Monday, November 19, 2007

St Thomas Aquinas Band


Montreal World's Fair, 1967 - I'm pretty sure that's the Iranian exhibition building in the background.



This looks like Dilboy Field in Somerville - 1967 or 1968.








Both pictures appear to have been taken at White Stadium in Franklin Park, during the annual CYO championship competition at the end of the summer. Can you match names with faces?
(All pictures Copyright 2007, all rights reserved)



If you lived between the Monument and Forest Hills in the 1960s, you knew about St Thomas Aquinas Band. The band, or bands, were started in 1962, and closed down in the early 1970s. They were part of the Catholic Youth Organization, or CYO, that sponsored athletic teams and other youth groups. Summers were spent as a marching band, playing in parades and entering competitions throughout the metropolitan Boston area, and winters turned the band into a concert ensemble. For the youth of the area, it was a great way to keep busy. As the original group advanced in age and skills, a feeder band was formed, producing "Senior" and "Junior," or "Prep" bands. Music practices were at the St Thomas grammar school, and marching practices were across South street in the church parking lot, or occasionally at the Carolina playground. Today, it's hard to imagine the neighbors going for the drums leading the band across to the parking lot, or the band playing at full blast, for an hour or two at a time. No doubt there would be much talk about property values, and not-so-subtle hints of lawsuits.

The band was full of older and younger siblings, and brought together children from the southern half of Jamaica Plain. It was mostly Catholic, but there were no religious requirements. Trips were made to New York, Washington D.C., and Montreal. For all its success, the organization came up against an insurmountable obstacle. The cultural changes of the late 1960s did not bode well for a youth organization built on a near-paramilitary model. The short haircuts required of the boys, the military marching, and the band music lost its appeal some time after the Summer of Love, and by 1969, the Senior band suffered the loss of many of its older, experienced members. Kids who grew up together in the band decided they had enough of the discipline the band required. Much the same happened all over the Boston area, and soon, as the baby boom peaked and began to ebb, the CYO music circuit faded away. St Thomas Grammar School came down in the mid-late 1970s, taking with it the hall and music room. The parking lot across from the church was replaced with apartments.



So is 40 years ago history? I tend to think of history as the things that can't be remembered by anyone alive today, but it will be history when we're gone, so it's worth archiving.

64 comments:

  1. Thanks for the memories! The Band was THE activity back in the day. Who would have thought that just 3 years later that group would pull the greatest upset in CYO Music Circuit history, upsetting the great St. William's Band of Dorchester at the CYO Music Festival? The band paraded from Forest Hills to the School and gave an impromptu concert. Father (now Msgr.) Sviokla is still alive and is in residence at Regina Cleri.

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  2. The band will always be remembered not for those uniforms (which were handed down to the Preps) but for their military magenta, gold and white, with citation cord and beret, complete with combat boots! Even the girls wore them! The pants were also "bloused" over the boots military style. They dressed at the School before proceeding to the contest and wore white butcher coats to protect them from getting dirty!

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  3. The Band also held marching rehearsals at Nazareth which was near Larz Andersen Park. I'll never forget the carpools going there! And it also offered instant discipline, those who broke the rules were sent there ahead of the others to mow the grass, a fate worse than death! Remember the banner taped to the outside of those Sansone buses, "YCWACSOYA", you can't win a contest sitting on your a**!

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  4. Unbelievable....Seems like only yesterday and then again several lifetimes ago. And yes, the combat boots spit shined ready for competition. Thanks for the glimpse of yesteryear.

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  5. The combat boots replaced the white bucks in the early 70s. "Growing up" in the band was the best. Competing at Dilboy Field in East Boston and other fields all over the area taught lessons for life! St Joseph's Medway, and Wakefield, St Peter's, St Anne's and St William's of Dorchester, Hudson CYO, St Anthony's Revere, Immaculate Conception Everette, Sacred Heart Roslindale, St Agnes of Arlington were some of the bands we competed against.

