A Brief history, since I was only a part of this Corps form 1954 through 1961, there are things you learn about the Corps but of course a lot more about the Corps has been lost over time, what follows is my recollections.
What I do know is that the Corps started out in 1924 as a unit sponsored by the Robert E. Collins Post 131 of Hartford, Connecticut. The founder was Mr Al Hemenway, a post member. It was a Drum and Bugle Corps, limited to brass soprano bugles, snare and bass drum. The Corps went by the title of The Charter Oak Council Boy Scouts and as such was made up of Boy Scouts from the Greater Hartford area. A “Troup Charter” was issued in the 1920’s making the unit an official Boy Scout Troup. Uniforms were the regulation Boy Scout uniform less the kerchief. Since the Corps had members from different Scout troupes where each troupe selected their own color kerchief, easy solution was not to wear any.
The Corps functioned as a Charter Oak Boy Scout Council parade marching unit performing at Boy Scout activities such as the annual Council Jamboree and representing the Council in public functions like the Hartford Memorial Day parade, etc.
Like all scout troupes funding was primarily from donations from Robert Collins Post and weekly dues paid by each member. Instruments were loaned to each member. Because the brass bugles changed hands a lot, many came with dents. The bugles were standard scout issue available at department stores with a Scout department.
When I joined, the original founder Mr. Hemenway (snare drum) would occasionally attend a practice but was no longer active as the director and only on very special occasions perform with the Corps. At that time the Director was Mr. Everett Frost, assisted by quartermaster Ev Howell, Drum instructor Steve Myers (Radio WTIC engineer), Bugle instructor/drill instructor Mr. Dave A. Davis (Owner Columbia TV and Sound). Practices were held on Tuesday nights on the third-floor gym at an Albany Ave school.
Getting from function to functions including practice was provided by the instructors and other friend driver/helpers This was by their privately owned autos. The Corps was not very large with a normal turn out between 12-15 scouts. Because the Corps took in Scouts from greater Hartford a central meeting place was used to gather for a ride to the function/event. The selected site was the “CANNON” at the entrance driveway to the State Capital Building in Hartford.
During my time with the Corps, several things changed and the Corps evolved – Mid/late 1950’s.
My first recollection was replacing the Scout uniform. Over seas cap, military style shirt of course with standard military pleats, white ascot, fourragere, white web belt, military offices trousers, white spats and black shoes became the first upgrade.
The uniform upgrade was followed by replacing the brass bugles with chrome plated single valve bugles. This addition increased the music selection options. Along with the soprano upgrade was the addition of a single baritone bugle.
Following the horn updates, the overseas caps were replaced with Australian style Stetson (single brow turned up) hats and the spats and fourragere were eliminated. This completed the update for a period of time. Also during that time Mr. Frost stepped down as director and Mr. Davis assumed the responsibility.
Also at that time, the name changes to Charter Oak Hartford. New bass drum heads were designed and painted by prominent member LeRoy Strout. Funding no longer was provided by Collins Post, essentially Charter Oak was own its own, and no longer was a Boy Scout organization, letting the Troup Charter lapse.
During that time or thereabouts, the Corps added an all Girl color guard.
Since the Corps was self sustaining, Director Davis was always on the look out for paid functions or parades. The busiest time was Memorial Day weekend. Director Davis scheduled as many parades as he could get to. Meaning starting a parade around 9 AM followed by others at about 2 hour intervals. To say the least this was hectic on the drivers, the members and the parade sponsors. Somehow Director Davis made it work.
During the earlier 50’s Charter Oak belonged to the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association and the Hudson Valley Association. These associations featured weekly “competitions” at various Corps locations in CT and New York. The competition was broken into classes, Charter Oak competed in the Bugle and Drum Class. Charter Oak became a crowd favorite as its style and 128 beat marching pace was well beyond the fifers and combinations corps standards.
The evolution on the parade field continued to evolve, with Charter Oak moving from Drum Corps competition of “stand still” to Marching and Maneuvering. As this change started Mr. Richard Wright, (soprano solo) took over the task of designing and teaching the maneuvering in addition to playing in the horn line. The Corps membership slowly grew; by later 50’s horn line was in the 20-30’s, percussion was 6 snare plus bass, cymbals, tenors etc. Color guard grew under the leadership of Patti Hitt.
And the Charter Oak “Sabers” was born.
While I was still there, the last update to the “New” Charter Oak Sabers was the uniform. New shako hats, green plum, green satin shirts with red sash, white high waist pants, white shoes and gloves. Music repertoire at the time opened with “Another Opening another Show”, color presentation “This is My Country”, stand piece “South of the Boarder”. A little later “Bolero”, “Down Mexico Way”, “I Hear Music”, “When You Walk Alone” were also in the program.
That’s how I recollect it,
Joe Gozzo; dummer, horn player (solo, baritone) and drum major.
June 22, 2019