I was 15 years old in 1967. It was my first year of competition. The year before, l was an alternate (second class citizen). One of those fortunate few who got to stand at attention on the end line of the field while the rest of the corps performs on the field. Alternates were the gophers for the staff and anybody else who needed something. Just being in the corps and not an alternate was such a big thrill that I couldn't wait for the season to start. l didn't have to pay all the dues and hardship I had the year before, or so I thought.
The first trip in 1967 was spring camp in Reedsburg, Wisconsn. As usual, the weather was wonderful. Cold and rainy. Reedsburg holds special significance for me because that is where I got my nickname "Baby Huey", which was later shortened to just "Huey". At age 15 I was well over 6 feet tall, tall for my age and slightly uncoordinated. Roger Gran told me that I reminded him of the comic book character "Baby Huey", a gigantic, clumsy, but lovable baby duck. He said he would give me fifty cents if I would have the name "Baby Huey" put on the front of my new Blue Star jacket. Ron Elton also said he would give me fifty cents. A whole dollar, big bucks in those days. So began a nickname I am proud to say very few use today.
Loyalty Day in Reedsburg and spring camp fell on the same weekend, so we had to march in the Sunday Loyalty Day Parade. The Madison Scouts were in the parade wearing their new gray West Point uniforms. Those uniforms had 100 different combinations but they didn't improve the Scouts' performance.
If the highlight of the 1966 season was beating the St. Paul Scouts at the Minnesota Legion State Championships in Rochester, then the highlight of 1967 had to be beating the Racine Kilties at the Wisconsin State V.F.W. Championships in La Crosse. The two company fronts in the closer came together perfectly, and we marched off the field in a perfect full corps company front. To prove our victory over the Kilties in front of the home town crowd was no fluke, the next night we beat them again in their own backyard, Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
I played third baritone along with Tom Adamson and Randy Jacobson. All three of us were rookies and made rookie mistakes. The Blue Stars purchased 3 Smith Music Euphoniums, the most ungainly things ever invented. They were supposed to replace the Baritone Bugle. There was absolutely no way to get a good hand hold on those things. All the weight was in the bell of the horn, which made it hard to hold up for any length of time. Naturally, since we were the rookie squad, we got to carry those things. Every time we snapped the horns up, something fell off. Ed Lau was always putting those things back together.
During the summer we practiced two nights a week at Memorial Field. The other drum corps in the La Crosse, The Blackhawks, practiced at the same place. They had strange practices. They would nun through their entire show once and then sit around for almost the rest of the night and talk about it. They never went home until after we did just to say that they practiced longer. Needless to say, they never beat us in head to head competition.
VFW Nationals were held in New Orleans in 1967. This was the first time that many of us had been to the sunny south. The south was anything but sunny. It was hot, wet and humid. Our first encounter with the southern life, other than the people was with fire ants. Randy Jacobson stuck his foot in an ant hole and the ants were up his leg in a flash. We found out quickly why they were called fire ants. Their bite, burns like fire. It nearly put Randy out of commission for the rest of the tour. Luckily, we were quickly able to get most of the ants off his leg before they had a chance to bite him. The bites looked like bee stings and left some nasty welts.
We almost didn't make finals. We had a two point penalty in prelims when Jim Grasby stepped over the starting line before the rest of the corps, and then realizing his mistake, stepped back over the starting line. After sweating out the rest of the day on the practice field not knowing if we had made finals or not, the news came that we had made the final spot, number 12. That night in finals, we moved up two places and finished 10th. Moving up two places rarely happens in Nationals Finals Competition.
Our tenth place finish had to be attributed to Frank Van Voorhis and Roger Oelke. They spent the entire afternoon in the heat taking each section of the corps through the entire M&M show and cleaning up the errors. This had to be the key to our movement of two places up in the final standings.
In New Orleans, while off the practice and competition fields, we had some time for fooling around. We stayed at Loyola and Tulane Universities. The Kilties, Madison Scouts and the Blue Star "men" stayed in a dormitory on the Loyola University campus. For fun one day, the Kilties stripped naked their horn instructor, Ken Norman. They put him on the elevator and pushed the lobby button. We were having a meeting in the lobby. The elevator doors opened to reveal a very embarrassed horn instructor. He said "hi" and shut the door. Everyone sat there, stunned, for what seemed an eternity, and then in unison started to laugh.
Looking back at 1967, it was a memorable experience. I must have enjoyed it because I hung around until they threw me out after the 1973 season. In all seriousness, I look back on my experiences in the Blue Stars and realize that I am a better person because of them. I owe much of my success in my career to the values and discipline the Blue Stars instilled in me. I have the greatest admiration for the parents, staff and sponsors who made it possible for me to be a part of this group. I hope that many will know the joys I had.
Author: Rich Albrecht
1967 VFW Nationals-New Orleans
3. Des Plaines Vanguard
6. Racine Scouts
7. Blue Rock
8. Milstadt Crusaders
9. Norwood Park Imperials
10. Blue Stars
12. Bridgeport PAL
"Let Me Entertain You"
"Conneticut Regimental March"
"This is My Beloved"
"When Your Lover Has Gone"
"Our Day Will Come"