First Interview With Herb Towler
- Herb Towler, Drum Major 1943-44
- Simultaneously acted as Senior Manager
- 2076 Oakland Avenue, Piedmont, 94611.
- Dan Cheatham, Drum Major 1957
- Date of Interview:
- February 5, 1992
- Yumiko Abe
- [Minor revisions for clarity and grammar by Dan Cheatham. Inserted by Tim Castro on 27 April 1994. Additional review made in January 2000.
- Towler reviewed this in December 1999 and were entered by Cheatham in February 2000. Towler made an additional review in March 2000. These were entered by Cheatham in March 2000.
- Final preparation occurred in August 2001.
- Following editorial notes are attributed as thus:
- Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham - NHC
- Tim Castro - TC]
Keywords: Bert Hammond, Byron Wilson, Charles Cushing, Room 5 Eshleman Hall, Women in the Band, Chris Tellefsen, Uniforms, Drum Major’s Style, World War II Years, Baton Society, Game-Day Activities, Rooting Section, Alumni Band, Pantsing
Cheatham: How did you first become aware of the Cal Band?
Towler: I’m a product of the Oakland schools, and I went to University High School, formerly at 5744 Grove Street, Oakland, between 58th and Aileen. Grove street is now named Martin Luther King Way. It was sponsored in great part by the University of California as a place to assign its student teachers. One of the student teachers was Bert Hammond who was Cal Band Student Director in 1939, the year after Jim Berdahl was Student Director. There was also Byron Wilson (Clarinet 1930), who is now deceased. He was very active and was a student teacher at Oakland Technical High School, University High Schools rival. Byron was respected at both schools, “Uni” and “Tech”.
Most of us at “Uni” High, automatically, it seemed, went to Cal. Being interested in music for so many years, primarily in bands, my friends and I always wanted to be...and it was our ideal...to be in the Cal Band. I entered Cal in October of 1941 and had my audition with Charles Cushing at that time. I served the Band as Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Managers as well as Drum Major in 1943-44.
Cheatham: Tell us about your audition.
Towler: My audition was really sight-reading...as a percussionist.
I think I may have been introduced to Charles, or my name was introduced to him, perhaps through my father, who I believe played with Cushing in the Bohemian Club Orchestra in San Francisco at one point. They each other there. Prior to that time, he may have known me because I played in the Berkeley Young Peoples Symphony under the direction of Jessica Marcelli. She was the wife of Ulderico Marcelli who wrote the music for several “Grove Plays” performed by the Bohemian Grove.
Several of my friends in the Berkeley Young People’s Symphony later joined me as members of the Cal Band. Ed Kirwan who did a great many of the photos for the Cal Band and other Cal events also played in this symphony. So did Huntley Johnson and Dave Fulmer.
As I remember, the audition was held at Room 5, Eshleman Hall, which is right near Eshleman Court across from the ASUC Store at that time. [The ASUC Store was on the ground floor of the Stevens Student Union, now called Stevens Hall. NHC]
Cheatham: What are your your recollections of Room 5.
Towler: Room 5 Eshleman Hall is revered by most Bandsmen because it was our “hang-out.” We had showers and bathroom facilities as well as a ping pong table there. We had lockers and close by in an adjoining room, our uniforms were kept until assigned.
It was a general gathering-place for gossiping...for having lunch, or whatever... It was very much a social room but also very practical because we all had lockers there which we could use for whatever purpose we might want.
Cheatham: Herb, I’m reading from the 1942 Blue and Gold. There’s a paragraph about Room 5 that says:
Out of that sacred and noisy sanctuary, the Band Room, where no woman dares tread, came the ideas for the stunts that entertained between halves at football games.
Why do you suppose it says, “No woman dares to tread?”
Towler: For many, many years the Band was strictly a male organization. This was an extension of its origins as the band for the University of California Cadet Corps, back in the 1880s. During the years I was in the Band the all-male camaraderie was a source of high esprit de corps.
When women were admitted in 1973,it was a big shock for most of the dyed-in-the-wool old-Blue Bandsmen because that was really either a step forward or a step back. We never really figured it out, except we now know that it was a step in the right direction. But at that time we thought of it as a step backward...we thought. [See page 73 of the Cal Band centennial book The Pride of California.]
