History: 50 years ago, Woodway High School’s marching band in 1973 Presidential Inaugural Parade

Part 1 of 2 parts

The seed is sown

When he sat down to watch an evening newscast in November 1968, 27-year-old Bruce Caldwell would never have guessed that a portion of that newscast would positively impact him and hundreds of people four years later.

Caldwell was a music and math teacher at Woodway High School (which has since merged with Edmonds High School to become Edmonds-Woodway) and the music director for the school’s orchestra, jazz and marching bands. He also worked part time as the assistant director of the University of Washington’s marching band.

The announcement that evening revealed that the marching band from Eisenhower High School in Yakima had been selected to represent the State of Washington in the 1969 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C.  After listening to the announcement, Bruce thought “Why not Woodway?”

Bruce Caldwell, Woodway High School Music Director, circa 1972. (Photo courtesy of Caldwell family)

The selection process and early planning

Early in 1969, after the Nixon inauguration, Calwell began to investigate how the state’s representative for the 1973 Presidential Augural Parade would be chosen. He first wrote letters to representatives from his district, and others in state government. He received his first response from U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson in late 1969. It said, “the representative for the state of Washington will be chosen by the state’s inaugural committee, after the next presidential election. Dependent upon which political party (Democrat or Republican) wins the national election, that party’s state organization would then select a representative for the parade.”

Not wanting to wait four years for the next national election, Caldwell continued to write to various state representatives and dignitaries stating Woodway High School’s interest in being the state’s representative at the next parade.

Simultaneously, Caldwell taught, and he also developed the musical talent at Woodway High School. Under his tutelage his students continued to excel, and the marching band participated in a wide variety of events including the University of Washington Band Day, multiple parades including The Seattle Torch Light Parade, and multiple halftime performances at Seattle SuperSonics NBA games.

In the spring of 1972 Caldwell had the opportunity to talk with Harold Silvernail, the superintendent of Edmonds Public Schools. In that meeting Caldwell reviewed the possibility of Woodway’s marching band being chosen as the Washington state representative in the parade, and that would entail the band traveling to Washington, D.C.

The superintendent, when hearing about the potential opportunity, suggested that if chosen, Caldwell should not only take the band back for the inauguration and parade, but instead extend the trip and have the students spend a week visiting various educational sites on the East Coast, and learn about the country’s history.

Harold Silvernail, Edmonds School District Superintendent (Photo courtesy Washington State Educational Archives)

Seizing the opportunity of a potential week-long trip, Caldwell met with the band parents’ organization and talked about the possibilities. After discussing possible nearby cities (i.e., New York, Philadelphia and Boston) one of the parents said, “Disney World just opened recently, and we’d have the opportunity for good weather there.”

With Caldwell’s history of performing at Disneyland while at the University of Washington, he contacted them and was referred to folks at Disney World.  Based upon a “if we are chosen for the inaugural parade” scenario, Caldwell was able to arrange for the band to march in the Disney World daily parade, and also provide a half-hour standup concert on Thursday, Jan. 25. With that assurance, the possible second leg of the trip came into focus.

Later in mid-summer, Caldwell received a schedule for the upcoming basketball season for the SuperSonics, and he noticed that the SuperSonics were scheduled to play the Baltimore Bullets at the University of Maryland fieldhouse the night of the parade. Given the band’s previous half-time performances at SuperSonics games, Caldwell contacted the team to see if there was any possibility of the band performing during the halftime of the Jan. 20 game. The SuperSonics management contacted the Bullets, and it was agreed that the band would provide the halftime entertainment at the game “if the band was chosen to participate in the parade.”

Throughout the summer and early autumn, Caldwell continued to keep the district and band boosters’ board members apprised of his activities as he made preliminary plans on a “if-we-are-chosen basis.”  In so doing, he was able to arrange another performance for the band at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, for Monday morning, Jan. 22.

In November 1972, Richard Nixon was reelected as President of the United States, and the Washington State Republican Party established an Inaugural Parade Committee headed by Mrs. Harlan (Gwen) Anderson. After the Thanksgiving break, information was leaked that the Woodway Marching Band had been chosen by the committee as the state’s representative, although a formal announcement would not be made until later in December.

