Boys of 76

Other Names:Spirit of '76

Racine, WI United States
Founded: 1916

Inactive Senior

CORPS Photos

The Boys of 76 was a senior marching and maneuvering corps based in Racine, Wisconsin. One of the earliest corps, the Boys were organized in 1916 or 1917.

In their salad days, the Boys of 76 was a competitive corps to be reckoned with, winning both the American Legion and VFW Nationals for four years in a row, 1922 through 1925.

The fourth championship, in 1925, looked shaky at first. The corps full of rookies placed an uncharacteristic third in preliminary competition, and the call for reinforcements went out from Omaha back to Racine. An emergency infusion of eight crack drummers and a drill master raced to the rescue across the plains, allowing the Boys of 76 to best the corps from St. Paul, Minnesota, for their fourth straight championship.

A couple of unique features set this venerable corps apart. It is reputed to be the only drum and bugle corps ever directed by John Philip Sousa, for one thing. For another, at least one charter drummer learned his musicianship from a veteran of the American Civil War. Finally, after a tour of France in 1923 (one source says 1927), the corps established a tontine, in which a fine bottle of cognac was set on a mantle, to be opened and toasted by the last surviving member of the 1923 Boys.

The corps' headgear was also famous: for 40 years the group boasted exact replicas of the chrome-covered helmets used by the Red Arrow Division that served in combat in World War I.

The Boys competed in DCA Finals three times; their highest finish came in 1970, at ninth.

An all-male group until 1975, the corps' name was changed to the Spirit of '76. (A drum majorette, Gladys Christensen, did accompany the corps to Paris in the 1920s.) It was this coed version of the corps that appeared in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Although a full corps has not been fielded since about 1990, in 1998 the "spirit" of the Spirit of '76 was still represented in Racine by a color guard, wearing the Dough Boy uniforms of the 1917 Boys of '76.

[John Caspers, RAMD, 2/20/98, 10/19/98; Ron Allard, RAMD, 2/27/01; DCW, 10/03, p.3; DCW, 1/04, p.3; DCW, 3/04, p.17; DCW, 6/11/04, p.11]

Members (11)

Member Name Section Years Involved
Barnekow, Dave Bass 1964
Fennell, George French Horn 1987
Hinen, Dennis Snare 1962
Letourneau, Glen Contra Bass/Baritone 1970 to 1986
Pawlowski, A.J. Drum 1959 to 1960
Rugani, Louis Mellophone, 1970; Baritone, 1971, 1973-1974 1970 to 1974
Rugani, Louis Mellophonium (1970), First Baritone ('71 on) 1970 to 1974
Sobczak, Conrad snare drum 1958 to 1960
Szlagowski, Brenda horn 1979 to 2000
Violett, Edward contra 1970 to 1972
Voeks, Jerry Drum Line 1970 to 1978

CORPS 2 items

Boys of 76

Contributed by Dave Carr
Boys of 76
PDF Document
194-197, Boys of 76 from the Steve Vickers Collection


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