Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 1, 2013

Band, athletics teach vital lesson

— — Three days ago across the country Thanksgiving was observed with many traditions held by families all across the land.

One tradition in our house when I was growing up was watching the parades — then came football either watching on TV or for a period in the ’80s and ’90s, the WVU-Pitt game either in Morgantown or Pittsburgh.

But the day began with the parades. Today there is only one parade televised nationally, the Macy’s parade from New York City, the most recent being the 74th such event. I remember also as a kid watching that one and the Gimbel’s parade from Philadelphia. NBC had Macy’s, CBS had Gimbel’s, a parade that began in 1920, four years before the first in NYC.

It was 33 years ago that I and about 120 fellow Mount View High School band members got off our buses Thanksgiving morning in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, ran up its stairs and raised our hands in the air, imitating Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.” It was the starting point of the Gimbel’s parade.

It was a somewhat cold morning in Southeastern Pennsylvania but the nippy air did not bother us. We were excited to march through the historic city streets, past City Hall with its statue of William Penn looking down, wrapping up near Independence Hall.

For us kids from Gary, Welch, Kimball, Anawalt, Davy and the other areas that then comprised the Mount View School district to be at such a national event was the thrill of a lifetime.

Phil Wyatt was our band director and it was his foresight and leadership that got us to the streets of Philadelphia.

For nearly two years we worked to raise the money to make the trip. We sold cheese, held spaghetti and cabbage roll dinners, sold doughnuts — some containing fewer than 12 in the box, that’s a story for another day — and peddled a crazy product called “Drix” that was supposed to clean any and everything if you mixed it with the right amount of water. I think after all these years there is probably still a bottle somewhere in my mother’s house.

The trip, which would include three charter buses and a one-night stay in the Stadium Hilton next to Veterans Stadium and The Spectrum, would cost a whopping $10,000. I wonder how much we would have to raise today to make the same trip.

Following the parade we toured historic sites in Philadelphia and went back to the hotel for Thanksgiving dinner. On our way out of the city the bus I was on, bus two, was rear-ended by bus three on a rain-slickened street at a stoplight.

No one was injured but we did get to spend another night in the City of Brotherly Love as the bus company, I think it was Greene Coach out of Kingsport, Tenn., sent a pair of replacement buses to take us home the next morning.

The journey of the Mount View band to Philadelphia for the Gimbel’s parade was proof positive of our community coming together for a common cause. That same year the people of Iaeger did a similar thing as they helped send the IHS band to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Music and athletics are essential to personal development and it is unfortunate that when budgets are tight those are the first areas that are cut.

I and many people who I played in the band and on the baseball field understand now the importance of our participation in those activities 30-plus years ago.

In music you learn to be part of a team. While you individually play your instrument, you are but a piece of a much larger organization working for a common goal.

In sports you have a job to do as part of a team, also working for a common goal.

In addition to instilling discipline and teamwork, music and athletics teach self-discipline and show one how to work to achieve something — be it a victory, touchdown, a marching formation, a piece of music.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things, including the opportunities I and my friends have had as a result of people in the community supporting local schools, teams and organizations. It may not mean much to you when a kid in the neighborhood knocks on your door and asks if you’ll support the local Cub Scout troop, or the school band, but to the members of those organizations it means a lot and can help create a lifetime of memories.

Bob Redd is a sports writer for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at bredd@bdtonline.com.

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