Author’s note: As I have researched this story, I can only imagine the excitement and also panic Caldwell must have felt when he learned the news. He had less than two months to develop the week’s itinerary, handle the air and ground logistics including housing, and also raise enough money to fund the trip. Fortunately, he had functioned as a student logistics coordinator for the University of Washington marching band previously, so he wasn’t totally in the dark.

Caldwell and his wife Jo quickly went to work putting a team together to help handle the various tasks. Caldwell had earlier invited the school’s cheerleaders along to carry the school’s banner in front of the marching band, so Gert Meyers, the cheerleader advisor, along with history teacher John Gabiet and Vice Principal Maurice Stoffer became members of the team.

Logistics and transportation

Caldwell contacted United Airlines and was able to arrange charter flights from Seattle to Washington, DC, from Washington, DC, to Orlando, and Orlando to Seattle on a DC 8.

Maurice Stoffer initially contacted Musser Transfer Inc,, an Atlas Van Lines agent, regarding transport of the band’s equipment and uniforms to and from SeaTac airport.

George Daniels, the president of Musser Transfer, when learning about the trip, became a valuable partner. He not only arranged for the local pickup and transport of the equipment, but he contacted Atlas Van Line agents in Washington, DC, and Orlando and arranged for the handling of the uniforms and instruments in those locations.

Through those agents, motels were recommended and reservations were made in both Washington, DC, and Orlando. Furthermore, Musser Transfer donated a commemorative carry-on travel bag for each member of the band. Orange bag tags provided by the school were then attached and provided to each student for their personal use on the trip.

Commemorative travel bag and orange bag tag: Photos by Byron Wilkes. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

Again based upon local recommendations, buses for each day’s ground transportation were also booked. Caldwell made sure that the buses had the same drivers each day, to help ensure good communications between the school’s leadership, and the bus drivers.

Trip documentation and communications.

Simultaneously under the Caldwell’s leadership, letters were sent to the band members parents outlining the basic itinerary, and the financial requirements for the trip.  It was projected that the trip would require funding of $45,000, and each student would be responsible for contributing $300 to cover his/her expenses. It was also explained that there would be fundraising efforts that the students could participate in, to help reduce the family’s financial outlay.

Author’s note: To put $45,000 in 1972-3 into perspective, I purchased my first home in August of 1972 behind James Village in Lynnwood. It was a three-bedroom, two-bath, five-year-old, 1800-square-foot split-level home with a two-car garage and a large fenced backyard. The price was $27,500 and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the $600 a month mortgage payment.

While the logistics and initial funding requirements were being handled, detailed documents were being drafted to provide students, chaperones, and guests with itineraries, a list of responsibilities/duties, and basic guidelines for the trip. Jo, Bruce and the school’s office staff led the way on this effort. Remember, this was before computers; most of the material creation was done on typewriters and copy machines.


The band members and cheerleaders had the opportunity to fundraise in several ways. Commemorative pins and candy were made available to sell. Carl Kaiser said “We sold buttons with the words “Woodway Band “D.C. in ‘73” on them. The lettering was green with a white background.  I sold lots of them.”

Woodway’s commemorative pin. Photo by Byron Wilkes. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

In addition, a farewell concert was held on Jan. 16 and students sold tickets to the concert.

The cover of the Woodway Band’s Farewell Concert Program.  Photo by Byron Wilkes. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

Band members recounted “people came off their porches and gave us donations” as they practiced marching and playing on Edmonds’ streets prior to the trip. Carl Kaiser also recalled: “I remember a wealthy family in Woodway paid us to come and play the song Oh Johnny for a birthday surprise for a relative of theirs whose name (presumably) was Johnny. We quietly assembled on the driveway and once given the signal, we played the song as well as sang a whole verse of the song, and it was very unusual for us to sing”.

Caldwell also wrote a letter that was methodically mailed to over 500 local and selected businesses statewide, outlining what the band would be engaged in, and asking for tax deductible donations.  That undertaking generated approximately $17,000 in donations.

A copy of Bruce’s letter to business leaders.  Courtesy: Caldwell family.

