Thirty-Five Years Ago Today In New Jersey

It is hard to believe it, but it is now thirty-five years since the Cal Band made its appearance in the short-lived Garden State Bowl! It was on Saturday, 15 December 1979 that the game was played and that the Cal Band justified the effort and expense of sending us to the East Coast to carry California’s name and her mighty fame to the jaded audiences in and around metropolitan New York.

What an exciting, even historic event it was! (There are many wonderful, memorable events in the long history of the Cal Band, but I have made it a sort of project to be sure that the Garden State Bowl is recorded and documented and such; in addition to posting this account, I always look for your additional memories, notes, tidbits, and corrections!) In December of 2007, after many years of meaning to/needing to, I dug into a stack of boxes that I have moved with me since I packed them up at Tellefsen Hall in June of 1982; I knew I must have some materials about the Garden State Bowl among these invaluable treasures, and so I did! I have my boarding passes from the outbound flight on Thursday, 13 December 1979, and the flight home after the Game in the evening of 15 December. Such are the paper-trails we pack-rat types can construct! I also have the travel poopsheets and such, a copy of the I Love New York travel guide from the Fall of 1979, and an “I ♥ NY” button! Ah, the memories!

The road to the Garden State Bowl was a rather circuitous one; the Bears’ up-and-down 1979 season under coach Roger Theder was interesting, to say the least. Though marred by a painful late-in-the-game loss to UCLA, (27 – 28!) and an expected loss to U$C, (14 – 24) the Bears managed a winning season, (barely: 6W – 5L) capping it off with a Big Game victory (21 – 14.) Then came the news that Cal had been invited to the Garden State Bowl! (The Garden State Bowl???) Playing Temple (Temple???) But it was a BOWL GAME!!!

This would be Cal’s first post-season appearance in 20 years!!! (In point of fact, slightly less than 21 years, being that the previous bowl appearance had been The Rose Bowl, 1 January 1959!) What excitement! What questions! Would the Band be able to go? Would there be any monies available? How many would go? How long would we be there? Was there a parade? When would we rehearse? Where would we rehearse? It was a heady time of questions, frantic if uncertain planning, and rumors.

Fortunately, things began to come together for The Cal Band. Though the Bowl provided little money for the Band (and the Athletic Department was unwilling to part with more than the allotted funds) Chancellor Albert Bowker saved the day with a last minute infusion of cash, stating that it would be ridiculous to present Cal Football to the nation without including the Cal Band. (It seems to me that the vast sum contributed was something like $10,000.00; any memories?)

There was an unbelievable jolt of joy down in 57 Student Center when the news was confirmed. Our Senior Manager, Steve Spafford, (Trumpet `76) broke the news to the gathered crowd and the cheers and whoops were excited and energetic, and seemed to go on and on. Because ExComm and AdComm had already begun working on logistics even without confirmed funding, there was a large map of New York city on the wall above the PRD’s desk. I recall looking at it and thinking, “Wow! We’re really going there!” It wasn’t the Rose Bowl, but in one way it was even more exciting: we were heading to “The Big Apple!”

The afternoon we learned of the Chancellor’s support, we immediately put together a Straw Hat Band to play at University House as a “thank you.” We knocked on the door and entered, apparently unexpected, as some sort of rather formal reception was going on. The brass and flash of an enthusiastic SHB contrasted mightily with the staid decorum of the Chancellor’s reception, to say the least. But we were well-received all the same, and Chancellor Bowker told us, “I can always count on the Cal band.” The reception guests also had various positive things to say, being very pleased at the surprise entertainment. (I have always suspected that whoever coordinated the thing had some inside information about the whole situation, because dropping in on the Chancellor unannounced seems rather bad form, but I really don’t know for certain.)

Since the Band would have to fly to New York/New Jersey for the game, a novel way to reduce the cost of airfare was adopted. In mid-year of 1979, there had been a lengthy and difficult strike at American Airlines. In order to attract business, American offered half-fare coupons to all travelers (these eventually morphed into the well-loved Frequent Flyer Miles we so enjoy today!) Cal Bandsmen combed hill and dale, implored family and friends for anyone who was willing to donate these coupons to help defray the cost of air transit. And it worked!

