Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Life and Times of Larry and Ernest

(Run originally 2/6/04 on our old site)

Ernest Simpson

On the Road with the Band

In the early 50’s, we were old enough, but barely proficient enough on our horns, to be taken into the performing band at Searcy High. We had done some small performances and a few halftime shows, with not much precision marching. We were more about pageantry and showmanship, as the talents of Bill Laas led us into those type shows that enthralled the halftime crowds.

A big trip for the band was coming up in the spring, the annual State Band Festival in Hot Springs. This was our first opportunity to travel with the band, and we were so looking forward to it.

I do recall the Waverly Hotel, on one of our early trips, mainly because it had an elevator, and we loved running the thing up and down with great gusto. The hotel guests did not appreciate our pre-adolescent fun, and we were called down several times for tying up the elevator.

The first night there, we could certainly not go to sleep, with the excitement of being there, and all the fun we were having. However, our performance was the next day and, as I recall, our performance included both marching and playing a concert. Mr. Laas wanted his troupe in top-notch shape, and intended our curfew for rest.

He had allowed us to select our roommates, and there were four of us: Thomas Rongey, Frank Thompson, Larry Maness, and I. We had a great time all day, and the prospect of going to bed early was not in the least appealing.

The first lights out came at around 10:00, and we were dutiful, the lights did go out. The fun kept going, however. Laughter and noise, crashing into furniture, total bedlam, all in the name of having fun. The second warning came with Mr. Laas knocking on the door, along with a couple of senior counselors or band parents, I don’t recall who was with him. I think Marvin Sowell was the Sergeant at Arms, with help from the drum major, Larry Killough.

They left, and things were quiet for a moment. There was too much energy to keep down, though and, soon, we were back at again.

At about 12:30 there was a loud banging on the door. One of the guys opened the door, and I dived under the covers, with my face to the wall.

Mr. Laas came in and gave a stern lecture about our violating the curfew, and stated we would have to be punished. He walked over and took the big white leather Sam Browne belt from my uniform and folded it, and told them each to bend over. Larry asked, “Do you want me to wake Ernest?” Mr. Laas said, “No, that’s O.K., let him sleep”.

He did a great job, for each either grunted or jumped and shouted ‘Ow!’ when the belt hit home. One lick each, and hard enough to make an impression.

When he had finished, there was another lecture, but this time it was heard very well. I was too frightened to move, and did not want to be included in this execution.

Mr. Laas left, and turned out the lights as he left. There were a few whispers from my friends once they realized everyone was gone, but it was soon quiet at last.

I asked them what happened the next morning, and they told me. They did not want to discuss it, and I let the matter drop.

I think Mr. Laas knew he could have had four swats, instead of three, very easily, and I’m pretty sure he wondered how anyone could sleep in that raucous din. It was never mentioned again, but I noticed the leather in the old belt had two large stress breaks in the finish where it had done its work. I used that belt two or three years, and inspected the breaks every time I put it on. The belt took punishment too, on the behinds of three friends, which could have easily included me.

Later in life, as a band director in Arkansas for many years, I took my students to Hot Springs, too. It was very reminiscent of those early days that were so very precious in memory. As a teacher, I now walked those same streets with band kids only, this time, I was the teacher, and they were the students. Funny thing, with many of they stunts they pulled, a surprising number were thwarted ahead of time. They couldn’t understand how I could predict what they might try.

They just would never believe that my friends and I had, in most cases, tried anything they tried twenty years before. What fun.


Post a Comment

<< Home