below appeared in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser
on December 25, 1960. It was written by Ray Broussard,
Advertiser Staff Reporter)
ABBEVILLE: One night
last year a visiting band director stood on the sideline
watching Mt. Carmel’s all-girl drum and bugle
corps perform during the football halftime ceremonies.
He turned to the corps’ commander and snapped: “They’re
too good for us. Your Eaglettes can have the whole
Such left-handed compliments
irk the commander, Dr. S. J. LaBorde. “My girls
perform at their best when they have competition.” He
admits the unit has shown “vast improvement” during
the past year, but insists it is several years away
from its peak. Many people differ with him on this.
They are sure the girls are the best in the state.
As evidence they offer the invitation the group received,
and accepted, to represent the state in the inaugural
parade for President-elect John F. Kennedy on January
20 in Washington, D.C.
The regimental fervor demonstrated
by the girls wherever they perform has infected practically
A service station operator
near the Vermilion parish courthouse says, “They’ve
fun to watch, the way they parade down the football
field. And when you think that only a couple of years
ago they were hardly more than cheerleaders you have
to take your hat off to them.”
The owner of a dry-goods store
says, “They are a fine drum and bugle corps,
there’s not doubt about that. They wouldn’t
have got the invitation to Washington if they weren’t.
But I guess the thing that you admire most is the
manner in which they conduct themselves at school
and in town. They are a kind of symbol the way they
represent the high ideals you admire most in the
A coffee shop waitress says, “Many
of us who would never go to see a football game attend
just to watch the Eaglettes perform. You sit there
and wonder how a group of young girls can stay in
step for so long.”
LaBorde has no illusions about
the worth of such praise. “We feel that the
group is making great strides. It is a character-builder
first and a drum and bugle corps second. Anytime
the girls get to feeling cocky I remind them of some
really great units we saw up north. That takes them
down a peg or two and incidentally, makes them work
harder.” The girls are accustomed to hard work.
Participation in the unit is considered by officials
at Mt. Carmel’s co-educational parochial school
as extracurricular work. The girls acquire no school
credits for being members of the unit and all practice
sessions are conducted after regular school hours.
The rules and regulations would
test the endurance of a West Point Cadet. “If
a grade of F is received in any subject or character
trait on any six weeks report card, says LaBorde,
a member is automatically suspended from and loses
all rights and privileges as to rank and awards:
Reinstatement as a member of
the corps is possible only after the next six seeks
report card is issued and all grades are satisfactory.
Such reinstatement, however, does not nullify the
loss of rights to rank and award.
An Army veteran, LaBorde booms
orders at his charges in the manner of a drill sergeant
indoctrinating a group of raw recruits. When he completes
that chore, he takes them to task about “sharpening
up their drumming bugle playing.”
The curious thing is that LaBorde can’t play a note of music!
The Big Beat
When the girls changed over
from a group called the White Jackets to the Eaglettes
we couldn’t have them out on the field just
banging away at any old drumbeat, says LaBorde.
“I went over to Abbeville
High School and the band director there (Tony Fontana)
taught me an Army-style drum cadence and I taught
it to the girls. Then, they were taught how to blow
the bugle and we have been sailing along every since.
It’s been a successful voyage; Last year the
group represented Louisiana at the American Legion’s
national convention in Minneapolis and this year
received a rating of superior in marching competition
at a music festival held at the University of Southwestern
Louisiana in Lafayette.
The Eaglettes were organized
as a drum and bugle corps in the fall of 1957. Their
purpose was to perform for the school during football
halftime shows and to participate in the various
From the offset a strict set
of rules and regulations were adopted. This included
a scholastic standing to which all members must adhere.
During its tenure of only three years the corps has
participated in 32 parades marching a distance of
59 miles. It has traveled 4,741 miles and given a
total of 48 field performances.
In February of 1958 it participated
in the Rex parade of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and
was given a position of honor. Later the corps was
presented a certificate of merit and commendation
from the Rex organization for “outstanding
performance, the first of its kind ever given.”
The unit was honored in August
of 1959 when it was asked to represent the state
at the national American Legion convention. When
it returned from Minneapolis, the group was given
individual medals by the Louisiana Department of
the American Legion.
The Eaglettes were the only all-girl drum and bugle corps in the United States
to participate in the national Legion Parade.
They were one of the units
asked to perform during the recent Dairy Festival
for former president Harry S. Truman.