Eshleman Hall [Now called Moses Hall. NHC] was very close to where Chris Tellefsen hung out...there at the ASUC Store where he dispensed the caps and gowns during special occasions and was the receiving clerk for the ASUC store. Chris was extremely close to the Cal Band, and probably spent as much time in Room 5 as he did dispensing caps and gowns. We would hear a lot of his stories about his life in the Yukon and other related things, because he truly loved being with the Cal Band. [See interview with his daughter Betsy.]
Cheatham: At that time, the Associated Students maintained a large stock of caps and gowns, which Chris rented out during graduation exercises and other academic celebrations, such as Charter Day, to the students and faculty who did not have their own. He would hire Cal Bandsmen to help him.
Herb’s reference to the Yukon relates to the fact that Chris participated in the gold rush to the Yukon and had many stories to share with the Bandsmen during his leisure time. [See oral history with his daughter Betsy. NHC]
I also notice in that same 1942 Blue and Gold, that the size of the Band is listed as only 59 Bandsmen.
Regarding auditions, it says that
...the qualifications for Cal Bandsmen are few. All that is needed is a thorough knowledge of spelling, and the ability to distinguish the right foot from the left. Some claim that musical talent is also needed; but the rumor has never been verified.
Towler: Although I might take exception to the fact that no special musical talent was necessary, Charles Cushing, I felt, did give good try-outs, and we did have good musical rehearsals. Most of our music rehearsals, in good weather, were held up at the Greek Theater.
Cheatham: This leads me to ask about the Drum Major of the time, and how marching rehearsals were conducted.
Towler: Our marching rehearsals were held in the Stadium. Mal Taylor [See his oral history.] was Drum Major in 1942, and I believe he was also a Drum Major for a portion of 1943 as well. He was an excellent organizer, and a lot of thought went into his stunts, although they certainly weren’t as extensive as stunts are today. We would generally be given a chalkboard-idea of what it was going to be, perhaps similar to what we do with the Alumni Band today, and then we’d go outdoors for marching rehearsal. Mal had two assistant drum majors to help during marching rehearsals.
Remember, too, that we had a lot of fun in between. I remember how embarrassed I was when Perry Wood, a former member of the Uni High band gave me “the finger” (which at that time was considered quite risqu) the first time I ever saw him in the front line of the Cal Band at a parade while I was still a student in high school. I can also remember that at rehearsals at the Greek Theatre one or more of the fellows would find themselves pantsed and their pants put up on an empty flagpole. [See interview with Dave Wenrich. NHC] But all in all, music and musical rehearsals were taken seriously.
The Senior Manager was Marvin Colton.
Cheatham: Tell us about Charles C. Cushing.
Towler: Professor Cushing was very well-liked by Bandsmen, and led a pretty tight musical ship. He was a fine musician. His special interest was in French music.
I remember that there was a Band concert in September 1943, where I was the timpanist soloist for Jaromir Weinberger’s Concerto for Timpani, and to give you an idea of the type of music we played at that time, included were pieces by eighteenth-century American, and modern Russian composers. We played Glory, Triumphant Victory and Fame, and Bunker Hill, and Mussorgsky as well. So it wasn’t just band music--he conducted both the marching band and the concert band, as well.
While Professor Cushing conducted our rehearsals and performances on the field, our student directors were the ones that pretty much took charge on other occasions. As I remember, in 1942, Bob Lee was our Student Director. I believe Walt Noller was Student Director in 1943, then Alcide Marin took over and was Student Director when I graduated in 1944. I believe Alcide still lives locally, and has played in the Alumni Band. [Alcide lives in North Oakland. By chance, he was the organist when Grace Tiscareño (PRD ’88) and Genro Sato (SM ’88) were married in the Chapel at Treasure Island in May 1992. See interview with Alcide - NHC]
Cheatham: Describe the uniforms of your day.
Towler: I remember traveling by bus to play at the State Fair at Sacramento, also a train trip to the Southland to play UCLA, I think it was.
In each case we wore white, and tight--hot and miserable uniforms. These were changed in 1943 to blue coat with gray pants with a blue stripe on the outside seam. We wore Sam Browne belts, a belt that went across from the right shoulder down to the left hip. Our hats were a policemans type cap, yellow with a blue “C” on them.
The thing that I remember at that time, too, is that’s when the Stanford football team used the “T”-formation, and Frankie Albert was their quarterback. Our stunt at the Big Game had to do with a teapot, where we tipped the teapot and poured out a “T” formation. [“T’formation” refers to how the football players formed up at the line of scrimmage.]
Sometimes we were invited to play at the Shriners’ annual East-West game.
Cheatham: How did you hear of the Pearl Harbor attack?
