Reparation – (the good, the bad and the ugly) Pt. 1…#93

A new experience – stock arrangements

The day of reparation having arrived,  a representative of concern about Gary’s military commitment approached the Oklahoma Street residence,  requiring the pianist to accompany him.  Gary accepting his repression and subjection to a hearing of his indiscretions,  acceding to its outcome and discipline that was instilled.  Interned in the post stockade subjected to a General Court Martial, the outcome upheld by the convening authority but subject to review by the Military Court of Appeals, Gary  dispatched and flown to United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth Kansas.  The Castle as it was known is a maximum security facility situated on 2500 acres, its center rotunda with  eight wings,  25 out-buildings and 26 buildings within it walls,  providing residency for up to 1777 discredited members from all branches of the service and staffed by 752 military and 158 civilian personnel.  On entering,  the interned soldier was introduced to the #3 wing of The Castle, a 8 tier edifice for transit and new arrivals normally a three-week period for medical physiological and work skill evaluation for permanent placement location.  The new arrival soon discovering that inmates  remained subject to military protocol and discipline, being issued a brown military type uniforms, boots and subject to a military haircut with facial hair, mustache and beards strictly prohibited.  Their 6 x 10 living space included of a lavatory/commode, metal bed, standing locker and fold down table and upon departure for work, their area was to be ‘inspection ready’, bed made, clothing stored properly, much like basic training.

The de Havilland Beaver

United State Discipline Barracks Fort Leavenworth Kansas

The Castle cell blocks eight tiers high



Gary accepting his new-found circumstance, transferring to the 2nd tier of cell block #4, discovering a silver lining in his new environment, the opportunity to audition for a full-time work assignment with the 12 member Garrison Dance Band.   A sense of anticipation as he mounted the stairs to the  bands working environment on the upper floor in the confines of the smaller administrative #8 wing.  Introducing himself to the Band Director Sergeant First Class Demand,  the sergeant inquiring about his music experience and then asking the enviable question, can you read music, a shadow cast upon his hopes.   The pianist giving a yes and no answer, elucidating he was an intermediate, able to distinguish sheet music and read charts, but was hesitant at sight-reading.   The brief interview coming to a close with no acknowledgement, Gary following the Sergeant into a large adjoining room.  The room laden with musical instruments,  standing before him a group of men of various age,  apparently the members of the band.   The NCO giving no introductions, but pointing to an anteroom,  instructing Gary,  ”there’s a piano in there,  go in close the door and play.”   Gary entering  the room, closing the door realizing he wasn’t auditioning only for the sergeant, but for the members of the band assembled behind the closed-door.   The pianist seating himself before a console piano,  starting  his selections,  encompassing a variety of music, from Debussy to the Bumble Boogie and Stardust,  demonstrating his versatility.   The door opened, a somber looking bandleader instructing that he could return to his billets,  Gary hesitant, then noticing the slight grin on  the NCO, ”you’ve got the job Willson,  welcome to the band”.

A new outlook prevailed the musician analogized his confinement and the experience of a new spectrum in the world of music, one construed as a detriment the other as an asset, but even that was subject to change.   As a member of the band and his low risk infraction he status was changed to minimum risk and he moved from the rotunda 8 tier cell block complex to Building 462, a three-story billets with its own mess hall.   A new perseverance of music ascended the aspiring musician,  the orchestrated sheet music arrangement.   Gary finding the members of the  band all professional musicians, entertaining years of musical accomplishment,  but also exposed to the street wise life that is part of the musician experience.   Gary was impressed,  the bands instrumentation was congruent with the published stock arrangements provided for each instrument, Clarinet,   alto, tenor,   baritone sax’s,  trumpet,  trombone,  piano,  guitar,  bass and drums, Sergeant Demands’   trumpet adding an additional brass when called upon.   The repertoire was  reflective of the NCO’s age,  composed  of classic standards,  The Way You Look Tonight,  All The Thing You Are,  The Nearness Of You, Glenn Grays Smoke Rings and the regimented enterprise was hi-lighted with a vocal quartet with popular hits by the Marcel’s,  Coasters and the Platters.  The auspices of the post NCO and Officers Club were regular host, the band members provided sport coats,  white shirts and ties from a band room rack to enhance their appearance, the patrons savoring the nostalgia from the past and the flavoring of the present.  On occasion the Band performing for the inmates and also in concert with full orchestration contingency of the Post Military Band for ceremonial gatherings on post giving insight to the big band era of Count Basie,  Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brother,  those of another generation and a harmonious time.   The Musician savoring the experience of being a  part of this melodious life, but the bands daily activity wasn’t always confined to music, they were called upon by other departments for menial task.  Gary and another band member were completing a chore in the Castle’s power building when they happened upon a raised platform with 13 steps, immediately recognizing for what it was the gallows, everyone in the facility aware of the upcoming sentence of a soldier named Bennett, death by hanging.


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