Performing for a former president
is a far cry from the early days of 1956 when they
had practically no audience and were known as the
White Jackets. But they had something that, eventually,
would do more good for them than all the audiences
in the world, says LaBorde.
“They had the determination to better themselves, he says. “They
came to the Boosters Club and asked a few of us if we could teach them something
to do at a football game, other than just cheering.
That was the beginning of the
regimental drill team. In a way, it was the realization
of a dream that LaBorde had harbored for several
years. The idea first occurred to him when he saw
a Texas drum and bugle corps perform.
“I thought, wouldn’t
it be swell if we could have something like that,” he
says. “When the girls asked for our help the
old idea of a drum and bugle corps just naturally
came back to me.
“But there was a lot
more to it than that. Maybe a lot of people don’t
realize this, but we are a character building unit
first and a drum and bugle corps second. We realize
that the present day members of the Eaglettes are
the future mothers of tomorrow. “As such they
will be confronted with the proper upbringing of
our future citizens. For these reasons their instructors
have stressed proper behavior, manners and modesty.
This all girl unit has won its popularity and respect
by its neatness, precision marching and martial airs.”
LaBorde has five sound reasons
for calling the Eaglettes unique; they are the only
all-girl drum and bugle corps in the state; they
were the first to have an all-girl color guard in
south Louisiana; they are the only school-sponsored
drum and bugle corps in the state; they are the only
school-sponsored musical unit that requires scholastic
average to maintain membership; and they were the
first drum and bugle corps to enter the district
music festival, sponsored by the Louisiana Music
Educators Association (LMEA), and were the first
drum and bugle corps in the state to receive a superior
There was nothing unique about
them in the beginning.
They inherited a couple of
battered drums from the Mt. Carmel band. LaBorde
set out for more equipment. He found four more drums
and then managed to acquire 12 bugles from the Morgan
City American Legion post. They had the idea of forming
a drum and bugle corps. All they needed was someone
to help them crystallize the idea.
Many people helped in the beginning.
Now, they have a regular drum instructor, Jackie
Arceneaux, director of Franklin’s Hanson Memorial
high school band. Steve Robicheaux, music teacher
at Henry and Meaux high schools, instructs them on
The uniforms were modernized
to keep pace with the progressive unit. At first
the girls wore a simple, white jacket and a brown
skirt. The uniform now consists of a brown and white
overseas cap; white sports blouse, with school patch
on the left shoulder; brown pleated skirt; white
gloves; military type boots; regimental jacket; and
patches bearing the units’ name and school
on either shoulder.
The unit consists of 48 members,
ranging from the ninth to the 12th grade at Mt. Carmel.
The Eaglettes are led by an eight-girl color guard
bearing four flags. The remaining members play either
drums or one of four types of bugles.
When the Eaglettes march in
the inaugural parade for Kennedy it will mean that
Louisiana is on of 48 of the 50 states represented.
The parade will follow the swearing-in ceremony for
Kennedy and Vice President elect Lyndon Johnson.
LaBorde has tried, in the past two years, to constantly remind the girls why
the unit was formed in the first place.
“We have always tried
to stimulate school spirit, he says, but uppermost,
this organization is intended to aid the individual
members by giving them training in strict discipline,
self control and dependability.
“New recruits for the
Eaglettes are accepted only once a year, during the
spring semester after the selection of cheer leaders.
The parent’s or guardian’s permission
must be given before a recruit is given the basic
“And only upon successful
completion of this basic training course will the
new recruits be formally admitted into the ranks.”
If the unit has a single credo,
it is “character training, first and always.”
“Discipline is a must,” says
LaBorde. “This is the intelligent willing and
cheerful obedience to the commands and will of the
leader. Without that, we wouldn’t have anything.
“Ours is a training which
corrects, molds, strengthens and perfects obedience
and self control. Its foundation rests on the voluntary
subordination of the individual to the welfare of
“It is the force that
binds the membership of the unit and its strict enforcement
is a benefit for all of us. It places a moral obligation
on the individual to take notice of, and do what
is proper, for the common interest and welfare of
the group as a whole.
“A feeling of unity and
sacrifice must be achieved if we are to properly
represent our school and community in a manner befitting
their good names.”
class="p14ptjustify">Meantime, while most
of their school mates are at home, the Eaglettes
will be on the football field near school, practicing
hard for that Washington date.