Towler: I was at home studying for my first final. It was in Geography 5A. I received my first and only D grade. As a College of Commerce major, obviously, geography was not my forte.
Cheatham: What impact did Pearl Harbor have on the Band?
Towler: Well, the true impact of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, in my memory, didn’t really show up until about 1943, but nevertheless, many of the Bandsmen were called into service, and many Bandsmen later on were members of the so-called V-12 unit...“V” as in “Victory”. Some were in the Army. Some were in the Marine Corps. Some were in the Navy. All had assignments on campus. They helped augment our Band, which went from perhaps 75 members down to maybe 35 members during the years, say, from 1942 to 1945, until many of the fellows were able to come back and build up the Band again.
I remember Russ Green [See his oral history.] and I entered the Band in 1941, and he was one of our assistant Drum Majors, I believe, in 1943. Both he and I were Sophomore Managers, but he was called into the Service, and I continued on and was Junior, and then Senior Manager. During that time, there were so few bodies around that there was no one to even be Drum Major. Professor Cushing asked me to assume that job.
It was traditional for the Drum Major to twirl the baton and send it over the goal post crossbar but I didn’t accomplish this very often. I believe I have more dents in my baton than any Cal Band Drum Major before or since.
Perhaps my inability to twirl the baton was due to my relatively small hands and the size of the baton I was able to buy. Small twirling batons were not available perhaps due to the materials being used for the war effort.
Now, they go through the goal post, and throw the baton from perhaps about mid-field, but at that time, the idea was to twirl the baton over the goal post.
Cheatham: Here’s a quote from the 1944 Blue and Gold that might joggle some thoughts for you, Herb: The Pride of California football fans is the University Band, A-1 half-time performers and promoters of school spirit. Under the baton of Chief Bandsman Herb Towler, the fellows operated under a shortage of members and refused to allow women students to participate, thus upholding a pet tradition in the Band. Wheeler step rallies continued during the year, with the Band as the main focal point. Informally and ununiformed, the men serpentined through the court... and I believe that’s a reference to Eshleman court. That was the name of the courtyard located between what is now called Moses Hall and Stephens Hall.
...down South Drive to the shallow end of Wheeler, gathering enthusiastic fans to join in yells and songs. Without their music, the spirit of Cal rooters at wartime games would have failed.
Do you have any comments on that quote?
Towler: No great comments on the quote. I think they’re all reasonably true, and whether we want to believe it or not, that’s what the newspaper said we did. We were able to keep up the school spirit, I feel, through the energy of the Bandsmen, and although we were small in numbers, we did our best to keep up the school spirit.
Reading from a September 21, 1944 article in the San Francisco Examiner, it says,
There are reports and observations of secret practice sessions. Our scouts inform us that the Cal Band has retained much of its old vigor, and is ready to give out with some mighty ’purty’ blasts.
Another paragraph says.
As in the case of the California football team, Navy V-12’s and Marine trainees have come to the aid of the Band, bolstering its ranks so that the tuba section alone is three deep. One Marine piccolo player is said to be a veteran of the South Pacific.
At one time, I apparently was quoted...true or not...
“I think it is safe to say that the Bandsmen are marching and spelling ’C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A’ in mid-season form, and this early in the campaign, that’s something.”
It also says,
Whether safe [to say] or not, Mr. Towler says it.
I question that I really said that and chalk it up to “creative journalism.”
I will say, that during the war, due to our limited numbers...I do remember that we didn’t have enough men to spell out letters for our various stunts, and on occasion, we’d have to hang large letters around our necks to spell out a given word. [See the photo on photo page 9 bound with this interview. The Navy’s Del Monte Preflight school is now the Navy Post Graduate in the city of Monterey. NHC]
Cheatham: Tell us about the Baton Society, the Band’s honor society?
Towler: The Band’s honor society, to which many of us belonged, was founded in 1934, and Chris Tellefsen was one of our honorary members. It was quite a privilege to be a member of this, and it depended on scholastic as well as extra-curricular interests in the Band. We had a very nice key chain emblem, which is about the size of a “Phi-Bate” key, and I remember one of my Bandsmen friends, who was Secretary in 1941, Gordon Cameron, would turn his around, so that people would actually think he was a Phi-Beta-Kappa. At that time, many of us did wear key chains, and the emblem was quite evident to those of us who were members. Frankly, I feel that it would be a very wise move if the Cal Band could bring this tradition back. It was a very fine organization, and it was prestigious to belong.
