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200907 September 7, 2020


Marching Band Memories
Curt Lewis
LHS '66

    Every year after school adjourned for the summer, band field drills would commence for the next football season. These would begin by practicing basic maneuvers in smaller squads, trying to teach the newbies their right from their left, etc. Exceptional hard cases would be compelled to carry a rock in their right hand to distinguish the difference. The squads would then merge into larger units until the band as a whole would run through the fundamentals. As things started coming together on the large scale, we would re-divide into smaller units to practice the basic maneuvers that would comprise the first halftime show of the season. 

    Mr. Foley, our band director, unfortunately had a penchant for the corny. This was not a good thing for a mediocre marching band. The desired display might involve a moving image, such as a Ferris wheel at a carnival. Or possibly a spelling-out of specific words. Much of this involved depicting moving, non-linear shapes. This is incredibly difficult for the individuals (appearing as dots) on the field who are trying to be intelligible to observers in the bleachers. Individuals comprising a rotating circle that is in itself moving as a larger circle have a tough job. 

    It seems in hindsight that we practiced marching from the start of the summer break until the first football game, but there surely must have been a break sometime during the summer. We practiced in the evenings to help mitigate the sometimes-brutal Alabama heat. The upside of the summer drudgery was the social contact. The majority of my close friends were band members since we spent so much time together. If you had a sweetie that was in the band, you might get in a little smooching on the periphery of these practices. It was an excuse to be out of the house, and you milked it for what it was worth. 

    The halftime show for the first game of the season ultimately involved a combination of precision drill and corny departure. The shows were narrated over the house PA system by a band member that was not on the field. After the first show, some minor modification would be implemented in the week that followed, and the modified show would be performed at the next game. These modifications were normally practiced during the regular last-period band class (weather permitting) with supplementary evening practices as required. By the end of football season, we had been performing basically the same show every week, and everyone pretty much had enough. 
    I suppose it was like a team sport in some respects. We encouraged each other along, tried to point our bandmates in the right direction when things began to fall apart on the field, and socialized with each other in the process. We celebrated our small accomplishments, and commiserated over our shortcomings. We formed life-long friendships and animosities, as well as short- and long-term romances (with a few eventual matrimonies). 

    As fate would have it, I was in the band during my first year of college at New Mexico State University. The experience was similar in some ways, but much different in others. For example, we did not have the preceding summer to practice our first football show, so everything was of necessity much better-organized. Everyone already knew the right from their left (thanks, Mr. Foley). The completely hopeless marching band candidates had already been weeded out prior to college, so there was a basic level of competence that was new to me. We could put together a credible halftime show very quickly because of this. 

    Friendships, animosities, and romances still formed but were generally shorter-term and had less impact than those of high school. The opportunities were much better. Doc Severinson joined as a featured soloist for one of our concerts. I was part of a smaller-group concert at the federal penitentiary in La Tuna, Texas, an eye-opening experience that convinced me there is nothing in the world worth going to prison over. 

    Ultimately the best thing that came from my band experiences was the realization that, at least for me, music was not a desirable way to make a living. I loved music, but had no desire to become a music educator and lacked the talent for a livelihood as a performer. I have continued my involvement with musical performance at some level throughout my life, and find it to be a considerable sanity enhancer. 

My Personal Top 10 
Important Places While Growing Up in Huntsville
The Countdown From 10 To 1 
#10 The Grand News Stand
#9 The Lyric Theatre
Last Week - #8 Central Presbyterian Church 
This Week - #7 Goldsmith-Schiffman Field

Goldsmith-Schiffman Field
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

     Goldsmith-Schiffman Field – The Alabama Historical Association’s plaque on the wall reads:

  •  On January 25, 1934, Oscar Goldsmith, Lawrence B. Goldsmith, Annie Schiffman Goldsmith, Robert L. Schiffman, and Elsie Strauss Schiffman gave this property to the City of Huntsville for an athletic field. The gift was in memory of Betty Bernstein Goldsmith (wife of Oscar and mother of Lawrence) and Betty Herstein Schiffman (wife of Isaac and mother of the other donors). The Civil Works Administration provided $6500 in materials and labor to construct the field, the first in Huntsville to accommodate night athletic games. The Acme Club raised funds for lighting through season ticket sales. Dedication exercises were held during the first night game on October 4, 1934, when 1000 fans saw Coach Milton Frank's Huntsville High team defeat Gadsden High.

