It did happen on occasion. Here Jay Berwanger once more tore himself loose from the powerfully grasping Ohio State team and made it all the way down the field, zigging and zagging with incredible grace. Several of the Bandsmen had gone running down the field after him, along with the Second Team, coaches, trainers, et al. The rest had to pull themselves together. He couldn't run. He was the Manager. "All right, fellows, it's `Wave the Flag for Old Chicago,'let's have it." The instruments went up, the baton went down, and off they sounded. "Maroon her colors grand.. the best team in the land." He must have played it two hundred times in four years, figuring an average of five blats per game, twice for each rally, and a few others on miscellaneous occasions as when an announcement of patriotic moment interrupted a dance. It was not the worst march in the infinite repertoire; he liked it better than the "March of the Illini," the colossi of Champaign, but it couldn't stand up to "On, Wisconsin," and he liked "Ah'mah ramblin' wreck from Gee-or-gia Tech an uh hell of uh ingineer." Altogether he must have come to memorize in the line of business about a hundred college signature songs ("..lost little lambs, baa, baa, baa") and marches, not to mention adding continually to a collection of secular marches that, try as they would and by the scores to outdo Souza, almost never came close. So you see what it took to make a buck, still a lot better than busing 15,000 more dishes a month, and then there was the glamor of it all, particularly being the Manager of this especially intelligent and cooperative aggregation reaching at times a hundred men (no women, no one ever asked, what a lost opportunity for both sexes, what a great "mixer!). Suppose that, instead of playing "Wave the rag," he had intoned two hundred Paternosters: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name,.." which takes the same amount of time, or had repeated as often the three electrical laws of Michael Faraday. Might he have been holier than thou? Better equipped for the advent of the electronic age?
He would have played the school march even more often had his team scored more touchdowns, and pleasurably, for he was a student not without athletic pride and team spirit (and I believe that even Mr. Hutchins was pleased with the victory that came once in a Blue Moon). Stagg Field was built like a Gothic fortress, and for great events, for victories before mighty shouting crowds. It had its final cheerful days with the Student signalling the O.K. to march the Band out from under the West Stands blaring before an applauding minor crowd that was proud to help its team face defeat on the field. Stagg Field fell thereafter into military drills and desolation. It descended finally into a dreadful secrecy from which emerged the world of atomic destruction and nuclear energy. Finally it was busted asunder by giant machines.
The Band possessed "Big Bertha," the largest drum in the world. (It was named Big Bertha after the German 15-inch 110-foot-barrelled cannon of World War I that were railroaded into position and sent 367 shells into Paris in 1918, killing 256 people. The Biggest Bertha of the West Stands ended up via Alamogordo killing 75,000 residents of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, while the Student was on the other side of the world.) The Band's Big Bertha stood twenty hands high, as tall as the Trojan Horse, it rested in between performances in a special shed below the West Stands, on its own carriage with bars to the front and rear by which it was pulled and pushed. To create a more impressive scene,the Student recruited half a dozen non-musicians when four would do, to handle the drum and maneuver her about. He had no trouble finding them; there were more than enough volunteers, like his old friend from Lake View High School, Bill Steinbrecher, who were paid in the fun of it and a free admission, and once when they went to play at Ohio State University in Columbus, a free train ride and meals along with the rest of the Band. Big Bertha occupied its very own boxcar, with its lucky tenders in residence.
Dave Eisendrath was the Drummer. He had two extra-large bass drum beaters, and would work himself into a spectacular frenzy leaping up and around from one side to the other whacking the skins furiously; the resonance was continual because the skins were so large that the waves of vibration climbed all over each other. Come to think of it, its booms did sound like distant cannon. Even the football players would come out of their dungeons to catch a glimpse of Big Bertha in action.
Dave was a fanatic photographer as well and would dash about from the vantage point of the band seats, practically midfield and a few yards from the off-bounds line, to snap action-shots and candid shots.
The day of the college football game! (Professional football hardly existed, dwarfed by baseball especially. College football made the Sabbath Sacred to millions of Americans.) The football player himself begins the morning late, he eats a hearty breakfast because he should eat lightly if at all for lunch, and then lolls about, stretching his muscles a bit, hugging a couple of friends for comfort, going to a meeting where the coach has to explain some new idea he dreamed of when considering the strengths and weaknesses of the University of Minnesota or whoever. He munches, he jokes, he talks, he wanders around his fraternity and then goes over to the stadium which is still quiet unless the Band is out there (nice to have them, the best supporters we've got, I wish they were two hundred instead of seventy). He finally starts dressing as the clock moves relentlessly. He asks the trainer to look at his bandaged ankle once more. He begins to pump adrenalin, a little too early. He chews gum, his heavy jaws bringing a couple of kilobars of pressure upon the giving substance. The coach is circulating about, so are the assistant coaches; even at Chicago football had its assistant coach. The time is practically at hand. Somebody comments at the small crowd on both the North and South Stands, even counting the high school kids. The West Stands are ominously empty. There goes the Band. Let's get a look at them. They're up to some neat things, those guys. All right. Time to trot out. Listening to them cheering -- but Michigan has more fans on their side of the field -- oh, well, it's five times as big.
