My final year of high school I was trying to decide which college to attend. My father had attended Boston College and was a B.C. Eagle heart and soul. But I had designs on being a writer and I had heard Syracuse University had a tremendous school of communications. So I set my sights on Syracuse.
One weekend my Dad and I drove the 6 hours from Boston to Syracuse to check out the University and, as long as we were making the trip, attend a Boston College vs. Syracuse University football game in an old concrete cathedral called Archbold Stadium.
My Dad, being the devoted Boston College alum he was, seemed to know just about everybody who taught or worked there, including the conductor of the B.C. Marching Band Peter Saragusa. And Mr. Saragusa was nice enough to get us tickets and arrange a place for us to stay in Syracuse. Nice guy, huh?
So we made the drive out along the Mass Turnpike and onto the New York Thruway, past Albany and all those little villages in upstate New York. Soon we were within Syracuse city limits and I grew excited to be able to see for the very first time the spectacular University high upon a hill overlooking the city.
Unfortunately we were staying some distance from the University in a Holiday Inn at Carrier Circle. Lots of things seemed to be named after the Carrier Company, which would in just a few short years provide the money to build the massive Carrier Dome, right on campus.
We arrived on a Friday morning and had a good, long look at the S.U. campus, including a tour of the S. I. Newhouse School of Communications, which by itself pretty much sold me on the school. I didn’t need to see much more. But it was a very pleasant Autumn day so we walked around campus and observed the students coming and going from class to class. It looked like a great place to go to college. The afternoon grew late, so it was back to Carrier Circle and our hotel. After dinner and my Dad’s customary Giant Manhattan, we retired back to our room. It had been an exciting day and we had to be up early for the football game. So, it was lights out.
We couldn’t have been sleeping long before I woke up to the sounds of all hell breaking loose outside the door, in the form of a some very drunk members of the Boston College Marching Band. Silly us. Neither my father nor I was familiar with the age-old tradition of marching band members getting stinking drunk and making as much noise as humanly possible in their hotel the night before a game. The party had quickly spilled out of their rooms and into the hall. In fact, the majority of noise makers had positioned themselves, or so it sounded to our ears, directly outside our room. They were playing their fifes and horns and banging their drums. They were singing the B.C. fight song and any other song they could thing of. In short, they were making enough noise to wake the dead.
My Dad and I tried to ignore it for a while, but the noise level seemed to be increasing with each passing minute. Eventually, my Dad came up with a brilliant plan to simply go out into the hall and ask these screaming Eagles to move their party. Bad move. It just made them worse. There was no way in hell we were going to be able to sleep.
Oh, sweet Jesus! Please save us from this growing bacchanalia.
Finally, my Dad decided the only thing left to do would be to ask for help from somebody at the front desk of the hotel. He put on all his clothes and left me behind to enjoy by myself this rapturous racket.
When my father got down to the front desk he calmly described what was going on. “The B.C. marching band is making an incredibly ruckus, partying and pounding on our door,” he told the attendant. “Is there anything you can do.” Or maybe he wasn’t quite so civil and simply shouted, “Who the hell is in charge of the damn band?”. The front desk clerk inquired as to my father’s name and room number and disappeared for a moment.
When he reappeared, the night clerk seemed quite perplexed. “I’ve just checked the records” he told my father, “and they indicate that you are actually supposed to be in charge of the band. So I’d advise you to get them under control.”
No, no, no, no, no, no, no! This can’t be happening my father must have thought.
But then it all must have become clear. His good friend, the marching band conductor Peter Saragusa, had booked my father and I a room under the pretense that we were the band’s chaperone’s. A neat trick for a free room had backfired big time. And now we were doomed. We couldn’t even get a different room. This was our spot.
I’m certain that neither of us, my father nor I, got more than an hour sleep that night. And to add insult to injury, once we were inside Archbold Stadium for the game it started to blizzard. In October. To the point where you couldn’t see the players on the field.
I vividly remember my father, with a somewhat pathetic look on his face, looking at me and saying with his eyes, “Are you sure you want to go to college here?” And then we probably left and found a new hotel.
But I did end up going to Syracuse. And in no time, I grew used to it all; the parties, the blizzards, and the endless snow.
So here’s a tip. The next time you’re watching college football on T.V. and they show you the marching band, keep in mind that chances are those young people were probably up all night partying and banging on doors.
And make damn sure you’re never in charge of them.