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    1. Yeah, I (trumpet in Sacred Heart Rozzie junior and senior band) remember being beat by IC regularly...early/mid 70s. Then we white-flighted, in '76, to Norwood then Medfield, and joined St. Joe's Medway; was in it until 1980.

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    2. Yeah, I (trumpet in Sacred Heart Rozzie junior and senior band) remember being beat by IC regularly...early/mid 70s. Then we white-flighted, in '76, to Norwood then Medfield, and joined St. Joe's Medway; was in it until 1980.

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  6. I marched in St. Theresa's West Roxbury. The best time of my life was spend there practicing and marching competitions. I for one have to say that the band saved my ass.

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  7. I went to school with some St Theresa's members. Eddie Kelly and Joyce... Zagami? Good kids.

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  8. R.I.P. Fr Sviokla passed away on May 29. As we look at these band pictures let us all be thankful of all the friendships we gained during the years of the band.Our founder Fr. Sviokla has left us though his memory and loving friendship will always be with us.St Thomas Band was a proud group and represented St Thomas Parish with pride and Dignity.As Fr returns to the Lord with whom he served his ministry with pride and digity, may he always look down on the people he met and brought joy to, guide us and watch over us until we meet again. Thanks Father Sviokla for all you have done.Rest In Peace

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  9. Well spoken, John D. Bless his soul.

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  10. Hi, Dave McGrath here, former tuba player with St. Theresa's CYO Band. Summer of 1966, I think, first competition: St. Thomas was lined up and ready to go, we were following them. On the drum major's downbeat, the entire line raised the left leg as if to begin, the stopped on a single drum beat! Oh boy, we thought, false start, 2 point penalty, we win! Then the second step, then off they marched to a glorious first place in a perfect company front. It completely traumatized every kid in every other band, none more than St William's. My best wishes to all St Thomas members who were there that day and showed us what could be done with a CYO band.

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  11. Great to hear from you Dave. They were great times - we lived and breathed the band.

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  12. Let me tell you something my friend. ST. William's was "upset" by St. Thomas one year, which I believe was 1968. Hardly a major winning streak and nothing comparable to the GREAT St. Williams' band. I can also tell you St. Williams' was never traumatized as you put it by St. Thomas. And for the record St. Williams' never lost another competition from then until the time they disbanded after the 1973 season. So I must credit St. Thomas for the great year they had, please don't try to rewrite history. Thanks, Bill

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  13. Didn't St. Williams have a record 17 straight winning seasons.....go pink and black. I actually do not remember being traumatized at all while marching with St. Williams. In fact, I remember one of our fight songs being, "Gotta Get Rid of Them Combat Boots". We sang this right before we said the Rosary on the way to competitions in the bud.

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  14. Wow! You guys have some awesome memory skills. I played in St. William's back in the day, but I sure can't remember the details...LOL. I am grateful for the discipline, athough I hated it at the time, and I am greatful to Dominic Bianculli for looking out for me. My life might have gone in a much different direction.

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  15. I marched in St Ann' in the late 60s & 70's. It was a way of life Had good times and met great people! Sunday competitions were the best. I met e real nice girl from St Theresa's. I believe she was in the color guard. Marie Mulroy. I have always wondered how she's doing. Anyone know drop me a line.

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  16. I hated the discipline as well. I didn't realize the influence Dom had on me until years later. I loved singing in the buses on the way to contests...we had some great harmony.

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  17. After reading the comments of so many performers from that era, I can't help but wonder about the music we played. I have a CD the has 3 live performances from that time in our history that has been lifted from my original tapes. They are available for a reasonable fee. The CD has music from St. William's, St. Ann's of Glouster and of course, St. Thomas. For more info just contact me at crpathome@yahoo.com. They are not digitaly remastered, but the memories we get from just listening is priceless! Thanks for reading

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  18. I also say if I had not had Dom in my life I would not be the person I am today. In my religion in my life choices and in the difference with the youth I work with today I would be be leading the life I do. I would so love to thank his family but have no way of knowing how to get in touch with them

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  19. An anonymous poster made some comments that I decided to not allow. They mentioned the fact that adult workers were not screened in those days, so you know where it was going. The accusation was specific that anyone familiar with the band would have known who was being referred to. Since I have no way to verify the accusation (although I wouldn't be surprised one bit, and I referred to the very individual to a family member within the last few months with similar suspicions), I just can't let it be publicized here. This is a very serious issue, and needs to be dealt with in another forum. Let me just agree that it is entirely possible that the band experience was not the generally happy one it was for me. I hope the poster will understand my position. If you want to talk about it, email me.

