Former members of the Penn Hills Baton Corps, a coalition of several teams, are working to keep alive the memories they made and friendships they formed many years ago.
Former members, chaperones, parents and volunteers of the local baton team, which has had several names over the years, have reconnected on social media and meet regularly. Some members of the group, which has an online presence of around 110 people between two public Facebook pages, will meet again from noon to 6 p.m. on June 23 at the Penn Hills Community Park for a picnic.
Marlene Bocian, 65, of Penn Hills, said her father, Albert Bruno formed the first baton team in 1957 for Boy and Girl Scout troops.
“It grew so large, that they divided it into two groups and it became Cadets of America for a year – that’s when it became more like a drill team,” Bocian said.
Most people remember the team as the Jacks and Jills of Penn Hills, the name the team held until 1971, she said.
“It had baton twirling, a color guard with flags and rifles and a drum section,” Bocian said.
The name of the group changed again in 1971 to Vanguard until it became the Renaissance in the 1990s. The Renaissance group disbanded in 2008, Bocian said.
Since then, those affiliated with the group have reached out to one another to reconnect and reminisce about the good old days.
“When baton (teams) in the region were at their peak, there were 55 competing corps. And Penn Hills supported three. At one time, it was the thing to do. In its heyday, it was huge,” said Bocian, who started marching at age 5 and continued until she graduated from Penn Hills High School in 1970.
Bocian’s sister, Susan Marsh, also marched from a young age.
“I think I’m the only member who marched for 15 years,” Marsh said. “I even came back from college to march in parades during the summer.”
Marsh, 62, now lives in Kennedy Township. She will travel to Penn Hills Saturday for the event.
“It was such a wonderful experience. You learn leadership and teamwork, communication, discipline, practice to get good at something – those are the types of lessons that carry through in life,” she said.
The first two reunions, Marsh said, attracted more than 50 people. All were either former corps members, chaperones, bus drivers or volunteers. She expects a smaller crowd this year, but she and Bocian hope to continue the reunions to reconnect with even more people who were involved.