An Enduring esprit de corps

Port Washington’s Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps is holding a reunion on Saturday.

Committee members include (from left) Jodi Baumann Dickmann, Marge Spieth, Ron Vorpahl, Megan Schaefer and Dell Wandrey-Geis.
Ozaukee Press staff

Jodi Dickmann and Megan Schaefer struggled to get summer jobs growing up in Port Washington in the 1960s.
Plenty of work was available, but the pair, along with many of their friends, spent their time entertaining and competing as members of the Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps.
Dickmann twirled and threw a rifle in the air in the color guard, and Schaefer stood out as one of the few girls who played the triple drum.
Both say trading getting paid for the discipline and camaraderie of the corps was worth it.
“I think I would be a different person if I wouldn’t have been in it,” Dickmann said. “You had discipline with your parents, but this was different. You were in a group.”
For Schaefer, “the best time of my life is with those people.”
Many of those people from the corps will be gathering this weekend at 1:30 p.m. at Memories Ballroom in the Town of Port Washington for the corps’ first reunion since 2000.
The Windjammers started in 1965 in Port and continued into the 1970s. It eventually fizzled out and an attempt to restart it as the Commodores didn’t work.
But the memories, life lessons and friendships will remain with its members forever.
“I’m friends with a lot of people to this day because those were the kids that you hung around with in high school,” Dickmann said.
The corps’ military-grade discipline kept everyone in line, both literally and figuratively.
“Back then, nobody thought twice about taking one of our drumsticks and smacking us across the back if we didn’t do something right. Or we’d have to run laps carrying the drum. We were disciplined, but we needed it,” Schaefer said.
Dickmann said the corps had two buses on trips — a “good” coach bus and a “bad” school bus for members who were penalized for infractions like drinking soda in the gym or other behavioral missteps.
“The people on the bad bus probably had a great time,” Dickmann said. “I wasn’t on the bad bus.”
Trips were regular — every weekend to a competition or a parade or both.
“We lived on buses,” Schaefer said.
Along with practices once or twice per week, summers were full. Schaefer remembers neighbors coming to watch practices at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Being part of the drum line made for a busier schedule for her. It practiced year round and performed shows at schools.
Many of the Windjammers were in the high school band as well. Schaefer said during Fish Day parades they would march with the Port High band, then run back to the start of the route and march with the Windjammers.
“Most of the time we didn’t have time to change,” she said.
And they weren’t exactly wearing T-shirts and shorts.
“Wool uniforms. We were young. We were in shape,” Schaefer said.
“I can remember having some people fainting,” Dickmann said.
The Windjammers would do three to four parades on the Fourth of July and catch fireworks from area communities on the bus rides home, she said.
Trips took the corps to places members wouldn’t have visited otherwise, such as Canton, Ohio, the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Schaefer said she gives parents credit for chaperoning and cooking for the corps.
Dickmann remembers marching in Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
“Probably the only people in the stands were our parents,” she said.
The Windjammers corps has its own claim to fame, in being the only one to win both the Class B American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars championships three straight years, from 1972 through 1974.
The City of Port Washington and the Van-Ells Schanen American Legion were big sponsors of the corps. Dickmann’s father Tony Baumann, a Legion member and one of the corps’ founders, got her and her older and younger sister involved.
In 1973, the corps was the first to use guidon, a small flag with a ball on the end of the staff. Dickmann said she still remembers the maneuvers.
Shows back then were a little different than today’s performances, Dickmann said. Pre-1981, corps didn’t dance or do mid-show costume changes. The Windjammers, in fact, had the same uniforms for as long as a decade.
Music ran the gamut, from “Eleanor Rigby” to “Russian Sailor Dance” to a medley from “Cabaret.”
The Windjammers were much younger than today’s corps as well, down to 9 years old. A feeder corps called the Anchormen that ranged from 8 to 13 was organized in 1972.
“For the age that we were, it was pretty amazing,” Dickmann said of the corps’ success.
Another difference from today’s corps is the sign-up process. The Windjammers didn’t have auditions.
“If you didn’t know how to play a horn, they’d teach you,” Dickmann said.
The dues were $5. Booklets showed how to repair uniforms or get replacement pieces.
That uniform got the adrenaline going.
“Once you put the uniform on, you kind of become a different person. Now you know competition is coming up, get ready,” Dickmann said.
That military aspect has stuck with many of the corps members, Schaefer said. She works with veterans today and with the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
Other members — Milton Schmidt, Dave Mueller and Gary Hopson — were inspired by the corps to join the Marines and play in the Marine Band.
That camaraderie stuck with corps members as well.
“Even though we all live across country, we all kind of stayed close,” Schaefer said.
While the Windjammers corps now only lives in memories, photos and memorabilia, Dickmann said a local corps would be a worthwhile experience for today’s generation.
“I think it would be something good for the kids nowadays instead of always looking at their phone,” Dickmann said.
For those interested in the reunion, visit the Windjammers reunion Facebook group at



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