Mt Carmel Eaglettes

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Mt Carmel Eaglettes


(The article below appeared in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser on December 25, 1960. It was written by Ray Broussard, Advertiser Staff Reporter)

ABBEVILLE: One night last year a visiting band director stood on the sideline watching Mt. Carmel’s all-girl drum and bugle corps perform during the football halftime ceremonies. He turned to the corps’ commander and snapped: “They’re too good for us. Your Eaglettes can have the whole show.”

Such left-handed compliments irk the commander, Dr. S. J. LaBorde. “My girls perform at their best when they have competition.” He admits the unit has shown “vast improvement” during the past year, but insists it is several years away from its peak. Many people differ with him on this. They are sure the girls are the best in the state. As evidence they offer the invitation the group received, and accepted, to represent the state in the inaugural parade for President-elect John F. Kennedy on January 20 in Washington, D.C.

The regimental fervor demonstrated by the girls wherever they perform has infected practically everyone here.

A service station operator near the Vermilion parish courthouse says, “They’ve fun to watch, the way they parade down the football field. And when you think that only a couple of years ago they were hardly more than cheerleaders you have to take your hat off to them.”

The owner of a dry-goods store says, “They are a fine drum and bugle corps, there’s not doubt about that. They wouldn’t have got the invitation to Washington if they weren’t. But I guess the thing that you admire most is the manner in which they conduct themselves at school and in town. They are a kind of symbol the way they represent the high ideals you admire most in the young girl.”

A coffee shop waitress says, “Many of us who would never go to see a football game attend just to watch the Eaglettes perform. You sit there and wonder how a group of young girls can stay in step for so long.”


LaBorde has no illusions about the worth of such praise. “We feel that the group is making great strides. It is a character-builder first and a drum and bugle corps second. Anytime the girls get to feeling cocky I remind them of some really great units we saw up north. That takes them down a peg or two and incidentally, makes them work harder.” The girls are accustomed to hard work. Participation in the unit is considered by officials at Mt. Carmel’s co-educational parochial school as extracurricular work. The girls acquire no school credits for being members of the unit and all practice sessions are conducted after regular school hours.

The rules and regulations would test the endurance of a West Point Cadet. “If a grade of F is received in any subject or character trait on any six weeks report card, says LaBorde, a member is automatically suspended from and loses all rights and privileges as to rank and awards:

Reinstatement as a member of the corps is possible only after the next six seeks report card is issued and all grades are satisfactory. Such reinstatement, however, does not nullify the loss of rights to rank and award.

An Army veteran, LaBorde booms orders at his charges in the manner of a drill sergeant indoctrinating a group of raw recruits. When he completes that chore, he takes them to task about “sharpening up their drumming bugle playing.”
The curious thing is that LaBorde can’t play a note of music!

The Big Beat

When the girls changed over from a group called the White Jackets to the Eaglettes we couldn’t have them out on the field just banging away at any old drumbeat, says LaBorde.

“I went over to Abbeville High School and the band director there (Tony Fontana) taught me an Army-style drum cadence and I taught it to the girls. Then, they were taught how to blow the bugle and we have been sailing along every since. It’s been a successful voyage; Last year the group represented Louisiana at the American Legion’s national convention in Minneapolis and this year received a rating of superior in marching competition at a music festival held at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette.

The Eaglettes were organized as a drum and bugle corps in the fall of 1957. Their purpose was to perform for the school during football halftime shows and to participate in the various area festivals.

From the offset a strict set of rules and regulations were adopted. This included a scholastic standing to which all members must adhere. During its tenure of only three years the corps has participated in 32 parades marching a distance of 59 miles. It has traveled 4,741 miles and given a total of 48 field performances.

Honor Position

In February of 1958 it participated in the Rex parade of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and was given a position of honor. Later the corps was presented a certificate of merit and commendation from the Rex organization for “outstanding performance, the first of its kind ever given.”

The unit was honored in August of 1959 when it was asked to represent the state at the national American Legion convention. When it returned from Minneapolis, the group was given individual medals by the Louisiana Department of the American Legion.
The Eaglettes were the only all-girl drum and bugle corps in the United States to participate in the national Legion Parade.

They were one of the units asked to perform during the recent Dairy Festival for former president Harry S. Truman.

Performing for a former president is a far cry from the early days of 1956 when they had practically no audience and were known as the White Jackets. But they had something that, eventually, would do more good for them than all the audiences in the world, says LaBorde.
“They had the determination to better themselves, he says. “They came to the Boosters Club and asked a few of us if we could teach them something to do at a football game, other than just cheering.

