Excerpts from an interview with Arleigh T. Williams, Honorary Bandsman
Cal Band to the World’s Fair
Williams: Paul Hastings was the executive director of the ASUC when I came back. Greg Engelhard was the director of athletics. Wally Frederick was the director of publications. I guess I should also talk about the California Marching Band being in my department. The Glee Club, the Treble Clef, the Collegians, all musical exercises.
One of the most exciting things that happened to us was when Jim Berdahl, who was the director of the California band, came up to the office and said, “We’ve just gotten an invitation from the State Department to represent the United States at the Brussels World’s Fair.“ And I said, “My God, Jim. have you told the band yet?“ And he said, “No. not yet.“ I said, “For goodness sakes, don’ t do it. How are we going to be able to get them there?“
It wasn’t long after that Jim got the word to the band. Then the heat was on and the drive was on to be able to get a sufficient amount of money to get them over there. They put on all sorts of shows throughout San Francisco, the peninsula - whatever was possible to be able to pick up some kind of money to support them to get there. We got down to the last $15,000 and we were really in a difficult position. But I happen to have a very good friend, Ralph Edwards. Ralph Edwards and I were classmates. Well, we were high school buddies together and you’ve heard the story. Ralph, at that time, was producing “This is Your Life“ and other stuff, so I made contact with him, told him what the story was. “Can you give us a hand?“ His answer was, “Sure.“ So we had a special program. You’ve heard about it?
LaBerge: No. I haven’t.
Williams: We were at the point. I think, where we had to get more money; wondering how we were going to do it. We had a special meeting. Decided that if we can’t make it on this one--whatever that meeting was, I forget the purpose---we’d have to give it up. At that time, I had an inkling that we were going to make it. The California band said, “Okay, we’ll put on one more show.“
That show was apparently coming around from the Northside of Wheeler--between Wheeler and Doe Library going down toward California Hall into the plaza, turning left and going up in front of the Wheeler steps. I don’t remember what it was but we knew we were going to get the money and how we were going to convince them to do it, because some of them were almost not willing to do it? They decided to get it over with and put on that last show. And they did. and when they got around to the steps. played what they had to play, did what entertainment they had. Ralph Edwards was on the public address system. He said, “California Marching Band. This Is Your Life“ and told them the story that we got $15,000. It was all taken care of and it was represented by the, not the Greyhound (hand written note: “it was Trailways“) but a large bus transportation program and they made it. So, what a thrill it was that they did! They had a reunion just last year. They have a group that’s going back to Brussels this year. some of them to be able to help celebrate. I took you off the track.
LaBerge: But that’s a great story. What year was that?
Williams: 1959. Gee whiz.