Memories of Band
The following are selected from posts sent in to our PHS website.
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memories and photos to: PHSAlumni_AT_sbcglobal.net
more of the story with regard to my gift of music from Mr. Robbins and Mrs.
Creel. While in Arabia the company supported all kinds of activities to keep the
employees happy in a place where there were no local opportunities outside our
camps. There was an active players group that put on several big production
musicals. They talked me into playing in the orchestra and provided me a tenor
sax. I was pretty rusty but enjoyed playing again.
Flash forward to Chad Africa. Once again we had a large camp in the bush several
hundred miles from the nearest town of any size. This was a single status camp
of 2500 Filipinos and around 500 expats -- American, French, British. You could
not drink in the Exxon camp so a bar was built just outside the fenced-in camp
and they had a band made up of mostly American musicians. They convinced me to
join the band and I played with them when I was in the camp on weekends (see
photos). My wife, who lived in the capital city and was able to come a few times
to see me play, also enjoyed hearing her son the drummer. During a few of the
breaks he would get on the drums, I would get on the sax, and we would be joined
by a great French bass player and the three of us would jam for the audience.
Usually by this time the audience was feeling no pain, so we were given high
marks. The only problem was that everyone in the band and everyone in the
audience worked for me so I was never sure how well I played.
also played a few times in Singapore with a band at the American Club and a
local bar. I continue to this day to remind my wife..."just remember...I am a
I really have the greatest respect for Mr. Robbins. It was really incredible he
could teach so many kids to play a huge number of instruments. And he was able
to manage and control a 100+ kids at practice and then at games including the
road trips. It still amazes me we could memorize so many songs and then march in
complex routines while playing. He was truly a great man whom I hold in the
Mrs. Creel was amazing as well. One of my most cherished moments was the night
we played before a packed house of several thousand musicians at the Tri-State
Music Festival and received a long standing ovation when we finished playing our
signature song "Salt Peanuts". I also recall being at practice one Sunday with
the Music Makers and Mrs. Creel left the room for a break. We started jamming
and were really doing well. At least we were enjoying our new found freedom of
expression. She came back in the room and immediately told us to quit messing
around and get back to practice. I still wonder what might have happened if we
tried to jam again, but to the best of my memory we did not.
Jim Morgan '64 on tenor sax
I remember taking lessons from
Mrs. Creel. I think that I had them two or three times each week. I had to be in
her office at 7:00 in the morning I think. I can remember that she was always
smoking and had this little metal contraption in her coffee cup to keep her
coffee warm. Looking back, she was a really dedicated teacher. She insisted on
perfection. I can remember that after I finished a lesson, everything was blurry
for a while because I had been concentrating on the music so hard.
While I'm writing about band, I sure did get educated on some of those band
trips. I remember going to Enid Oklahoma. To me, that was the big city. I
remember buying goofy hats and all kinds of useless trinkets. That reminds me of
the Music Makers. If I remember correctly, we met on Saturday morning at 8:00
every week for practice. I can still remember playing those "old time" songs. It
seems like we always won awards at Enid.
Oh yes…the education on the bus trips. I can remember a certain older girl
and I were in the back of the bus. She introduced me to more than kissing. Well,
actually, I introduced myself. While we were making out, my hands just seemed to
develop a mind of their own and ended up in places previously unexplored. I
suppose that my hormones were working overtime. Anyway, that was my educational
I am from the class of '61. My story about Miss Boyd wouldn't be in the funny
classification, but I would like to tell it anyway. Miss Boyd was a very strict
and a very devoted English teacher. She was so well liked by me and other
classmates that we chose to have her for English from our Sophomore through our
Senior years. As a member of Mr. Robbins' and Mrs. Creel's band (also excellent
music teachers), there were times when we would have band trips where we would
have to leave school early for football games or competitions. If one of the
classes that was going to be missed was Miss Boyd's English class, we were
expected to make up what was to be done in her class before we left. There were
times when we were in her class room at 6 A.M. doing the oral work or tests that
were to be done that day. We may have grumbled about having to do this, but this
was a sacrifice for her to be there that early. I had two brothers and a sister
who also graduated from Phillips High School. We talk about the excellent
teachers that we were so fortunate to have during our school years. ---
In response to earlier
postings, the Blackhawk Band did participate in the 1967 Cotton Bowl and marched
in the Cotton Bowl parade. I remember Linda Culver leading us for 20 blocks
through the streets of the Texas State Fairgrounds and Mr. Robbins marching
right next to me as we played the "Washington Post" march. The teams that played
were SMU and Georgia. I mention this only because my brothers, Tom and Lynn
Railsback, both played in the SMU band, so all three of us were on the field
together; a truly great memory.
