Just as a toll was taken on the corps after the ’84 season, a similar drain was placed on the corps at the end of the ’85 season. That is why 1986 is such a sweet and euphoric year. The winter was poor, we had internal problems and but we had a small group of regulars who were used to the way things turned out. These people would stay no matter what; the question would be could we have enough of them to field a corps.
There were much better odds of the corps folding rather than winning the championship. In fact, the drum corps rumor mill had us dead. We did not appear at any winter standstills and our first show would not be until July 5th. So there was concern for the well being of the Bushwackers.
There was justification is those rumors. Aside from all the other points mentioned, Al DiCroce and his wife Sandy had left the corps to move up to Canada and devote their energies to Dutch Boy. Al had been made director of Dutch Boy over the winter and his departure left a void in the soul of the corps. Things did not look too good in the opening months.
The corps now needed a show coordinator, head horn instructor and head color guard instructor. We also needed a drill designer, music and a show. Other than that, we were in fine shape thank you.
The administration met and after consulting the instructional staff offered Gary Oberwanowicz the position of show coordinator and head horn instructor. Gary had been a horn instructor with the corps since 1982, after marching with the Bridgemen, and had the respect of the corps members and both staffs. The head colorguard position was filled by Steve Walsh, who aside from working with many colorguards, was a member of the colorguard in 1984. And the position of drill designer went to two people, Roy Chambers and Allen Chesnovitz. Allen marched as soprano soloist with the Saints and the Garfield Cadets, and Roy had been a member of Royal Brigade before joining Bush in 1982. Both Roy and Allen were writing a DCA level drill for the first time.
With these additions, mostly all from within the corps, the Bushwackers began a journey into the next level of the corps.
A decision was made by Gary and his staff to put together a show from past seasons that could be fine tuned and reworked. So Santos, Quensabe/Las Suertas de Los Tontos and Egyptian Danza were brought back from the ’83 and ’84 shows. The only new musical number added on was a Larry Kerchner arrangement of Aries Eyes.
An effort was made to try and bring back some members from previous season and this proved fairly successful. But credit deserves to go to corps members who stayed from the winter of ’85-’86 because they went through the most trying times.
By June we had a corps that would make the field and do itself justice. We were not world beaters, but we weren’t going to disgrace ourselves either. It was a good little corps. By July 4th, the day before our first show, we had a full dress rehearsal at approximately 9 pm. This would serve as our run-through and it would be the first time Bush ever was so organized. As the corps performed I could see the fireworks exploding in the night air framing the Statue of Liberty in the distance. It was a sight and an omen I would soon not forget.
On July 5th in Bridgeport CT the corps performed well enough to come in third place with a 72.90, ahead of the Sunrisers and 3.5 in back of the first place Buccaneers. After that good showing we added about 8 horn players the following week and the corps suddenly began to fill up. The following week found Bush in second place in Torrington, CT and later on down the season in third place at the regionals in Scranton, PA.
The two weeks leading up to the championship the corps rehearsed 12 out of 14 days including an all day rehearsal the Friday before Labor Day. During that time the thought began to emerge that the Bushwackers could win the championship. Up until then no one even discussed the idea. At that point in the season Steel City had lost only one show and that was to the Cabs in Scranton. Bush and the Bucs were in third and fourth respectively and not entirely counted out. Although the corps had never won a single show, people inside and out of the corps began to talk about Bush winning the championship.
At prelims the Bushwackers went on last again, just as we did in ’82, and Steel City and Hawthorne had posted a tie with 89.65. We performed the best show of the season, including what would be our finals performance. The corps was certain they won prelims.
But another set back, we scored a 88.70 and were still in third. The corps was noticeably depressed as they went to dinner. Although no one made any speeches or tried to rally the corps, something happened to the corps. It seemed people just kicked themselves up and made the decision to max out the show in finals. If it won great, if not fine, at least we had one more chance to prove ourselves.
We followed the Buccaneers on the field in finals. From the start we had good crowd support and response, despite interruptions by a near by motorcycle and a helicopter. The Bushwackers performed an emotional show. Technically we were better in prelims, but emotionally we were better in finals. Of the two, prelims was honestly better.
In retrospect it seemed that Steel City and Hawthorne were more concerned with not losing to the other, they both forgot about us. At retreat we took the first major caption award, high horns, which came as a pleasant surprise since we had never won high horns, and we had placed 4th in horns in prelims (tied for 6th in MA). Then we took high percussion which we had taken all year, unknown to many the Bushwacker drumline went undefeated in percussion in ’86. Then the best thing that could happen, next to winning the remaining captions occurred when Steel City and the Cabs each took high GE and M&M respectively. The important spread was in drums and that led us to our first DCA championship. The Bushwackers had finally won their first show and they picked the championship to do it at.
Retreat and pass in review went by in a big blur. Steel City showed a lot of class by turning to us before they left the field and performed Somewhere from West Side Story. You have to admire them that night, they won all but two shows in 1986 and finals must have broken their hearts. Not many corps would have done what they did.
In just five years of field competition the corps won a championship with two major captions with a 92.45. All this in a year that almost didn’t happen.
Santos, Quensabe, Las Suertas de Los Tontos, Egyptian Danza, Aries Eyes
Drum Major: John Gough
PRELIMS: 3rd – 88.70
FINALS: 1st – 92.45