History

 

Part 2, a 35-year look back – reprinted from July 22, 1988, DCW, Volume 17, Number 8

[Vickers’ note: I will again insert some additional thoughts that further explain some of the details of the European journey. The tour began in West Germany, two years before East and West became one united country on October 3, 1990.]

This past month, the Madison Scouts set out for their 16-day tour of Europe. The tour would take them across the Rhine River in West Germany, Windmill country in The Netherlands, and finally to Shakespeare country in England.

For the Scouts, what made this tour more successful and interesting than any other was that it took place in foreign countries and that the feelings and emotions of those who participated were intense throughout.

Deutschland

Sunday, June 20 . . . the Scouts finished a contest in Normal, IL, and began to pack buses and load the truck for the trip to O’Hare International Airport the following morning at 5:00 AM. Corps instructors and support staff began a long night of labeling boxes and coordinating a system to track the equipment once it began its journey overseas.

[Vickers’ note: June 20 into June 21 was a very long day for those of us charged with getting everything packed and onto the truck. This involved putting multiple sopranos, sleeping bags, and anything else that could be consolidated in large boxes. We were trying to cut back on the total number of “luggage” and other items going into the plane to save money. Significantly different than today, I was able to arrange for the semi to go onto the tarmac next to the two planes to unload. Today that would, of course, be impossible.]

After little rest, the corps set out for O’Hare. Three buses and one truck arrived at the airport at 9:00 AM Monday morning. If anyone has ever dealt with a group project, you are probably aware of the difficulties experienced when trying to keep things together. This was no special case.

[Vickers’ note: We had prepared two separate inventories to make retrieving all the equipment, luggage, and other items we took along, including some basic cooking items, some non-perishable sugar-free drink mixes, and other food that we could take along. Half the contingent went to Frankfurt, Germany, through Atlanta, GA, and the other half through Dallas, TX. Amazingly, both flights arrived in Frankfurt within two hours of each other which made accumulating everyone’s personal luggage and the equipment a challenge. We had arranged three coaches and two box trucks to transport all the equipment and uniforms.] Half the luggage and equipment were loaded onto each of the two box trucks that were totally empty which posed some challenges.]

Shortly before boarding the two flights, the bags were tagged and loaded onto the plane. Aboard the separate flights 160 Madison Scouts corps members, instructors, and support staff departed Chicago, along with a number of the fans and parents who were going along. In Atlanta, we were joined by the Pride of Cincinnati Board of Directors.

On the Atlanta flight, spirits were none too settled. The intensity was prevalent and obvious just from reading the faces of the eager corps members. The corps was headed for something they were not quite sure about, but they were willing to take the bull by the horns. The flight to Europe was exciting.

Surging ahead in time and spanning halfway around the glove in less than a day, one might think of sleep. On the contrary. During our entire eight-hour journey, Scouts and supporters spent a great deal of time conversing. For a commercial flight, it was like one big tour bus – everyone knew each other. Several visits to the bar tray were in order before we touched the ground at 8:00 AM.

Perhaps when we stepped off the plane in Germany, we all began to realize this was no ordinary tour. The faces and the voices were not familiar. What was once a dream, a vision was now a reality. The Madison scouts had stepped aboard foreign lands. From the looks and sounds of corps members, everyone was getting a quick lesson in the language barrier.

The two planes arrived a few hours apart in Frankfurt, West Germany, but after quick baggage claims and clearing customs, the corps was off for a Rhine River cruise. Obviously, many of us suffered from jet lag, but still couldn’t comprehend sleeping when there was so much to see, so much to experience. The cruise was a fantastic beginning.

[Vickers’ note: A friend of mine who was drum major of the Sky Ryders when we marched together in the late 1960s had taken a European tour in 1985 using one of the suggested tours from one of those PBS travel programs with Rick Steves that began in St. Goar and traveled down the Rhine to Rudesheim. That’s the itinerary I decided would be a great introduction to Germany and Europe.]

Everyone was excited to see the mountainsides bordering the Rhine River. Although a few of us had dozed off, Director Scott Stewart took a half-hour cap nap only to be the center of a humorous series of pranks. A few members took beer cans and wine bottles, placing them beside the sleeping Stewart. The event was worth quite a few laughs.

[Vickers’ note: The trip from Rudesheim to Bad Münder was much of the night, and we arrived at the Starriders rehearsal building that had been arranged, and everyone unloaded into the building and fell quickly to sleep. It had been a very full, but tiring two days with little sleep.]

Bad Münder, West Germany

Wednesday, June 23 . . . The corps rose early for an eight-hour rehearsal at a soccer field near our housing. Housing was a great sports facility on the edge of town. At that point, everyone was happy to finally slow down and have a nice place to hang their hat.

Bad Münder was the first opportunity for the corps to get a warm shower. Despite the lack of sleep, adrenaline was pumping, and the guys couldn’t sit still. A great tour was ahead.

From the beginning of the day, the skies were cloudy, and occasionally rain hit the field. Evidently, Germany takes a little more pride in their lawns. The owner of the soccer field would not allow the corps to march on the field until the following day. The corps rehearsed inside for the entire day instead.

