The faces changed but the Elizabeth City High School Marching Band kept playing for over three decades before Northeastern High School was built.
Now one band member has compiled a book of band memories covering a span of time that included World War II, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The book's cover photo from Dec. 8, 1952 captures the band marching down Main Street in gold and black uniforms for the Christmas Balloon Parade. During that bygone era, W. T. Grants was still open and the Carolina Theatre was playing "Just for You" starring Bing Cosby and Jane Wyman.
Inside the newly printed book, Emily Jennings White has compiled a pictorial history of the Elizabeth City High School March Band from 1938 to 1969.
"It was our life. We just had a wonderful time and all of us band members have the same DNA," Smith said in an interview last week.
White said gathering all the photos from old annuals took several months to compile. She kept her work stored at her house in a three-ring binder but decided to print it to ensure the memories would not be lost. The book lists the head majorette, drum major and captains for each year and the band leaders, from its founder Gene Gorman to 19-year veteran Scott C. Calloway and others inbetween.
The black-and-white book containing over 200 photographs is now being sold for $20 at Arts of the Albemarle and Museum of the Albemarle.
White played the clarinet for the band when World War II was still raging. She remembers the day when the band's longtime benefactor Miles L. Clark bought a giant American flag for a parade and paid for fireworks afterward to celebrate the war’s end.
She's dedicated her book to Clark because of his many contributions to the band, both in life and after death through a trust fund that still benefits Northeastern High School and Pasquotank County High School bands today. Through 2014, his trust contributed nearly $1.4 million to local band programs, White said.
"It's my way of paying Mr. Clark back because it's dedicated to him," she said.
White even entreated Elizabeth City Council last August to rename Poole Street Park in Clark's honor, but without any success yet. Clark's widow reportedly paid for the marble fountain in the park nestled between buildings at Poole and Main streets in honor of her late husband.
White said the late Texas Oil Company distributor deserves to be recognized for his quiet, unassuming support of the band.
"We went to Nags Head each year for band camp. Each member paid $10 for the week. Mr. Clark paid the rest," White told councilmen. "On D-Day, we heard of the Normandy invasion while listening to a small radio in one of the rooms of the Nags Header Hotel Annex."
White recalled one week-long trip where they had no chaperones.
"None were needed," said White, who played in the band from 1942 to 1946. Everyone just behaved under the watchful eyes of Outer Banks business owners who had connections to Elizabeth City.
White said her brother, who did not play in the band, also benefitted from Clark's largesse. Her brother was helping run the sound system for assemblies, and Clark recommended him to a manager for the telephone company that later hired the boy. Clark did similar acts of kindness for other youth, such as pay college tuition or help them with health care, White recalled.
Clark paid for band uniforms in the early years and arranged to rent buses for away trips. Limited stock during World War II made it impossible to buy a bus in those days, she noted.
"Until his death in 1965, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy whatever was needed to grow a first-rate high school band," she said.
White's book also notes that Clark was innovative, investing in gasoline filling stations when it was considered a risky business venture and using filmmaking equipment when the technology was still new.
White said book sales will not cover the cost of all she's spent to print the books of the band's history. Still she has plans to order another 50 copies after the first printing in hopes other former band students, at least the ones still living, will want a copy.
"I just thought they would like it," said White.
Emily White is photographed with her newly released book The Elizabeth City High School Band, at Arts of the Albemarle. The book includes history of the band from 1938 to 1969.