Alumni recall time in Apache groups
The Apache Belles perform at Super Bowl XII in 1978.
BY EMILY GUEVARAeguevara@tylerpaper.com
Tyler Junior College's Homecoming 2012 will be marked by five reunions along with the annual Awards Luncheon and Alumni Tailgate Party.
Alumni affairs director Betty Briggs said this year's event is extra special because the Apache Band and Apache Belles are celebrating 65 years in existence.
The TJC band has performed for presidents, at Super Bowls and other athletic and civic events, according to newspaper archives.
The Belles also have performed overseas and for presidents, Dallas Cowboys games, at Super Bowls and for other local and national events.
In celebration of their anniversaries, people associated with the organizations have shared their thoughts.
Ruth Flynn, former director, TJC Apache Belles, 1984-2011, currently Apache Band/Belles Advancement Officer
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TJC Alumni Homecoming
Q: What does it take to be an Apache Belle?
A: I say this and it's been probably my mantra from the ... get go, but the gal that decides to do something like this especially in this day and age is very, very special. ... It all comes down to that person that is willing to give up a lot of their time and their effort. ... They are very self-motivated. They still want to dance. They still want to be in the limelight and this is a way to keep doing that."
Q: What role does the organization play at TJC?
A: We're just kind of that front door. We're out there and people see that TJC is a community that cares about the community.
Q: How did you feel when you first joined the Apache Belles as director?
A: I was very grateful obviously to get the opportunity, to be handed the responsibility of the group and I guess I was pretty fearless back then.
Q: What were your guiding principles as director?
A: I wanted them to be the very best that they could be. I started out with a pretty small group over here, so it was kind of a rebuild. But I knew how I was brought up to be very respectful and to have manners, to be the very best. I always told them, "I'm not going to teach mediocrity. So I will expect big things out of you because we're in this together. We will work (until) it is ready and you will be proud of the product."
Jane Broadfoot McElmurry, Apache Band & Apache Belles
The Broadfoot twins, Jane and Jean, did double duty as Apache Belles and band members.
The journey to Tyler Junior College began in the fifth grade for the Broadfoot twins. Jasilyn Schaefer, TJC Apache Belles director, former Apache Belle 1996 to 1998
It was then that Jane Broadfoot McElmurry, 81, and her twin sister, Jean Broadfoot Bridges, began playing in the high school band. Jane played trumpet and Jean played clarinet.
“In Jacksonville, they had to use everybody they could to form a high school band,” Ms. McElmurry said.
As high school seniors, the two tried out to be majorettes because “somebody had to do it,” Ms. McElmurry said.
They got the part and pulled double duty playing with the band in the stands, and serving as majorettes on the field.
At the suggestion of their band director, they applied for band scholarships to TJC and got them. There, they continued their double roles, playing in the stands and serving as majorettes on the field from 1949 to 1951.
“We marched in front of the band at the football games,” Ms. McElmurry said. “My sister and I pranced, but they don't prance anymore.”
The girls, who are identical, were a hit with the viewing public who, upon seeing them, decided they should have a larger role.
At a game against Kilgore College, the twins danced on the field by themselves as the band played. Their performance wowed the crowd, who gave them a standing ovation.
“The next week, the lady in charge of the Apache Belles (Mildred Stringer) got a letter from Gussie Nell Davis (founder of the Kilgore College Rangerettes) complimenting Jean and I,” she said. “That sealed the deal for us. If Gussie Nell said it was good, it was good.”
From then on the girls joined the Apache Belles but continued their band duties as well.
“We would not give up playing our horns, that was major,” Ms. McElmurry said. “We had been playing the music since the fifth grade, so we really enjoyed that.”
Over the years, the women continued to stay connected to the campus and plan to be at homecoming this year.
They will be recognized as this year's Alumni Apache Princesses, an honor that was open to TJC alumnae older than 70.
Q: What did being an Apache Belle mean to you?
A: Being an Apache Belle meant that I had not chosen the easy road. We rarely got to sleep late. We had workouts, expectations and were held accountable for our actions and academics to a much higher degree than the average college students.
All of that on top of the performance excellence, rehearsals, preparation and travel that are incumbent upon all Apache Belles.