Bad Münder was an excellent starting ground. The kitchen crew, souvenir crew, and equipment crew all had challenges awaiting them throughout the next 15 days. This spot was like a short class that better prepared everyone for the foreign way of life. It was at this point that we began to realize just how helpful and supportive Germany really was.

Without the help of the Starriders drum corps and our tour group's coach and truck drivers, the Madison Scouts’ tour would not have been as successful.

Try loading two trucks' worth of equipment into one moving van. The possibilities are not endless. As a result, enter the equipment truck team. A complete makeover to the truck's rear would occur at least five times throughout the trip. Shelving needed to be built, and equipment had to be stacked and shoved into every available nook and cranny.

The kitchen crew is another story in itself. Starriders Director Ortrud Scheibler assisted the cook team in feeding 160 hungry mouths. One interesting event was the opening of thousands of single-serving Crystal Lite packages to make lemonade for the corps. Quite a few laughs were had over that event.

[Vickers’ note: I remember that task. Cooks Mary and Ollie Mae determined it took, I believe, 80 packets to mix with water in the large coolers we brought along. A half-dozen of us did this in the Starriders’ corps hall, and after a short time, there was so much powder in the air that it looked like an opium den! Ollie Mae had purchased several food items in Madison before we left and didn’t realize the Chrystal Lite wasn’t in bulk packaging.]

Meanwhile, not speaking a hint of German left our kitchen leader, Ollie Mae Banks, disadvantaged. How do you say “Baked beans and franks” in German? Also, between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM, Germany shuts down for two hours, so local inhabitants can take a daily breather.

Anyhow, the souvenir crew did the biggest battle with headaches. Many of us pictured customs as a Russian war camp where strange-looking fellows with big guns would run through our things with a fine tooth comb, demanding an explanation. Not quite, but close. Souvenir leader Henry Barney went head-to-head with customs officials to try and sort through claims for t-shirts.

During his bout with customs, Barney was assisted by Starrider drum major Ingo. Apparently, Henry received quite a lesson in stunt driving on the Autobon to finally get closer to retrieving all the souvenirs created especially for the tour.

A visit with the Pied Piper

After a long, wet day of rehearsal, the corps had a free evening in Hameln, a small town a few short miles from Bad Münder. But before arriving in Hameln, the corps took a few moments to watch the finish of the Starriders’ rehearsal. The faces of the German corps were enough to tell the story of their welcoming the Scouts. The local corps members were overwhelmed to see 128 Scouts watch their rehearsal and exit with a standing ovation. The feeling was pride.

Hameln was interesting, and the corps had a chance to mingle with some locals at a nearby disco. Others took advantage of some local pubs around town since they were the only places open after 8:00 PM.

The pubs are interesting. The music is in English and noticeably familiar, but everyone speaks German. A disco that housed only four people at one time was completely overcome by nearly 50 Americans just looking for a good time. The night at the disco was one of the times that made the entire trip worthwhile. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. The corps made it back to the housing by midnight and slept.

Thursday, June 24 . . . 8:00 AM, the corps rose for another eight-hour rehearsal. The rain was not so apparent this time, and the corps marched on one of the best fields ever. Still facing problems, all three support groups experienced a few more difficulties. The equipment truck took on a new face (shelf-wise), and the souvenir crew took on yet another day without their t-shirts.

Needless to say, everyone was exhausted, but things finally started to come together. That evening the Starriders hosted a warm reception at a local banquet hall where beer flowed, and the language barrier became a bit less of a hassle.

Opah, Opah, Opah (the Scouts’ language) Bad Münder

Friday, June 24 . . . 8:00 AM rise and off for a show and clinic in Hameln. At this point, the feelings of the corps guys were approaching a peak. The sights and sounds were all out of the ordinary, and the appreciation was almost illuminating. Old women and young children took time to discover who made these sounds.

The Starriders and other corps looked at the Scouts as though there were from another planet. They couldn’t believe a corps practiced that intensely. The clinic was an excellent morale builder. Everyone paid close attention to the corps and treated each Scout like a corps director. A few of the Scouts described the feeling as nothing short of self-satisfying.

The show that evening was wonderful. The corps did a fine job, and the exhibition at the end was unreal. The Scouts’ performance was electrifying and exciting. They took charge of the stadium. A few people in the crowd were even crying as the Scouts played the German National Anthem. The Madison corps was welcomed to Germany and were free to roam about the country as if it were theirs.

The equipment truck bout was not yet decided. We found at midnight that there were no lights in the truck's box. It took the crew an extra hour to finish loading. At 2:00 AM, the corps departed for The Hague. 

Holland

Arriving at 8:00 AM, the corps had a few hours to sleep before brunch, provided by the Don Bosco corps, and rehearsal near the Drum Corps Holland prelims site.

During the contest at The Hague Bingoal Football Stadium, a European soccer championship game occurred between Holland and the Soviet Union. At least eight to ten television sets appeared around the stadium. Soccer has an incredible effect on the people of Holland.

