Drum major from 1950s to lead EHS parade to Citizens Bank Stadium
Published 9:05 am Monday, August 31, 2015
Leading the approximately 90 alumni who will be marching in the parade Friday with the Elizabethton High School Betsy Band is Dr. Benjie Earnest, EHS drum major from 1952 to 1955. The parade will begin at 6 p.m. at the old Brown-Childress Stadium and end at the new Citizens Bank Stadium.
“I am the oldest living former drum major of Elizabethton High School,” he said.
Though he has been playing trombone in the Lakeland Concert Band in Florida for years and formerly in its symphony, he has not been a drum major since 1958 at ETSU.
“I have not done it in 60 years, but I can remember, I think, how to do it,” he said nonchalantly. “I think I just have to make a right turn and a left turn and right turn and move the stick up and down in the air, and I have a whistle to get their attention,” he said and laughed.
When asked how many times they would practice before the parade, he said, “Zero.” They will meet an hour before they march to assemble and rehearse.
“This is not a precision program, just a fun program.”
He said it will be fun to see some of his old band mates that he had back then. His sister will be playing piccolo.
According to Elizabethton City School Board Member Tyler Fleming, they are expecting 10 to 15 majorettes including members from the ‘60s.
“When he told me about that I said I’d have to wear a helmet so I don’t get hit in the head with a baton,” he recalled. He got hit in the head his freshman year and said he was always leery of them after that.
Earnest lives in Bristol for part of the year and in Lakeland, Florida, where he worked as a dentist until he retired. He has been coming up here every year, but has never been present for an alumni band.
“I happened to be here this year and I’m very thankful to participate,” he said. “The band was a great part of my life.”
He started playing in the fifth grade and went on to become drum major at EHS for three years and at ETSU for two years. During this time, he delivered the newspaper for the Elizabethton Star, and he remembers every street on his route.
“You learn a lot about people doing the paper route,” he said.
Fleming said he was quite well-known in the community and a very interesting man.
“The response has been pretty incredible,” said Fleming. “I think it will be quite unique.”