"The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly"



Their beginning evolved from one simple event. In 1957 the Madison Scouts were invited to perform at the St. Paul Winter Carnival and before the end of November of that year the First National Bank of St. Paul began sponsoring a drum and bugle corps from the Indianhead Council Boy Scouts of America. Initially meant only to be a parade unit, they developed into a nationally recognized competition corps by the mid-sixties with instruction coming from only within the ranks.

Spending the first two years in area parades, including the Minnesota Centennial in 1958, they attempted competition in 1959 extremely naive to the activity. Stillwater's Drum Beauty began providing exposure to top units, but it was the 1959 AL Nationals in Minneapolis that gave them the opportunity to see competitive drum corps at its finest, and in large doses. After viewing the senior finals they had new ideas and a new direction. Corps members began to take the reins of instruction and slowly the corps matured in both age and experience.

In 1961 they traveled to Colorado Springs for the National Scout Jamboree and in 1962 the Seattle World's Fair where they swept all they had entered, finally feeling competitive. In attending their second national competition - the VFW Nationals in Minneapolis, their eyes were opened, but the disappointment they felt only caused them to examine themselves. They began to innovate. Music had to be original and percussion features became an integral part of that music. Drill opened up with the guard being incorporated into the formations. The stage was set for success and that came in 1963 when they overtook Madison Scouts (the corps responsible for their inception) with a solo packed exciting musical show. They began to generate a following with the fans outside their own state. That area of exposure, however, was limited to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

In 1964, the corps consisted of many original members about to age out. The show was much more demanding on all levels. They competed on par with the best in the Midwest and the East. In attending the New York World's Fair they got the exposure they sought, but did not leave themselves with the finances necessary to attend either national competition. The chance to place among the drum corps elite had been lost and it would take years to find them in that position again.

The second half of the 60's saw a new group of Minnesota bred instructors taking over. The color guard stepped to the forefront, becoming one of the most innovational in the country and the drum line moved ahead of the brass section for the first time in the corps history. Between 1965 and 1969 they twice traveled to the World Open in Lynn, MA and competed in National Championships in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. It had been 5 years, but 1969 the corps was again presented with a legitimate chance to make finals in national competition. An entirely new show and sound had given them a 5th place finish at World Open, but penalties in national prelims dropped them to 14th.

The early 70's marked huge changes for the St. Paul Scouts. Barely missing national finals in both 70 and 71, their goal was finally met in 1972 with a 7th place finish at the Chicago AL championship and an 8th place finish at VFW nationals in Minneapolis. But the drum corps activity was changing too. 1972 marked the first year for DCI - an organization that would revolutionize the activity. Originally meant to allow units greater control, its development gradually spelled the end of many those lesser funded.

The addition of females in 1973 was meant to bolster the size of the organization as well create an even stronger color guard through the use of the talented members of the winter guard circuit. The corps competed at high levels, but trouble from within came from two factions. The scouting organization was unhappy with the female additions and many felt they should concentrate on DCI admission. At the end of the year, the result was a complete split - a new corps being formed by the majority of the older members and the B corps becoming the St. Paul Scouts.

1974 was like beginning all over, but in reality the extremely young corps had more experience than the one began in 1956. The staff came from outside the organization for the first time since their inception and they were once again a parade corps. From 1975 thru 1977 the unit developed, matured, and returned to competition. Although a corps was fielded in 1978, changes in staff, financial problems with sponsorship, and the loss of independent shows through the demands and cost brought on by DCI, had sealed their fate. It had been quite a ride, but it was over. What were left were great memories of great people and great times.

As the 50th anniversary of their founding approached, a reunion was planned with the difficulty of contacting hundreds of past members posing the greatest problem. When finalized it stretched over 3 days and with the help of many included a banquet, lots of time for socializing, and a reunion corps larger than any fielded by the organization. A result of that reunion, a booklet containing the expanded history complete with names, details, hundreds of photographs, and a corps membership directory was produced. It is available from the webmaster.

St Paul Scouts SPS History

Mike Gordanier, 2008