By Jesse J. Amador
The SCV uniform. Where did it come from? Who came up with the design? How did it come to be?
From the very beginning the SCV uniform has progressed through various evolutions. In the beginning there was no uniform. At the very first event as the Santa Clara Vanguard (San Francisco Saint Patrick’s Day Parade) the horn line and drums wore white dress shirts, black trousers and black shoes, while the color guard wore white blouses, black skirts, and Keds sneakers. The corps competed in early season standstill contests (1967) but the corps still had no uniform. There was little to no money for a new Santa Clara Vanguard uniform, and barely enough funds to just field all the bugles, drums, and flag members. The original makeshift green silk uniforms started in 1967 and were tweaked/revised/renewed each year to make them last till 1971. To understand how the uniform evolved you need to know a little of the history behind the green blouses and how they originated in Santa Clara. The green uniform silks used in 1965-66 with the Sunnyvale Sparks didn’t originate with the Sunnyvale Sparks. The green silk blouses were hand me downs from the Santa Clara Green Dragons Band/Drum and Bugle Corps. Larry Marsalli (top row left), who served on Santa Clara City Council and was Parade of Champions Chair, was a former member of the Santa Clara Dragons band/drum corps and had possession of all the Green Dragon silk blouses after the corps folded.
Gail Royer, then horn instructor of the Sparks (1965-66), arranged to obtain the silk blouses from Larry Marsalli for the Sunnyvale Sparks Drum and Bugle Corps. The Sunnyvale Sparks used the green silk blouses for their 1965-66 seasons (below). The Sparks uniforms were based on a Spanish look with the flat Spanish hat and pant leg with a large red kick out bell bottom, styled much like the Hawthorne Caballeros Senior Corps.
The green blouses were made for the Green Dragons by the L. Riznik & Son – Uniforms out of San Francisco. In 1967 the SCV Booster club tried various options to create a new look with the Green Dragon silks for the Vanguard. It was a slow process by first removing the big red kick out bell-bottom pant, going to a straight leg black pant, and adding a 1-inch white stripe down the side. A red cummerbund with red/green drop was also added to the uniform. Over time the Spanish hat flipped up the left side and a white ribbon was added around the top of the hat, a white feather was added, and a red/green felt Vanguard shield was placed on the side of the hat. The shield was based on Bill Reeve’s (2nd Baritone) U.S. Post Office badge and the SCV hat shields were made by hand by the Leeson family on their kitchen table.
The original Green Dragon silk blouse uniforms were used by the Santa Clara Vanguard from 1967 to 1970. The Green Dragon tops during those years were quickly wearing out and many were not going to last another season. One of the parents (Mrs. Mary Shiffer, mother of Norm and Mike) took her son’s silk uniform which was falling apart and recreated it sewing up a new silk blouse with slender sleeves using a much lighter material. Mrs. Shiffer showed her creation to Gail Royer to get his permission to use. Gail was absolutely blown away so much that his eyes swelled up just looking at Mary’s new creation. Gail loved it so much that he asked Mary – “can you make 114 more!” Mary Shiffer and her team of seamstress created all new green uniforms for the 1971 corps. The new improved green satins were used for 1971 along with adding a black/white cummerbund and white buck shoes to complete the uniform.
The Vanguard in those years didn’t have enough money to do full tours to attend all National Title events (1970 VFW Miami), but those that we did attend, we won. The Santa Clara Vanguard won two National Titles wearing those green silk uniforms, the 1970 American Legion (AL) National Title and the 1971 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
A couple items to note – the name “Aussie” for the hat was never used in the early years of SCV, it was just simply called – our hat. To many of the members it was still just a Spanish hat flipped up. When the classic SCV red tunic uniform came out in 1972, the green silks were passed on to the B-Corps or Vanguard Cadets. Through the years and over time many thought the original green satin uniforms were made for the SCV so hopefully this bit of history will help clarify how the SCV green uniform came to be.
For all those SCV members who wore the green uniform there is the “Gathering of the Green”. The “Gathering of the Green” is a celebration of those Santa Clara Vanguard members who wore the green satin uniforms (A-Corps). Those members took an unknown California parade corps and went on to win two National Championships (AL 1970 and VFW 1971) in, basically, a thrown together uniform originated from the Santa Clara Green Dragons.
To all of those who wore the SCV Green Silk Uniforms
“We didn’t join a Championship Drum Corps, WE CREATED ONE!!!”