Members of ExComm and AdComm that year worked overtime-plus to arrange the logistics of the trip: busses, hotels, meals, and all the adminstrivia that is part and parcel of any large organization traveling, with some of those uniquely Cal Band concerns added on, such as where to play in New York. The DM and TA’s coordinated a “WTP,” as it was informally dubbed (“Winter Training Program.”) This consisted of two days of intense rehearsal, Tuesday and Wednesday in Memorial Stadium, and a three-hour music rehearsal in BRH Tuesday night.

Immediately before the start of WTP, many folks who lived too far away from Berkeley to venture home for the weekend simply remained at Tellefsen Hall. The TH Board had generously decided to support the Bowl trip by providing meals Tuesday and Wednesday during “WTP” at no extra charge to house members, and Tellefsen Hall’s popular cook, Myrtle Davis (Ladle, `77) agreed to do duty, but for the weekend and that Monday we were on our own.

It happened that 1979 was shaping up to be a bumper year for the Dungeness Crab fisheries, and Spenger’s offered fully cooked, whole crab at the irresistible price of $1.09 a pound! Accordingly, I proposed a crab feast. The interested parties all pitched in something like five bucks each, and armed with about $60.00, my brother Rob, (Trombone `78) and Lou Khazoyan, (Trumpet `78) and I drove to the Berkeley waterfront and stocked up on about 25 pounds of crab. En route back to TH we spent the remaining funds on sourdough loaves, tart green apples, sharp Tillamook cheddar, and a couple of huge jugs of Gallo Chablis. Thus was born what for the next couple of years was something of a minor tradition – and one I sorely miss these days, living in Texas!

WTP ran smoothly and productively. Many of the components of the halftime show were quite familiar, being built upon several successful drills from the 1979 season, with contributions from other seasons, so it was more a matter of fine-tuning and polishing than of actual learning. The show was ready in record time, and it showcased a wide range of Cal Band talents. The result was a show which not only displayed the breadth and depth of the Cal Band’s ability, but a show with which we felt confident of wowing the crowd

Despite the rather long days, WTP seemed over in a flash, and almost before we knew it, it was time to head east. After rehearsal on Wednesday, we loaded the rented truck with uniform boxes (remember those?) and the large instruments, plus all manner of other necessary equipment. Whew! After two days of concentration and work, we felt well prepared for the bowl game performances.

Through the miracle of modern technology, you can view the halftime performance on the web:

On Thursday the 13th, we had to show up at BRH at 6:00am, no exceptions. Sticking to the schedule, our busses departed at 7:00am sharp. The famous “Yellowstone Policy” was in full force. Steve Spafford had distributed an information sheet which stated: “We have alternates for those who aren’t on the busses at 7:00am.” And for once, no one was late! We looked about as respectable and presentable as possible, because we were to travel in coat and tie — it was a different world back then. So we bussed to SFO and flew non-stop to JFK.

Steve Spafford’s informational sheet was not all gruff and tough. It was entitled: “GARDENSTATEBOWLGOBEARSBEATTHEWHO?INFOSHEET” and it concluded with the statement, “This is going to be a greater experience than you can imagine, so be ready to have a great time and put on a great performance!” One detail I had forgotten after all these years was that every band member participating was asked to contribute $30.00 to the meal fund. “If we do get the money you will be reimbursed – if you are nice.” I believe we did get the funding, but I just do not recall that detail precisely. Of course we were advised to pack warm clothing, but I have to smile that on the “what to bring list,” in subtle Cal Band fashion, someone had slipped in, “… long underwear, gloves, mufflers, swimsuit …” And under “Optional equipment,” the travel poopsheet advised: “Parachute, Black notebook and camera to record your favorite CBR.”

We loaded busses at JFK and headed to our hotel in Clifton, New Jersey. I’ll never forget the hotel’s marquee on the highway reading: “Welcome Calf State” (who the hell was “Calf State????”) They quickly corrected the error. My former roommate Eric Abrahamson (Clarinet `76) who was in graduate school at Northwestern at the time flew to New Jersey for the game, and met us in the lobby of our hotel. A gathering of other alumni had arrived as well. It was really great to see these folks. To this day, I still feel that the most compelling of reasons to go to a bowl game is the chance to meet up with friends.

