The Legacy of the South Shore Drill Team
By Charles W. Johnson, August 11, 2016 at 9:47 pm
When I heard the South Shore Drill Team would not be in this year’s Bud Billiken parade, I was shocked. For the 35 years the Drill Team has been in existence they have been a staple of the premier south side back to school parade.
See for me this is personal, I go way back with the drill team. I was attending Paul Revere School in South Shore in the early 1980’s when South Shore Drill Team founder Mr. Arthur Robertson got the team going. He was a colleague of my mother who taught there for 35 years and he taught me 4th grade reading.
I knew many of the early members of the drill team and our school was the drill team’s proving ground, they opened our assemblies, performed at awards ceremonies and were the pride of east 72nd Street.
I understand budgets and all that and Bud Billiken wants to reduce the time of the parade and size of some acts.
But they need to understand what the South Shore Drill Team means to so many of us, and that is pride.
From their humble beginnings to being in every parade imaginable including President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade, they are the best the south side has to offer.
I remember when they first hit it big in 1986 and were in the parade scene in the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
I’ve seen with my own eyes how that program turns young people into professionals. One of my former classmates (what’s up Stevo?), is involved with the Drill Team on a professional level. He was one of the best and brightest from our area and school.
I’ve seen the drill team go from practicing in the hallways of a south shore elementary school to have offices in the beautiful Gary Comer Center and become a nationally recognized group.
Yes they are a large group but they are a headlining act, you don’t tell Stevie Wonder to cut down on some of his incredible band “Wonderlove” (and yes I’ve seen them live), so with all due respect, you honor the south side’s best.
I write this as a fan of the group but it’s because I know them, I’ve seen them grow, watched them
with pride with tears in my eyes.
When my mother retired from Paul Revere School in 2000, the drill team gave a performance right in
the parking lot of the old Martinique restaurant in Evergreen Park.
Members of the group congratulated her at the ceremony (in which I was the MC), and they made her
This is more than just another marching group, over the last 35 they have featured countless kids
from my old neighborhood.
Back in the day the drill team was as popular at Revere School as the basketball team, we all wanted
to be on it and even practiced their moves in the hallway.
I was involved with the library back in the day so when they practiced on Friday afternoons and you
heard the music playing, I was in the library (which I loved), putting books away and cleaning up.
We had tremendous pride for them and never hated on any of their members, it was all love because
they were so good and represented the best of us, our hood and our school.
In case you wish to see the drill team this weekend, no worries, they are performing in far south
suburban Momence at their Gladiolus Fest (aka Glad Fest), the parade kicks off at 3 P.M.
My people, the South Shore Drill Team will be there ready to put on a show for you as they have for
I have been doing this blog in various fashions and formats since 2004. It started as just a rant, then
was more like a newsletter and now is more observations and thoughts but basically the same rant. I
am a writer; it’s what I do best and what I'm trained in. I have a B.A in English from DePaul University
and have been writing since I was an 8 years old. I started by making books with construction paper
(thanks Mom), telling short stories. Then progressed into more short stories and poetry while at
DePaul (and had some in the student newspaper The DePaulia), and pursued publication. A handful
have been published and I also read my work at a few local bookstores.