Rebels with a Corps

This year, KHC features weekly posts related to the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition Hometown Teams, currently touring Kansas.

The Argonne Rebels drum and bugle corps put together a rare three-peat of national championships in the early 1970s. Image Courtesy Pageantry, Inc., Clay Ward.

The Argonne Rebels drum and bugle corps put together a rare three-peat of national championships in the early 1970s. Image Courtesy Pageantry, Inc., Clay Ward.

For the Argonne Rebels, a World Class competitive junior drum and bugle corps active from 1947 to 1984, winning back-to-back American Legion National Championships in 1971 and 1972 was hard enough.

The Great Bend, Kansas-based corps had no idea that their third consecutive championship would be the easiest they’d ever win.

According to Jeff Yeager, who marched with the Rebels from 1967 to 1974, most corps couldn’t afford travel to Hawaii, where the Legion convention was going to be held. So the competition was canceled, and the Argonne Rebels were declared 1973 champions by proclamation.

Good luck, certainly. But without the previous championships, the third wouldn’t have happened. And those two came purely out of hard work and talent—things that members of the prestigious Argonne Rebels had in spades.

A charter member of Drum Corps International, the corps won the first of their 16 Kansas State American Legion Championships in 1955. Under the direction of  longtime corps director and DCI Hall of Famer Glenn Opie, they became a nationally recognized corps, recording highly placed finishes at competitions across the country. (Watch a video of a 1971 performance here.)

“All this happened from a community of 20,000 people competing against corps from major metropolitan populations,” Yeager added.

As the parents and supporters who helped make the group a success continue to age, Yeager hopes the Argonne Rebels exhibit will provide a way to honor the community’s contributions and extend the Rebels’ legacy in Great Bend.

With over 2000 alumni passing through the program, their presence is still felt in the area, said Jennifer King, Great Bend Public Library’s Hometown Teams Partner Site Project Director.

“For a team that hasn’t been active since the early ‘80s, it’s quite impressive that it still maintains such strong roots in the local community,” King said. “Which I think exemplifies the notion of a ‘Hometown Team.’”

“The Hometown Team: How Our Community Championed Its Youth” will be on display at the Great Bend Public Library from June 1 to August 31. For more information, visit http://greatbendpl.info.

In conjunction with Great Bend’s local Hometown Teams exhibit, Drums Across Kansas will perform their regional drum and bugle corps competition, March of Champtions, July 14 at 7:00pm. The competition is co-sponsored by Drum Corps International and will take place in Great Bend. Click here for details.