Farrell’s Ice Cream created a coupon for their ice cream sundaes stating that a portion of the revenue received from the sale of their sundaes would go toward the Woodway band’s trip. That promotion generated $1,500 for the band.

An article from the Edmonds Tribune Review regarding Farrell’s promotion, and a copy of Farrell’s coupon. Photos by Byron Wilkes. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

Additionally local papers and broadcast media were huge supporters of the fundraising efforts. On the air, weekly announcements were made regarding the fundraising efforts and the upcoming trip. The Enterprise, Edmonds News- Tribune, Everett Herald and others reported the accumulative weekly results of the fundraising efforts as the weeks passed.

Reporting of the band’s fundraising efforts as reported in the Edmonds Tribune Review. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

Additional donations came in many forms:

Caldwell stated that he received a letter with a $2 donation in it. The letter asked if Bruce was the son of Cliff and Grace Caldwell. The donors had heard that Cliff and Grace’s son had become a music teacher. If Bruce was their son, the letter requested that the donation be applied to the trip. If Bruce was not their son, the potential donors requested, “Please return the two dollars!” Bruce was indeed their son, and the monies were donated appropriately.

Mark Press, a band member, recounted: “When I reflect back on that time, what really stands out is how the whole school community, and community at large was galvanized to support our efforts to raise the money for the trip. From Farrell’s ice cream parlor to rummage sales organized by a group of moms known as LOL (Little Old Ladies), of which my mom was a proud member. There was an outpouring of goodwill and money that made the trip possible.”

Final preparations and departure

Up until a few days before the departure, the band continued to practice on 7th Avenue in Edmonds as the school’s parking lot was too small to simulate the parade. The City of Edmonds blocked off the street so that the band could practice the four songs they were going to play in the parade while marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and past President Nixon’s viewing stand.

A January 15, 1973 article in the Everett Herald, showing the band practicing on 7 th Ave. Photo by Byron Wilkes. (Courtesy Laurie (Westby) Cannon)

While final preparations were being made, Caldwell had to fly to Washington, DC, on Jan. 17  to attend a mandatory meeting with the parade organizers. He had earlier submitted the number of the students that would be marching in the band along with a layout of how the group would be organized for the march.

A diagram of band members as they would march in the 1973 parade. (Courtesy: Caldwell family)

At the meeting, Caldwell was given instructions on the do’s and don’ts in regards to the parade.

The instructions included:

  • There couldn’t be a larger number of marchers than what had been previously submitted. This was for security reasons, as there were going to be protesters against the Vietnam War outside the parade grounds, and security wanted to make sure no one had snuck into the parade.
  • The band had to stay within 40 yards of the group in front of them.
  • When the band arrived at the president’s viewing stand the students were not to turn their heads to look at the President.
  • Once the band was beyond the viewing stand, they were to quit playing, and follow the guided route back to their buses.

These instructions were later conveyed to the band members when they arrived in D.C.  Years later band members stated that they didn’t turn their heads to look at the president, but they did look in his direction as they passed the viewing stand.

Early on Jan. 19, a group of 109 students and 31 adult chaperones and guests gathered at the high school’s parking lot where they said goodbye to their families. One of the guests was Kristie Burris, the University of Washington Husky Marching Band’s twirler, who volunteered to lead the band in the parade. The guests on the trip paid their own way. When loaded, the three school buses traveled to SeaTac airport, where their charter plane awaited.

At 9:30 a.m., United Airlines charter flight 5295 departed Seattle, and landed at Dulles International Airport at approximately 5 p.m. Eastern time. From the airport, three reserved buses transported them to the Quality Inn Northeast, where they were to stay for the next three and a half days.

Upon arrival, everyone checked into their assigned rooms. The parade participants were made aware of where they could pick up their uniforms and instruments in the morning, plus where and when breakfast would be served. Once all the necessary information had been conveyed, and bed checks had been completed, everyone settled in for the night, filled with excitement and anticipation for the next day.

— This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Full credits will be given at the end of Part 2.

  1. Many thanks to Byron Wilkes for taking the time and making the commitment to write the story of our wonderful 1973 trip. Please enjoy, and look forward to Part II which will be posted in short order.

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