Fife & Drum Corps
While we emphasize:
- Deep Friendships
- Good Fellowship
- Great times shared by all Shriners
We also keep in mind that our membership in the Shrine benefits children from all across North America through our contributions and support of the 19 orthopedic hospitals and three burns institutes where children up to their 18th birthday, regardless of religion, race, relationship to a Shriner or ability to pay receive excellent medical care.
The El Riad Fife & Drum Corps was born in the basement coffee room of a building that once stood where the Holiday Inn now stands. Walt Leyse and Bill Butler and several innocent bystanders were discussing the Temple’s need for a drum unit of some kind to march with the Legion of Honor Foot Patrol. The idea’s time had come. But it had to be sold to several other nobles.
First a third member was needed. Through a series of careful screening and balloting, Harley Roddel was finally selected. Potentate Orv Bonacker graciously agreed to purchase three snare drums with the stipulation that members uniform themselves and be ready to appear the 1968 Midwest Session in Rapid City. The by-laws were written, Leyse was elected Brigadier, Butler – Leftenant, and Roddel – Sergeant Major.
The first uniforms were carefully designed. The trousers were Farah Slacks carefully cut below the knees with a strip of elastic added by the Weatherwax’s tailors. The white shirts were imported (from Taiwan) and the red vests were reversible (in case they chicken out). The Tri-corner hats were designed and manufactured by the corps first seamstress, Mrs. Walt Leyse, Sr. The baseball stockings were added later for uniformity since none of the drummers legs matched.
Practice sessions were begun in homes with scheduled setup at different hours to avoid neighborhood retaliation. At last the ’68 summer session arrived and all was in readiness for the historic first appearance. In spite of the advance publicity, it was still necessary to physically drag Butler out of the motel once he had his uniform on. Some members of the Oriental Band made suggestive remarks but generally the reaction of the gathered nobility was encouraging.
The sun was shining brightly and after the usual wait associated with a Midwest Parade, El Riad stepped off. Ten minutes into the route, a 50-mile an hour wind came up and a short but furious hailstorm beat down. Attempting to hold the drums in proper position and stay in step slowed the whole process and soon, the Foot Patrol was out of sight. Resisting the temptation to break ranks and run, the corps members persisted and arrived at the barbecue intact.
Such was our humble beginning. Since then a number of changes have taken place, which includes a couple of changes in uniforms. A company that specializes in uniforms for movies and reenactments currently manufactures our uniforms in Valley Forge, PA.