Let’s Laugh at Ourselves… Excerpts from A Funny Thing Happened On… THE WAY!
Excerpts from A Funny Thing Happened On… THE WAY!
Will Pratt relates his experiences as ISB Flag Officer…
…Four weeks later I had to face my second weekend campaign with the I.S.B. We were to visit Kettering, the heartland of brass banding in Britain. The likelihood of so many expert performers and keen music critics being in the audiences prompted even the imperturbable Bandmaster Adams to remark during the eve-of-departure rehearsal: “We’d better be on our toes this weekend.”
In the event, I was almost on my knees.
Still smarting from the humiliation of my experience at Sholing, I resolved that no part of that famous flag would be out of my sight at any time during the weekend. Even if I did not want to be made a Flag Officer, I wanted still less to be made a fool of again. This weekend I would show them.
Sunday morning came. Trembling a little with anticipation, I assembled my flag–all of it. The two halves of the pole interlocked nicely. I screwed in the beautiful chromium-plated crest atop the pole and neatly tied the gleaming-white long tassel cord to it. Wearing my long, white leather gauntlet gloves, I hoisted my flag into the shining chromium socket held by my equally gleaming white leather strap. The drummer tapped the beat, and away I strode at the head of the Army’s premier band.
Now on two or three occasions I had admired my predecessor, the good Fred Biggs, marching ahead of the I.S.B. When the column was to turn left or right at a street corner, Fred would march on to the center of the road, then dramatically dip his flag and swing it toward the new direction to be taken. With a deft swirl, he would then bring it back to the upright position and march forward to lead the band along the new route. I decided that honor dictated I should try my hand at this.
It was a moment of foolish ambition. I had actually rehearsed the maneuver in the hallowed Assembly Hall of the International Training College, scene of many solemn occasions and resting place of the flags of each session of officer-cadets trained there. When no one was looking, I had taken the current session’s flag and marched up and down the aisles practicing the dipping of the banner. Apart from its digging in the area of my appendix, I thought I handled it reasonably well.
With hindsight, I know I should have practiced with the Staff Band flag for, without my knowing it, the top of the flagpole was gradually being worn by the repeated screwing-on and withdrawal of the crest.
The first corner of the Kettering street was now upon me. I dipped the flag down. Forcefully, I swung it to the left. There was a flash of chrome as my gleaming I.S.B. crest shot like an arrow toward the ear of Eddie Scotton, the bass trombonist at the end of the front-line trombonists. (Had he been the servant of the high priest in the New Testament, he could not have looked more startled!)
Worse was to follow. As I smartly raised the pole to the upright position, the beautifully woven flag, no longer held by the crest but only by the chromium rings, came rattling down the pole to smother me completely, leaving me unable to see. The famous Staff Band’s sweet Sunday morning hymn-tune resolved itself into the sounds of a solitary bass and second baritone um-pahing as the other bandsmen stopped playing and choked with laughter.
Above the pandemonium came the Cockney voice of the band’s secretary, Senior-Captain Frank Lyndon, in the solo cornet section: “Crikey, boys,” he yelled, “he’s dedicating himself!”
And here’s more…
…It was our first corps command after having been commissioned as Salvation Army officers. The members of our flock were generous to a fault as I visited and prayed with them. Before I left their homes almost invariably they would say, “Take these cookies (or cake or pie) to Mrs. Baxendale. I have made them just for both of you.” Knowing the high price of the ingredients and the work in preparation, I tried to be reluctant, but they kept insisting.
I thought I would try another tactic. When one kind comrade offered me a beautiful lemon pie, I said, “I insist I help pay for this. Let me give you a dollar.” (It was almost forty years ago!) I reached into my pocket and, horror of horrors, I found I had only ninety cents.
Quite undismayed, my soldier said, “Oh, Lieutenant, I’ll take the rest out in your Sunday sermon.”
With sudden boldness I responded, “But I don’t have any ten cent sermons!”
“Well, Lieutenant,” she answered, “I’ll come twice!”
– David Baxendale
Guest speaker Captain Chick Yuill from Britain was being introduced by Major Tom Jones at the USA Southern Territory’s famed Bible Conference. The Major not only wanted the Captain to feel very welcome, but also wanted the congregation to realize the excellence of their guest as speaker, writer, original thinker and organizer. Indeed, in no department of life did Captain Yuill fall short.
With much modesty the Scotsman responded to his effusive welcome. “Why,” he said, “if I were only half that good, I would have been elected General.” The Army’s 1986 High Council had just elected General Eva Burrows.
Southern Territorial Comman-der Commissioner Andrew S. Miller (who had accepted nomination for generalship at that High Council) leapt to his feet. “I am half as good, but they didn’t elect me,” he lamented.
A Funny Thing Happened on…THE WAY is now available. To order, contact the Western Territory Supplies and Purchasing, 2780 Lomita Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505. Softcover $10.95, hardcover $14.95 (plus state tax and $4.50 postage and handling).