Q: What is a memory you will never forget from your Apache Belle days?
A: It was homecoming 1997 (50th anniversary of the Apache Belles) and we had worked for weeks on a fabulous halftime show to honor the decades of ladies that were Apache Belles. But the rains came and then they poured and it all looked like it might be a wash. But the alumni all stayed, and just before halftime, the sun came out. We couldn't wait to get on that field. We didn't have turf then, so the field was a muddy mess. We did our high-kick routine and mud flew everywhere, but the cheers of those 49 years of alumni before us were incredible. Then we did our clogging prop routine on these huge Indian drums and the crowd just went nuts -- screaming, clapping. Words can't explain that moment. I will never forget it. The pride at making all those alumni proud and knowing that we were continuing the tradition of excellence just as they expected was pure magic.
Q: As director, how do you seek to carry out your responsibility?
A: I challenge every one of our members to expect only the best from themselves because that is the only thing I will accept from them. ... Ultimately ... every time they step foot on the performance stage, halftime field, or their place of work, or the classroom, they are always Apache Belles and in all that they do, they exude excellence. They are an example. My ultimate responsibility is yes, to prepare the Apache Belles for each performance they have, but more than that to prepare them for a successful life full of the excellence that was taught to them through the Apache Belle experience.Harold Beaird, Apache Band
The summer after high school graduation, Harold Beaird didn't go far to his next assignment. He moved on to Tyler Junior College where he was a part of helping establish the Apache Band and Apache Belles.
A band student at Tyler High School, Beaird's instructors asked him to come to TJC and help put a band together. At the time, TJC was in the old Tyler High School building.
In exchange for his work, they offered him a two-year band scholarship. Beaird agreed and started the summer of 1947 with his work.
In addition to helping recruit band students, Beaird worked with Mildred Stringer and Al Gilliam as they created the Apache Belles routines. He played the clarinet while they worked on choreography.
By the fall of 1947, the college had a new student life.
"In May 1947, we did not have a band," Beaird, 82, said. "We didn't have Apache Belles. We didn't have the football team. But, by September of '47, we had all three and we were under way."
The band included a mix of TJC students, high school students and even World War II veterans who hadn't even enrolled at TJC, Beaird said.
Rose Stadium still was a year away from opening. So the band and Belles performed during the games at the old stadium off North Bois d'Arc Avenue, adjacent to what was then Tyler High School (now Caldwell Elementary Arts Academy).
"So a lot of new things were being done," Beaird said. "TJC was expanding and moving."
Key people involved in the band and Belles startup process were then TJC President Harry E. Jenkins and Dean Edward M. Potter. Beaird said hiring Doc Witt, the Tyler High School band director, was a key part of the band's startup process as well.
Beaird said the whole town was united around TJC, pleased with the progress and excited about the new developments.
"We knew everything we were doing was building a foundation for the future and (everything else) has come from that," he said.Tom Mensch, TJC director of bands and professor of trombone
As director of bands at Tyler Junior College, Tom Mensch oversees a program involving more than 200 students.
With the help of associate director of bands Tom McGowan and three other faculty members, they prepare students for on-campus and community performances. Mensch said his goals go beyond improving musical abilities.
"I want my kids to be better; I want them to be better people," he said. "That's my whole entire philosophy about it."
About 50 of the 200-plus band members are music majors, Mensch said. That means many of those students won't pick up their instruments again after college is over. So Mensch seeks to use music lessons to teach life lessons.
"It's my job to create in them another level of responsibility and a work ethic in the students ..." said Mensch, who has been at TJC for 10 years. "When you create in the student the need to take care of the little things in life, that takes care of all of the other areas of their life."
Mensch said the band has a unique opportunity to reach the community in a completely different way than other campus organizations.
The jazz combo performs at least 20 off-campus concerts per semester. The drumline plays four to five shows. Concert and marching bands also play.
"It's community enrichment," he said. "We get a chance to enrich that aspect of culture that we are performing to. ... It's more than just entertainment. The band as a whole is a very familiar element to the culture. To have a great program like this ... not only does it give us a sense of pride, but it also is able to culturally enrich the global community."