Similar to our pro football, the attentiveness to soccer is about 20 times that of the American game. Celebration is just interesting. “Olay, Olay, Olay, Olay, We are the Champions” rang through the streets as Holland defeated the Soviets. The event almost made one wonder whether there was a drum corps contest. Nevertheless, it was a neat part of the European experience.

(Vickers’ note: I vividly remember all the orange flags and towels being waved around and in the stadium. There was a break between prelims, on purpose, and finals so the Dutch people across the country could celebrate the significant achievement.]

Fourteen corps competed in the show, including Beatrix from Hilversum, a corps that will include the United States on its tour this summer. The corps was our host and became quite friendly throughout our stay.

Once again, the corps put on a great show as Drum Major Dan Feeney yelled out commands in Dutch and waved an orange flag above his head. The feeling was described as intense Every time the corps performed, the crowd screamed for more. The stadium waited in anticipation for yet another tune.

After the show, the corps departed for Hilversum and housing with Beatrix and Avant Courir host families. Several corps members stayed with each family for the next two nights. Experiencing this was the closest any of us got to real European living.

Many members commented on how “at home” they had felt among the Dutch families and the people of Holland. “We experienced a taste of their lives, a few corps members said.

For some, a long-term friendship was the result of an overnight stay. We could have spent days exchanging thoughts and ideas. Perhaps a corps tour is a step forward toward world peace. Well, it sure seemed that way.

Sunday, June 26 . . . An eight-hour rehearsal and clinic that afternoon. Sunday evening was one of the highlights of the trip. Beatrix rented a riding stable, providing the corps with a very elegant barbeque. Included in the feast were some of the best food and a DJ and band. The band and horn instructors Scott Boerma and Craig Mason did a duet of Willie and Julio’s great tune, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, and the two did justice to the tune, and it seemed to lock in the fact that this tour was indeed a good time.

Later on, Beatrix did a short standstill concert followed by the Scouts’ theme song, You’ll Never Walk Alone, which was sung by the entire Madison group and was very indicative of the camaraderie among corps members. If you could have been present at that moment, there’s no doubt you would have felt the spirit of drum corps in your blood. Everything that this whole organization has tried to teach the guys, everything that is important about the experience, can be summed up in that song. It is almost scary.

Amsterdam

Monday, June 27 . . . At 12:00 PM, the corps converged at Beatrix Hall in Hilversum, said their goodbyes, and set out for a canal tour and free day in Amsterdam. Notably, sarcasm set in. If there is one thing that corps guys have learned, it’s the ability to substitute sarcasm for humor.

We were supplied with an interesting tour guide of British descent throughout the tour. The chap was quite interesting and spoke very slowly. The trouble was no one knew what the man was doing, and as a result, he became a figure of sarcasm. Similarly, a tour guide on one of the canal boats also shared this humor. Just about everyone was game for the humorous comments. All in good taste, the corps was feeling at home in Europe.

The corps experienced some interesting yet exciting sights of Holland. If you are unaware, Amsterdam is a breeding ground for a society with low morals. Drugs and sex are quite evident. But, if the sight of these two were taken in moderation, they could be tolerated and looked upon as an addition to the country's character.

There are so many different kinds of people in Amsterdam. The guys appreciated the opportunity to “see the world.” And Amsterdam is a pretty fair representation of that world that has just shrunk. Spirits were high throughout the day, and everyone had a great time.

That evening the corps headed for the Hook Von Holland, where we boarded an overnight ferry departing for England. The ferry was an experience in itself as well. Each of us pictured some lawn chair on the deck accompanied by a view of the English Channel and a cool breeze to boot. Not so.

The ferry was a huge ship, similar to one that might haul coal or oil. The inside was nice, housing a bar and casino. But the deck chairs were like airplane seats. Each person was issued a seat but no pillow or blanket. The Scouts made the best of it and used the bar and the casino as their home for a good part of the time.

[Vickers’ note: The ship was so large that three buses and equipment trucks pulled aboard, but we were not allowed to stay on the buses for the overnight trip. When the corps was ready to disembark at the Harwich dock, and vehicles drove onto solid ground, everyone got back on, and we set off for the next stop. Later we discovered that one of the instructors, Steve Weekes, was missing. He had fallen asleep and missed getting off the board. Thanks to Scott Stewart’s “green sheet” itinerary, Steve figured out a way to travel into London, where he boarded another train that took him to Coventry and back with the corps before the corps arrived. He showed some great ingenuity in a foreign country!]

Part 3 will appear in the August issue of Drum Corps World, set to be released on Friday, August 4. Also included will be a wrap-up of Kip and John’s memories and reviews of the four European competitions where the corps appeared.

Future Events

21 Apr
MSAA Monthly Meeting
Date Apr 21, 2024 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

These meetings are open to all alumni of the Madison Scouts. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to receive a Zoom invitation to attend any meeting. We welcome all alumni to join us. Times listed are in Central Time.

27 Apr
Rockin' For A Cure
Apr 27, 2024 6:30 PM - 10:30 PM

MSARP All-Stars Alumni Brass Ensemble perform and group singing of You’ll Never Walk Alone. 

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