Friday morning we rehearsed at the Meadowlands in Giants Stadium where the bowl was to be held. It had been quite wet the day before, and the temperatures overnight were well below freezing. The result was a field surface that was both slick and slippery and hard as a rock! What’s more, the first-generation Astroturf carpet was decidedly “long in the tooth,” looking rather threadbare in places, and coming up at the seams in others. If you weren’t careful, a curled edge could easily trip you!

Though it was several degrees above freezing, it was nevertheless bitterly cold. The damp, chilly wind seemed to draw the heat out of everyone. I can still recall the image of bandmembers bundled up in down jackets and scarves as we ran through the halftime. Pregame, though, was another story all together. Off came the jackets and winter gear for the final run through (and right back on after!)

We then bussed into Manhattan to perform at Lincoln Center, the CitiCorp Tower, Rockefeller Center and sundry other venues. Sleigh Ride, March of Carols, (lovingly dubbed Marathon of Carols!) and other holiday fare along with several tunes from the 1979 season, and of course the core of Cal songs; we played for hours to appreciative crowds of harried Manhattanites. That evening we had time in Manhattan, and Bob Briggs (Cornet `48, Baton `71 – `95) had arranged for several of us to see A Chorus Line at the Schubert. (I think that the vast bulk of the audience was mystified, wondering what joke they had missed when the balcony erupted in laughter at the line: “That’s step – pivot – step – step – pivot – step.” We all cracked up because the line was nearly identical to an exhortation from the DM’s tower during the day’s rehearsal.) In another sign of just how long ago this really was, the balcony tickets for the show were $13.00! Yes, it was a different world.

Saturday dawned cold and clear. It was 26 degrees at 7:00am, according to a bank sign nearby the hotel. During the game, things warmed up to a balmy 36 or 38 degrees or so, quite a cold day for folks used to the Bay Area’s more moderate highs and lows. Saturday morning rehearsal was again conducted with patches of ice on the field’s Astroturf, and brass players had to keep their mouthpieces under their jackets to avoid “freezing” their lips. But the warmth of the day’s excitement made the cold seem trivial.

The pregame show gave us a taste of how receptive the crowd would be; though there was a rather small contingent of loyal blues who had made their way to East Rutherford, New Jersey to root on the Bears, there was a hearty roar from the crowd when pregame was over. The only jarring note from pregame was “the bomb.” It was apparently identical to every other Cal Band Pregame Bomb that we had ever used, but perhaps the cold weather had affected its chemistry, for it exploded in a huge shower of sparks with an unusually small amount of smoke. It looked impressive enough, but it was definitely not the usual effect.

The first half of the game saw a desultory performance by the gridiron Bears, but the game was by no means decided. The halftime show was a triumph! Opening with Fat Bottomed Girls (and the ethereal effect of vocals provided by percussion, basses, and anyone else who wasn’t playing!) moving on to Le Regiment de Sambre et Meuse for a display of classic Cal Band countermarches, then to the lyrical melody of Eres Tu, concluding with the rhythm and drive of The Letter; it was a well balanced and well performed show. Not flawless, of course, but a triumph. And the crowd went wild! Folks sitting on the row after the bass section were congratulating and complimenting the Band: “Go Bay-ahs! You guys are great!”

Alas, the football Bears could not muster the points to defeat Temple: Temple 28 – California 17. Perhaps the Bears had been jinxed; on the schedule in the poopsheet, someone had included for Saturday’s agenda: “4:30 p.m. Postgame — Band plays Palms of Victory.” (Surely we ought to have known better) The scoreboard at the stadium, featuring animated graphics of the most primitive sort, added insult to the injury by displaying a scene of an Owl – the mascot of Temple – flying over and pooping upon the head of a Bear! (Only in New Jersey!) But after the game Chancellor Bowker was reported to have observed that it was a good thing for California’s pride and reputation that the Band had performed at the game.

