Miami, FL United States
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The below photo identified as “1958s Corps Picture” Harvey Seeds American Legion Post 29 Miami Rebels Drum & Bugle Corps actually has an interesting and unique history.
The Drum Corps colors matched the Florida state colors, dark green trousers, cream blouse, and a bright orange sash.
On January 8, 1959, Fidel Castro’s Cuban rebel forces entered Havana and drove the dictatorship Batista regime from the capital and island after many years of jungle-based struggle. Fidel’s staff made the Havana Hilton (now named Hotel Tryp Habana Libre) their provisional headquarters. To celebrate the new power-structure, Fidel declared that the Mardi Gras at the end of February 1959 would highlight the liberation and new government.
Several American newspaper article and columns, magazine photo spreads, and television dramas of that time, featured and romanticized the Cuban freedom fighters, including Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and his lieutenant Che Guevara.
The new Cuban government invited the American Legion Drum Corps to be an honored part of the upcoming Mardi Gras parade. They provided air fare and lodging at the Havana Hilton. The first evening, the Drum Corps enjoyed the hotel casino and floorshow plus duty-free shop (mostly rum and other alcoholic beverages, same as today).
The next morning, the Drum Corps practiced their stadium maneuvers in the main square in front of the reviewing stand where they would play and march for Fidel Castro and his guests. Along the parade route to and from the square, the Drum Corps observed young men (guessed at an average of about 14 years old) stationed on each and every street corner, armed with Thompson submachine guns. During one rapid wheel of the drum-line during its practice in the square, the bass drummer rolled over the top of a Cuban guard who had previously been asked to move and warned that he was in the line of march (however, he had just conquered a country, defeated an army, and was not about to be ordered by anyone). When he regained his feet, his gun was at the ready and only some fast talking by his officer and some fast marching by the Drum Corps saved bloodshed.
The subject photo was taken in front of the Hilton Hotel and Casino early on the day of the February 1959 Havana Mardi Gras parade.
The parade began at 6pm and it was the longest ever experienced by any of the Drum Corps members, ending past midnight. Each and every unit of the parade performed their full routine in the square in order to curry favor from Fidel. The Drum Corps played for the cheering and appreciative crowds all along the parade route. After the Drum Corps entered the square and performed, everything stopped while Fidel Castro gave a very, very long speech (something for which he was and remains famous). Some men in the Drum Corps understood what was being said in Spanish, whereupon the Drum Corps ordered its color guard to sheaf its colors, and the Drum Corps marched in close-order back to the hotel. The men quickly packed their bags, some called home to Miami, so that all the families could meet the returning airplane, and the Drum Corps boarded their buses which returned to the airport with a Cuban military-police escort to protect them from the frenzied crowds.
That was one of the last times the American flag was welcomed and proudly displayed in Havana’s streets. (Five months later another American corps, the Miami Crusaders, marched in Havana.)
When the plane landed in Miami, the airport was filled with the first wave of Cuban refugees from Castro’s Cuba. The radio and television news was filled with the observed dislocations in Cuba. We were very relieved to greet our father and the rest of the Drum Corps.
Beginning May 1959, Cuba began land reform, including appropriating all foreign land ownership, and forging closer ties with the Soviet Union. Over these passing months, Castro repeatedly denied that he was a communist. In April 1960, American-owned refineries in Cuba refused to process Soviet crude oil and were nationalized by the Castro regime, and on May 1, 1960, during Havana’s May Day celebration (the traditional communist holiday), Fidel declared that he was and always had been a communist. Subsequently, Fidel addressed the United Nations in New York City in 1960 (at which time, Fidel‘s group was rejected by their downtown hotel and they relocated to a Harlem hotel); in 1961, Fidel’s forces defeated anti-revolutionary forces at The Bay of Pigs; in 1962, the world experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro resigned as Cuban Prime Minister in 2008 based on health.
Separately, this parade and photo were the last appearance of many of these men in the Harvey Seeds uniforms. In 1959, The Goldcoasters Drum & Bugle Corps was sponsored by the City of Miami Fraternal Order of Police and the director, drum line, and leading buglers all became the core of that organization. In 1960, The Goldcoasters competed in the American Legion Drum & Bugle Corps national event in Miami and in 1961 it progressed to the AL Drum & Bugle Corps finals in Denver, placing third (3rd).
The rest is history.
[Submitted by Lee Dyer - December 2008]
Highest Score 96.000
Final show in DCX Archives January 1, 1927 American Legion National Championships Paris France placed 1 with a score of 96.000
Highest Score 0.000
Final show in DCX Archives January 1, 1928 American Legion National Championships Unknown
Highest Score 93.150
Final show in DCX Archives October 8, 1930 American Legion National Championships Boston MA placed 1 with a score of 93.150
Highest Score 98.000
Final show in DCX Archives September 23, 1931 American Legion National Championships Finals Detroit MI placed 1 with a score of 98.000
Highest Score 91.650
Final show in DCX Archives September 15, 1941 American Legion National Championships Milwaukee WI placed 3 with a score of 91.650
Highest Score 86.816
Final show in DCX Archives January 1, 1950 American Legion National Championships Los Angeles CA placed 4 with a score of 86.816
Highest Score 88.500
Final show in DCX Archives September 14, 1957 American Legion National Championships - Senior Prelims Atlantic City NJ placed 7 with a score of 85.200
Highest Score 78.310
Final show in DCX Archives September 4, 1958 Prelims Chicago IL placed 12 with a score of 78.310