Rochester (Irondequoit), NY United States
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The Point Pleasant Fire Department of Irondequoit, a suburb of Rochester, New York, sponsored a fire tournament team, marching band, color guard and parade drum & bugle corps in one form or another from 1899 to 1958. These groups collectively were known as the “Point Pleasant Pea Pickers” at least from 1946 to 1958, incorporating the nick-name used by the fire department. By the mid and late 1950’s many fire departments were no longer capable of sponsoring drum & bugle corps since corps were getting larger and more expensive to maintain and were disbanding at a quick rate.
The Point Pleasant parade corps and color guard was led by Kenneth VanWuyckhyuse, who was their Drum Major and Corps Director. At a weekly rehearsal Mr.VanWuyckhyuse announced that the Fire Department was no longer financially capable of sponsoring the corps and that they were considering folding. William A. McGrath Sr. had just brought his three oldest children to join the Point Pleasant corps from another unit across town, known as the Chili Crimson Cadets who had just experienced a similar fate.
Rather than see the Point Pleasant corps fold, Mr. Van Wuyckhyuse asked Mr. McGrath, who had earlier drum corps experience, to manage the corps. Mr. McGrath had been the Drum Major and Acting Commander of the 344th Cadet-Training Squadron Army Air Corps Drum & Bugle Corps of Oklahoma City in 1944 and later Director of the Barnard Fire Department Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps of Greece (Rochester) New York from 1949 to 1961.
Mr. McGrath reorganized the unit as an independent group, remaining with the Point Pleasant Fire Department as a parade corps, also continuing on as a field competition corps. The name was changed to the Point Pleasant Cadets. The corps went on to become the Monroe County and Western New York Parade Champions from 1959 to 1961.
The Point Pleasant Cadets grew in size and scope and Mr. McGrath felt that the name of the unit needed to be changed to reflect competition status. He held a staff meeting to get some ideas as to what to name the corps. Several good ideas came up! The one that stuck was from his daughter Karen. Since the majority of the membership of the corps had two favorite corps, the Garfield Cadet and the St. Kevin’s Emerald Knights, it was her suggestion to take the first name of each corps and combine them into the Emerald Cadets. Mr. McGrath liked the idea, as it also fit in with his Army Air-Corps training days where the training unit that he was in was known as the “Air-Cadets”. The corps, still affiliated with the Point Pleasant Fire Department, officially became the Emerald Cadets of Point Pleasant Incorporated, better known as the Emerald Cadets.
In 1961 Mr. McGrath along with his wife Irene, who worked in the capacity of publicity director, had aspirations of changing from a parade corps to a competitive field marching and maneuvering corps. Irene wrote a monthly article for the old Drum Corps World informing drum corps enthusiasts of the latest developments of the Emerald Cadets and what was happening in Western New York. From 1961 to 1965, the horn line was instructed by Armand Bruni (no relation to Vince) and Ed Cozzolino. The business manager was Phil Smith. The marching instructor was Fred O’Connor. The drum-line was instructed by Guy Iannello, Larry Saxman and John Russi. The quartermaster was Ray Cody Sr. The Drum Majors were Kenneth VanWuyckhyuse and Richard (Dick) Jarvis. Color Guard Captain was Carol Fox. The corps Chaplin was Ray Hafner and the corps mascot was Shirley McGrath.
In order to maintain operations and meet the objective of being a field competition unit the corps maintained its parade schedule, operated a bingo game and held an annual indoor winter standstill competition known as “Sound Off”. The idea for the name “Sound Off” came from Mr. McGrath’s Army days in which a “Sound Off” segment is contained in a “Pass In Review” ceremony. The Emerald Cadets sponsored the “Sound Off” shows from 1960 to 1969, making it the main fund-raiser for the corps.
These “Sound Off” shows were well-known in drum corps circles as being unique and innovative. The main idea behind the show was to perform an outdoor show scaled down for an inside arena making the corps ready for summer competition. Each unit was informed ahead of time of the restricted floor space available and that they were required to make a marching entry then perform the rest of their field music in a standstill format then make a marching exit. Two separate prizes were awarded, one for the marching performance and one for the music standstill. The itinerary was usually a junior-based competition with a senior exhibition featuring corps from all over the U.S. and Canada.
Better known guests of “Sound Off” were the Garfield Cadets, Boston Crusaders, Blue Rock, St.Mary’s Cardinals, Toronto Optimists, De Lasalle, Phantom Regiment, Selden Cadets, Marion Cadets, Hawthorne Caballeros, Skyliners, Crusaders, Reilly Raiders. Up and coming corps were encouraged to participate to give them opportunity for more exposure on a large scale. We were particularly proud to have the Reilly Raiders in their debut performance back from their 1963 stand-down season. The show was always very well attended and something the fans looked forward to every year!
