftime scheduled at the end of the 1967 season, but the whole thing became a hassle when the Teachers Association called a strike and the schools facilities could not be used for rehearsal by the Corps, including Walton Blesch Stadium. Marinette High School came to the rescue when they could but it was urgent that the corps rehearse on a regulation football field at least once, hopefully twice, during the week before their Packer game performance, still being partially televised at that time. An old friend of the Corps, Ed LaCasse of Stephenson High School came to the rescue. Ed's son Neil was a fine bugler with the Northernaires for several years and understood the Corps' problems. Neil was the only bugler I had ever seen blow two instruments at the same time. He could play a duet on two bugles and it was something I had always wanted to incorporate into the corps performance, but Neil wouldn't have any part of doing a stunt like that in a Corps show. Anyway, Ed allowed the corps to use the Stephenson High School football field, with lights, and the corps was bused to Stephenson for rehearsal. In fact, we staged a full dress rehearsal for the Stephenson folks in appreciation and it was well attended and well received. The result was a fine halftime performance by the NORTHERNAIRES at a Green Bay Packer football game and I believe it was the last one by the corps.

The 1968 season began with a search for funds to purchase new instruments and uniform parts, in order to remain in a competitive position with the calibre of units the local folks had been accustomed to seeing the NORTHERNAIRES up against. It was indeed a hassle and the threat of putting the corps on the shelf was ever present. The Twin Cities did come thru however with the help of Mr. Williams and Mr. Derusha, as told in the preceding chapter. And the Corps was able to buy some badly needed items, although not everything it needed. These gentlemen did make it possible however that everything needed could be acquired over a period of several years, with prudent management.

1968 was the first time in many years that Wayne and myself didn't produce the corps drill. Instead it was turned over to Terry Heckle, long time drum major, and Ernie Nelson, long time horn line member. They came up with a routine that showed as an off center style of drill and it really didn't sit too well with us two "old timers", but the show was completed at the Corps annual work camp on June 15-16 of 1968. Later on during the season, after several times that the Corps didn't fare too well, the routine was changed and went back somewhat to the style we were more familiar with.

After the financial hassle was solved, then another developed over scheduling. The younger leadership wanted to have the Corps get into contests down in Illinois and Lower Wisconsin with the stronger units, while us "old timers" thought we should go to the U.P. and State shows, along with Northern Wisconsin shows where we were more apt to make money and come out on the trip. The younger group won the argument. However, that meant cancelling some U.P. shows in favor of others and that didn't sit well with me at all.

The Blessing of the Watercraft events were coming up on the end of July in Menominee and we had worked a joint contest with Ishpeming Blue Notes for several years. We exchanged appearances at each other's parade and contest at no charge and booked the same units for both shows in order to cut down on expenses. The City of Menominee allocated some money toward the unit's expenses to come to the parade and we were thus able to give the Twin Cities a good parade and contest, and still make some money for the NORTHERNAIRES treasury. In 1968 Wayne took the corps to Ishpeming on July 27th, a Saturday, and I stayed in Menominee to complete details for the Northernaires show the next day. The NORTHERNAIRES won that contest and, as a result, the Mariners Corps from South Milwaukee refused to compete at our show the next day but they did put on an exhibition. I thought this was a display of very poor sportsmanship and was glad my long time friend Doc Patin was no longer with the Mariners, although had he been there, the whole thing most likely wouldn't have happened. Thus my last contest with the NORTHERNAIRES was significant in two ways. We won both the very first and the very last contest while I was associated with the NORTHERNAIRES and I exited the Corps after almost 16 years after a hassle, just as the year 1968 had begun. The old ulcer was kicking up badly once again and this time I thought it better to finally heed my doctor's advice. The Corps was off on Monday night and had a practice at Lincoln School field on Tuesday night. I brought the proceeds from the weekend contest to the Corps personnel and turned it in, and then went to Corps President Bill Evans' house and gave him my verbal resignation. Wayne went with me, and he also resigned at the same time.

It wasn't an easy thing to walk away from something you had been associated with for so many years. I missed the many friends I had made and missed working with the young people. I had always felt that being with younger people had kept me a bit younger than my years, but with the financial problems, problems with a primadonna unit that weekend, the disagreement with some of the younger leaders on where the corps should perform, all just became too much for me. It was time to bow out.

Wayne hadn't liked some of the things going on in the past few years either and had often told me he was only staying on because I had asked him to, and decided he had enough also. The rest of the 1968 season was of course fulfilled and the NORTHERNAIRES did fairly well after we left the unit. We did take a couple trips to see the Corps compete, and liked the changes the young drill instructors had made. The unit looked more like the NORTHERNAIRES of old than they did in the early part of the season. Bill Evans took charge of the Corps, and did an excellent job of keeping things going. I believe Bill made one more year before hanging up his Shako. The NORTHERNAIRES competed at nationals in Detroit, Michigan, at the end of the season, and as I recall they did quite well in a very large field of units. I finished off the season in attending the Corps annual banquet as promised to Bill Evans and made the presentation of the Corps annual awards. After that I confirmed my resignation by letter to the Corps and thus ended my Drum Corps career.


The NORTHERNAIRES CORPS continued for several years after 1968, but not having anything to do with the daily operation of the unit has left my recollections of those years only sketchy at best.

I recall that in 1969 the NORTHERNAIRES was converted to a mixed unit, with girls participating mostly in the Color Guard section. There were also uniform changes. One change came about when the old light blue and white Madison Scout Corps uniforms were purchased and the name of the unit was briefly changed to the SHORELINERS. This I personally thought was a disaster. The next change came in the form of adding white Bobby style helmets instead of shakos and white accessories that I thought made the corps look more like the BLUE STAR CORPS from LaCrosse than like the NORTHERNAIRES we had grown to love. Also, remember that the Corps routine went back more to the FORMER Northernaire style and while this was a decided improvement, the distinctiveness of the past was never again achieved.

