We have a long history - more than 100 years - of band music. Our own Porterville High School not only has the oldest-continuous marching high school band in the state of California - but also in the nation!
Recently we unveiled a beautiful 100-foot long mural at Centennial Park in downtown Porterville.
That day was one that I will remember forever. To be there and watch Porterville High, Monache High and Granite Hills High bands march in, one by one, and gather - facing the park - and listening to them play the National Anthem and a patriotic medley - I loved it. Later, listening to everyone talk about our great band leaders - and listening to Jim Kusserow play "Amazing Grace" on trumpet as doves were released. I felt tears on my face. And as the band mural itself was unveiled - and seeing it, after years of anticipation, for the first time in all it's 100-foot long glory -- It was more than my heart could take.
I stood there in silence, in awe, not of the mural itself but of our town, the people who made the mural itself possible, our bands - all of them. I walked to the Time Marches on Clock - the one with the bronzed figurine of Buck Shaffer, baton in hand, leading the band - and I sat in silence. I thought about Buck Shaffer and of my love for music, band, our veterans and America. It all came rushing in at once. It was an explainable experience and one I don't claim to understand.
Do you know how you hear that right before a person dies, you see your life flash before your eyes?
I had something like that happen to me. I, in fast seconds yet in perfect clarity, saw myself at age 4 - meeting and talking to Buck Shaffer for the first time, I saw Martha Anderson introducing us to Lynn Enos when she first arrived to PHS - and loving her from day one! I saw myself standing on the football field, waiting for halftime to begin and smiling/laughing as the band came out in double time with their then traditional high-kick march - half running/half marching. I remembered how I felt at my very first ever Band-A-Rama - an experience I will never forget, and how I felt when I marched onto Jamison Stadium for my first-ever halftime show - and walking out onto the filled-to-capacity stadium to march at several Los Angeles Rams halftime shows. I remembered Gerald Ford shaking my hand and telling me he liked my smile and how sharp I looked in my Orange Blossom uniform, the super bright television lights that almost blinded me as the band marched around a bend in the street during a Hollywood Christmas Parade and marching in Disneyland year after year. The fast, yet completely focused pictures and feelings kept coming - my first East Coast Tour - seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, looking up at amazement as our bus drove past the Empire State Building and having the Twin Towers pointed out o us as we drove by on our way to tour the United Nations in New York City.
I felt tears once again as I thought of Buck Shaffer - and of some of his final days and felt grateful I was able to spend so much time with him at the end, visiting him daily for weeks.Later of traveling to Shinnston, his hometown, and touring his childhood home, Shinnston High School, the cemetery where many Shaffers are buried, and attending, and reporting on the Fabulous Studio Band Concert in Buck Shaffer's hometown.
How was it possible to see all that during a few minutes, I don't understand.
It could not have been more than two or three minutes. I got up, walked to the mural and continued talking to people. They all talked about the same love, the same respect, they felt for Buck Shaffer, our current band directors and our high school bands.