The Emerald Cadets were members of two competitive circuits, the New York Canadian, and the Penn York. We were occasionally guests of the Hudson Berkshire circuit, and maintained an independent competitive status as well. The corps had the proud distinction of being the Penn York circuit champions from 1963 to 1967 and New York State American Legion Seventh District champions in 1966. They were also winners of the Marion Ohio “Cavalcade of Music” in 1963, placed third in 1964 and won again in 1967.
The drum quartet and competition color guard were both well-known in competitive circles. The drum quartet won the New York Canadian Individual and Ensemble Competition in 1963 and 1964, as well as taking second in the VFW Nationals in Chicago in 1965. Bill Morrison won third place individual snare drum in the Archer Epler American Legion National Individual Competition in 1963, and Bill McGrath Jr. won the New York Canadian individual snare drum title in 1968 just five weeks before his age-out date. The color guard was the Canadian International Champions in 1962 and the Penn York Circuit champion color guard from 1963 to 1967. The competition guard was also members of the International Color Guard Circuit from 1965 to 1969 and placed fourth in the World Open Championships in Boston in 1968.
This corps had the proud distinction of performing as the Emerald Statesmen in 1966 and 67 as a result of a merger between the Emerald Cadets of Irondequoit and the Irondequoit Statesmen. With the Emerald Cadets, having a drum-line and color guard of supreme excellence and the Statesmen, having a great horn line of superior skills, the benefits of merging were quite evident. The Corps was co-directed by Bill McGrath Sr. and Vincent A. Bruni.
By this time the horn line was instructed by Truman W. Crawford and Ray Shahin. The drum-line by Doug Kleinhans and Bill McGrath Jr. The marching instructors were Bill McGrath Sr. and Vincent Bruni. The business managers were Irene McGrath, Joseph Guadagnino Sr. and Bob Davis and Harvey Martin. The Color Guard Captains were Sally Short in 1966, Janet Hafner in 1967. The Drum Majors were Steve Guadagnino, & Ron Bowks. The bingo chairman was Betty Short. The corps secretaries were Sandy Buck and Anne Spencer. The Irondequoit Statesmen who appeared in the finals in the World Open in 1965, placed 10th. The Emerald Statesmen placed 10th in the World Open in that same Boston Mass championship competition in 1966.
At the end of the 67 season the corps went back to their original name of Emerald Cadets and continued competitive endeavors in 1968 placing second in the Penn-York Championships. New instructors that were added to the brass staff for 1968 were Alex Molinich and Jack Bullock. The Color Guard Captain was Mickey Short, the Drum Major was James Gleason and Color Guard Instructor was Karen McGrath.
Thirty-Seven members of the Emerald Cadets / Emerald Statesmen served in the U.S. armed forces between 1965 and 1968. Six of these soldiers served in combat status. All came back except for William Seiler who died in service to our country in Vietnam. Mr. McGrath’s two sons were also military bound, William to the Marine Corps and later Thomas to the Air Force.
At the end of the ‘68 season McGrath Sr. suspended operations of the corps and gave all of the legal documentation to his sons. When McGrath Jr. returned home from the Marine Corps he had the legal authority to re-start “The Emerald Cadets” but chose not to do so until an age-line could be established between Senior & Junior Corps. William Jr. appealed to many of the nations top Senior Corps leaders to establish a permanent age line between Senior and Junior Corps but his pleas were largely ignored. This common sense age-line proposal was never adopted by the Senior Corps community therefore he never restarted the corps!
This corps was and is a tight knit unit with its membership holding occasional reunions, picnics as well as participating in weddings, baptisms, confirmations and other special events. This corps was like a family who stuck together through thick and thin and is still very much involved with each other to this day!
[Submitted by William A. (Bill) McGrath Jr. - December 2006]
Highest Score 65.080
Final show in DCX Archives July 29, 1961 New York State American Legion Championships Albany NY placed 10 with a score of 65.080
Highest Score 78.625
Final show in DCX Archives September 3, 1962 8th Annual Cavalcade of Music Marion OH placed 6 with a score of 78.625
Highest Score 85.180
Final show in DCX Archives September 7, 1963 5th Cavalcade of Champions Johnstown NY placed 3 with a score of 72.550
Highest Score 76.900
Final show in DCX Archives August 22, 1964 10th Annual Cavalcade of Music Marion OH placed 3 with a score of 73.660
Highest Score 70.180
Final show in DCX Archives July 17, 1965 New York State American Legion Championships Buffalo NY placed 6 with a score of 70.180
Highest Score 65.100
Final show in DCX Archives August 25, 1968 PennYork Championships Syracuse NY placed 5 with a score of 63.780
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