What is the significance of 1973 and 1980, and what do they have in common? They are the years that the Mandarins Color Guard were the Circuit Champions! I have always proudly held in my heart the fact that I was the only person to participate in both championship guards. Although many years have passed and my rifle is old and dusty, the memories are as fresh to me as the morning dew. There’s nothing quite like winning.
1973 was my first season marching in the competitive guard, and I didn’t know what to expect. We were competing in “A” Class, with a uniform of the traditional shocking pink satin tops, white sashes, shakos and plumes, black skirts, and low calf length boots. Guard Captain Diana Gin gave commands in Chinese. Being it was before the days that music was allowed, the sound of intricate rhythms made by poles, rifles, and boots made the Mandarins show very interesting to watch. The box step, the guillotine turns, the accelerating pass-in-review, and the flowing flag work were all highlights of the championship show. After having performed a controlled and near-flawless show, it was time to wait for retreat. The Blue Devils were winning all caption awards, and then the Mandarins won “Best Flagline”. This was an honor, since the average age of our flagline was 13! Now for second place…a hush came over the gym…with a penalty of 4.0 points, the Blue Devils! The crowd went wild. The Mandarins won their first championship by two points!
In 1980, the Mandarins, the Blue Devils, and the Royal Sabres, each with their different styles, were all contenders for the Open Class Champion title. Color guard had undergone many changes with the shedding of military requirements and the addition of music and theme variations. This time, our uniforms were pastel pink cowl neck tops with black gauchos and velvet vests. Instead of boots, we wore tights and ballet slippers. A black braid hairpiece with pink satin ribbon replaced the shakos. Performing to the music of Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmilla”, the guard performed flawlessly as they leaped over flags, caught tosses under their legs and behind their backs, did a rifle exchange, and ballet-danced. The show came to an emotional close as the guard proudly marched to “We are the Champions”, doing their trademark half-split in pass-in-review formation. Once again, we waited for retreat. With the Blue Devils in third place, I knew our chances of winning were still very high. A tie was announced for first place. The Mandarins and the Royal Sabres shared the championship title! It was an exhilarating moment of accomplishment, and a night to remember as we celebrated with our friends and families that yes, we were truly the Champions!
There is nothing like the glorious feeling of winning and the ecstatic thrill and pride that comes with it. The sweet taste of victory was indeed special and unique each time. But when I pause to reflect, I realize it is actually the sense of family, the wonderful experiences traveling and working together as a team, and all of the valuable things that I learned that I am truly grateful for. The years have slipped by, but I will always treasure the memories and friendships I made during my years with the Mandarins.