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Marching Band Reflects on JFK Inauguration Performance

By: Violet Ikonomova Email
By: Violet Ikonomova Email

The St. Marys High School Marching Band plays at football games on its own turf and at schools around the Mid-Ohio Valley.

But half a century ago, it was a different time.

"Most people had TVs, but they were black and white, and we didn't have cell phones," Yvonne Farley, a former band member, told an auditorium filled with students.

In 1961, the SMHS marching band was playing at Cleveland browns games and historic events like JFK's inauguration.

More than a dozen members who attended the momentous event visited their Alma Mater on Tuesday to reflect on that day fifty years ago.

The group commemorated the anniversary by telling today's St. Marys students their story.

"We knew that at any competition or any parade, we could annihilate any other band," said Farley.

It was that confidence that lead percussionist Dale Lowther to push and get the marching band entry to the inauguration.

"This was a big challenge for a seventeen year old young man at that time," said Lowther.

He contacted his local congressman, Ken Hechler, who represented West Virginia's fourth district at the time.

"Dale Lowther, he was a spark plug!" Hechler, now 96 and in a wheel chair, told hundreds of students.

The band eventually made it to D.C, braving a negative seven degree wind chill to perform.

"I felt like there had been nails hammered into my fingers i was so cold," recalled Farley.

The bitter cold on that Jan 20, 1961, and John F. Kennedy's smile, made for a memory the "Spark Plug" said he'll never forget.

"It kinda brought tears to my eyes, which i called they were 'tearcicles' more than anything else."


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