The post-game logistics were a challenge, as we had to get back to the hotel, change, pack up, and return to JFK for the flight home. During one leg of the bus trip, one of the bus drivers took extreme exception to the Band’s traditional bus driver greeting, and slammed on the brakes as we hurtled down the highway, sending Don Brownson (Trombone, `76; StuD, `79) flying into the stepwell of the bus. We thought he was seriously injured, but Don gamely continued from his prone position, “Let’s all say hello to the …”

We arrived back in California about 12:30am and back in Berkeley even later, exhausted, yet despite the loss, glowing with satisfaction. The Cal Band had fully upheld its end of the day.

There are so many memories from that trip: “Ten Columbus Circle! (Boom!) TEN Columbus Circle! (Boom!!!) TEN COLUMBUS CIRCLE!!! (BOOM!!!)” Masked “terrorists” on the plane flight (not even conceivable in this day and age!) Beefsteak Charlie’s. Mamma Leone’s. Broadway in its late 1970’s depths of tacky, tawdry, and seedy. “I ♥ NY” buttons. An errant and much-disputed subway token. Legal drinking at 18. New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne being booed loud and long during the pregame ceremonies. I can barely begin to recount all the tales told from that adventure. But what stands at the forefront are memories of a lot of hard work, a really fine trip, and a truly outstanding performance.

JAMIE RAWSON
(Bass, `77)

15 December 2014
Flower Mound, Texas

After I posted these recollections in 2004, on the occasion of the Twenty-Fifth anniversary, Scott Dreisbach (Trumpet `77) wrote to share:

My three favorite memories from the bowl….

1) The ridiculous amount of time Hutch (Jim Hutcherson, trumpet `75) and I spent at domestic customs trying to get the ‘bomb’ while you all were snuggy-wuggy in Clifton. Can you imagine the trouble we’d have THESE days!!?? Then, on the parkway. Dear Lord . . . Hutch was driving the rental truck and the last sign I saw before entering the on-ramp was ‘No Trucks’. Sh*t! Of course they don’t have off-ramps every mile or so. We were on that bad boy for at least 10 miles before we finally got caught and pulled over. ‘Whatcha got in the truck, boys’, says the cop. I repeat, Dear Lord! The last thing we put on the truck was the effing ‘bomb’! We were going to jail for sure, right? Fortunately, we happened to put the ‘bomb’ in with the ‘explosive’ DOT tag towards the uniform boxes. He let us go. Again, Dear Lord!!!

2) I didn’t get the memo that we were to bring ‘civies’ for our New York City free time jaunt. I ended up walking the streets of the Large Apple in band pants, suspenders, a white shirt, black shoes and spats. I do miss the spats, by the way. Anyhow, I got a ration of sh*t here and there, but basically I wasn’t badgered too much…..I mean, you must really be a bad-ass to walk the dark streets of NYC dressed like that, right? The cool thing was that I was walking around with about 4 other bandsmen, including MadDog (Tony McElligot, trumpet `78) I think, and they were amused at my dress as well. Anyhow, after leaving one of the pubs, and having had a few we came upon a remarkable sight. A 4 foot wide, 10 foot tall white board tacked to a wall that had been spray painted with the simple missive, ‘Welcome to New York, Scott’! Pretty cool, huh. Don’t remember who took the photo with me by the sign, but my right arm in trade if you know who has it….

3) On the flight home, I was granted the honor of NOT wearing ‘school clothes’ since I was in charge of field set-up, and had certainly put in my due on that trip. They had those little, itty-bitty bottles of red wine for sale, and I really enjoyed a sip. The sips turned into at least a half dozen bottles, which translated into sleep. Somewhere over Omaha, I slipped away (cause nobody wants to fall asleep in the general populace of a band trip….THAT’S from experience) to one of the planes ‘heads’. I didn’t awaken until the deployed landing gear signaled our reentry into the ‘safe’ confines of the Bay. I felt quite ill for the next day or two…..ugh.

Barbara Goodson (Mellophonium `77) also recalled:

I have vivid memories of the whole thing. First, that Karl Bizjak (Bass Drum, `74) was invited to perform as an alumnus. Then spending my birthday there and going out for drinks with some folks.

