Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ottumwa Blues Association

At some point in High School, the Ottumwa Blues Association was formed for one day only. I remember that it was warm weather, so it may have been during the summer.

Members of this prestigious organization include myself (snare drum and vocals), Ian K. (trumpet), Shawn N. (guitar, possibly tuba), and John H. (guitar) for sure; other "probable" members [this is that whole memory fading thing I was talking about] include Kevin C. (trombone), Dave E. (trombone), Matt B. (euphonium), Peter H. (trumpet) and Chris K. (a happy supporter...maybe the camera operator). If you were in our brief organization and I left you out, I do apologize - please comment and let me know!

At this point I'm sure you are wondering breathlessly - "What is the Ottumwa Blues Association?" Well, the Ottumwa Blues Association, or OBA as it's commonly known, was formed when my groups of friends must have been very bored one day. We had that thought process - common to many high schoolers, I'm sure - "lets all take our band instruments and some music to the mall and play them. Maybe people will give us money!"

After standing near the back entrance and playing a few rousing tunes, I think we had received only one coin from a friendly national guard recruiter. That's when we decided to make the boldest move ever in the history of the OBA - we moved into the lobby of Wal-Mart. Did we ask permission? No, but we did get a sign.

Someone went in and purchased a large sheet of poster-board and a magic marker, and wrote "OTTUMWA BLUES ASSOCIATION" on the sign. Kids -- let that be a lesson to you. Signs lend a lot of credibility to almost anything!

Our profits shot up (to several coins!). A few old ladies stopped to listen for a couple minutes. You could almost hear their thoughts: "Oh! What nice young men... playing good, clean music and supporting their community! After all, it's not just any blues association, it's our blues association!" With a large handful of admirers, we were able to produce a few nice tunes (including a stirring rendition of "Blue Moon") and draw some polite clapping.

Everything was going great until the Wal-Mart manager on duty showed up.

"No... no... You can't just.... SHOW UP and start playing here in our lobby, without a permission note.... or anything...."

John H. stepped up, in the leader role, and gave his best "nice-young-man" apology and asked a great question.... "well, who do we have to get permission from?"

"Uh, that would be me."
"Oh! What's your name?"
"I'm Chad."
"Oh, thanks Chad... I'm John [handshake]. What do we have to do to get permission to play here?"

At that point "Chad" (or whatever his name was) made up some excuse like Oh... well... If it was up to me, I don't mind, but, something something, corporate policy, have to run it by HR, or something.

Well, it was mostly downhill from there. We moved outside once again, and played near (not in) the Wal-Mart entrance. [And yes, for those of you who didn't meet me until after high school, the Ottumwa Mall did use to have a Wal-Mart INSIDE the Mall... the only mall I've been to that frequently had people pushing shopping carts up and down the halls. Apparently Wal-Mart didn't mind if you took their cart to other stores...] We probably only played for another half hour after that, and the only noteworthy thing we got was a scrap of paper with a phone number on it from a girl from Eddyville. I guess... she was asking out all of us? Or any of us???

I think we would have got in a lot more trouble, but no one called us on it, since we had that sign.

Somewhere in this world, there is a videotape of this episode. I have no idea where it is, or even who filmed it, or who owned the video camera. If anyone knows, please contact me and I will gladly get it on YouTube!

Were we weird? This seemed like a perfectly fun and wholesome activity to me, and yet I've never seen any kids doing this in my life since then. Why not? And why did we feel the need to videotape ourselves doing this?


  1. 1. The girl with the phone number was named Haley, and her intentions remain unclear. In retrospect, we probably should have figured out where she lived, showed up on her doorstep with our band instruments, and serenaded her with our rousing jazz/doowop version of a hymn we happened to have chord changes for.

    2. The National Guard recruiter also gave us a phone number, so I think we may have had two offers for dates.

    3. I think we may have been seeing just how far we could push "wholesome", to the point where some people would say "can't you just go get drunk in a corn field like normal teenagers?"

    4. Do you still have your little bull horn? The one we tried to use to order potato oles from Taco John's?

  2. 1. I knew someone would come through with the name...
    2. If by "date" you mean "join the National Guard," I guess you're right.
    4. No, the bullhorn broke at some point. That's another post for another day.... and another VHS tape lost somewhere in the world.

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  4. I'm laughing right now thinking about that bullhorn. I used to have a video copy of that, but I think it's long gone. Someone should also put our math videos on YouTube.