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Lake County Past: Remembering the days of the drum and bugle corps

From the Lake County Archives.1 / 2
2 / 2

Grant "Fats" Johnson is a Two Harbors High School graduate who left his mark on the area through his athletic prowess and work in education in the state.

His daughter sent us this letter in May to let us know that Fats, 98, still enjoys the News-Chronicle every week in Orlando. Dave Gustafson then requested we reprint a column. So here it is, from Jan. 4, 1996 -- a classic Fats column.

By Grant “Fats” Johnson In the late 20s and early 30s an old Spanish American War survivor decided that Two Harbors should have a drum and bugle corp. His name was A.F. Blood and he occupied a house on Eighth Avenue.

He was in his 70s but he was an impressive figure as he conducted his fledglings in Sousa marches and especially rat-a-tat drum beats. The tooters and drum beaters met regularly in the hallway of the Minnehaha School and often times convened in front of Blood’s house.

I don’t recall an active DAR organization in Two Harbors but the local group affiliated itself with the DAR in Duluth and performed there frequently to much applause. The corp made a grand impression on loyal Harborites especially on parade days.

I recall vividly once when O.R. Hall, our principal, had the corp perform on a patriotic occasion in the high school auditorium to commemorate the armistice.

They entered the auditorium from the rear to a peppy drum beat and marched smartly up to the front. It stirred up the red corpuscles in all our bodies and made is all proud to be Americans.

The Rev. Munson, the Methodist minister, was the main speaker. He related a story that stamped an impression. When the armistice was signed, his battalion marched 25 miles to Brest, France, for embarkation by boat to America.

As they neared Brest they heard stentorian noises. It continued to get louder and louder and some feared that maybe the war wasn’t over. Then, they saw what had disrupted the atmosphere and made them so uneasy.

Barbed wire fences over 10 feet high enclosed an area over a mile long and behind those barriers were American boys who had been shell shocked in the war and wouldn’t be going home.

War is hell and this was real evidence as wailing, screeching, moaning and tension saturated the air. The reverend said he couldn’t sleep all the way home because of that first-hand experience.

I’ve had the same sick feeling when I visited a friend in the veteran’s hospital in St. Paul. I saw young men without legs, arms and other parts of their bodies. Before any politician substitutes patriotism for war, let him visit a veterans hospital and see the realism of war.

Members of that famous drum and bugle corp were Fred House, Lyle Nelson, Willard Dodge and Bill Wolf who tooted the bugles. The drum corp was composed of Lloyd Hendrickson, Bud Trippet, John Erickson, John Zemlin, Randy Holmstrom, Carl Bangsund, Bertil Hanson, Dean Jordan and Herbie Erickson.

Blood made music history along with J.F. Tesar, Carl Bredeson, Paul Gauche and others. Those were memorable days in our past. We owe all of them much.

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