Cheatham: A picture of the Baton key can be seen on page 72 of the Bands history book, The Pride of California.
One remnant of Baton Society is the Scholarship Cup that is still presented at the annual band banquet. It’s a silver cup about a foot tall awarded to the Bandsman with the highest academic score, and his/her name gets inscribed for posterity.
Would you give us a quick run-down on the Band’s Saturday activities?
Towler: In 1941 and ’42 we had marching rehearsals on Thursday afternoon at the Stadium with an outline and instructions given by the Drum Majors(s). [In those days they used assistants which I believe were called Junior, and Sophomore, drum majors. NHC]
In 1943 and ’44 marching rehearsals were held on a plot of grass near Room 5, I believe in back of the Women’s Gym. They were held on Thursdays with a a run-through on Saturday mornings.
On game days we gathered at the Band Room maybe a half an hour before the time we were supposed to be at the Stadium. We marched as a group from Eshleman Hall, past the Campanile, across Gayley Road/Piedmont Avenue, and then we would enter the North Tunnel of the Stadium. We would gather at the appropriate time, then march out on the field and perform our pregame stunt. We would also perform at halftime.
Afterward a game, we would gather out on the field, exit through the North Tunnel playing One More River, then serenading and wait for the coaches to come out on the balcony. Then we would march back via Bowles Hall, where we would serenade them with their song, By the Old Pacific’s Rolling Waters. We would then continue back down to the Band room.
Cheatham: Describe the content of the pregame performance?
Towler: The pregame performances during the so-called war years were nothing compared to what they are today, but our small band would generally enter from the North Tunnel. The Drum Major would do his best to twirl the baton and throw it over the goal post and continue on down to the south end zone, where we would countermarch, and then come back to mid-field. Normally, we would make a left turn, or at least face the opposing section and play their school song, and then we would turn to our rooting section and play “Fight for Cal” and then go off the field.
Our halftime stunts were simple marching or geometric routines ...forming a C for the Cal rooters and an appropriate block letter for the visitors. Sometimes we would spell something out by hanging a cardboard around our necks with a letter painted on it. We even did “lie down” stunts where we would form letters, or shapes, by lying down on the turf. Sometimes we would place our caps in a formation on the turf and then move to another location and form the rest of the stunt by standing in a given formation complementing the formation created by the hats. [See the accompanying photographs. The photo at the top of page 9 is especially informative. Since writing the caption I now see that the hats form the outline of a plane. The bass drum forms the upright portion of the tail assembly and the sousaphones form the engines. The drum major is standing in an awkward position and complicates the image. NHC]
Cheatham: I heard once, but I don’t know if this is true, that the Star Spangled Banner didn’t become routine at sporting events until we entered World War II. What do you know about that regarding the Band in Memorial Stadium?
Towler: I can’t say about the situation before the war but certainly we did it during the war years. My father took some Kodachrome slides showing the Cal and Stanford bands jointly playing the Star Spangled Banner. [This is the source of the photos accompanying this interview. NHC]
Cheatham: What was the rooting section like when you were a student?
Towler: When I first entered in 1941, the so-called men’s rooting section was the center section, and the men all wore white shirts, and then we would have blue and gold caps that we might reverse accordingly to form a blue block letter “C” on a gold field, or vice versa. We had quite extensive card stunts, which were very well done and very well thought out by the Rally Committee. Later, as the number of men students at the University diminished, the women infiltrated the so-called Men’s rooting section, so that there was a coeducational rooting section. The gals would wear white shirts, as the men did.
In recent years, that seems to have deteriorated quite extensively. There doesn’t seem to be the organization to have a Block “C” and/or the card stunts that we had in the early- to mid- forties.
Cheatham: Where did the women sit when they weren’t sitting in the men’s rooting section?
Towler: In the so-called “good old days,” before the women infiltrated the so-called men’s rooting section, the women would generally sit on either side of the men’s rooting section. The activity of the women was quite colorful, because they would have blue and gold pom-poms which were very effective, and which, I’m sure, encouraged our athletes to do their very best. That, together with the Block “C,” which was formed by the men’s hats, was, I think, truly effective.
Cheatham: What about your continuing involvement with the Cal Band, subsequent to your graduation?
