If you visit the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Colorado Springs during mild weather, you can stand on the terrace by Arnold Hall, and witness the Cadet Wing lunch formation and march from above. You will also be treated to marching music provided by the AFA Band as the cadets march to Mitchell Hall, where meals are served.
At least that’s how it was when I was a 4th Classman (freshman) way back in 1959-60.
You may know that a 4th classman back then was considered barely human by the upperclassmen (there were no female cadets until a few years later). The status of a Doolie, a nickname for 4th classmen, along with much less polite other nicknames, was best described as someone whose God-given rights had been taken away the day he arrived and returned to him one by one but called “privileges.”
On one of those mild days in the fall of 1959, after we had started lunch, one of the upperclassmen at my table asked me if I could somehow arrange for more lively marching music at our next lunch formation.
Before he allowed me to continue eating, he said he wouldn’t hold me to it, but if I could figure out a way to have the band play something other than “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other Sousa standards, the Cadet Wing would be most grateful.
I had a surprise for him.
When we returned to Vandenburg Hall and our rooms, I managed to get to a phone and call a friend. The friend was a fellow I had helped get through Air Force basic training and who was then assigned to the AFA Band. I got through to him and told him my predicament. He said he would talk to the captain in charge.
The next day, much to the delight of every cadet, the AFA Band struck up the “St. Louis Blues March,” putting more strut in our steps and causing quite a rumble of conversation when we sat down to lunch.
The upperclassman who had asked me to arrange better marching music asked me whether I’d had a part in the new marching music selection.
“Mister Bohlin, you know the Honor Code, correct? We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do?”
“And you maintain that you played some part in what we just witnessed.”
“Well, I’m not going to ask you right now, but at some point I will want an explanation.”
(The command “Eat” meant to direct your attention back to your food and proceed to eat. No response was necessary.)
At the end of my 4th class year, on the day of the graduation ceremony for the 1st classmen, the Cadet Wing formed for what was called “Recognition,” when the 4th classmen are “recognized” by the upperclassmen, who go through the ranks of their squadrons to shake hands for the first time with their doolies.
The 1st classman who asked me to arrange better marching music made it a point to seek me out to ask how I had managed to get the AFA Band to play that great marching music.
When I about my insider, he laughed. Then he made it a point to announce my secret to all who were close enough to hear him, making the end of my 4th class year even sweeter than it already was, the day I became a 3rd classman and was reinstated to human status.
And the AFA Band played the “St. Louis Blues” march for the graduation parade.