Unit Band 15, Great Lakes - 1960's

Ross Auditorium, NTC Great Lakes

    As written in other accounts, the Great Lakes Navy Band traces its roots back to the early years of our effort in WWI.  John Phillip Sousa was brought back into the service to head up the War Bond drives throughout the surrounding area.  His portrait hung in the front hallway of Ross Auditorium for many years.

    Ross Auditorium, besides being the location of nightly movies, was the home of the Great Lakes Band.  On either side of the building stood a pair of massive radio towers.  I could only judge their height to be somewhere like 150 foot.  In the early days of radio communication such height was necessary, but new technology was in place and they were no longer needed.  As they came down, the massive concrete footings were left to be pounded to dust by the hard labor crew from the brig.  Many days we could hear the pounding going on.  The surrounding trees also supported quite a community of squirrels which I found I could entice to the window ledge with raw peanuts.  They finally got so brave that they would venture to the inside window sill for their treats.  We would buy raw peanuts in 50 pound sacks at the commissary.  Another note, unrelated to musical performance was the daily lunch hour cribbage games with the Bandmaster.  I could hold my own with that game, but made the fatal error one day of double skunking the boss.  After the ranting and raving died down, that was the end of cribbage.  We also out did him in darts.  Many hours were spent in the lounge area throwing darts, using the cork bulletin board as a backup.  One lunch hour the Bandmaster announced a new game.  He pinned a dollar bill to the bulletin board and would sell three darts for a dime.  Hit the dollar bill from 14 feet back and take the dollar home.  The first dime was paid by Steve Barlow, and his third dart found the mark. As he retrieved the dollar, darts were banned and we were ordered to replace the bulletin board which was disintegrating from the abuse.  We solved the problem by turning the board around as to replace the board would have been cost prohibitive on our pay.

The NTC Band logged 25,000 miles last year, including 16,000 air-miles, traveling about the Ninth Naval District.  The Band's versatility is unique --- it changes into a 40--voice glee club, a marching unit, a large dance band, and presents several soloists and comedy routines.  Great Lakes Bulletin, 4 Mar 60

    The 1960's version of the band was some 45 members strong, led under the able baton of Franz (Buzz) Brumbaugh who also happened to be fine tuba player.  Of primary importance was our involvement with the weekly recruit reviews and other military ceremonies and observances.  We also figured strongly in recruitment and community events. 

    I knew how to type, so was assigned the collateral duty of office manager for the bandmaster.  Reports were prepared, letters typed and gig assignments promulgated.  It was my responsibility to inform the duty bugler when a dead gig was announced.  The military firing squad would pick up the bugler to be transported to the funeral site.  One cold winter's day, I erred.  It was a Wednesday, which was a normal half day off for the band, (due to weekend commitments).  When the squad showed up, the bandmaster suggested it would be wise for me to throw on my dress canvas and grabbing a trumpet off the shelf, away I went.  At the cemetery, I moved out away from the ceremony and hid behind a bush.  It was bitter cold, and as I stood shivering, one tuning slide kept falling off into the snow bank.  I retrieved it just in time to perform a flawless "Taps".  I observed that the widow had kept her composure up to this time, but broke down with the last fading note.  That was the last time I forgot to inform the duty buglers.

    I was very proud to be a member of this particular organization.  The band members were, without exception, all outstanding musicians.  One occasion I forgot to pack up the first trombone's music folio for a concert.  He was able to fake his way through the entire concert without the Bandmaster catching on.  Of course the Bandmaster's being deaf in the left ear led to some interesting performance antics.  Dave Ostovich would enjoy taking off on a saxophone riff in the most somber music passages without a comment from the podium.

    Now that I have dropped a couple of names, I could also list some fine chiefs that assisted the bandmaster in his multitude of responsibilities.  Frank Lord, Cozy Cole and Doc Dillon were legends in their time.  Besides fronting many of the band's gigs, they were responsible for the incoming musical auditions held for prospective Navy musicians.

    We paraded almost every weekend in the summer in the communities surrounding Great Lakes.  Of particular note was our involvement in Chicago ethnic celebrations.  One event in that great city was the armed forces football game at Soldier Field.  As I recall, it was the Bears vs. Someone Else.  We performed the opening ceremony and then headed to the bleacher seats at the open North end of the field.  Just beyond the goal posts we had a sometime interesting view of the game.  One particular field goal attempt prompted Dave Ostovich, (remember that name?), to jump off the bleachers, run into the field and pick up the ball just outside the end zone.  He ran it back to the bleachers and hid out.  The refs looked on in surprise; the Bandmaster scowled and demanded the ball to be returned.  Then Buzz made a grave error in judgment and ordered Dave to return the ball.  As the ball bounced back on the field, the fans in the stadium gave out the loudest booing heard up to that point.

    The band got another football gig of supporting the Naval Academy's team versus Notre Dame.  We loaded into a fancy (for the Navy) over-the-road coach bus and headed down the road toward South Bend.  It was a long trip, so the usual card game was set up in the back seats.  We made a pit stop along the Indiana toll road and two buses pulled in next to us loaded with Fighting Irish fans from Chicago.  They invited us over and we found they had several trash cans filled with ice and beer.

    Back on the road again several band members finished off their beer and they allowed the cans to roll down the aisle.  As alcohol was strictly forbidden, it was lucky for them that the bandmaster was hard of hearing and didn't pick up on the mischief.  On we rolled and finally reached our destination at Notre Dame.

    The stadium is exactly as seen on TV -- large.  Our assignment was to perform during the pre-game show.  We formed up and marched onto the field, all 45 of us.  The NROTC students at Notre Dame were all in uniform and followed us in formation onto the field.  Once the preliminary Anchor's Aweigh was performed, we played the National Anthem.  Then as we marched off the field to our position in the stands, we noticed that the NROTC students headed off the field and found their place on the Notre Dame side of the field where they stayed the entire game and rooted for the fighting Irish.

    The Midshipmen of Annapolis were all back in Annapolis in the mess hall where they were enjoying the game over the radio.  They had microphones in the mess hall which picked up their cheers which were broadcast through loudspeakers that were placed along side the playing field.  Sure was a weird feeling to have all that cheering with no one there.

    1960 was the year of Joe Bellino.  This was one of his final games with the Midshipmen and as it turned out, one of the best.  Navy was the underdog and bravely moved the ball throughout the game.  Down to the final seconds the game was even.  Then the unheard of happened:  Navy scored and won!!

    Well, if you know the Irish, you can well imagine what happened next.  The fans were mad and the Notre Dame marching band, (150 strong), formed up at the end of the field at the same time we returned to marching formation to depart.  Their band came plowing down the field and came straight through our ranks.  Only excellent military bearing prevented a fight right there and then.  As it were, we got to our bus as quickly as possible and high-tailed it out of town to escape the maddened crowd.

    Joe Bellino (Heisman Trophy winner in 1960 - ahead of Mike Ditka who placed a lowly 6th), went on to play with the Boston Patriots and retired from the Naval Reserve as a Captain.  The NROTC boys graduated and headed to Viet Nam.  The Great Lakes Navy Band never returned to South Bend again.

    Later that fall I was selected for advancement to 1st class petty officer, so wanted to return to the Navy's School of Music prior to sewing on the stripe.  Soon we packed up our belongings and headed the car towards Washington, D.C.

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