That was the beginning of the regimental drill team. In a way, it was the realization of a dream that LaBorde had harbored for several years. The idea first occurred to him when he saw a Texas drum and bugle corps perform.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be swell if we could have something like that,” he says. “When the girls asked for our help the old idea of a drum and bugle corps just naturally came back to me.

“But there was a lot more to it than that. Maybe a lot of people don’t realize this, but we are a character building unit first and a drum and bugle corps second. We realize that the present day members of the Eaglettes are the future mothers of tomorrow. “As such they will be confronted with the proper upbringing of our future citizens. For these reasons their instructors have stressed proper behavior, manners and modesty. This all girl unit has won its popularity and respect by its neatness, precision marching and martial airs.”


LaBorde has five sound reasons for calling the Eaglettes unique; they are the only all-girl drum and bugle corps in the state; they were the first to have an all-girl color guard in south Louisiana; they are the only school-sponsored drum and bugle corps in the state; they are the only school-sponsored musical unit that requires scholastic average to maintain membership; and they were the first drum and bugle corps to enter the district music festival, sponsored by the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA), and were the first drum and bugle corps in the state to receive a superior rating.

There was nothing unique about them in the beginning.

They inherited a couple of battered drums from the Mt. Carmel band. LaBorde set out for more equipment. He found four more drums and then managed to acquire 12 bugles from the Morgan City American Legion post. They had the idea of forming a drum and bugle corps. All they needed was someone to help them crystallize the idea.

Many people helped in the beginning. Now, they have a regular drum instructor, Jackie Arceneaux, director of Franklin’s Hanson Memorial high school band. Steve Robicheaux, music teacher at Henry and Meaux high schools, instructs them on the bugle.

The uniforms were modernized to keep pace with the progressive unit. At first the girls wore a simple, white jacket and a brown skirt. The uniform now consists of a brown and white overseas cap; white sports blouse, with school patch on the left shoulder; brown pleated skirt; white gloves; military type boots; regimental jacket; and patches bearing the units’ name and school on either shoulder.

The unit consists of 48 members, ranging from the ninth to the 12th grade at Mt. Carmel. The Eaglettes are led by an eight-girl color guard bearing four flags. The remaining members play either drums or one of four types of bugles.

When the Eaglettes march in the inaugural parade for Kennedy it will mean that Louisiana is on of 48 of the 50 states represented. The parade will follow the swearing-in ceremony for Kennedy and Vice President elect Lyndon Johnson.
LaBorde has tried, in the past two years, to constantly remind the girls why the unit was formed in the first place.

“We have always tried to stimulate school spirit, he says, but uppermost, this organization is intended to aid the individual members by giving them training in strict discipline, self control and dependability.

“New recruits for the Eaglettes are accepted only once a year, during the spring semester after the selection of cheer leaders. The parent’s or guardian’s permission must be given before a recruit is given the basic indoctrination course.

“And only upon successful completion of this basic training course will the new recruits be formally admitted into the ranks.”

If the unit has a single credo, it is “character training, first and always.”

“Discipline is a must,” says LaBorde. “This is the intelligent willing and cheerful obedience to the commands and will of the leader. Without that, we wouldn’t have anything.

“Ours is a training which corrects, molds, strengthens and perfects obedience and self control. Its foundation rests on the voluntary subordination of the individual to the welfare of the unit.

“It is the force that binds the membership of the unit and its strict enforcement is a benefit for all of us. It places a moral obligation on the individual to take notice of, and do what is proper, for the common interest and welfare of the group as a whole.

“A feeling of unity and sacrifice must be achieved if we are to properly represent our school and community in a manner befitting their good names.”

class="p14ptjustify">Meantime, while most of their school mates are at home, the Eaglettes will be on the football field near school, practicing hard for that Washington date.

Eaglets marching in the parade of the Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. 1961 [-]

January 1961 Traveling by train to Washington, D. C. Mount Carmel High School Drum and Bugle Corps, also known as the Eaglets marching in the parade of the Inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, shown here wearing a top hat, with his wife Jacqueline and Vice-President Johnson and Lady Bird. Sonja Stout LeBlanc was a flag carrier and her Mother Rosina, went as an escort. Dolores Landry Broussard was the Captain of the Corps, she is shown as the secondary leader with the drum stick. Dr. S. J. LaBorde was the founder and corps leader.

Rules and Regulations [-]