Their bugles had no valves and their first drums were mounted with calfskin heads that were dried and stretched by the Amour Meat Packing Company of Chicago. The band had to take out a loan to pay for its drums, and another to pay for its uniforms.
The Sons of Italy Drum and Bugle Corps in Haverhill can point to those humble beginnings in the spring of 1939 when a group of local Italians who played band instruments held their first official meeting.
Seventy five years later, the last Drum and Bugle Corps to be associated with a Sons of Italy Lodge in America is still going strong and is still marching in parades.
You can’t miss them.
“When I first joined people would say, do you march with the Papa Gino’s band?” said Larry Gaiero, business manager and baritone horn player for the band.
Members perform in green pants with red stripes and white shirts in the summer, and white turtlenecks and red jackets in the winter.
“We average 25 parades a year throughout New England,” Gaiero said. “We march in all the major feasts in the North End, including St. Anthony’s, the biggest one, and we’ve been on national television three times.”
The band is currently practicing to perform in the Memorial Day Parade in Seabrook, N.H., and the following day in Haverhill’s Memorial Day Parade.
Once each year the band honors its dead by marching from the Sons of Italy Lodge at 124 Washington St. to All Saints Church for a memorial Mass. This year’s event will be held on June 1.
During its first year of existence, the band held social affairs to raise money for uniforms, instruments, and to pay instructors. One raffle offered 100 gallons of oil or $5 in cash. Weekly Sunday socials were held in the lodge’s main hall between the fall of 1939 and winter of 1940, but were forced to end because of a city ordinance banning dancing socials on Sunday.