Alumni News

20 Questions: Lora (Abegglen) Conrad (1969-72)

by admin on March 22, 2014 Comments Off on 20 Questions: Lora (Abegglen) Conrad (1969-72)


Current Occupation: Retired after working as a Job Coach for high school students with disabilities for 23 years. Most rewarding job I ve ever had.

Contact Information: loramconrad@gmail.com               

Years in Phantom Regiment and Section: 1969 – soprano bugle, 1970-1972 mellophone   

1. What is your favorite memory of your time in Regiment?

Oh my gosh! The Hurley Hilton! It was an old, unoccupied school building with no hot water for showers, so our very inventive chaperones hooked up a hose in the shower room and sprayed us down like cattle so we could bathe. Humiliating, but better than no shower at all – maybe!      

2. If you could go back and change one thing about your time in the corps what would it be?
Most definitely I would march my age-out year. So many regrets about that, but there were circumstances involved I had no control over. I got married at 19 (not recommended!) to another PR member. We marched as the first married couple ever in 1972. He decided we couldn t do both, so 1972 was my last year.   

3. What is your all time favorite piece of music that Regiment has played?
Even though Elsa ‘s Processional to the Cathedral was not during my marching years, one of the first times I heard it, shivers went up my spine. It was electrifying and just the most glorious, powerful music ever. Amazing Grace is another one and I am really disappointed that this fell to the wayside. I don t know why – it was powerful.   

4. Who do you remember most from your marching days?
Geez, my list is long! The one person who gave me more credit than anyone else was the late, David St. Angel. I have a treasured M & M Award (Marching and Maneuvering for those not familiar with this) given to me by Dave in 1972, my last year. It meant the world to me that someone noticed how much effort I put into marching well. The incomparable Jim Wren, who, at the time, I did not realize what a genius and gifted writer/arranger he is until years later. Dr. Dan Richardson – the man who was always there overseeing every facet of our performance. What I love most about Dr. Dan is he treats everyone equally. Except I get the best hugs and hi, sweetheart greeting from him because he likes me more than anyone else!! 😉   The wonderful Red Christiansen!! I ‘m so sorry the current kids did not get to know this unique and generous man. No one that I know of supported and defended the Phantom Regiment ‘s honor like Red did. He was one of a kind.   

5. Who have you lost track of that you would like to reconnect with?
Sam Watkins. I think every girl had a crush on him. He was just a very nice guy. Jo Marie Sparacino – I ‘ve heard she s in poor health, so I ‘d especially like to reconnect. She was a lot of fun. I ‘m sure there are many, but memory does not serve me well anymore.   

6. Any interesting or funny bus stories?
I got such a kick out of Bleb-alerts, of course, started by none other than those very funny Michigan kids!! OMGosh – out of the blue the bus lights would be flashing on and off, rapidly and one of them announcing a Bleb-alert! Also, a group of us spent considerable time making up corps songs using familiar tunes. A great way to pass the time and then we d sing them at the top of our lungs! Wish I could remember even one of them.   

7. Any favorite stories about Rockford?
I lived in Rockford so it was just home to me. But, I do remember, once again, those funny Michigan guys living with Mayor Bob McGaw of Rockford, but they called him Mayor Magoo. Sorry to call you out Bob & Mike, but it was just funny and I know they were not meaning any disrespect, because they really liked him and were appreciative of his devotion to Phantom Regiment – they just couldn t resist being their funny selves!

8. Did you have temporary housing in Rockford while you marched, and if so, do you still have contact with them?
I lived in Rockford so after I was done marching I housed three groups of kids. There were three kids from, I believe, New Mexico that I housed for a season. I m sorry to say I can t remember their names anymore, but they were so very nice and grateful to me. I have a lovely Southwest design ceramic trivet they gave me as a parting gift that I keep on my stove as a constant reminder of their time with me. The other kids I ve housed I still am connected with: My Michigan kids Bob Wittock and Mike Madden – I know where Mike is but he does not correspond with me – maybe some day again. I had to ask Katy (Isermann) Madden if she lived with me because she was at my house a lot, too, but she refreshed my memory that it was because she was dating Mike that she was here a lot. And my Chicago kids, Ed Collins and Dusten Rizzo-Wojak. Dusten finally accepted my friend request on FB, but I ve been in contact with his sister, Vanessa Diaz via FB, so I know some of what is going on in his life. All are super wonderful guys and I m so happy I had each of them in my care and custody. I treasure the memories very much!