Towler: Aside from a true love for the Cal Band that I’ve always had prior to and since, one of my pet projects was the Alumni Band, which actually started over cocktails at Dave Wenrich’s [SM ’48 ] house, with Dick Auslen [SM ’46 ] [See oral histories with Wenrich and Auslen ], and I. We all were pretty much co-organizers back in 1952. Within about three weeks’ time we were able to organize a band. We didn’t march but we sat in the stands...about forty or fifty former Cal Bandsmen. We played Washington State in wet, rainy weather. Reg Krieger was our first director. It was certainly well-received and the fellows had a lot of fun. That activity which started in 1952 has continued to date, and now, I understand, you have maybe 175 or so former Bandsmen, including women. There is a very complete scrapbook of this band’s early history kept in the Bancroft Library, in the University Archives. [Call # CU-203.2 Vol 1]
After about our second year, Jon Elkus wrote and arranged the so-called “Alumni Band Fanfare,” which is a take-off on the Old Gray Mare. I believe that’s still used today - isn’t it, Dan? [Yes - NHC] It reminds us that the music seems to be played faster each year and the streets get steeper. But maybe it’s because we’re just walking slower each year.
Alumni who have been our Drum Majors in the past for the Alumni Band are Russ Green, Ernie Nagel [See interview with Nagel.], Tom Simonson [See interview with Simonson.], Bud Barlow [See interview with Barlow], and Ric Mart has been doing it for several years.
When we first organized in 1952, we had no emblem, so Dick Auslen contacted a graphic artist who designed an emblem that we call “the pot-bellied bear,” a bear playing a drum that had the initials “CBA” on it. [The CBA Logo is an anthropomorphic bear carrying a bass drum with the letters CBA (Cal Band Alumni). I think of the “Pot-Bellied-bear” as the emblem, which during the 50s to the late 90’s, was the Cal Band symbol on the bass drum... an anthropomorphic bear-drum major superimposed on a yellow (gold) block C. The logo on the title page of this interview is derived from that version of the “Pot-bellied Bear”. NHC ]
We had special caps, at that time, that had the same emblem on it, and some of the caps at the very beginning were even cardboard. [See scrapbook - NHC ] Then they eventually got into cloth caps, and all that has been changed in the recent years to the present Cal Band emblem.
The jewelry that we used for our band was manufactured by Loeb and Velasco Jewelers in Oakland. We had tie tacks and tie bars, and cuff links, all specially designed and very nice, very well done. I don’t know if the die for these is still available, but those of us that have them do cherish the emblems.
Cheatham: Give us a brief synopsis of your career subsequent to your graduation.
Towler: I will say that most of us who were able to remain in the University during the war-years went through in a three-year period because there were then three semesters per year. I was active at that time...musically, of course through the marching and concert bands. I also played in dance bands, to help myself through college. Then I had a sandwich business when I gave up the dance band business.
During that time, when not working, I dated and became engaged to a friend from high school. Janet Hughes and we were married in 1945 after we both graduated in October, 1944.
I was unable to get into military service, and I immediately started in the insurance industry, and worked as an insurance underwriter in San Francisco for several years, and then opened up my own brokerage in Oakland about 1948. I was in the insurance business for a little over forty years and I retired in 1988. I’ve been quite active in the Bohemian Club Orchestra in San Francisco, where I’ve played since 1944 in their percussion section.
Many of the friendships that I now have I originally acquired, as it were, through my association with the Cal Band, and in other music circles. As a matter of fact, the first conductor of the Alumni Band, was Reg Krieger, who I knew not only as a Bandsman, but also through the Bohemian Club.
Cheatham: Herb, thank you very much for spending time with me. Your insight is certainly going to fill some gaps in he history of the Band.
Cheatham: This is being recorded subsequent to the conversation we had at Herb’s home.
We’re now at the Montclair - City of Oakland Golf Course, having lunch together. Herb has recollected an anecdote having to do with the Alumni Band.
Towler: We’ve played the D.S. and now we’re down to the coda.
I do remember that when the Alumni Band was first organized, one of the premises for our existence was the fact that we would actually represent the opposing team. We would play their music and march formations, and serenade, and so forth, if they were not able to send their own band.
On one occasion, we were playing a team that neither sent us their music nor did they have their band, and a group of Alumni Bandsmen got together and called the cheerleaders for the opposing team, who were staying at the Claremont Hotel. They, over the telephone, hummed the tune to their fight music, and our bandsmen sat down at the piano and played it back and wrote the music. [Herb thinks it may have been Jon Elkus. See his oral history. NHC ] We subsequently performed the music on the field, all within about a two-hour period of time.
