A band parent is interviewed by KDSX Radio

before students left on the trip to Washington, D.C.


1953 Denison High School Band


1953 DHS Band Trip to Washington, D.C.

for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Inauguration



Fifty-two years ago last January an excited group of Yellow Jacket Band members were on cloud nine as they stood in line to appear in the inaugural parade for President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005, they will be waiting in line for a very different parade in Denison, TX, but were almost as excited to be seeing some of their high school comrades again, some for the first time since that 1953 school years ended.

Denison Alumni Association honored this 1953 band during its recognition reception following Denisonís Homecoming Parade. The band members also were recognized Friday night at the Homecoming Football Game. This time, however, they left their musical instruments safely stored at home.

Lavada Cuthbertson, drum major in 1953,  rounded up 22 members of that 1953 band, who this time rode on a special float in the parade instead of marching.

Appearing with Lavada, who also serves as secretary of the Alumni Association, were Alice Schick Smith, Carol Coker Yelton, Dean Thompson, Wayne Scally, Carl Bilderback, Dick Hall, Don Furman, Charlotte Preston Gravely, Carolyn Buford Greer, Myra Buford Garbor, Norma Byrd Hauser, Mary Ruth Holland Ford, Shirley Ford Gunter, Eugene Kriebel, David McAnaney, Waynette Penson Willis, Gloria Russell Simmons, Tom Smith, Betty Walton Watson, and Barbara Woolsey Venable.

George Hagans had planned to attend, but a family emergency when his wife's daughter and family lost everything in Hurricane Katrina at Gulfport, MS., canceled his trip.

During the reception band members were recognized and presented with a photo of the group as it prepared to leave for the Washington trip and a special memento from Lavada.  

Norman Talley, who is among those being honored, called recently with a couple of reminisces of the trip.

Norman said the area in D.C., where the band stood and waited for the parade to begin was next to a huge cannon that had been loaded on a trailer to be in the parade. It was called an atomic cannon, but he didnít think it was ever used in combat. "It certainly was a big, mean looking machine though," he said.

Before the groupís train left D.C. to come home, he remembered, everyone was wishing for a good old hamburger. A small mom and pop cafť was located near the train station so they ordered more than 70 hamburgers, one for everyone. One man was busy cooking all the burgers, and he put them in a cardboard box.

When the bandsters started to eat the burgers, all they found was a ball of ground beef between two pieces of sandwich bread. There was no mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles or onions, just white bread and a small ball of meat. No one would eat them so as the train departed, the burgers were dumped off the back of the train.

Norman said he was sorry for littering, but those Washingtonians certainly didnít know anything about Texas hamburgers.

Letís hope that a hungry pack of animals had a feast on those "anything but Texas" hamburgers.

Norman fell in love with Washington and in 1981, while he was a Denison elementary school counselor, he organized a trip for 18 students to go to the Capitol city to view the presidential inaugural parade and acceptance speech by President Ronald Reagan.

All stops were pulled out in 1953 when the band received an invitation to march in the parade. New uniforms were purchased at a cost of $6,500 to make a good impression on those watching from the sidelines and on television as they represented the Presidentís birthplace.

Holsum Bakery donated a weekís receipts to the trip and Adams Auto Store gave all its profits for a day. Interstate Theaters, who at that time operated three movie houses in Denison, sent a cash donation and the Denison Lions Club gave new meaning to the saying "selling like hotcakes," when lines were long and hungry for a flapjack supper that brought in more than $1,000.

Gold Star Mothers collected $1 a name to be put on a telegram of congratulations to be sent to Eisenhower.

Band members took their mid-term exams early and as luck would have it, a flu epidemic hit, sidelining almost one-fourth of the band with only four days to go. But you never saw such quick recoveries. When it came time to leave, only two of the 72 band members were unable to make the trip. One was still sick with the flu and another was injured in a house explosion.

On Saturday morning, the day of departure, Band Director Larry Thomas called a "make-it-or-miss-it" rehearsal and guess what - everyone made it.

Signs reading "Washington or Bust," "Yellow Jacket Band," and "We Like Ike" were taped to the sides of the Katy Texas Special cars when the train pulled out o the station. Aboard were excited, jittery band members and looking on were a lot of proud parents and friends waving from the Katy Depot platform, no doubt with tears in many eyes. - Donna Hunt


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