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Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

Band alumni agree: football pregame run-in unforgettable

Tradition-rich entry onto Memorial Stadium field among fondest memories listed by former members

February 22, 2004

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Tim Weeks distinctly remembers the first time he lined up in the bowels of Memorial Stadium, waiting to run down the stairs for the first time as a member of the Kansas University Marching Jayhawks.

"Most of us were scared to death we would fall down or be tripped," recalled Weeks, who graduated in 1968.

The marching band's dramatic entrance was the most common memory mentioned when the Journal-World and KU Alumni Association asked KU fans and alumni for their favorite recollections about being a member of the band.

The request was made through KU Connections, the monthly e-mail newsletter published by the Alumni Association. It is part of the "Feather the Flock" campaign, a joint effort of the Journal-World, Alumni Association, Endowment Association, athletic department, School of Fine Arts and the Topeka Jayhawk Club.

The campaign last week met its goal of raising $150,000 for new marching band uniforms but will continue through the end of the month to raise money toward the School of Fine Arts' goal of creating a $1 million endowment for the band. The endowment would allow KU to provide stipends for band members.

Shannon Morford, a former band member who graduated in 1994, also related fond memories of the band's pregame entrance.

"Your heart is pounding and you are streaming with nervous energy," she said. "Then the drumline starts their cadence and everyone starts yelling. It gives me goosebumps to think about it now."

Connstance Shivers-Smith, a 1979 graduate who now lives in Kansas City, Kan., remembers the run-in for another reason. She was waiting in the wings before a KU-Missouri game in the late 1970s when three Tiger fans were upset about the band blocking the stadium entrance.

"We explained why we did it, but they were having no explanations," she recalled. "All of a sudden, it was our turn to go out of the chute, but we were grabbed by those MU fans. A scuffle occurred. No one was seriously injured but three clarinet players were a little late getting out on the field."

Jackson Dean, a 1939 KU graduate, has other less-than-pleasant memories of playing in the band.

"In 1935, the hill in the winter was just slightly warmer than the North Pole, as was the marching practice times," said Dean, who lives in Tulsa, Okla."During the marching season it seems that I had my sax reed in my mouth (to thaw out) more times than when I was playing."

The weather also was a problem one summer, when a band tour of Kansas was canceled because of dust storms.

Carla Johnson, a 1986 graduate, was in the 1982 band that first wore the uniforms set to be retired this fall.

"We had the distinct privilege of receiving them still in the plastic," she said. "I remember sliding the shoulder drapes out of the packaging, and all the band members 'oohing' and 'aahing.' I'm so thrilled that a new class of freshmen will be receiving that honor next year."

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