The History Page
Here is a brief history of the Crossroads of America Scout Band
This is a very brief history, to learn more ask an Alumni member or research some of the archives the band displays at various council functions. The Booster Club and Alumni Association plan to work together in developing a history of the band, both written and in video format. Any assistance YOU might be able to offer will be greatly appreciated.
The Crossroads of America Scout Band is recognized as the OLDEST, continuously operating Scout Band in America (and possibly the world)! Founded as a Drum and Bugle Corps in 1917 (confirmed!) by Mr. F.O. "Chief" Belzer to play at ceremonies at summer camp and other council functions, the organization evolved into a full band by the early 1920's. The band has a rich heritage and has toured throughout North America (and Canada). There have been as many as 200 members in the band at a single time, and we were once known as "Scouting's Marching 100" as we marched the streets of Indianapolis in parades.
Accomplishments and noteworthy events of the band include:
- Participation in EVERY National Scout Jamboree since 1950
- Participation in EVERY Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade from 1957-1992
- Performed for four U.S. Presidents (Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon)
- Performed for the Queen of England
- Appeared with movie director, Cecil B. DeMills on CBS from the Barnum Circus Festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
- Performed at three World Fairs (New York twice and Knoxville, Tennessee)
- Maintains a high percentage of Scouts earning the rank of Eagle Scout
- Performed for Maria Von Trapp at the Von Trapp Lodge in Stowe, Vermont
- Performed at the US Capitol Building.
- Served as band for National Order of the Arrow Conferences for 30+ Years.
We are now building towards the 100th anniversary of the band in the year 2017 - will you be there?
Here is a more comprehensive history from an article draft around the 75th Anniversary era:
Francis O. Belzer, Indianapolis' first Scout executive, formed a drum and bugle corps in 1917 with Campbell Bailey as director. By 1921, it had expanded into a full band with Henry Schprengfeil, director of the Indianapolis Military Band, as the new director. In 1921, Ray Oster joined as junior director and became director in 1925. Oster, music instructor at Arsenal Technical High School and later St. John's Military Academy, served for 16 years. Succeeding him was Roger Riley from 1941 to 1946. His credentials, a clarinet instructor at Jordan Conservatory, memeber of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, band instructor in Indianapolis elementary schools and, at the time he was with the Scout Band, he was vice-principal of Broad Ripple High School. He founded the Brass Choir within the band.
In 1946 Harvey U. Gill, band secretary, stepped in to help find a new director. By 1947 Harvey, professional Scouter, Scoutmaster, and consulting engineer for Buehler Corporation, was the official director and remained so for 28 years. In spite of his inexperience as a director, the band flourished and grew. He instituted the Dixieland Combo, dance band, German Band, and the summer tour. He created the Belzer Band Booster Club to run the business end of the band, and Explorer Post 559 for those young men who have no other scout affiliation. May 8, 1975, Harvey Gill died.
Joe (Smokey) Leavitt then took the reins. He had been a band member since his scouting days. Because of an injury, Joe retired in August, 1978. He was succeeded by other Harvey Gill graduates, Tom Jett and Jim Campbell. During their directorship, the band became coed. Girls joined the Band, and the name was changed from Central Indiana Boy Scout Band to Crossroads of Amercia Scout Band.
The band was first created to serve a summer camp. In those days, camping at Chank-Tun-un-gi was Army style and everything moved to the tune of the drums and bugles. In 1947 Chank-Tun-un-gi was renamed Camp Belzer. It is one of the oldest Boy Scout reservations in the United States.
Gone is the council-sponsored Silver Beaver ceremonies at which the band entertained. January 1974 saw the last of the beautiful council wide Eagle Courts of Honor. The Eagle candidates presented themselves while the band played Triumphal March from Aida. Currently, the band plays for their annual Scout Fair, as well as others, and for other miscellaneous scouting functions.
The band has played in nearly every rally and parade at one time or another in Indianapolis since 1917. It has racked up more mileage on Indianapolis streets than any other marching band. On summer tours, the band has traveled from coast to coast, on once went to Europe.
The uniform is Boy Scout, with a few unique distinctions. The summer uniform includes a tan short-sleeved Scout shirt, olive shorts, green socks with red tops, green field cap, and black or brown shoes. The items making the band uniform unique are a band insignia patch, with the Band's logo on it, worn on the upper left sleeve, a white neckerchief, and a white belt. The winter uniform includes the short sleeved shirt, long dark green pants, brown or black shoes, and the same extra articles, patch, neckerchief, and belt, required by the band.
Parents and other interested adults spend hundreds of volunteer hours a year working with the Band through the Belzer Band Booster Club. The program committee, along with the directors, screen all requests for performances; the Ways and Means committee arranges money making projects: the Property Chairman sees that all the camping gear and other property is in good repair; and the tour committee arranges the summer Tour and confirms the dates and makes all the necessary arrangements.
Explorer Post 559 is for members age 14 to 18 who do not have a troop of their own and for members who wish to be involved with the Explorer Scout Program. The Crossroads of America Scout Band is open to all youths who play band instruments. If the player does not belong to a troop they may join Post 559, or will be happily assisted in finding a troop. Practices are every Sunday afternoon from 2;00 pm to 3:30 pm at the Lilly Scout Building located at New Jersey and Merrill Streets on the northeast edge of the Lilly complex. New members are welcome at every practice.