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Yes, it's true: The Shoe attended Pacelli High School, 1301 Maria Dr. (Metro Wire photo)

Shoe Column: Playin’ in the band

By Tim “Shoe” Sullivann

DISCLAIMER: I went to Pacelli High School for four years: 1963, 1964, 1965, and 1966.

I enjoyed my time in high school, learned some things, and had a lot of fun. I don’t really have a bad word to say about my alma mater.

However, there was one thing that kinda bothered me when I was a senior in high school. It dawned on me that I had never been on a sports team, never was in a club, and wasn’t in any “group”. It’s almost like I wasn’t even there.

I was the smallest kid in our class of 101, so that pretty much ruled out sports. The Honor Student Society was out of the question, and there was no way I’d join something like the Glee Club. I was a student without a cause or even a goal.

I told a few of my friends about my situation, and one of them came up with a bright idea. He said: “Well, why don’t you join the school band?”

I went home and thought about it. The fact that I didn’t know how to play a single musical instrument didn’t sway my thinking. I decided to give it a try.

So one day I marched into Max Kopchinski’s office. He was in charge of our school band. And I’ll say this: Max was a musical genius! The guy could play about 50 instruments, and he was great at playing all of them.

The first thing I did was inform Max that I didn’t know how to play anything. He didn’t care. Max immediately let me join the band and said he’d try to teach me how to play the clarinet.

So I was officially a band member. And our band was awesome!! We had a group called the “Pep Band.” It was about 10 guys who were fantastic musicians. They really knew their stuff. They played at a lot of events at school.

I was not the best student when it came to playing the clarinet. To put it bluntly, I hated playing the clarinet. After one month, I knew how to play one note. One. And I sure as hell didn’t know how to read music notes.

And then came the time when Max informed me that I was gonna join our Pacelli “Marching Band.” I asked him what that meant. He said that we all had snazzy uniforms and would march down the street playing songs.

Well, that turned out to be somewhat of a problem. For starters, it seemed like they only had one uniform left, and I got it. My cap was too big. My shirt was three sizes too big. I drowned in my pants. I had no chance of successfully “marching” in my new uniform. None.

So our marching band went outside and assembled on the street. All of the Pep Band guys were there. Everyone was lined up perfectly. In the last row was a big fat tuba player. They put me behind him.

And we took off marching down the street. Everyone was terrific. Other than me. I only have two hands. Needed one to hold my useless clarinet. And it came with a note holder. My second hand was used to pick up my hat that fell off every two steps. I ran out of hands.

Then my uniform pants started falling down. I put down the clarinet and pulled my pants up. Then my hat fell off again. I had to tuck in my loose shirt and adjust the note holder. Not that it mattered since I couldn’t read notes anyways.

We walked maybe a block. I didn’t even get to play my one note. My cap kept falling down over my eyes and I hardly ever knew where we were even walking.

Then the band in front of me turned a corner and started out on another street. The tuba player and I were almost a block behind them.

Then we turned the same corner.

And I fell down a sewer.

Well, not all the way down. My hat covered my eyes, and my foot got stuck in a sewer grating. It took 10 minutes to get it out.

And nobody noticed it, except the tuba player.

Our band marched on its merry way, and I marched straight home. I quit the marching band.

The thing is, Max never knew that I quit. So a few weeks later, I saw him in the hallway, and he said he was looking forward to our school hosting the “Big Concert.” Apparently every year the bands from Pacelli, Rapids Assumption, Wausau Newman, and Marshfield Columbus got together to hold a band contest. I guess we usually took first place.

So Max wanted me to be up on the stage with our band. Same uniform, but no marching. He knew I still only knew one note. He told me to stand way back in the corner in the last row and don’t play anything.

Fine with me.

So we played about three songs, and our guys were awesome. We had first place in the bag.

But then…what’s this? One more song!! “Rippin the Blues”!!! And I knew the first note! I could contribute!

Max started his wand-waving.

Time for the first note.

My only note.

The screech, they say, could be heard all the way at Robby’s Restaurant. I had one second to shine..and I blew my note.

I do not think we won that concert.

But my band days ended that night. I set the Pacelli band back 20 years.

Let history record that I was a member of our band. So I looked around and thought about joining something else.

I chose “Camera Club.” How are you gonna get in trouble taking pictures?

I had never snapped a photo before.

So I joined it.

But apparently, they heard about my stay in the band. They gave me a camera with no film.

Probably were sending a message.

I quit again and never joined anything else.

And I still get the shakes whenever I see a clarinet.