12) 1962 – Oliver Finds Tight, Drumline Music in North Minneapolis

In the last post you read about Danny’s sleep over and Mom’s embarrassing mistake that destroyed my school friendships in the sixth grade. In this post you will read about the drum and bugle marching bands I was privileged to watch on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis was a checkerboard of black and white folks in 1962, each in various states racial agitation. Sometimes people would forget all that stuff and organize parades.

One of them I can recall featured a drum and bugle corps wearing shockingly bright, exquisitely detailed uniforms. The best moments came when they jammed with a kind of syncopated, pulsing, rhythmical beat. The drummers – sometimes 2 or 3 at in each section – would “talk” back and forth, just like “Drumline”, the movie. Dragging the cleats on their shoes between numbers against the asphalt on Plymouth avenue, would spell the movement of the procession as it made its way up the avenue, growing fainter by the minutes.

The clip above is from the movie “Drumline”.

A Sprout of Self-Confidence Breaks Through the Soil

Except for Danny’s sleep over and getting infectious hepatitis, fifth and sixth grades for me at John Hay Elementary were unremarkable.

Since I was borderline athletic, I did win four ribbons at Field Day in the 6th, which marked the onset of summer vacation. The recognition I received that day at the awards ceremony, was the first for me at any school function. My awards were an early sign that physical gifts and fitness sometimes set me apart from others. This was an early building block in my foundation and gave me a great deal of self-confidence.

Cauldron Ready to Boil Over

The beginning of 7th grade marked my entrance to Lincoln Junior High School. The school was directly behind John Hay Elementary, a few blocks from our house on 9th and Morgan, and was about 50% white and 50% black in the racial composition, as best I can remember. We had not yet heard the term “racially diverse” in my neighborhood in 1963. Although I remember several fist fights in the hallway, it is my sense that blacks and whites keep to their own sides and fights were not an everyday occurrence. Guns, knives and drugs were not prevalent in the school. However, most of the time the atmosphere was fully charged.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDXVgqmaYJk

Did you live in a bad neighborhood when you were growing up?

Next: One Sure Fire Way to Stop Bullying in Your Child’s School

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