“S-C-O-A-H, Score, Score (with the accent).” “Ten Columbus Circle, Eleven PM (bump, bump, bump)” “IIIII, Heart NY (sung to the ad jingle)” Our bus driver BACKING UP on the turnpike. Having a “George of the Jungle” contest on the bus. Bob Briggs getting “merry” on the plane and singing, “if you knew Susie like I knew Susie” “Where you kids from? We’re from Berkeley! Ah, yeah, Brooklyn!” The only time I was warm on the whole trip was right after pre-game!

My brother Rob (Trombone `78) added his memory:

Add the story about the Manhattan matron, fur bedecked, at Lincoln center who (apparently miffed by a recent concert-going experience) told Bob Briggs, “You play better than the New York Philharmonic.”

Too, I would add about the teasing we got on the way out of the stands at halftime, “Yo, you guys gonna do drugs?”, “Got any marijuana?” This, because it contrasts so nicely with the warm post-show reception from the same people.

And digging through my email archives, I also accumulated replies and memories elicited by earlier Garden State Bowl postings:

A drinking age of 18 in New York… How about “Brown-man’s bus! Brown-man’s bus!”, we won’t mention the “New Jersey Four”, marching up and down the aisles on the flight home with airline pillow covers on their head chanting “Down with de Shah!” (this WAS 1979), Scotty walking the streets of New York with his spats still on (who and where was our uniform manager?)

Oh! And: “We want Sleigh Ride!”

Bob Colburn
Tenor ’77
(1994)

Speaking as a brass player who actually was at the Garden State Bowl in 1979, I was not aware of any Cal Bandsmen who had their lips freeze to their mouthpieces. We were all warned in advance to coat our lips with petroleum jelly before playing. Thus, the problem was one of the mouthpiece sliding of the lips while trying to blow at 100db+++ while marching high-step down the field on hard-packed, poorly-maintained, artificial turf. The other problem was that despite switching from slide cream and water to oil for lubricating the old slush pump, my slide still froze up when ever my horn was not blown for a period of 2 minutes or more. Therefore, advance warning was necessary when playing from the stands. We needed to blow through our bones for about 30 seconds before starting a song, or the first 30 seconds of notes would be B-flat, F, and D.

Douglas Fouts
Trombone `75
(1994)

Q: How about the pain of the freezing cold? I heard it got pretty chilly out there; lots of stories about lips freezing to mouthpieces!

A: A popular myth! The temperature at game time was 46 degrees. It got down to about 38 by the end of the game; not too bad for New Jersey in December.

We had a great halftime: Fat Bottom Girls, Eres Tu (with the patented Tony Martinez arm raises), a march .. I think it was Le Regiment, the one Ohio State uses, and the finale was The Letter with the stick dance (no sticks). Very fun and well-received by the 50,000 or so who were there in The Meadowlands. As we walked back to our seats, one fan yelled, “Your football team is crap, but you got da best band I ever saw.”

The REHEARSAL the day before was quite cold and windy. It rained the night before, and the water on the Astroturf froze by morning. The turf was hard as a rock. The temperature was about 35, but with the wind chill, it was probably down around 15 or so. That is really cold for Californians, but not cold enough to freeze lips to the mouthpieces.

Randall Rhea
Sax `79
(1994
)

I also recall a few thousand high school bandsfolk in the crowd, many of whom were very complimentary as we returned to our seats after half-time. I don’t think any of them showed up at Cal in the two or three years following the game, though… Maybe the California heat was as fearsome to those natives of NJ, NY and PA as the NJ cold was to some of us.

Alan Barton
Bass `78
(1994)

Wow, I’m the subject of a trivia question! What an honor. At any rate, Jamie, your memory serves correct. I marched pre-game and stood on the ladder for half-time. Why? Because I loved to march but felt my place at half-time was on the sideline. John Fleming (mellophonium, `74) created the precedent for this practice in 1977, I believe. Before John, the StuDs did not march.

There were plenty of interesting memories from that trip. I certainly remember playing banjo at the Lincoln Center – even if it was out in front. I thought my fingers would break off from the cold. The game itself wasn’t that cold; it was the rehearsal before it where the Astroturf was frozen. As for the antics on the plane trip home, I don’t remember too much because I was wondering if my back had been broken by a certain incident on the bus ride from the stadium. That was when the bus driver slammed on the the brakes after I led the traditional greeting, sending me flying into the handrail at the front of the bus. Ah, the memories….

