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|History for Majestic Knights||Charlestown, MA|
|Inactive Junior Corps founded in 1955||Did you march Majestic Knights?|
|Other names: St. Mary's Majestic Knights|
The Majestic Knights traces its roots to a parish drum team in 1954. The Saint Mary's Cadets and Drill Team were formed in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in October of that year, with the purpose of building a worthwhile activity that might keep the kids out of trouble. There wasn't much money in the corps treasury at first, and some of the original members remember marching with sticks before they got their bugles. Progress was slow but steady and, in the spring of 1956, wearing homemade uniforms tailored by mothers, the corps finally made its first appearance in a regularly scheduled CYO field contest in Newburyport, Massachusetts.|
The first significant influx of new talent into the corps came in 1957 when former members of the disbanded David M. Cleary Post Drum and Bugle Corps, also of Charlestown, joined Saint Mary's. After advancing up to Class B competition that first year, the corps posted one of the most impressive records in drum corps history by winning 15 out of 16 field competitions during the 1958 season.
1959 brought a new name; snare drummer Mike Holubowich won a "name-the-corps" contest with the "Majestic Knights,” sometimes known as MK or the Townies. Making the jump to Class A competition, the brave little corps (21 horns, 9 drums, and a small color guard) finished third in Prince's Standstill Contest, taking the top drum mark from the St. Kevin's Emerald Knights, Cambridge Caballeros, and even the vaunted Hyde Park (now Boston) Crusaders.
That year also marked the addition of quite a few members of The Hawks, a Charlestown-based youth group (or "gang") supervised by the Reverend Kenneth B. Murphy (aka "Suicide") of Saint Francis DeSales Church and the Boston Fire Department's Rescue, Inc. The Townies now had the pieces in place to build a corps that would compete for national prominence two years later.
Major changes were methodically implemented in 1960. The drum major's baton was passed from longtime leader and local favorite Billy Jordan to out-of-towner Henry "Hank" O'Donnell of Salem. Then came the corps’ first "near-perfect" field performance at Somerville's Dilboy Field. The highlight of the year was the Majestic Knights’ first ever victory over respected rival and perennial winner, Saint Kevin's Emerald Knights of Dorchester. This the Townies accomplished even though their entire off-the-line maneuver was changed at a morning rehearsal at the "Oily.” The unit was now tight, seasoned, and ready to move.
Before the 1961 field season began, the drum major's baton passed again, this time to baritone hornman Gerry Walsh. During that banner year, he led the Knights through many excellent field performances, as well as appearances in such diverse venues as Channel 5's "Dateline Boston" TV program, the gala opening of Framingham's Shoppers World, and every little parade, Little League season opener, cake sale, and coffee klatch in the area. All of this frenetic activity helped to raise funds for the two-day train ride to the VFW Nationals Competition in Miami in August. Excellent preliminary execution earned the corps a Finals appearance in the Orange Bowl, in which they finished ninth out of a field of 52 units from all over the United States.
During this period of great achievement by the marching veterans, the corps laid a foundation to ensure continued organizational existence and success with the formation of the Majestic Knights Junior Corps. After the 1961 season, both units left Saint Mary's Church when the Charlestown Knights of Columbus, Bunker Hill Council #62 assumed sponsorship. The corps’ name, naturally enough, became Majestic Knights of Columbus.
With the loss of many members to age-out,1962 had the potential to devastate the corps. But MK’s reputation drew new recruits from all over the greater Boston area. After a long, tough winter, the rebuilt Townies were able to unveil Fred Allen's best-ever musical routine (capped by Tommy "Cargo" Brennan's immortal "Now and Forever" bye-bye number) in Revere in July. Veterans believe that, if the 1961 corps had played the 1962 repertoire, the top three finishers in Miami would have been Sac, Chicago, and Charlestown, and not necessarily in that order.
Big off-the-field changes took place in 1963, with a reorganization of the managerial and instructional responsibilities. The highlight of on-field activities was the corps’ second near-perfect field performance in Leroy, New York. The 1964 season began with high hopes as 52 horns and an enlarged drumline knocked 'em dead at the CYO Standstill in Boston's Symphony Hall. As the season wore on, however, the ranks of the Townies were depleted due to the Vietnam conflict, and the winter winds blew more changes at the organization.
Two major events occurred in 1965 that would influence the destiny of the Townies for the next five years. First, Mike Mullan assumed managerial responsibilities for the senior corps. Then in the early spring, Manager Leo Maloney took the ever-improving junior corps to a standstill competition in New Hampshire. When no other Class C entrants showed up, he entered them against Class B competition, and they absolutely stole the show. These two major events came together after the season as the young boys and girls of Charlestown graduated into the senior corps under Mike's tutelage.
The young corps gained in experience and ability over the next two years, often leaving their home at the old firehouse (Hawks Garage on Elm Street) to travel to such places as New York City for the American Legion Nationals.
More major changes were in store for the 1968 corps. In a pioneering musical move, MK was the only corps in the country other than the Boston Crusaders to use timpani that year. More importantly, the corps acquired a beautiful new home at the abandoned Price Brothers Liquor Co. building on Rutherford Avenue. The building came complete with the services of talented horn instructor Larry Kerchner, whose new musical repertoire was primarily responsible for lifting the tremendously improved Townies once again into top contention. The year culminated in the third near-perfect field performance in MK history: a tenth-place preliminary finish at the World Open competition in Lynn, Massachusetts, against the best drum and bugle corps in the entire country.
As the organization had discovered before, sustaining championship caliber is no easy task. By the end of 1969 drastic action was needed to keep the unit in existence. The Vietnam War and aging out had depleted membership ranks. St. Kevin's of Dorchester was experiencing the same problems. The resultant merger corps, called St. Kevin's Majestic Knights, barely lasted the 1970 field season before being mercifully disbanded.
But the great friendships that began in the corps and developed over the years survived. Every year at the Bunker Hill Day parade in June, the gang met, partied, and sang together, just like old times. And in 1974, someone (either Billy Jordan or maybe Father Joe Ryan) reminded everyone that 1975 would be the Bunker Hill Bicentennial Celebration and that "We oughta get together and go over the hill one more time!“ That idea grew, but months of planning and frustration at being unable to acquire instruments were to come before weekly rehearsals of the old MK music could finally begin. The MK Reunion Corps tuned up with a parade appearance on Memorial Day in Somerville before leading the First Division of the Bunker Hill Bicentennial parade in Charlestown on the 17th of June, 1975, and the unit concluded its active parade schedule with an outstanding competition parade victory in Stoughton, Massachusetts, on July 4th over the Boston Crusaders.
For many of the old Townies, "going over the hill one more time” was enough. But sufficient interest continued to get a senior parade corps formed and marching until the summer of 1977, when it was reorganized as The Bostonians Senior Drum and Bugle Corps. After a long unsuccessful attempt to enter DCA senior corps field competition, the corps was finally disbanded in the fall of 1978, and drum corps in Charlestown came to an end.
[Narrative written by Warren Shanahan (member 1958-61 and instructor) submitted by Jim Walsh]
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