I was pleased to read the recent story about the new Biddeford High School marching band from Portland Press Herald staff writer Gillian Graham. The school had not had a band for 10 years. Sadly, a lot of schools no longer have marching bands.

I think I started playing in the band in fourth grade in Winthrop. I know we had an exceptional band when I was in junior high school. And there were more than 100 kids in our high school band.

Our high school band performed in many concerts and marched in a lot of parades. When my high school basketball team would go to the locker room at halftime, I would walk over and play with the band — kids can’t do that today. My primary instrument was the trumpet, although I played other brass instruments when they were needed.

I will never forget our Memorial Day marches up Winthrop’s Main Street, past a big crowd. We would march into the cemetery at the end of the business district, where they sent me down to the far end of the cemetery. Someone in the band would play taps, and then I would answer by playing taps at the other end of the cemetery.

Our music director, Frank Stevens, was fantastic. He also had great connections because our band was selected to represent Maine and march in President Lyndon Johnson’s inaugural parade in Washington, D.C. in 1963. I remember it was a very long drive in the school bus from Winthrop to Washington.

We had practiced marching on Winthrop’s narrow main street, and when we marched down the very wide Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, the guy next to me was so far away I could hardly hear him playing.

In high school we also had a wonderful singing chorus, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I sung in the school choir and the church choir. And until about a year ago, when I lost my singing voice due to my illness, ALS, I was still singing in church choir. Of course, I had to do that because my mom was the church organist and choir director who started me singing in the choir when I was 5 years old.

Music can be an important part of your life for all of your life and I wish it was available to more kids today.

And speaking of kids, I was surprised by the news story that nearly half of our kids don’t want to go to college. One big reason is that college can be very expensive. It astonishes me that some kids graduate from college owing more than $300,000. That will impact the rest of their lives.

The news story noted that many young Americans are concerned about the cost of education: “Nearly 8 in 10 said they think college affordability is a very or extremely serious problem, and the majority said they were at least somewhat concerned about debt.”

I attended the University of Maine in Orono from 1966 to 1970. And I paid my own way, both tuition and housing costs. I worked, mostly in the summer, but occasionally even during school time. It’s pretty impossible for kids to do that today. If we want more kids to go to college, we better figure out how to make it affordable.

Now let me finish with a new issue. Eleven people have been attacked by rabid animals in Brunswick and Bath in the last two years. And there really isn’t much the government can do about this. Almost 100 wild animals tested positive for rabies this year, and that’s just the animals they were able to test.

They’ve advised people to be cautious about any wildlife that shows up in their yard. That’s pretty good advice but sometimes those wild animals can surprise you. For example, a news story by Darcie Moore of the Brunswick Times Record tells about a lady who was attacked by a fox while getting her mail. One man was knocked over and bitten by a rabid fox and pinned against his home. And a 6-year-old girl was bitten by a rabid fox while playing in her yard.

Fortunately, if you get quick medical treatment that treatment is very effective. But if you don’t get that treatment, rabies is fatal.

Some people are advocating for the state to put bait all over the state to kill rabid animals, but that would not only be extremely expensive but it would also put your pets at risk.

Many years ago I saw a fox meandering up our driveway very oddly. He walked right past our dog, which fortunately was tethered and could not get to the fox, which hunkered down next to our house. I quickly called the local game warden and he came over and shot the fox. It was sent to the lab, which reported that it was rabid.

I still love seeing wildlife in our yard but I am always watching for any unusual behavior. And today I’m glad I don’t live in Bath or Brunswick!

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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