Saturday, July 23, 2005


*Note: I wrote this weeks ago, but it took me this long to scan in the photos!

Every year around the 4th of July, I get nostalgic for the past. When I was growing up, I lived in a small town in northern New Jersey. Very typical small town America. Our 4th of July celebration was a huge all day affair, a bit more than typical. We had a great parade with more than just local bands and fire trucks and boy scouts and girl scouts (though we had those too). We had the best fireworks for miles around, and they were free to all borough residents. The fireworks were held at the high school football field; my family lived down the street, so we could walk there carrying a blanket and folding chairs, and then walk home again - no fighting traffic or worrying about finding a port-a-john.

But the best part of all for me was what I considered the essential element for 4th of July, The Morris County Militia. The MCM was a colonial style fife and drum corps made up of kids ages 8 to 18 (or high school graduation, which ever came first). It was started back in 1969, when I was only 2 years old. My older sister begged and begged to join and as soon as she was old enough she became a member. The corps grew in numbers as the patriotism of our country grew with the approach of 1976, the Bicentennial. Soon there were 3 different performing groups within the one corps. It was very competitive to get from "Little Corps" to "Big Corps" and be able to compete in state and regional competitions. The MCM soon became well known at musters and parades all over the northeast. They participated in and won all the competitions there were to win.

The Championship Corps, The Morris County Militia at its best:
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My sister was there in the thick of it, vying for top spots, hoping for coveted fife solos. She really became a talented player. I tried out fife playing for a while right in 1976, and had some fun, but I didn't have the same drive and at 9 years old I wasn't willing to put in the time and effort to become really good. I soon dropped out. But in 1979 I gave it another try. By this time Bicentennial Fever had dropped off and the corps wasn't as big any more. There was only one group playing at all the events, so right away I got to wear the "Big Corps" uniform and march with the big kids. My sister became my fife coach and helped me learn the songs and also the unwritten rules of getting along in the group. I ended up being an average player, but I had a lot of fun.

I'm in this picture!
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We traveled many places, like Old Fort Henry in Ontario, Walt Disney World (twice!), and musters in states up and down the East Coast, as well as countless parades in all kinds of weather from rain to blistering heat to snow (yes we played at Christmas too!). Our last performance was at a muster in Westbrook Connecticut, in 1981. It was bittersweet, because we didn't know the corps would be disbanding after our performance until the practice that morning. The practice run was probably the best show we had marched in a long time.

One thing the MCM did get to do at the height of their fame was to make a recording of their championship music. Of course back in the 70s it was on vinyl LOL. I made a tape of it and played that to death each year on the 4th of July, after I went away to college. Finally, 20 years later, the corps' director put together a CD of that recording plus a collection of performances from the last 3 years of the corps. I wasn't in the corps that recorded the original album, but I am on the second half of the CD! Now I can put it on my stereo (or computer - it is playing as I write this post!) LOUD and remember back to "the good old days."

My sister and I agree, there is nothing out there today to compare to what we had then. We (the Corps) were the pride of our town, had the honored place in the parade, played at the fireworks, and were known by almost everyone who lived there. We were a group of dedicated, hardworking kids who kept clean and achieved great things. It was a group that was entirely voluntary, we didn't get school credits or grades, or get paid. Everyone in that corps worked hard just for the pride of being in it and knowing we were great. I really miss it, and I wish there were something out there for my kids today like it.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

How cool! Can you believe we're nostalgic for the 70's and 80's. I've become an adult (Yuk!) I don't think even high school bands are big anymore. Our kids do miss out on some advantages of a "smaller" world. Of course, how I would have loved the internet as a kid.