Sunday, November 17, 2013

In step

When I was a schoolboy living in Fountain Hill, Pa., one of the great anticipations of my life was the village's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

At least, I think it was Thanksgiving. My memory shifts like sand in the tide on this one. It could have been a Halloween parade, although I don't think so because I'm pretty sure Santa Claus was involved somewhere near the parade's denouement. Santa usually doesn't appear at Halloween parties. He didn't used to, anyway, although it doesn't really matter. Right now, the parade's the thing.

Like all parades, it featured beauty queens riding in open convertibles, marching bands, local dignitaries, fire trucks, policemen, Kiwanians and Odd Fellows. Streetside vendors, even back in the 1950s, sold instantly breakable toys, popcorn and cotton candy to squalling children. I might have been one of them.

Every so often, a color guard would appear and maybe a JROTC squad. Back when I was 5 and 6 years old, I might have thought the JROTC were real soldiers because, you know, they carried wooden rifles. I remember wanting one of those rifles, which I guess were really triggerless facsimile rifles not meant for the shooting range. It amazed me that majorettes carried rifles, too, and they could twirl them with ease high into the air — and then catch them in mid-twirl, like they were batons.

That still amazes me, actually.

Anyway, those parades came in my formative years and I've been enamored by parades ever since. Somehow, the parade gene has been injected into my DNA.

You have to admit, there is a certain rhythm and beat to a parade, no doubt set and maintained by each passing marching band's drum corps. So when this year's Veterans' Day parade came marching through town, I was there. Happily.

I applauded the grand marshal, the school and chapter queens, the fire trucks and police cars. I might have even waved at a local politician or two (not sure).

But I do have one complaint. Keep in mind this is not a complaint borne of disdain or anger. It's simply a complaint borne of observation: why can't the JROTC units march in cadence?

There were several JROTCs in the parade, and basically each member of each unit was marching to his own drummer. What the heck? High school bands were marching in near-perfect cadence — left, right, left, right, you had a good home but you left, you're right — as were color guards, police officers and anyone else who could keep time to the beat. But the JROTC units were strolling along at a social pace as if they were getting ready to feed the ducks at City Lake. And I wasn't the only one who noticed this.

If anybody should be marching in perfect cadence, shouldn't it be the JROTC? Where's the pride? Where's the precision? If they don't teach anything else in JROTC, shouldn't they at least teach marching?

The Christmas Parade is approaching fast. There's still time.

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