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And the bands play on

by Katherine Hon

Did you hear the distinctive horns and drums of a marching band in the Morley Field area of North Park last month? That sound came from the Gold Drum and Bugle Corps, an enthusiastic and diverse group of young people from Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties.

Donald Flaherty, the executive director, formed the Corps in 2005 to provide a positive youth activity for local students in Hawthorne, California. The group relocated to Oceanside in 2010 to expand its service to the entire Southern California region.

The horn section of Gold Drum and Bugle Corps play it loud and proud at Morley Field as they prepare for their upcoming national competition. (Courtesy of Katherine Hon)

The horn section of Gold Drum and Bugle Corps play it loud and proud at Morley Field as they prepare for their upcoming national competition. (Courtesy of Katherine Hon)

The primary purpose of Corps is to enrich the educational, social, ethical and performing arts lives of young adults through the art of marching music instruction and performance.

Similar to a marching band, a drum and bugle corps group is composed of brass instruments, percussion and colorguard, but no woodwinds. Drum Corps International (DCI) is the nonprofit governing organization for all drum and bugle corps. Gold Drum and Bugle Corps is organized under Gold Youth Arts Organization, a 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to improve appreciation for music and marching band performance in accordance with the mission and objectives of DCI.

The Gold Drum and Bugle Corps has taken trips to Utah and Colorado and to championships in Indiana, where they hope to place in the top three this year. In 2012 they were rated one of the top five open class drum corps in the world. They have performed at competitions and other venues throughout Southern California including Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios. Visit their website at GoldDrumCorps.org for more information about their current schedule and accomplishments.

Three Aida horns carry the leading banners for the Bonham Brothers Band in a 1940s Toyland Parade. (Courtesy of Chris Wray)

Three Aida horns carry the leading banners for the Bonham Brothers
Band in a 1940s Toyland Parade. (Courtesy of Chris Wray)

North Park has a long history of supporting private bands, including the Bonham Brothers Band. Berma William Bonham and Harley Lewis Bonham, who founded the Bonham Brothers Mortuary in Nebraska in 1919, formed the band. They organized their first boys band at about that time.

The brothers established their San Diego mortuary business along with a boys band in 1926. A 2009 city of San Diego report based on a report prepared by Legacy 106 noted that “more than 2,000 boys graduated through the program between the formation of the band in 1926 and its final year 1962 … Many graduates of the band went on to successful musical careers as a result of their early training.”

The obituary for Berma Bonham, who died in 1981, stated that the band marched in 21 Tournament of Roses parades in Pasadena and represented the city in band competition around the country.

A 1955 San Diego Union article recognized the 1936 band for placing first in competition against bands from all over the nation during the Lions International convention in Oakland. This article pictures Howard Guy, long-time North Park resident and a former band member, preparing a form with his son Allan to enroll him in the10th incarnation of the band. In the photograph, Howard’s older son Jerry, a member of band number nine, looks on, dressed in his snappy uniform and holding his trombone. Allan and his younger brother Bruce both followed in their mother’s footsteps by playing drums.

The drum section of Gold Drum and Bugle Corps move to the beat during practice at Morley Field. (Courtesy of Katherine Hon)

The drum section of Gold Drum and Bugle Corps move to the beat during practice at Morley Field. (Courtesy of Katherine Hon)

The Guy family held fond memories of being in the Bonham Brothers Band. Howard played trombone as did his younger brother Roy. In a 1995 interview, 71-year-old Roy reminisced, “I want to step back to the age 10 years old, when my mom walked into the house with a slide trombone and announced that I was going to be a member of the Bonham Brothers Band. My older brother Howard C. Guy had been a member. I joined that band, and we would take our trombones over on Sixth Avenue to practice. I would walk from 28th Street to Roosevelt [Junior High School], then through some more canyons up to Sixth Avenue with my dear trombone, and I played in that band.”

Another popular private band that performed throughout California and marched in the Toyland Parade was the North Park Boys Band. The North Park Historical Society salutes all members of past bands and encourages current bands to play on!

—Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at info@northparkhistory.org or 619-294-8990.

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