1968 – 1970
At some point after the It’s Today! concert, the Choraliers became the Today Generation.
In October, 1968, we entered a competition that took place at Knott’s Berry Farm, called the Festival of Sounds.
….And we won!
There was a lapse in time as other groups throughout California also competed on the weekends for the chance at the big prize – $1,000 (remember, this was 1969) and claim to the title of best singing group in Southern California. We got very serious with rehearsing; learning new songs and choreography; practicing, practicing, practicing, during and after school and even in the evenings as the next competition got closer. We also had school, and other choir concerts to prepare for.
There had been some changes in the make up of the group as well. Carolyn Farrington graduated early and left the group. Mr. Henderson discovered a fabulous singer in Santa Barbara, Nancy Davis, who became part of our group. Carole Johnson, Carla Balsbaugh, and Kurt Kohler also joined the Today Generation around this time.
Meanwhile, Mr. Henderson started thinking about and planting in the minds of the high school administration and the community at large the idea of a “Goodwill Tour” of Southern California, Arizona and Mexico for us. Naturally, all this would cost money so we had to have more car washes, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and benefits to raise the funds.
As if we hadn’t been busy enough, things REALLY got rolling that spring…my last semester of high school. I think I barely had time to warm my bed considering all the running around, practicing, performing and fund raising we did in addition to school. (It’s really rather amazing I graduated, considering all of this…and if you’re academically inclined you may frown upon all of my non-academic pursuits. But I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.)
I could hardly wait to get to school in the morning, but not because of classes. It was to find out what was going to happen next with regard to our performing. I loved it all.
So what happened with the Festival of Sounds? We won the semi-final and yes, the final competition. Wow, was that exciting! Check out the Knott’s Berry Farm Competitions.
There were those among us that were absolutely essential as part of the team, although they did not get the notice or press that the rest of us performers got. Dorothy Whitaker was our faithful accompanist who was there at every single rehearsal and performance, and was as much a part of the group as any of the rest of us. We definitely couldn’t have done it without her. Bob Boles was our sound technician from day one, and we were absolutely dependent upon his expertise to make us sound our best. Cheryl Dalby was our stage manager and resident mother hen who loved being a part of the group, but who knew when to push (and yes, nag) us to make our performances successful.
There was so much going on in the Spring of 1969 that I’m hard pressed to keep it straight. We were rehearsing for the Festival of Sounds competitions; planning and rehearsing for a Goodwill trip; trying to earn money with benefit concerts (which we also had to rehearse for), spaghetti dinners, and car washes. And, oh yeah, attend school and get our homework done.
We performed on a flatbed truck in downtown Camarillo one day to try to get people to buy tickets to the spaghetti dinner we were having to earn money for the trip to Mexico. We were also giving a concert at Camarillo Heights school – A Festival of Stars!!
While our white pleated skirts and blue sweaters (and dickies) were standard fare for many of our performances, we also had a great selection of costumes, including at least two for the girls that were designed by Violet Palmer (Hollywood studio designer). One was the red and blue dress, and the other was an amazing Edwardian velveteen pants suit, complete with lace at the color and cuffs. We were each fitted for our pants suit, which came in one of three different colors (colors of the era – gold, avocado green, and a lighter, lime green). The guys, in the meantime, wore double breasted jackets that coordinated nicely with the girls’ outfits.
For our big concerts that featured show tunes there were also western or victorian costumes. In one of the newspaper articles about us it was said that over $5000.00 was spent on costumes alone in the course of a couple of years. I don’t recall being aware of the costs at the time.
David Evans, professional dancer and choreographer, donated his services as well. Dennis Wilkerson was often around, helping in so very many capacities. Professional musicians Luke Hall (bass) and Barry Zwieg (guitarist) accompanied us for many performances.
Yes, we WERE gambling! We were in no way assured that we would raise enough money to go to Mexico, but we went ahead with plans anyway. It’s a testament to how much I loved being a part of the group and wanted to get in on absolutely everything possible, because I hate shots almost more than anything else in the world. But I did it. We all did it. And then we set about trying to raise enough money to make it happen.
(I think Kurt just had a bucket of water dumped on him in this photo.)
