History of the "Original Yanks" Drum and Bugle Corps
In the mid 1950's a period of prosperity existed in Northern New York where virtually every Fire Department and American Legion sponsored a field day including a parade. There were many musical groups including school bands, drum and bugle corps and bagpipe units that participated in such parades. Also in this period, many school bands were decreasing availability due in part to school centralizations.
As a result of this, fire departments and American Legions were often left without music to march with. In search of an answer to the disappearance of many bands and a need for music some of our local veterans and musicians decided to explore the possibility of starting a drum corps.
There was a citizen of Antwerp, NY who had been a member of the Carthage Drum and Bugle Corps who was interested in the project. The individual was Don Lalone. Two other individuals who did a lot of leg work and contacts to put the unit together were Alan Feickert and Nile Liscomb who went to local organizations and every merchant in the village in search of donations and funding. The two largest donations came from the Antwerp Fire Department and the Antwerp American Legion Post 916, with the post donations being more than double of any other organization.
The meeting of the American Legion the night of the proposed Corps sponsorship was a highly debated one and one of the longest in their history, but did result in the commitment to sponsorship.
The original bugles were English made one valve "Harke" horns. The corps -known as the Antwerp Drum and Bugle Corps at this time was able to purchase them at dealer cost through the generosity and consideration of local jeweler Elmer J. Burtis. Our drums were purchased through Mr. Fred Bastian owner of Schmidt Music in Watertown, NY.
Once equipment was obtained the task of uniforms was the next challenge. With slim finances the group had to have every individual purchase their own uniforms with their own personal finances. The original uniform worn the first season was army brown, (not camouflaged), khaki's with a field hat.
The khaki's were worn by a very proud group who performed so well at the St. Lawrence County Fair in August 1957 that they were disqualified from prizes because the judges thought they were a professional unit from then nearby Camp Drum (now Fort Drum). Despite explanations this ruling never was changed. Needless to say the incident greatly stimulated the urgency and need to have a different uniform.
With member and community input a committee searched for ideas for a truly unique uniform that could be remembered. After current trend and historical reviews the group picked the "Yanks" uniform using a copy of style worn by the units from this area during the Civil War. After picking our "Original Yanks" Civil War uniform the group also purchased each member a jacket similar to what our current day director wears. Depending on the type of function the jackets were worn to make up a Class A uniform.
In the original corps all members were residents of Antwerp and numbered 20 with Donald LaLone as director. The corps was governed by a five man Board of Directors that made all financial decisions. The corps went to an elected officer system in 1960 until the late 1980's. In 1988 the corps returned to a Board of Directors for operations and management.
Our early practices were held at the Antwerp Town Hall during winter and spring until it was nice enough to go outdoors for practice. William C. Heck, music teacher for the newly formed Indian River School District, was asked to write some music and help the corps learn it. Our early music was limited because we only had one valve to play with. Early tunes included "You're in the Army now", "Coast Guard Marching Song", "Indian River Stomp", "Long, Long Trail", and the "Saints go Marchin' in"
Jim Heidt was the first out of town member allowed membership in 1960. The corps became incorporated in 1972. Membership was composed of men, 18 and older, when in 1984 Sigrid Jamba was the first female admitted. The age now ranges from 16-80 with some members having more than 40 years in the Corps.
The Corps has participated in many types of parades through the years including the New York State conventions of the American Legion and the New York State Volunteer Fireman where we received many first place finishes.
The new century brought many changes and new music to the Corps. In 2006 we celebrated our 50th anniversary with an all weekend event that brought back alumni and current members to the legion to remanence and catch up. A parade in honor of our alumni and charter members was held in Antwerp with our alumni marching in the ranks once again.
As part of our 50th anniversary the Corps was able to replace our aging 2 valve (piston/rotor) horns with 3 valve G bugles. It allowed us to expand our repertoire to include songs that used the 3rd valve.
The Original Yanks have honored our Veterans with a continuous supply of buglers for Taps details at military funerals and other memorial functions when appropriate.
There were some who made the statement that "the corps won't last more than 5 years."