The Archer-Epler Musketeers Senior Drum
and Bugle Corps traces its origins back to April 18, 1932. On that date VFW Post 979 of
Upper Darby, PA. formally organized a junior drum and bugle corps. This site is intended
to serve as a tribute to the people and organizations who have made "Archie" a
legend in the history of drum and bugle corps.
The attempt of this web page is to
recognize and partially organize the rich heritage of our own members, both living and
deceased, along with contributions provided by others. The support of fans and
friends is attested to by the ads and patrons, indicating another dimension of experiences
shared by our membership outside the realm of drum and bugle corps. This support has
inspired the performances and innovations of "Archie" from its inception.
In addition to providing a history of
Archer-Epler this site also seeks to honor the contributions of the charter members of the
Archer-Epler Hall of Fame. These individuals and corps were selected on the basis of
several criteria: (1) long standing service to Archer-Epler; (2) outstanding contributions
to the corps; (3) outstanding contributions in fields related to drum and bugle corps; and
(4) outstanding service to the community. Limited space permits only the most cursory
descriptions of the accomplishments of each Hall of Fame inductee in the context of the
history of Archer-Epler.
It is a proud occasion to reflect back
over the accomplishments of the past 74 years. Without the dedication, talent and hard
work of our members and friends, none of this history would have been possible. We hope
that our traditional spirit of "ALL FOR ONE... AND ONE FOR ALL" and future
generations of similarly gifted and committed individuals will see the corps reach its
100th birthday in 2032.
Like so many other corps, the Archer-Epler Junior Drum and Bugle
Corps had its humble beginning during the dark days of the "Great Depression".
Almost all corps of that period were associated either with veterans'organizations such as
the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion or with the Catholic Youth
Organization. As the large list of Philadelphia-area corps in this book indicates, most
pre-war corps were "neighborhood" groups and represented a meaningful outlet for
youthful energies in an era before formal activities like Little League had yet been
organized. In the cases of poorer communities drum and bugle corps often provided one of
the few ways a child could travel to distant towns and cities.
Although a community-based drum and bugle
corps like its contemporaries, the Archer-Epler corps achieved some of its early successes
because of several innovations and traditions initiated by the corps. First, the corps was
fortunate to acquire the services of Walter A. Fuller, a talented young horn instructor
and a recent graduate of West Chester State Teachers College, who along with Arthur
"Scotty" Chappell in the Boston-area became one of the most distinguished
instructors. Walt combined his knowledge of music and superb teaching ability to produce
one of the gifted horn lines of the pre-war period. Among the innovations for which he was
responsible were the introduction of valve bugles to the Philadelphia-area and perhaps the
first use of classical music ("The Unfinished Symphony") by any drum and bugle
corps. With Walt Fuller began the Archer-Epler tradition of inspiring musical programs,
which was carried on by Lee Wolf in the 1950's and more recently by Ray Fallon. This
tradition led to top-flight horn lines with numerous individual national champions and
represented a mutual admiration between instructor and player as well as an appreciation
for the desire of drum corps fans to be entertained. In 1981 Walter A. Fuller was present
to accept his induction into the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame.
The Archer-Epler junior corps was also
able to gain the membership and later instruction of a similarly gifted drummer, Bill
Reamer, another charter inductee into the Archer-Epler Hall of Fame. In addition to
instructing "Archie" and being primarily responsible for introducing rudimental
drumming to the Philadelphia area., Bill was noted for his production of outstanding
students, including such noted drummers as Jack Cory, Don Mihok, and Dick Filkens. Among
the corps Bill taught were the Howard C. McCall Post of Philadelphia and the Audubon (New
Jersey) Bon-Bons,the world's first all-girl drum and bugle corps formed by Mr. and Mrs.
Perhaps the most unique Archer-Epler
tradition that began with the junior corps was the loyalty and dedication to the
organization shown by its membership and management. This is best illustrated by the
lengthy service given to Archer--Epler by several of its Hall of Fame inductees--Dan
Goettel,Thomas and Anna Ward,Earl and Mary(Lamb)Ziegenfuss. These individuals and their
families continued their support and interest in the various Archer-Epler corps throughout
their lives. Most importantly, these same individuals were also active in twice re-forming
Archer-Epler--first after World War II and again in 1974.
Dan Goettel was an original playing member
of the junior corps and later played an instrumental role in organizing the senior corps.
He also participated in the formation of Drum Corps Associates (DCA). Danny served the
corps for years as either director or business manager, 'Thomas and Anna Ward, along with
Colonel Walsh arid George Ritchie, were the "backbone" behind the parents
organization that administered the junior corps. Mrs. Ward's book ("By Words
Possessed"), in particular, contains a most humorous description of the trials and
tribulations associated with pre-war junior corps and remains one of the few references to
drum and bugle corps in serious literature. She was also the lyricist for the first
Archer-Epler song (an original by Walt Fuller, nicknamed "Romance" ' which
became the Most often played number in the history of drum and bugle corps). The final
inductees of the pre-war period, Earl and Mary Ziegenfuss, both joined the junior corps in
the late 1930s. Despite the duties of raising a family they stayed active in the
corps and still found time to distinguish themselves in community service service,
particularly in the American Legion.
When World War II ended the returning
veterans expressed a desire to re-form the Archer-Epler corps as a senior unit. At the
same time a number of other pre-war junior corps had also begun to re-organize, most
notable the Reilly Raiders from the A.K. Street Post junior corps. Although the beginning
of "Archies" first rebirth was difficult, an influx of members from Upper
Darby Post 214 and other rival junior corps which did not form senior corps enabled
Archer-Epler to compete in the 1946 VFW National Championships in just six short months.
Of course, many of the people mentioned earlier such as Walt Fuller, Bill Reamer, Dan
Goettel, Mr. and Mrs. Ward, and Mary Ziegenfuss (the original drum major of the senior
corps) were also instrumental in helping the corps achieve its early post-war successes.
When the 1950's rolled around
"Archie" was building towards its all--time peak in 1954. During that year the
"Musketeers" won all contests except the first in Hershey, Pa. Among the corps'
titles that year were the Dream Contest and the first March of Champions (the corps went
on to retire the huge trophy of that Baltimore contest after subsequent victories in 1955
and 1956, a feat that was never to be duplicated). The Musketeers" secured the VFW
National Championship by overwhelming Reilly, by 1.70 with a score of 90.45. Unlike the
large corps of the present, that championship corps consisted of 51 marching members: 33
horns, 3 snares, 3 tenors, 2 bass drums, 1 cymbal, 8 color guard, and 1 drum major. At the
time it was not realized that "Archie" had reached yet another milestone
probably never to be reached by any other drum and bugle corps--winning national
championships as both a junior and senior corps.
1954 VFW NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
In 1982 the corps fielded the largest
complement in it's long history and has continued to improve in all areas. Among the
selections included in the musical program were "We Are the Musketeers",
"Corination march", "Spain", "God Bless the Child",
"Slapstyx" (Drum Solo) and the ever popular "Stars and Stripes".
"Victory At Sea" will be incorporated later as the corps' exit production. With
the combination of the famous traditional spirit of "ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR
ALL" and the hard work of active members and alumni alike, the "legend" has
returned. As much as "Archie" prides itself for accomplishments of the past 74
years, the corps views the future every bit as eagerly and hopes to celebrate many more
"Brass Reunions" with its fans, friends, and families for years to come.