9. What skills/experiences from your time in Regiment have you utilized in your current job or life today?
Probably to a fault, I m extremely disciplined, timely, detailed, organized, critical and still eat too fast! Said by Dave St. Angel: You ve got 10 minutes to eat and get on the starting line! Gulp – off we go!

10. Did you audition? And if so, what was your audition like?
What s an audition? Back then anyone could join. We were the beginning – the post-fire beginning. All hands on deck was the call back then. They taught us how to play instruments, read music, march – it was a school in its own. I was actually a snare drummer in band, first chair even, but they did not allow girls in the drum line back in 1969, so I had the choice of color guard or horn line. I chose the challenge of learning to play a horn. Now with the opportunity to play in the alumni horn line, I am ever so grateful I made this decision 45 years ago!      

11. What is your drum corps history?
I started in the Purple Knights in 1967 for one short year. Then The Valiants Color Guard was formed by the Johnson family, so several of us from Purple Knights joined them because sadly, Purple Knights was folding. I loved competing in color guard shows. Slowly, that same year, some of the girls joined Phantom Regiment because they missed the whole drum corps thing. I was convinced to go there by the person that would become my lifelong best friend, Sandy Rossato, RIP.      

12. What advice would you give to the kids marching today?
Stay in touch with each other. Be a part of the Alumni group on FB, pay your membership to the PRAA and PR Booster Club. It s money well spent and you ll always feel connected. You have the luxury of social media to keep in close contact as your lives evolve in many ways. If you can, help out another drum corps or color guard in your area. Give back and share the love you received.   

13. If you went on to instruct, what was it like instructing people you had marched with?
Not much to brag about here. I did instruct color guard for PR Cadets. So, they were much younger than me. I had one girl who was so belligerent and clearly did not respect me that I made her in charge of lining up the flags and pointing out mistakes. It worked and she settled down. She also went on to be an excellent color guard instructor for many years. Dave St. Angel asked me to be part of the marching staff – I was honored, but once again, intimidated to work for him. It ended up where I wasn t given any assignments at all, just along for the ride, so not a good memory of that period. It did drive me crazy to sit on the sidelines, see so many things I could have corrected, but no authority to do so.      

14. What instructor or member intimidated you the most?
Have I mentioned Dave St. Angel? LOL I don t believe any members intimidated me, at least none that I can remember – everyone was so nice and fun.      

15. What staff/support person made the biggest impression on you, and why?
Jim Wren. I could n’t understand how he knew how to write music so it sounded good. When I looked at a sheet of music, it baffled me how he knew all this. And there were times I observed him writing music and I thought that was crazy, just to put notes on a paper and expect it to sound good. I was pretty naïve.      

16. If you could have marched any other year in Regiment what year would it have been?
2008- Spartacus! OMGosh – what a passionate show. Every picture that was posted of every person showed clearly how each was living the moment, being that character. It was stunning.      

17. Do you ever have drum corps filling a spot dreams?   
I have many times. But the biggest thing is wishing I could march with them just one more time. I m realizing that dream June 20th, although not so much marching as I ll be playing in the Alumni Hornline Reunion. Please let us march onto the field and not just trudge out there like waddling cattle. Ugh!         

18. What nicknames do you remember?   
Jonesy for Kathy Jones Wight. Snag for Kathy Epperson Clinite. Door knob for _____ , not saying, because it was not nice why she got that nickname. Donna Beachy for Donna Engelsman McDaniel. Suds for Bob Suhina.   I had two. Bagley, which was given to me by Jo Marie Sparacino because she could not pronounce my last name Abegglen. The other nickname was from Dave St. Angel for my twin sister, Norma and I because we were so tall 5 11 and 5 10 (back then – shorter now, of course) compared to the five foot girls. But I m NOT revealing it because it haunted me for years – I hated it.   

19. Of your years in Regiment, what year was your favorite?
I ‘m sure my final year, 1972. I had grown a lot as a member, been involved in everything and become a much better mellophone player at that point. Winning out first contest that same year would add to the splendor.      

20. What was your favorite Regiment tradition?
SUTA!!   

admin20 Questions: Lora (Abegglen) Conrad (1969-72)