Sunday, September 6, 2009

California trip full of surprises

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Adventure's the word for the Marching 100's 1974 trip to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
'Getting to go and be a part of something that large was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,' said Debbie Newman of Moody, a drummer from the class of '76. 'We got to sightsee, and we got to tour Vegas on the way there.'
And they got to march in the parade.
'That was a long parade, the longest I'd ever seen or marched in,' Mrs. Newman said. 'We had practiced and practiced for it, but it was still longer than we imagined.'
Donna Leune, baritone player from the class of '74, remembers it to be at least 7 miles long.
'Maybe 10,' Mrs. Leune said.
'Maybe more than that,' said Bobby Hilliard of Hewitt.
'It was walking and marching and walking and marching,' Mrs. Newman said. 'There were little cars that would come and pick you up if you fell behind or couldn't make it. But the Marching 100, we were the only confirmed band that didn't have anyone drop out. We all made it. But I'll tell you one thing, after that my toes have never been the same.'

Richard Crain, former band director, laughed at these complaints, but he said his former students were speaking in earnest.
'It's no exaggeration,' Crain said. 'It was supposed to be 7 miles in length, but there was some construction going on and the detour added another 2 miles.'
The saving grace was that the weather was fair, not too cold and not too hot.
'We were tough country kids,' Crain said. 'We were well prepared and well practiced, but I never felt like as tired and worn before the parade or since.'
It's a boy
While in California, the Marching 100 performed on TV with Doc Severinsen, the director of the NBC Orchestra on 'The Tonight Show' starring Johnny Carson.
'We presented him with a cowboy hat,' Crain said.
On the band's way out, Crain said Doc called out, 'Good job, Belton!'
'It was great,' Crain said.
Getting back home meant a long road trip with a convoy of six chartered buses full of Belton teenagers.
Crain's youngest son, Steven, was born while he was in transit.
'Wanted to hurry home and see the baby,' Crain said. 'But how do you a hurry a bunch of buses?'
As it was, the baby's first sight of Dad was on a TV at Scott & White Hospital. Crain was leading the Belton Marching 100 in the televised Jan. 1, 1974, Tournament of Roses Parade.
To this day, not one member of the Crain family would have it any other way.
Troublemakers
As a teacher, Mr. Crain believed in disciplined.
So when the band got into some mischief in Las Vegas on the Tournament of Roses trip, the actions of a few earned a punishment for all.
'There were three guys who went down to the casino to gamble,' Mrs. Newman said. 'They got caught, and all of us were sent to our rooms for the rest of the night.'
Now it's a funny story.
'But at the time,' Mrs. Newman said, 'it was like 'Awww man, how could you be so stupid to get us in trouble?''
It turns out that one of the culprits was her brother - Bobby Hilliard, the coordinator of the upcoming Sept. 12 Marching 100 Band reunion.
'Me and a couple of other troublemakers took a bunch of nickels down to Circus Circus and won $2,' Hilliard said. 'It was great fun until our 2 bucks got confiscated and everyone got sent to their rooms.'
Mr. Crain never caught Hilliard in the act.
'I got overlooked for whatever reason,' Hilliard said. 'But I'm thinking about confessing at the reunion.' (Or sooner if Mr. Crain reads the paper.)
The band director said the Vegas incident wasn't any serious offense.
'A few of the kids who came were in their upper 20s,' Crain said. 'They had already graduated but they used to be in the band. They're the ones who got in down at the casino, but because they were with Marching 100, everyone had to be told it was a 'no-no.''

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