The plot goes rather like a Spanish bullfight. The Band is readying itself for the procession. It is in uniform, ah, but here is one of the "reforms" of the Student's time; after some inner council consultation they decided to cast off the gaudy maroon military jackets with the epaulets, stripes, Sam Browne belts, and even on occasion the peaked caps; keeping the innocuous pants when they would fit, they donned their plain but natty maroon wool sweaters over white shirts. The uniforms would appear then only for indoor concerts or another formal affair. The Sweater combination gave a more sporting, swifter look to the proceedings, which were more of a giant musical dance rather than anything else.
Dressing the Band of a Saturday morning came easily: put it all out for the many who for one reason or another had not drawn stuff for their lockers beforehand, packs of sweaters, trousers, maroon ties for the unbenecktied, caps, and let people find their size. If the weather were cold, they would also help themselves to a dark blue double-breasted greatcoat, to be worn on the sidelines. It looked like the Maxwell Street Bazaar. Instruments had to be issued to those without them or without lockers, and the music-parts of the day distributed. Sometimes the business put the Student into a poor temper. Mr. Bachman was a fidgety type: when not efficiently busy himself, he was asking whether Jerzy Sokol, the Drum Major, had arrived, or where was the box of extra clarinet mouthpieces.
The busy scene carried on from eight to ten, when the dress rehearsal on the field began; in fact the bandrooms were continuously active until game time -- forget about lunch, munch on something -- because the Band was a voluntary aggregation, meaning that in the last analysis you tried to accommodate a guy who managed to show up only at the last moment. It was also the University of Chicago, where affairs bore the proportion that they deserved -- much of the time anyhow. So it was not rare for the lowliest of the low, a maladroit peckhorn player, to come stumbling over himself up the cement stairs as the Band was filing down for the Grand March and to be completely outfitted with instrument and music and sent scuttling back down with the marching order and maneuvers of the day, with no reproach but a good-natured clap on the back sufficient to stun him and a "Better get going!" He had already missed the morning dress rehearsal, but they could take some chances with the fairly high I.Q. of the Bandsmen, and had ways of covering up goofs. You stick the uncertain trumpets in invulnerable places, warn them it is more important to keep up the formation than to play their instrument, and, if they are hopeless at marching but can play well, put them into the separate Indian file that follows the formation down the field and stands at attention by the benches of the Band until the fancy routine is finished.
The Band rehearsed Tuesday and Thursday nights and on Saturday mornings during the Fall Quarter before and during the football season. Afterwards it assembled once a week, played concert music for the fun of it, chipped off small bands to play for basketball games on occasion, presented a couple of outdoor concerts at Hutchinson Court in late Spring, and performed at an annual concert. The Student got this last great affair going. It was a drastic change of mission; the weaklings had to be taught silence during the tough passages; Jim Denton had to switch from the bells to the wooden xylophone, and a crowd large enough to fill Mandel Hall had to be attracted. The Student got the Stephenson sisters and a couple of other highly visible females to usher, and sent out drum and bugle to sound off and hand out leaflets. The climax of the concert, packed to overflowing with neighbors who had never been to the Hall before, was, of course, the line of trumpets standing and blaring "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
The dress rehearsal on a Saturday morning before football was a hairy affair. A Supreme Council, the informal ruling clique actually, had drawn up diagrams of the maneuvers for the beginning of the game and the Between-the-Halves Intermission. These plans,now mimeographed, were studied by the Bandsmen as they stood around and dressed. The basic formation, the massed rectangle, remained the same from one game to another. From here, the several elements peeled off to form words ("Hi Mich!") (Chi 42, Wis 0!) or designs -- a heart, a shield, an arrow. The Supreme Council came up one Saturday with "O HELL" and then broke off in the middle of a march, with the Director waving and pointing in desperation at the "error." The "O" fled down the field, reassembled into "HELLO", picked up the march where it had broken off, amidst great applause, and swung into "IOWA." Most of the bandsmen had played and drilled in High School bands, so did not require basic training and, to repeat, they were clever, they knew their left from their right foot.