I was in the band that marched
in the Cotton Bowl in 1960. I wasn't aware that a band went there later on. Like
you, I thought it was the greatest honor ever. Our band was one of five Texas
bands invited to participate. I was disappointed that we didn't get to
participate in the Cotton Bowl Parade and be on TV because it was raining. It
was great fun any way.
I had almost forgotten about
marching in the Cotton Bowl. It was 1967 (I was a freshman and now I realize
that I was probably a little too young to be going to Dallas). The band,
supervised by Mr. Robbins, began practising before school in the morning several
months before the bowl game. I remember that was the first time I ever saw a
mall. I think it was Northpark. Who remembers going to Shakey's in Dallas and
being served draft beer at age 14? Also, I think it was probably the coldest
Cotton Bowl in history. One more thing: it was the border of North Dakota and
Canada that the Blackhawk band formed.
Black socks were mandatory for
the dress code in the PHS Marching Band. The black shoe polish story caused a
long lost memory to pop up. We were in Amarillo for some sort of marching band
hoopla in about '65 and as we suited up, Charlie Hampton realized he did not
have black socks. He and another guy ran over to a little store and bought black
shoe polish and Charlie dyed his ankles and feet with the black polish. Mr.
Robbins was absolutely speechless. Those of us who knew Charlie didn't give it a
On our many band or choir
trips, we would sing songs because Walkmans hadn’t been invented then. One of
the songs I learned on one of those trips was sung to the tune of Glowworm and
the words were:
There in the moonlight, glimmer, glimmer Stood a figure slimmer, slimmer.
Eyes mascaraed and hair peroxided Standing in the breezes she looks lopsided
Ruffles on her petticoat, swaying in the breezes Sounds like sandpaper rubbing
on her kneeses
All the things that women do Can make a man go wild!
People don't believe me when I mention a high school with 500 students having
150 in band, as many in choir, 100 football players, etc. I loved Mr. Robbins
and Ms. Creel greeting us in 4th grade with an instrument demonstration--we had
to choose and from then on I played a clarinet--everyone had lessons. What a
great way to introduce music and instruments to an entire student body.
Class of 1960. Great memories
of the 50's growing up in Phillips. Every night was really right out of "Leave
it To Beaver TV show". My mom in an apron with a fully cooked meal awaiting my
father @ 5pm every night. How about those great Trips with the Band to The
Tri-State Band Festival in Enid. Just went thru Enid in April 2003. Enid's
downtown has evaporated. What a disappointment. Anyone remember the school being
closed in 54 or 55 because of the Dust Storms? Loved growing up in Phillips,
Texas.. it was the best @ the time.
Ah! The class of 63: How many
remember the problems there were on the night of the band king and queen
ceremony?? The broken clarinet and the wrecked new convertible loaned from a
Hopeless played the saxophone in the high school marching band. He was
rather sweet on the young lady who was the majorette. One fall day the band was
practicing for a half-time performance at the next football game. The band
director was called away & left the majorette in charge of the practice.
Marching directions were given by signals with a whistle & movements of the
baton. Hopeless had a whistle in his possession & used it to evil purposes. He
would blow his whistle at inappropriate times & band members were marching off
in all directions. The majorette watched in frustration & finally located the
source of the problem. The next time he came marching by, she hit him over the
head & broke her baton. At least order had been restored.
The two teachers I knew the longest and surely loved like family were Ray
Robbins and Ada Creel. Through Junior High and High School band was
all-consuming. I came before school for special rehearsals and stayed after
school to accompany instrumental soloists on the piano. Mr. Robbins and Mrs.
Creel were wonderful musicians and savvy managers of energetic teenagers. I’m
still amazed at the ambitious music they chose, the high performance standards
they maintained, and the phenomenal community enthusiasm they generated at a
school so small. Never since have I known of a school that included over a
third, perhaps half, of its students in instrumental and choral ensembles.
Think of the energy and stamina it took for them to organize and chaperone long
bus trips to out-of-town football games and to Enid, Oklahoma for the Tri-State
Music Festival. Beyond honing instrumental proficiency such trips were an
important part of teen-agers’ social and emotional development. The
Robbins-Creel example inspires me as I choose piano literature for my students
and encourage them to form chamber ensembles. In past years their example has
sustained me as I have led groups of teens on road trips and learned to relate
to myriad personalities.
It was in Mr. Robbins’ office that my mother reached me to say that a telegram
had arrived accepting me to Rice University. Mr. Robbins’ face broke into a big
smile and he congratulated me heartily. He used to tell us about hearing free
concerts by the Army and Marine bands when he visited Washington, home of John
Philip Sousa. Living in the DC area for the last 40 years, I have known several
fine musicians who play in these bands and often hear them in concert. Thus it
is often that I think of Mr. Robbins and his exemplary leadership and
Enid band trips--I remember one where there was a very
cute guy a couple of us liked. When we got home, my Mom (who usually was not
involved in my life) told me - are you going to let someone interfere with your
lifetime friendship- lifetime awakening for me! By the way we liked him for his
Other memories I had while playing in the band were mostly at
the Tri-State Band and Choir Contests in Enid, Oklahoma. I always enjoyed that
trip. For four years we drove to Enid, stayed in a real Hotel. We
probably drove the hotel folks crazy. All we had to do was march, play, sing,
and have lots of fun playing practical jokes on our sponsors. I did an
especially good one on Mr. Arrington one year but that's another story.