    Before I read the plaque I didn't know when it was built, but on my first visit there I was sure it existed long before I was born. As a kid the place always looked more like a rock castle to me than a sporting arena.  It may seem strange in today's world, but back then I never even thought about where its name originated. It was always just Goldsmith-Schiffman Field.  I didn't know how to spell it. I didn't even know that Goldsmith was a Jewish name, nor did I care. I also don't remember when we quit going to football games there, but I do remember how modern the new Huntsville Stadium (now Milton Frank Stadium) looked compared to it. I know for sure that by the fall of 1962 Lee was playing their football games in the new Huntsville Stadium.

    For all the things I didn’t know or remember back then, there are many things that are wedged in my memory today.

    I remember the first time I went there was to see my brother, Don, play football. It may have been for Huntsville Jr. High or maybe even earlier, like East Clinton, or the Y.M.C.A. teams. He played a lot of games there. I never did participate in any sport there myself, but I hold the memories dear.

    It always seemed to be cold there, and hot chocolate became my favorite beverage for football games, even if I did burn my tongue almost every time I drank it. I have a bad memory of the night I had just purchased a cup of hot chocolate and was headed back to the seats when a group of Don’s friends approached me. One of them grabbed my hot chocolate and took a big swig of it and handed it back to me. I did not like to drink after anyone even back then and I went went ballistic and tried to throw the rest of the chocolate at him but with my overhead swing gravity took over and it all landed on me.

    I also have a bad memory of my then-time girlfriend leaving me sitting in the seat when she said she was going to the bathroom. After a long period of absence I went looking for her but she was no where to be found. I looked outside the gate and saw her locked in a lover's embrace with my best friend at the time. Her refusal to admit it (even though I saw it with my own eyes) led to one of the many breakups we had.

    I thought about Goldsmith-Schiffman field the first time I saw John Belushi in Animal House, in the scene where he was under the stands at the football practice and looking up the skirts of the cheerleaders.  There was a bunch of us boys who spent a lot of time crawling up and down the bleachers using the framework instead of the steps.  I take the fifth on whether or not I took advantage of being under there to look up any skirts, but I do admit to looking for coins on some of my adventures.

    I also remember that I either froze my butt off or got splinters in it from the wooden seats on almost every visit to the stadium. 

    Goldsmith-Schiffman was only used for junior high games for many years. After the city added a fifth high school the new stadium could not handle all the games and so some were played here again.  By that time, football crowds had shrunk to the point that the new stadium could not be filled.  Since Goldsmith was smaller, crowds frequently filled it and the feeling of playing in a full house returned to Huntsville.  It was so small that the first few rows in the stands could hear what the coaches were thinking! Some kids had enough nerve to actually climb the eight or 10 foot high east wall to sneak in. 

    You know, there is no way to calculate the positive effect the Goldsmith and Schiffman families had on the citizens and children of Huntsville when they generously donated the facility.  How many coaches, cheerleaders, doctors, ball players, parents, ticket takers, announcers and others have been positively affected?  Goldsmith-Schiffman Field has always given many folks a sense of pride in the neighborhood.

    Having not lived in Huntsville for so many years I was unaware of the controversy when someone’s research found the deed provided the property for an athletic field or playground "for the enjoyment of the white students of the public schools." Because of disuse the property’s owner reverted back to the family that originally gave it but has sense been deeded back to the city.

    In my own mind I know I will never forget the memories accumulated at that small rock surrounded piece of turf. Even with the few small bad memories still locked in my head, the good ones overpower them.

        Memphis, TN - What a shame it would have been and what a change in our lives it would caused if we had been subjected to our senior year in high school the way the class of 2021 is experiencing. Not only the lack of classroom contact, but also the sports, the assemblies, and the after school social contacts we experienced would all have been lost. I am sure my journal of my senior year would have suffered in content, but maybe in historical value it would have been interesting. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out. I have a step-grand daughter who is a senior in her school in Iowa this year so I will be following her activities with much interest. She is a cheerleader and a gymnastic and each of those activities are being hampered by the enforced social distancing required.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Last Week's Issue

Polly Gurley Redd

LHS '66

    Last week’s newsletter with the news about Mr. Jenkins was interesting to read. I was in one of his classrooms as a junior high student when he first came to Lee. It is hard for me to realize that he was our teacher and only 16 years older than we were, but that is from my older perspective. Everyone seems closer in age than they did when we were younger.

    As to favorite places, I am sure that you could have said the Presbyterian Church, or any church that we were all affiliated with, as I am sure that many of us had a favorite church and youth group that we belonged to. Mine was Nativity Episcopal. Thanks for this list.

Subject:     Your Church Reflections
Phil Rutledge
LHS '67

May I cut, paste and share your story about being invited to church as a kid with my children's pastor?  It is a very inspirational story. I enjoy keeping up through your efforts.  Thanks.

(Editor's Note: You may use anything you find posted in Lee's Traveller.)



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