The most feared goof was the loss of the beat, when one end of the Band was thumping away on the "Wave" while the other end had already waved the "Flag" and matters could go from bad to worse, until the Director, from afar, had to signal the whole operation to grind to a halt, and then start it up again, amid universal embarrassment, but it never happened during the Student's career. It teetered on the brink, though, several times: that appalling sensation -- alarm, panic, dreadfulness - not of the ear of the ear for music -- for in a football band you lend your ear to all manner of acoustical atrocities, the bloopers flit about in mosquito-clouds -- but in the ear for the beat that portends the imminence of physical collapse of the living formation in its enormous extension, from the tip of the "U" to the dot of the "O". And the sources of risk were usually either the clarinets or the peck-horns. Why the peck-horns? Because you or the next student you meet on campus can poop it out, given a few lessons, and they are a loud alto blasting voice, and you can use ten, twenty, any number of them on simple march tunes. Why the Clarinets? Because, in band music, they imitate the role of violins in the orchestra, playing the fastest
arpeggios and chromatics, the thirty-second notes, too, if any one is silly enough to write them for a marching band. You don't have to worry about players like Bob Mohlman, even when his fingers are freezing, but the body of clarinettists who are unpracticed and not highly trained to begin with. All they need to do is to slow down a bit for each couple of steps and beats, and there goes the show! This happens when they think about keeping in step and slow their fingers. Or when their fingers, never very fast, get chilled in the November cold continental air mass that has just descended from Winnipeg upon The Chicago Midway and move by tenths of a second slower and slower. And when this wind first speeds up the sound, then slows it down, that makes it hard to hear the other side of the Band.
Sound has a speed of 1100 feet per second. If the Band is spread out for forty yards on the field, a beat in extremis could lose one-tenth of a second and begin to syncopate. The bandsman has to watch the baton of the Drum Major, who has to watch the baton of the Band Director standing on a podium at the sidelines where the full audio-visual effect strikes home. Convey the baton and the drums to the center and cut this loss to one-twentieth of a second. The Chicago Band pioneered the fast-step, practically a trot, two steps per second. At this rate, one-twentieth of a second can start the unraveling of the beat; add several slow marchers (a bass horn is heavy!), a puff of wind, a 45-degree temperature, a slow-fingered, rhythm-weak, crowd-diverted,nervous novice (10% of the Band), and you are skirting derangement and collapse.
Like every other institution -- company, city, nation, labor union or army -- the Band depends heavily upon a few key personnel. (Cf. Roberto Michels, First Lectures in Political Sociology, et al.) Johnny Dearham was hardly what you call elite, he was a ringer, a housepainter from the old Irish neighborhood above 55th street, and a bassdrummer sans pareil. As sweet as they come, but more of him another time; as regular as the clock, and he beat like a metronome but a hundred times piu forte -- twice, thrice, he singlehandedly saved the Band from ignominy. And more than once, the Student, agonizedly hearing the slippage occurring among the twenty clarinets and the six piccolos and projecting it to disaster, bent his trumpet bell around, Jim Cowhey to his left doing likewise and Hitchens following up (they are marching at a fast pace and from one formation into another meanwhile) and blasts like the bugle of Roland that clamored for Charlemagne far away, hitting ridiculously hard the accents of the music so that the veriest boob could catch the beat and pick it up, whereupon Johnny Dearham from far away espies his movement and thunderously pounds his drum, you would think it about to burst (no help from Big Bertha here, either, because of its reverberations that unsettle the beat more than fix it). Until, finally, the straying woodwind whimps and off-pecking perambulators are driven back onto the beat.
The Band was invariably outnumbered by the other Big Ten Conference Bands who had four times as many students to draw upon, including large Departments and Schools of Music. It was the same problem as in other areas where intellectual and artistic skills were not the name of the game: in football, baseball, basketball, track and field, and swimming; yet oddly enough the University excelled in certain sporting competitions, often in gymnastics, fencing, wrestling -- boxing was out else the Student would have been into it -- sports that intellectuals had a bent for, it seemed, but then there was water polo as well, and the reason here might seem to be the avantgarde nature of the sport; it had not been played in America for very long. In the several sports where defeat was often inevitable, the athletes who couldn't stand to lose regularly quit. There could still be a high morale on the teams, victory through brave defeat, sportsmanship and all of that, the Polish Cavalry against the Nazi Panzers.
The Band had its ringers, like the Symphony Orchestra, excellent musicians from around the University (therefore part of the University Community by my definition) or of the City. I am minded to compare them with the athletes emerging from heavily subsidized football, of the North Indiana steelworkers on the Hoosiers'team, of the blacks who suddenly discover via their muscles that they are University calibre and practically whites, of the Iowa cornhusker who hears that the life which his native University of Iowa promises him is less than the high-life at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
When Jerzy Sokol, whose fame still lingered in the Parochial League as its paramount Drum Major, who could crack a cloud with his toss and recover it in step five yards ahead, when Jerzy got up of a Saturday morning and packed his duffle bag with his tall plumed helmet and uniform that made him the spitting image of the Buckingham Guards Drum Major, and unwrapped for a last look the gleaming baton, twirling it as one always does an instrument -- who ever can just unwrap his instrument, his tool, and merely glance a it and return it to its wrappings? -- was he undercutting the pretensions of the University of Chicago to be a college of amateur activities, where the spirit and the play and the aspiring student and his progress were what counted; ,was he doing in the field of music what Mr. Hutchins said could not be done in the field of athletics? (But didn't Mr. H. employ all his guile to bring that traducer of crowds, William Benton, to Chicago to sell professionally what the amateur faculties couldn't peddle?)