Cheatham: We’re recalling the Cal Band custom of pantsing someone in the Band, that is, forcibly taking off his pants in order to embarrass him. Herb has some recollections.
Towler: It seems, in my memory, that most of the pantsing was done during music rehearsals at the Greek Theatre and it generally seemed that the same fellow got pantsed all the time. But, it was a fun thing and they would generally pants him right on the stage and then run with his pants and put them up one of the empty flagpoles or somehow get them in a very hard-to-retrieve position. It was generally done in jest but it was also was a very effective mode of internal discipline if a guy was mouthing-off too much or otherwise being disruptive.
Cheatham: I’ll add my recollections to this. By the time I came along as water boy, from 1947 on, I observed that pantsing was used as a mode of internal discipline in the Band. For example, being a student-run band, the central figure of authority was another Bandsman who would have been conducting marching rehearsals. However, in order to conduct an effective rehearsal, there had to be a certain amount of discipline and attention to duty. Well, of course, from time to time, someone wasn’t in the mood to rehearse and would be disruptive. That’s when it became necessary for the rest of the bandsmen to pants the individual as a way of registering displeasure with him and indicating, “Let’s get back to business, and let’s make the best of the amount of time available to us to get this rehearsal over and done with.”
Yes, part of the routine was to make his pants hard to retrieve, such as throwing them very high in a tree, or very high on top of a fence. This, then, served the effective purpose of annoying the recipient to the point where he was less likely to misbehave on another occasion, because, after all, it was quite an annoyance having to retrieve his pants so he would not have to walk in his shorts in public...around campus or on his way home, or whatever.
I can remember one specific occasion coming back from a football game with St. Mary’s...I would say it might have been about 1949 or ’50. This could easily be checked out because they were still building Dwinelle Hall on campus. [Dwinelle Hall was completed in 1952. - NHC]
As we came down the hill from Bowles Hall, out on the flat portion of the campus itself, just to the east of the Campanile, there were three smart-alec boys who were shouting insults at the Band, and who were generally making comments in support of St. Mary’s. The Drum Major gave a whistle halt, and said to the Band, “Is there anybody around here ANNOYING you?” The Band, en masse, said, “YES!” and five or six or ten Bandsmen charged at these people and started chasing them. When they caught them, they removed their pants, took out their keys and their wallets to turn over to the police later, and left the guys on campus only wearing their shorts and having to find their way home.
The reason I remember about Dwinelle Hall is because one of the individuals was chased to the construction site at Dwinelle. As you know, there are two large lecture halls at Dwinelle, both of which are below grade. The person being chased, without knowing it, stepped off into the air and landed at the bottom of one of these excavations, and we left him there, trying to get himself out.
Tell us about Bill Elsworth.
Towler: As Bill was younger than I. I knew him in connection with the Alumni Band. He was active on our organization committee and I was aware of his activity as the Band’s announcer. As testament of the Band’s esteem for him the library in Tellefsen Hall is named for him.[Tellefsen Hall is an off-campus residence for members of the Band. NHC.]
Another Bandsman who contributed to the Cal Band during the war-years was Phil Ellwood, who followed his brother Cliff, who was a classmate of mine.
Phil is a fine percussionist with a great love for jazz and the history of jazz. [Even now in 1999, Phil is the jazz critic for the San Francisco Examiner. NHC]
He was in the Navy’s V-12 program that was housed at International House, then temporarily renamed Callaghan Hall. One of his duties was to stand on the corner of College Avenue and Bancroft Way and provide a drum cadence as the Navy students marched off to class in the morning. [See Ellwood’s oral history. NHC]
He was awarded a trophy by the Band for his contributions.
Cheatham: Normally, at least from the late 1940s forward, Band officers are elected at an annual banquet. What was the situation during those war years?
Towler: Either due to my inattention or due to the fact that organizational details were askew during the war-years, I have no memories in this regard. I am sure members of the Baton Society were the ringleaders in determining Band activities. I think we just worked our way “up through the chairs.”
Cheatham: Towler was thrust into a position of leadership almost immediately upon entering and didn’t benefit from Cal Band experiences prior to the war. I suspect normal band leadership structure was in disarray and all available help was pressed into service regardless of routine band processes of succession.
It is my opinion that Herb played a significant leadership role in holding the Band together during difficult times in the mid-war years. The Band could have easily have “petered-out” though lack of participants.
It is because of Herb that there was a band for people like Dick Auslen and Dave Wenrich to come back to after the war was over. See their respective interviews for the important role they played in building the Band back up to its prewar significance.