The first event was a dress inspection. We put on our
beautiful, heavy, hot, wool uniforms and hats with plumes, along with our
instruments and stood in the hot sun while some one walked up and down our
ranks inspecting us. It was drudgery but we did it.
The next day the competitions began. Marching, concert, sight
reading, ensembles, solos. We always went home with "1's", marching, sight
reading, concert band, and don't forget Sweepstakes. We always managed to
take home the Sweepstakes Trophy.
I've said enough except to say it was lots of fun and we didn't
realize at the time how good we had it at Phillips High.
What I remember most about being in the band was Mrs. Creel.
I started playing an old and decrepit silver clarinet, but with Mrs.
Creel's encouragement and because my parents didn't feel they could afford a
quality instrument, I began playing one of the school-owned tenor
saxophones. She gave expert private lessons and set goals for me to
reach as I became more proficient at playing the sweet-sounding tenor
sax. She also offered a kind ear and an open heart. She understood when
there was trouble at home and/or when I felt unable to cope. Many tears
were shed during our times together. I felt very lost in high school, but
she made me feel that I was worthwhile and could accomplish anything.
Sometimes one person can make all the difference in the world to another
person. Mrs. Creel was that one person to me.
Fortunately, I was able to express to Mrs. Creel my gratitude for her
kindness at the school's 50th reunion. I'm grateful that I was able to tell
her that with her encouragement, I was able to get through a prolonged rough
period of time and eventually become very successful in my career. I will
be forever indebted to her, which is why I will continue to donate to the
Association's scholarship in her name. This is my way of 'paying it
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pay tribute to her.
Playing in the marching band in the Panhandle of Texas meant sweating like
crazy under heavy band uniforms during the first couple of games of the year
and freezing our fingers (and other parts of our body!) during the last
several games. But oh, how we loved our football games.
We would practice and practice and practice during the summer, early in the
morning after the school year started and sometimes over the weekend (this
might be an exaggeration). Mr. Robbins drilled us so much that it would be
impossible to fail. We perfected our routines mainly because we feared
hearing him yell at us through his bullhorn. Why, it would be most
embarrassing to get singled-out if even a step was off or you were not
in-line or you turned in the wrong direction or you turned too soon. It was
precision marching at its best. The Phillips High School Marching Band was
well known for its long history of being the first in its division in the
state and at the Tri-State competitions. The school's honor and reputation
rested on our shoulders.
During football games, no one left the stands at half time when the band
performed. The spectators could always count on a stellar performance
beginning with the twirlers in front of the band and ending with the big
guys playing the sousaphones in the back. John Philip could have done no
better! Although, Mr. Sousa probably never had to contend with his band
member's dogs trailing along behind them!
In the fall of 1967, the last couple of unmercifully brutal cold games were
later than usual due to our outstanding football team progressing through
the playoffs. Reed instruments were almost impossible to play because of
the freezing weather. Not only did the keys of our instruments stick, but
our fingers also felt stuck to the keys.
It was one of those Friday nights with snow falling through the cold late
autumn air that the band had to get on the field anyway. My band mates and
I were especially bitter about the bitter cold. It was halftime and
marching was our game. After all, we were winners, too.
This particular freezing Friday night became a nightmare for me. I became
disoriented immediately following the first note the band played. I did not
remember anything about the routine that we had rehearsed hundreds of
times. I was turning the wrong way, playing whatever note I could force out
of my frozen tenor sax and completely making a fool of myself. It was a
shameful performance. I felt like the biggest idiot on earth that night.
It's only been in recent years that I realized I had the beginnings of
hypothermia that night. One of the first symptoms of hypothermia is a loss
of cognitive ability. I suppose having that knowledge now helps to soften
the cruel memory somewhat. I don't even know if other students had the same
experience because I was too ashamed to talk about it. Since hypothermia is
a fairly common experience in colder climates, it is likely that a number of
us had the same experience.
The cold weather memories of those early years living in the Panhandle is
one of the reasons I live by the ocean in south Florida. Oh sure, I've got
this great job that brought me here from Texas, but I must admit, being in
this heavenly weather is all the sweeter because I haven't forgotten the
frozen tundra of the Panhandle! I am truly amazed every day as I watch the
sun rising over the ocean...especially when it's 80 degrees in November,
December or January. I haven't forgotten those endless days of carbon black
colored snow and the cold wind that would chill through your bones until
July! It's during the sun-filled warm winter mornings that I feel truly
grateful when I look out my windows, even though there may be much stress
awaiting me at the hospital. After all, how bad could it really be when you
start out your days like that?
