After the corps shut down in June of 1965, six of us continued to get together regularly to play cards. The game was called “pitch” – a simple one, each player getting six cards, bidding, attempting to win with a point each for High, Low, Jack and the Game. On a really good night the winner would walk off with a dollar. The six were Don Ary, Wilbur Comstock, Bob Stolberg, Bernie Koch, Red Christiansen, and myself. We would play cards and talk about getting the drum corps started again. This time we would do it right, we would be structured and organized, we would be well financed, we would be a contender. We just didn’t have any money, or equipment, or members.

During our card games, and show planning sessions, we constantly talked about how the drum corps should be organized. Although there was nothing on paper, we had firm ideas about a board of directors, various responsibilities, financials, etc.

Don Ary came up with an idea of how to finance the corps. He convinced us that we could sponsor a big name show, rent the Coronado Theater and start the corps with the proceeds. We convinced Alex to use some of the money that he had put in an account after selling the equipment and uniforms. Alex granted us the use of the money, but thought it was a bad idea, and that we would not make the money we thought we would. We contracted with an agent who lined us up with a show staring Brenda Lee and Homer & Jethro. We wanted some better talent, certainly not a country and western theme, but Don was pretty much running the show, so we went with his ideas. Also, we only had a very limited capital and could not afford a real big name program. We worked on advertising, selling tickets at the various malls, enlisting what help we could.
When the show date arrived, we still had not sold many tickets but thought that there would be lots of sales at the door. Alas, it rained, we lost a little money.

Against some of our better judgements, we agreed to try another show. We rationalized that the first show would have been a success had the weather cooperated. The next show was “The Kids Next Door”. This time we did lose money and didn’t have the weather to blame. We had used up just about all the money that Alex had saved.

Just before the second show, Doug Glasscoe asked to meet with us. Doug was then the director of the Forest City Rangers, which was the outgrowth of the original Phantom Regiment Cadets. Doug was mainly involved to help his son, Mark. We met at the Times Restaurant, then located across Main Street from Memorial Hall. Doug said that he was over his head in running the corps, it was about to go under, but still had some kids and equipment. He asked if we would be interested in taking over the corps. Even though the second show was a failure, we decided to take him up on his offer. So, in the fall of 1967 we reformed the cadet corps as the new Phantom Regiment.

Ron Shulz, a cadet member at the time, recalls a meeting held between our guys and the members of the Rangers that was essentially a “question and answer” period. We assured them that we had serious intentions, and that they would also be welcome and be able to fit in with our goals. A few of those young kids would go on to become very important people in the success of Phantom Regiment, most notably Ron Shulz and Mark Glasscoe.

Now, in order to finance some needed equipment and uniforms, we each agreed to contribute what we were able. I put in about $1000 (still single at the time), Red and Wilbur about the same amounts, and the married guys less.

The card players became the first board of directors, Don Ary, Wilbur Comstock, Red Christiansen, Bernie Koch, Bob Stolberg, and Jim Wren. Alex Haddad also sat on the early board, mainly in an honorary position. We elected Don Ary as the first president. I sat down and hand-wrote a constitution which outlined the makeup and duties of the board, election of officers, election of new board members, and general purpose of the organization. The constitution has been rewritten and amended through the years, but the basic ideas that we put into the original constitution are still in place to this day.

NEXT WEEK: Part 9 – The New Phantom Regiment: From wind-breakers to helmets.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jim Wren is a charter member of Phantom Regiment (1956) and has been active with the corps every year since. He became the corps brass arranger in 1968 and arranged every Phantom Regiment show from then through 1999. Inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame in 1994, Jim currently serves as a member of the Phantom Regiment Board of Directors and acts as an advisor to the corps’ design team. Jim lives in Rockford with his wife Laura and works in the insurance industry.

Jim can be reached at [email protected].