Helldorado Band Contest
By Keith Gibson
The WPHS marching band in the early 1950s consisted of roughly one fourth of the entire student body
We were about 100 strong.
The band had been honored for many years as one of the finest in the US. It was quite a tradition and we all strived to keep it up. We had been practicing for months for the trip to Las Vegas.
The McGill and Ruth kids took an early bus every morning to be at practice 2 hours before school started. We left the school with our instruments and walked (heaven forbid) up to the city park. The reason for all the practice was that we were going to do a complicated marching routine to the St. Louis Blues March.
We had all memorized the music to the point that it was second nature to us. The routine was practiced a little bit in the WPHS gymnasium during the winter months. Some of the mornings in April and May were quite chilly, but we were on a mission to win that year. The prize was the huge trophy which had been donated by Mr. Cashman of the Cashman Cadillac car agency in LV. We had won it the past two years before. Whoever wins it three times gets to keep it for their school.
It sure looked good in the trophy case at the gym and we wanted it to be there forever.
The band travelled by Lewis Bros. Stages buses. Some of us stayed in the Wittmer Motel a block from the train station. We had a nice pool and for us northern yahoos that was just perfect.
After a good nights rest and a great breakfast we got into our uniforms and started the long trek down Fremont Street about 15 blocks to the starting point.
We had just started when the director told us that the contest judges had changed the rules and we could not do our routine on the march up Fremont. He argued with the judges, telling them that we had practiced and that it wasn’t fair to change the rules at that late date.
They compromised and let us do the routine by marching all the way down Fremont and doing the routine then. It was Mr. Cashman that fought for us, as he was very impressed with our band. So, we lined up and did the long march down Fremont doing our St. Louis routine.
Arriving at the regular staring point we hoped to get some rest, but were informed that we had to lead the parade, so we formed up and marched back up Fremont. It was starting to get very hot. I remember all the red faces of everyone due to the hot uniforms .
We made it and went back to the motel to change and board the buses for the trip home.
The crowds along the street had been clapping and cheering us both ways and we felt very good about things.
Several miles out of LV the buses pulled off the road. The director went to each bus and gave us the bad news. The judges had awarded the trophy to LV so we couldn’t keep it. Mr. Cashman was furious and promised to never get involved with the parade again.
I don’t know if that happened or not. He did send a letter to us apologizing for the judges decision.
It was heartbreaking for all of us who had worked so hard. I don’t think WP ever went back.