...And in spite of where I live now, all roads, like those bittersweet
memories, still lead me back to Texas.
Speaking of being left behind. The Phillips buses were on their way back
home after a very successful trip to Enid. The buses stopped at a little
gas station out in the middle of nowhere in western Oklahoma. No town
around, just the gas station. Carol Kliewer, Janis Ratzlow, Hariet McCall
and Sharon Flinn were in the restroom when the buses pulled out, leaving us
behind. We ran to the road waving and jumping to alert the driver that we
had been left behind. The buses were about two miles down the road when we
were spotted. Lucky for us one could see for miles on the Oklahoma prairie.
The buses had to do a u-turn in the middle of a very tiny highway and came
back for us. We climbed on the bus to much laughing and joking. It turn
out to be very funny since we were all seniors and should have known better
to not all be in the tiny restroom at one time. We should have had a
I was wondering if anyone remembers the snow blizzard that
happened around 1957. It happened in March or April. It was during the
band solo and ensemble contest in Canyon. I was a 7th grader, who went on
the school bus on a Saturday to play my clarinet solo. My parents drove to
Canyon to hear me play. Conditions got to be awfully bad with the snow and
wind. My folks headed on home to Phillips, but the school busses were
stranded. We stayed in the college dorms. There wasn't any food except the
candy vending machines. They were empty by the time I got to them. I'm not
real sure about this detail, but I think it was the American Red Cross who
got some food to us on Sunday. The only problem was it was chicken, and I
didn't like chicken. I gladly ate it.
By the way, my folks made it home safely and got my dog,
Sugarfoot, dug out of his dog house buried deeply next to our house.
[The next 3 memories were prompted by an email exchange among
life-long friends and the webmaster.
To put the '57 blizzard in context see:
The trip to West Texas [State in Canyon, March 1957]
is a big memory of a lot of snow. I know Mother said later that she said as we
left on the bus that she should have sent me with a coat. Anyway our meal as I
recall it was, fried chicken, chips, apple and a cookie. I remember looking
out of the window at the truck bring the sack lunches but do not remember who
Enid to me was feeling of such freedom and being with the older kids. My best
memory was watching the Bops perform on the balcony in the lobby of the hotel
and how proud we were of them and the crowd that they drew with dancing and
singing. When I hear the old songs, Enid always come to mind. I do remember a
few balloons going out of my hand and window. Did anyone sit on the stairs in
the dark? They really had a hard time keeping the lights on.
I remember vividly the Blizzard of March 23, 1957. We had finished most
of our performances when the snow began in earnest and the winds were fierce. It was eye-opening for us seventh graders
to be stranded in a college dormitory [2 to a single bed],
though many girls had gone home for the weekend and those who stayed were tame
by later standards. I believe one of the college girls lent me some jeans to
replace my petticoats.
I think it was the National Guard, or perhaps the Red Cross, who brought us
our first real meal in more than 24 hours, but I remember bologna sandwiches,
rather than fried chicken. It tasted good to me. We were in Canyon two nights.
By Monday morning it was bright and sunny and the snow melted quickly.
I'd almost forgotten the sheriff's car with the handcuffed criminal, but now
have a hazy recollection. [one school bus stopped to pull out a
sheriff's car that slid into a ditch due to the icy road; this provided most
of us with our first view of a criminal in handcuffs] More engraved in
my memory is the picture in LIFE magazine of the body of a young Boys Rancher
draped against a barb-wire fence. He braved the blizzard to walk to see his
girlfriend, but he didn't make it.
The snowstorm I remember well. I thought it was UIL
[district contest for band and choir solos and ensembles] because I was
accompanying several soloists. My dress was pink with the requisite
petticoats, and the day we left was filled with sunshine. But the storm
struck, and there we were in the middle of this surprise adventure. The
vending machines were even exciting to me. The storm roared as the wind blew
across the plains with brute force. But we were safe inside with some great
college kids; here we were with borrowed clothes and a story to tell the
I remember the New Orleans' boys we met in Enid [Oklahoma at
Tri-State Music Festival]. We always had a great time there and always
met boys, but few as cute as the ones from Louisiana. I can't believe I
Among the band-related photos on our PHS website are:
Mr. Robbins and PHS twirlers
Jr. High twirlers from classes of 1963 and 1964
Music Makers, Hariet McCall,
banner at PHS Heritage Center
PHS Band awards,
jackets, and uniform at PHS Heritage Center
More pictures and stories are always welcome!
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updated: 20 February 2012