Gradually one could observe that the older leadership of my era were gone and the NORTHERNAIRES were becoming smaller and smaller. And finally, it was impossible for anyone to field a unit. There were just not enough participants.

It is 1981 now, and the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS INC. is still an entity, with the old boarded up Armory Building (City Hall Bldg.) on First Street still it's headquarters. Attempts by former NORTHERNAIRE members Greg Michel several years ago and Bill Gressel this year to reorganize the unit both failed.

I hope my assessment is wrong, but I don't think it would be possible to organize and outfit a Corps the size and calibre of the former NORTHERNAIRES in towns this size any longer. Equipment and transportation costs have risen out of sight. The age of majority laws coupled with the current drinking laws, have too many inherent problems, most unknown to us during our time with the NORTHERNAIRES.

This history of the NORTHERNAIRES CORPS from 1953 thru 1968 ends with a poem written by former solo bugler Bill Roetzer, an excellent horn man during my last few years with the corps. And it ends with a letter received from six year member Joe Fronsee, an excellent bugler also, who couldn't return for the 1968 season as he had planned. They are included here because they exemplify the thinking and the mood of NORTHERNAIRES personnel of that era in words far better than I am able to express.

When it is all said and done, the NORTHERNAIRES are not forgotten. Not the thousand plus boys and young men and women who participated! Not the men and women who worked so hard and long to bring this youth activity to the Twin City area! I can still hear drill instructor Harold Nowakowski barking out commands and "Hose Nose" Harrington tapping out drum beats! I can still see little Les Pellon fussing over uniform parts, while Mike Forslund and Fran Rondeau are busy sweating back-on fallen-off bugle parts! I can still see Lenny Nordost stomping on his cap and Wayne Haasch and Terry Heckle doing their Indian dance! But most of all, I can still see that wonderful, that beautiful, that big green and white NORTHERNAIRES CORPS slowly gliding down the streets, their white and green satin blouses shimmering in the sun, their white plumed shakos uniformly swaying to the rhythm of their step, chrome horns and drums gleaming brilliantly, green and white flags unfurling in a gentle breeze. Can you still see them? I can! And they will never be forgotten!


1964 parade in Appleton


Bill: I had to write a poem for my English class and I thought that, if you want, you could put it in the newsletter. Maybe it will fire up a few guys. - Bill Roetzer

Two fronts "on the line", clad in green.
Drums and horns, sparkling clean.
A command was given, and on we came.
With determination on our faces, and a song of Spain.
The horns were powerful, and ever so clean.
The drums were sharp, and so supreme.
We marched like kings, with pride and precision,
And left the judges with but one decision.
We eighty in green know only one taste -
The taste of victory, that coveted first place.
This is our story for "68".
We're superb, excellent, and outstandingly great!
This corps will never die, this corps will never fade.
For a new National Champ will be born in "68".


426 Hayden - U of M
Ann Arbor, Michigan
February 28, 1967

Mr. William King
P. O. Box 206
Menominee, Michigan

I received your form for uniform fittings and thought it best to answer as soon as possible. Initial plans were to come home this week-end, and stopping to see you, but they have been changed so I'd better get at this letter.

My plans for the summer, Bill, were to belong to the corps if I had to stay in Menominee for work. However, through interviewing down here I have been offered a position with Walker Manufacturing of Racine, Wisconsin to work for the summer on their engineering research staff. As far as my future is concerned, this is what I wanted and the best thing that could happen. I'll be living with my brother down in Racine.

So, I guess after all these long years of fun, work, travel, excitement, victories, championships, defeats, and American Legion Applecarts, you can hang my uniform up. I know that you've been approached many, many times with the statement that a person would stay with the Northernaires all his life if he could. I guess you can as of now quote me on that, too. While I'm in the mood for regressing, I must admit one thing, Bill: being in just any drum corps wouldn't have been the same. There's that additional incentive and desire to work and to win when you are personally involved and in contact with your leaders. The way that you run the corps, Bill, on the "You're not doing it for me, you're doing it for yourselves" attitude, cannot be bettered by all of the "Monk's" yelling. The corps spirit and sportsmanship that you have produced through devoted and endless hours of attention to the corps, could not possibly be equaled by any "name" corps in the nation. The spirit of the "Victorious" Cavaliers, or the "Winning" Troopers, or of the "Conquering" Crusaders is surpassed by our own spirit, our esprit de corps. Instilled into the life of a member of the Northernaires is a drum corps spirit; not just a winning spirit, but a love, a desire for drum corps, for marching and wanting to march, for being devoted and taking pride in being devoted. That spirit can be found in very few corps. Somewhere down deep, that spirit is lodged in me; and for the rest of my life, and you know I'm not exaggerating, whenever I see or hear or even read of drum corps, the spirit of the Northernaires of Menominee, Michigan will live on with me.

Don't get the idea that I'm casting aside everything having to do with drum corps. Quite the opposite is in my mind. Being in Racine, you know I'll be in the heart of Wisconsin and Illinois drum corps activity. I plan to catch as much of it as possible.

I also plan to fervently follow the real "Green Machine." Nothing could please me more than to have you send me a completed schedule for this summer. I'd like to see the corps as much as possible. Want to hear something interesting? I have NEVER in my life seen the Northernaires competing in a contest!! Never!

It is a really difficult thing to do when one has to step out of a role he has been playing for six years. When I become twenty-one, next year in February, I do plan on going to judge's school as you suggested. It should be well worth the effort and money. I shall stop in to see you near the end of April when school gets out.

May we always remain the best of friends and acquaintances.

Joe Fronsee