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  20. Gosh, I marched from 68-73 and everyone was nice. It was like a gift that you got to play music all the time for no other reason than you happened to live near the hall. I mean, Mr Wayshack or Mr Tobias could get grumpy if our sight reading was slack but I can't remember anything abusive about any of the adults.

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  21. This is really a trip down memory lane. I'm Jim Butler and I played trumpet in the Preps in the '69 through '73 marching seasons. Most would probably remember my older brother Joe (baritone) more than me. I remember those competitions very fondly and even some of the music. I loved the music practices; Mssr. Wayshack and Tobias were the best. The marching practices got to be a drag, but it was all part of the thing.

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  22. Does anyone have the music from the Dreams contest or when we played in Symphony Hall. I played the trumpet solo and would love to have a copy. E-mail glukebart@aol.com

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  23. I think we have the record from War Memorial contest

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  24. Thanks to all who have posted kind words about my late, great father-in-law, Dominic Bianculli. While St Williams band thoroughly dominated the CYO Band circuit from the late '50's through 1973, we always considered St Thomas a worthy adversary, and the posts about great memories couldn't be more true! What a great time in our lives!

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  25. I see now that if you search "St William's band" and "Dorchester," this page is at the top of the list. May I recommend to all my St Williams friends that someone start a St Williams' band alumni web page? It would be a little better for you folks than commenting on a St Thomas blog entry. A Facebook page might be a start. Good luck.

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  26. And to think that St. Thomas did something in three years that we, St. Agnes Band, never could get done. Beat "Willies" in the Festival. I marched in St. Agnes for ten years ('59-'69)and, like everyone else involved in these units, would not have wanted to do anything else. The friends I made then remain my closest friends today. We didn't win much(Our motto was, "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride) but the things we learned and the character we developed were priceless.

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  27. former Saint William's band member 59 thru 68. best years of my life Our children and grandchildren will never know the impact it had on all the kids who participated in the great bands, drum corps, and drill teams.

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  28. I marched with St Joes Grenadiers from Medford. Best years of my life. It's sad that the activity has dwindled down to a handful of winter colorguards that are no more than dance teams, and that we only have Boston and Citations left for Drum Corps

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  29. Forgot to mention that I also married the cutest "rifle" in the Color Guard and 38 years later she's still the cutest! St. Agnes Band has had three reunions since 1979 and the last one, in 2006, was attended by over 200 former members, parents & instructors. And, let me say that I always had great respect for Dom Bianculli and what he did for the kids in St. William's Band. I only paricipated in one win over them(7/3/1965) but I'll never forget it.

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  30. Jack Zarkauskas here....Thanks for sharing a lot of memories! I marched with St. Thomas for a short period (the last year they competed) and played with the jazz band as well. I grew up in Southie and marched with St. Peter's Band but it had discontinued competing. The "release" rules still applied however and would require my not being affiliated with any CYO group for a year. Fortunately, I had Msgr. MacNeill & Dom Bianculli in my corner. I had to appear in front of the CYO Music Circuit Board at Granby Street and plead my case. Dom spoke in support of my release adding "...even though I know you're going to that OTHER band"! I got the release and had a great time meeting and marching with a bunch of "non-Southie" people...
    Over time - I will probably find some artifacts and share....