Was it even a sadder transgression of the ideal if Mr. Bachman dipped into petty cash to pay Jerzy ten dollars to put in an appearance, and what an appearance!? How, then, do Johnny Dearham the Bassdrummer, and Jim Cowhey his housepainter friend of the clear-sounding trumpet, and Steve Riszek, the smiling grizzled-chin drummer from Cicero Avenue, and at least another half-dozen bandsmen, in fact, if you must know the truth, any decent working bandsman who wanted to have fun with the University Band of a Saturday morning or for that matter anytime of the year could find a welcome and join in. And all were the happier for it.
Yet what happened to the ethical problem? Or is it really a problem of how to get the most out of an educational endeavor. Or something else. The football team of the University of Chicago is about to make an appearance. It is so far as we know the only team in the Big Ten whose football players have paid their tuition or earned a scholarship on academic grounds, who are not paid or promised payment in the future for their prowess and performance on the football field, who are not guaranteed academic degrees if they continue in good standing as footballers for the full term of college and do not commit some obscenity. The Chicago team shows the effects of this purity of composition: it is last in Big Ten standings; its players are more courageous than competent with the highly visible exception of Jay Berwanger, who could have earned a decent income and studied less hard at any sister University.
All the other teams show the same "Hutchins Effect." The Student, a member of the Water Polo Team, when he needed a few hours of work in his senior year, asked for it of the athletic department, which, proceeding under the principle that if no skill was required on a job you might as well hire your own boys, paid him fifty cents an hour to sit for a couple of evenings a week inside the cage of Bartlett Gym, taking in soiled towels and identification cards,and passing out clean towels and soap, most of the time, however, reading in the theory of political science, enveloped in warm stillness, smelling the clean white cotton towels stacked about him, a most soothing and delicious odor.
But now turn to the other departments of the University. Every Department -- Sociology, Zoology, Philosophy, English Literature -- asks for as much money as it can cram into its annual budget to hire Teaching Assistants, Assistant Instructors, Research Assistants, Technicians, Secretaries, and Field Workers. Are these not professionals? Do they not mingle with the students and lend the student body a strength that it would not otherwise have, teach students what they otherwise might not learn? Yes, there is no limit, and justifiably so, to which a Department and Operation of the University will not go to hire professional help to bolster educational standards, help the students learn, and make a great name for the University.
All of this activity is rarely called into question; all of it is justifiable; yet it is much like hiring the best talent possible to play football for the University, to hang around the gymnasium and the classrooms contemplating inoffensive unintellectual subjects.
If this idea is accepted, then every University would be justified in hiring the best football team it could afford and there would be no more reason for Minnesota to complain about California's team professionals than for the Department of Psychology of the University of Minnesota to complain about the fact that California at Berkeley is paying its Research Assistants and Adjunct Professors twice as much as they are. The whole controversy, as it agitated Chicago and the Big Ten and the country and as it today continues to excite the most elaborate costly struggle among schools is hardly more than a logical fallacy, a quarrel centering about false premises, that Mr. Hutchins, the Aristotelian logician, perceived more clearly than most people. That is to say, one school plays another because it has a chance of winning a game which a number of its students like to play or watch; further, its preferences, its customs, its ideals, its philosophy if you will, counsel it to spend no more than it is spending of its limited income in getting up a better team. If it does more than this, it is a sucker for the crowd, the mob, the same people who kill each other in the soccer games of the rest of the world but who are temporarily under restraint in America. It is a sucker for the great American boobery.
But of course if the school and the people who foot its bills believe it is better to invest money on a good football team than on experimental philology or population-control methods, because the team is more fun and brings in great profits and garish publicity, then there is logically no stopping it: it is time to get off the bus. One can only argue and politic sneakily or noisily for larger budgets within that sad framework or build one's own ideal university, partly achievable at best, like the University of Chicago.
All this while, the clock moves nearer to game time and at fifteen minutes before kick-off, there is a grand fan-fare of trumpets from the West Stands, and the multitude's eager eyes turn to see the band. It files out behind the blasting and flaring gold and silver bells. Big Bertha emerges dragged by her minions. There is a crescendo of drums. Jerzy Sokol, no longer an ordinary Chicago citizen with a harelip and a sweet smile, but Invoker of the Lightning of Jupiter, raises high his baton, crashes it down, and the Band steps off quickly, practically trotting, to the silly harmless March of Chicago's Fighting Maroons.