Don Brownson
Trombone `76
StuD, `79
(1996)

Stanfurd was originally slotted to attend the Garden State Bowl, but thanks to a 21-14 loss in Big Game, they finished 5-6 and were knocked out of the bowl picture. Cal won on a Rich Campbell to Joe Rose TD pass, which has the distinction of being the only play in Cal history that was reviewed from the press box and reversed by the officials. (The Stanfurdites were so stupid they forgot to paint the entire end zone white, leaving a few inches of green next to the end line. The official thought Rose was out of bounds.)

Several other teams were rumored to have received the invitation to travel to New Jersey in December. Cal was a longshot with only a 6-5 record, although the losses were all very narrow to highly ranked teams like U$C and Michigan. On Tuesday, November 20, we heard that Cal received and accepted the bid, just after the year-end Band meeting. (Remarkably, the Fiesta Bowl- yes, the Fiesta Bowl- had also invited Cal, but the Bears had already accepted the Garden State bid.) Nobody thought the Band would attend such a minor bowl game. Legendary columnist Herb Caen reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that “the money to send the Cal Band just isn’t there, so All Hail will be sung a capella at the Meadowlands.”

Well, not so fast, Herb. After some amazing scrounging of half-fare coupons and political maneuvering by Band officers, outgoing chancellor Albert Bowker kicked in the needed funds to put the entire Band onto an American Airlines 747 to JFK airport. I remember the moment Ex-Comm announced that we were going; I’ve never seen a happier or more excited scene at 57 Student Center. I was particularly excited, never having experienced New York City or even a long plane trip.

The rehearsal on Friday, December 14th was truly Arctic. You may remember comments from the Monday Night Football crew this year about the winds in Giants Stadium. Well, combine 30 MPH winds with 25-degree temperatures, and you get a bunch of frigid, shocked Californians. I won’t even talk about the frozen, icy Astroturf (it rained the night before, then froze), which felt like marching on concrete. Everyone then remembered that a bowl in the Northeast in December is not a very good idea. (The Gotham Bowl went defunct after the 1962 Nebraska-Miami clash at Yankee Stadium … the Garden State Bowl gave up the ghost in 1981.)

The game was a disappointing Cal loss to the mighty Temple Owls. The halftime show was nothing less than a spectacular hit, sending 50,000 fans to their feet. The songs were Fat Bottom Girls, Le Regiment, Eres Tu, and The Letter (with stick dance sans sticks), basically a “late 1970’s Cal Band greatest hits” collection, showing remarkable versatility. The standing ovation from the New Jersey crowd was my favorite moment as a Cal Bandsman.

Thus ended the Cal Band’s only bowl appearance in the three decades between 1960 and 1989.

Randall Rhea
Sax `79
(1996)

I was a freshman this fateful year. We didn’t have enough current band members available to go, so a few alumni ringers were allowed to go. This provided the only time my brother Bill (alto, 74?) and I would be in Cal Band uniform together. I still have the cherished photo of the two of us. For that I will always be grateful to all who made the trip happen, and who allowed Bill to go.

The halftime completely rocked, and I thought we did use the sticks for the dance during The Letter. The Letter was great — I wish the current band would replace Misoverplayed for it.

Brent DeHart
FA `75-`78, Trumpet `79-`82 (the “Play”), EZD `83 -`85 or `86. (I can’t remember.)
(2007)

I was also a freshman that year, and had horrible tonsillitis which I contracted right before WTP. The show must go on, of course, so back East for me! After all the practice, my mello mouthpiece (playing a long horn back then) came out into my right armpit on jog-on at halftime, only to drop to the ground at the close-rest-up! Got to join in with the percussion and basses during FBG’s and sang every stinkin’ off-beat of Le Regiment! After flying back home to LA Saturday night, I went in to the doc Monday morning, and had my tonsils removed Tuesday. No regrets, whatsoever!

Cal Band Great!
Briana Connell
Mello ’79-84
DM ’84
(2007)

2 thoughts on “Thirty-Five Years Ago Today In New Jersey

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