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  31. Jack - there's a St Thomas' Facebook group, though not many Senior band folks have found it. Evidently, we're too old to be on facebook. ;-)

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  32. The churches messed up big time when they discontinued these band and drum corp programs. Hundreds of kids participated. I was in Sacred Heart Roslindale from 65-72. We had 3 bands, senior, junior and beginner. Plus 2 drill teams and color guards for each unit. But the church cared more about the money than helping the kids. They tore down the band house in 2008. And they wonder why no one goes to church anymore. They got what they deserved.

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  33. I am Dom Bianculli's grandson, and i want to thank you all for the kind words. There have been many occassions where my brothers and i have met those who were in "The Band" and it is great to know that he left such an impact on so many. My dad has told me some great stories and to say that i am proud would be an understatement

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  34. I am happy to find these postings. I came into the activity in 1968 and marched in St Anthonys Revere CYO band. I marched the 27th Lancers in 1972/1973 then taught the corps 1974-1978 helped out in 1985 and marched their Alumni corps in 1994. Thanks to all those great CYO Bands St Williams, St Thomas Aquinas, St Agnes, St Annes Gloucester, Sacred Heart Roslandale, St Annes Neponset, Hudson and so many others. Those who would line up on Sunday afternoons 5,6 and 7 bands deep to be inspected. St Williams Dorchester off the line, who could forget all those knee socks and white bucks pumping their legs and feet to perfection. St Thomas Aquinas was bursting with so much talent both marching and playing. They also had one of the sharpest and great winter colorguards. I remember when I became an instructor Dom Bianculli invited George Zingali and myself over to his house and we talked and he pulled out vintage films of St. Williams marching the Rosebowl Parade back in the late 50's or 60's, he was always like a proud father.The bands competing just got too big for the community churches and thats when alot of the talented band people started joining up with top Drum Corps such as 27th and Boston. Those drum corps really reaped the talent of those very special bands. I always refer to those years as the "Wonder Years", a great time in the lives of many.
    Thanks
    Stephen Covitz/Facebook

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    1. My uncle, Father Donnelly (aka "Acer") was a key cog in the Weymouth Sancians; got his sister (my mother) to sign us up for Sacred Heart (Roslindale) CYO band.

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    2. My uncle, Father Donnelly (aka "Acer") was a key cog in the Weymouth Sancians; got his sister (my mother) to sign us up for Sacred Heart (Roslindale) CYO band.

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  35. A tip of the hat from a St Agnes alumn [68-69] to my former competitors. You were an inspiration to me back then. I enjoyed reading all these posts. Looking at the group photos made me smile because the band looks so small but... back then, the band always sounded and looked HUGE to me.

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  36. I've been asked to post this message:

    Hi Mark
    I was looking at your web site for St Thomas as well as St Williams and OFD site. I was hoping you could put an ad on your site announcing the St Kevin Emerald Knights Buglers Hall of Fame show which will be held on March 19, 2011 at Carson Place(the Teachers Hall) 180 Mt Vernon St. Boston, MA from 12:00 to 6:00 pm. Also we would love to recruit any horn, drum or color guard members who would love to get back into something they loved years ago. If they could email me I would love to send some information to them. If you need more information or know where I could go to advertise or recruit members I would appreciate it.....We are trying to keep the tradition alive and definitely need more members. We are always looking for ways to find people. The BHOF is great start....This year we have the Defenders, Muchachos(NH) and the famous Legends playing at the BHOF.....It should be a great time and we would love to have a lot of band and drum corps members show up.....
    You can email me at cynthia_veasey@yahoo.com.
    Thanks so much for your time!
    Cynthia Veasey
    Secretary
    Events Coordinator
    St Kevin Emerald Knights

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  37. I was in Saint William's Band until I was 21-1971-I actually graduated from college before I aged out-they were the best years of my life and Dom was like a second father to me. I remember 68 when we lost to St Thomas and it hurt,but we bounced back with a vengeance and went undefeated for three seasons, winning Circuit and Festivals titles up through 1973. We are having a Saint William's Reunion in September at BC High to renew old friendships and set up a scholarship fund in the memory of Dom Bianculli. For further details, call me at 617-268-0769

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  38. great site. remember marching in the Inaugual Parade for Nixon, competition in Phiadelphia, as well as practices at the zoo and sweeping the grounds around the High School for missing the 10 mile Dorchester Day Parade. Also, the annual Mass at the Cathedral with all the bands wearing their colors. What a part of our culture at the time. Thanks Fr. S, Al Tobias, Jim Pennette, and Mr. Wayshak. Jim W.

