Remembering the Troopers' Jim JonesBy Michael BooIn the previous installment in this series, I asked myself to think of the most incredible drum corps moment I've ever experienced. That led me back to memories of Troopers in the corps' astounding late-season jump into the 1979 Drum Corps International World Finals.This week, I thought it might be neat to recollect about my most cherished drum corps memory as a spectator. (Like everyone who marched in a Drum Corps International corps, I have hundreds of such memories as a participant.)This isn't a trend developing, but my most special moment as a spectator involves Troopers again. More specifically, it involves the corps' founder, Jim Jones.Jim was one of those people who was a legend in his own time. He founded one of the most successful of drum corps prior to the Drum Corps International era, was instrumental in the founding of Drum Corps International, and after several years into the Drum Corps International era, decided to let someone else take over the day-to-day running of the corps. He still was, though, the godfather of the corps, someone to be looked up to by all in the activity.He was also one of drum corps' true gentlemen.I got to know Jim when we ran into each other at the 1982 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Dallas. Neither one of us was doing much during a break in the sessions, so we started chatting in the lobby of the hotel that was hosting the convention. Actually, I started chatting, and he didn't get up to run away.I introduced myself as someone who had marched in a corps, and was interested in hearing about his recollections. He offered to buy us both ice cream cones from the lobby concessionaire. For some reason, I remember us both getting mocha. (I don't even like coffee and didn't want to appear to be a rube by asking what mocha was.) It's strange how little things stick in one's mind two decades later.After that experience, we would casually say "hello" to each other whenever we met. Jim would ask how such-and-such was going, remembering my little projects here and there. I think he made mental notes about everyone he met so that they would feel important when they spoke with him.Fast forward ten years later to 1992. The Drum Corps International World Championships were in Madison, Wis. I was staying at The Regent Apartments just a few minutes' walk from Camp Randall Stadium. My roommate was Bob Abben of Florida, a man I'm proud to proclaim as my best friend. Bob was a contemporary to Jim, and many, many years ago, was Kilties' first-ever drum major. He was then recruited to play drums in the Racine Scouts, who at the time, were a much more premier organization than the upstart Kilties.Bob had been deeply involved with the V.F.W. organization over the years and loved old-time drum corps. He was a behind-the-scenes person in the creation of Suncoast Sound. Before a bout with skin cancer required him to stay out of the sun as much as possible, he came to the Drum Corps International World Championships to keep up with the activity.Bob also worshiped the work of Jim Jones.After one of the shows leading up to 1992 Finals, I walked into the convenience market across the street from The Regent. There was Jim Jones and his wife, Grace, buying late-night sandwiches and drinks. In a moment of loony inspiration, I told Jim about my friend Bob and said he would really make Bob's week if he and Grace came up to my room to meet Bob and enjoy their sandwiches and drinks in the friendly confines of our suite.To my surprise, they agreed to do so and asked for my room number. It was really late by then, and I'm sure they would have been just as happy to get back to their hotel and get some rest.I ran across the street, entered the room, woke Bob up and told him to get dressed, as we were about to have company. He griped and moaned a little, thinking I was crazy to invite someone over at that hour. But he did as I instructed and never asked about whom was coming.There was a knock at the door, I opened it, and invited Jim and Grace to come in. Bob bolted to his feet and proclaimed, "Mister Jones!," emphasizing his respect in the title "Mister."At that point, I knew I was forgiven for bringing a "stranger" up to the room in the late hours of the evening.A table was set up for Jim and Grace to enjoy their meal, I backed off, and waited for the conversation I expected to follow. What I experienced then was a history lesson between two people who deeply loved drum corps and had witnessed it evolve first-hand."Remember the V.F.W. Championship in (wherever) in (year)?" "Oh, yes, where (whatever) happened?" "Yes. What did you think of that?" "Well ... "This went on for well over an hour. It was one of the most amazing conversations I've ever experienced. Jim, or rather "Mister Jones," was apparently enjoying the trip down Memory Lane. At the end, he said to me, "You're into architecture, aren't you?" I responded in the affirmative, not too surprised that he remembered some tidbit of a conversation we must have had years before. "Come down to my car and I'll show you some photos of my new house. It's built entirely without nails."When I returned to the room, Bob asked, "Do you think anyone would believe this?" I replied, "Do you?" He said something like, "No, and I was here."A few years back, when I heard that Jim had passed on (editor's note: Jones died on June 8, 1994), my first recollection of him was how he changed his plans late at night to make someone happy whom he didn't even know. I think that was the essence of his humanity.A true gentleman, indeed.Would you like to suggest a drum corps topic for Michael Boo to write about in "Fanfare"? E-mail him at email@example.com .Sept. 6 column – Troopers 1979: "It still gives me chills" August 30 column – PBS Broadcasts through history Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with The Cavaliers. He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition. He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.
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