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  39. I was a Rozzie boy and so played/marched/competed in Sacred Heart's CYO band. From about 1973-1977. I remember St. Thomas--meaning they were around until at least, say, 1975--for their red and white uniforms...don't remember St. Tom's place in the pecking order for Competitions (only remember Everett's Immaculate Conception, which just about always won).

    In '77 our parents white-flighted us out of Boston and we ended up in alien Medfield...so we were then in St. Joe's of Medway, for me until 1980 I think.

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  40. I was in Sacred Heart band Roslindale. The senior band went undefeated in 1967. But most of the older kids left after that year and things went downhill after that. Did OK, Had a lot of fun. But as a prior post said. The churches didn't want to spend the money. So now they have lost all their future parishioners and they wonder why the church is mostly empty.

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  41. I was a Rozzie boy myself, but started out in 1968 playing the trombone in Holy Name Band, which didn't compete during the summer. I left Holy Name Band and joined St. Theresa's Band. I played trombone and enjoyed my time there for 3 years and then left them to march in the Quincy Renegades Drum and Bugle Corp. Biking to practice was a workout but built me up to start out on Baritone Bugle the first year then be put onto ContraBass the next year. The corp competed in 3 of 4 circuits in 26 contests during the summer as well as parades. The 3 circuits were C.Y.O., Mayflower and Greater New England. I am trying to get knee replacements so I can again march in a Senior Drum Corp. I made many friends from St. Thomas Band as well as Sacred Heart Band which later merged with St. Theresa's Band during the late 70's. Mr. Wayshak and Al Tobias were also the instructors at St. Theresa's Band.

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  42. OK. Here is a good memory grinder. Name all the C.Y.O. bands that were around during the 1970's. Doesn't make any difference if they were Senior, Prep A, Prep B or Junior bands.

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  43. I must have stumped a lot of people.

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  44. St. Thomas, St Theresa West Roxbury,St Williams, St. Anns, St. Agnes, St. Joseph, Medway & Medford,St Peters, Sacred Heart Roslindale,Immaculate Conception Everett,St.Anthony Revere

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  45. Check list I named them

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  46. Just 3 that you missed.------>
    Hudson CYO (Royal Jades)
    St. Joseph's, Wakefield
    Holy Name, West Roxbury [but didn't compete any longer during the summer]
    Just out of curiosity, which band were you in????
    I, myself was in St. Theresa's and I played trombone, and then I jumped to drum corp.

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  47. Next question will be about Drum Corps; since parish bands were starting to wane in membership. This all had to do with the upper echelon of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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  48. St Thomas.. What drum corps were you with...

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  49. Name 30 Drum & Bugle Corps from Massachusetts; other than 27th Lancers; I.C. Reveries, Revere; North Star, North Shore; Renegades, Quincy, and Boston Crusaders. Must include what city or town they were from also.

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  50. It seems that the last question is a stumper, or they basically given up.

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  51. Probably not the best place to ask the question. There's a drum corp web forum just for asking that kind of question.

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  52. Regarding the question about CYO bands, there is another band that was not listed. There were 2 St. Ann's bands, one from Neponset and one from Glouster. I also purchased one of those CD's mentioned and it was great to hear the music from St. Ann's of Glouster as well as St.T and Willies.

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    1. Where did you buy your CD?

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  53. Just found this page this am, doing a google search on Al Tobias and listening to an old Benny Goodman recording of Sing Sing Sing!

    Wow, way cool. Rest in Peace Al, you taught us a lot more than music, that's for sure.

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  54. do you remember the cyo finals in franklin park 1964

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  55. AQ COLOR GUARD. RIFLES - SOME OF THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE - GARRY MILLER

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