It was starting to look like we weren’t going to make the money required for us to go on our Mexico Goodwill trip after all. But we still performed around town anyway. We were disappointed, but then we’d been there before…like the time it didn’t look like we’d make it to the California State Fair after all the planning and rehearsing we had done.
We truly thought the preparations for Mexico (not to mention the shots!) had been in vain. And then we performed at the Camarillo Boy’s Club Benefit. The local businessmen who were attending really came through and showed their support of us. It was exciting. It was thrilling. And we were going to be able to go after all!!
So after an incredibly busy month – a month declared by the mayor of Camarillo as Today Generation Month – we were finally assured that we were going to Mexico But first we had some concerts to do in California….
We were off – by bus! – on the Mexico Goodwill Tour.
One of my favorite memories of the tour was when the bus broke down in the hot Arizona desert. We all piled out of it and waited…there were no such things as cell phones at the time. Cars that passed were few and far between, and the first one that actually stopped to see if they could assist was a VW beetle. We were highly amused at the thought of the 30 of us, along with our costumes, and equipment, climbing into the VW to continue on our way.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances of our rescue, but since I’m here to tell the story I guess we eventually were rescued. We made it into Tucson, where we passed out flyers announcing our performances, performed, and had fun visiting Old Tucson! Then it was on to Mexico by way of Nogales.
When we returned from our Mexico Goodwill Tour we were still busy…with school, many rehearsals for the finals of the Knott’s Berry Farm Competitions, graduation for many of us, and still more performances. Meanwhile Mr. Henderson thought it would be wise to incorporate the Today Generation.
If you actually read the newspaper articles and letters to the editor, you’ll find a fair number of errors…including the name of our group. But I don’t want to be nit-picky. People were saying wonderful things about us and were extraordinarily supportive of our group.
Other things that were publicized intentionally turned out to also not be correct, for instance some of our proposed performances. Let’s just say that Mr. Henderson was very much an optimist. He hoped to do a major production of Mame, for one thing. Things didn’t always work out the way he wanted them to, but it wasn’t for lack of trying on his part.
And speaking of trying….his next big idea was to have a Fine Arts Workshop, a training ground if you will, for the next generation of uh, Today Generation-ers. So he came up with series of classes that we would participate in during the summer of 1969. (It’s a little hard to explain and I’m not sure I understand it myself.) But there was a big spread int he Ventura County Star Sunday supplement talking about it…and us.
He also had publicity photos taken of us. These include those of us who remained in the TG after high school, and the new members of the group who came in to replace those who had graduated and were off to college or into the service.
Click here to see the article about the TG Workshop and photos.
After the Fine Arts Workshop in the summer of 1969 there were a quiet few months with only rehearsals and small performances. Then the Today Generation was privileged to be considered for an appearance at the Ahmanson Theater, at the Los Angeles Music Center, for a United Way Fund Kick-Off Show. Apparently, we were the second choice. No matter. We got the gig!
Mr. Henderson had a quirky sense of humor (no doubt encouraged by the unique Kohler sense of humor). The next project we were involved in – right on the heels of the Ahmanson performance – was a “tongue in cheek” fund raiser called the Spaghetti Sweepstakes.
This exciting event included a Miss Spaghetti pageant. (I can’t remember who “won”). The grand prize was a vacation in downtown Somis.
Another exciting “unprize” was a ten-mile ride in a(n old) Mercedes sedan, chauffered by Rob Kohler. Now THAT was a prize worth entering the sweepstakes for!
Rob, who had been a member of the cast of West Side Story, was a frequent member of the orchestras Mr. Henderson put together for our performances, a good friend of Scott’s, and an all-around fun and funny guy to be around, as well as a good sport about participating in our unusual Spaghetti Sweepstakes event.
Around this time the Today Generation was featured in a brochure for Shure microphones sound equipment. This brochure shows our own Bob Boles at the controls, as he always was when we performed.
The next big event in the life of the Today Generation was the It’s Today, Part II concert in November, 1969. The concert was a benefit, sponsored by the Soroptimist Club of Oxnard. One of my favorite bits of trivia about the TG involved some other participants in the show…
Then…suddenly…It’s All Over.
Well, not quite…
There was a reunion concert in the summer of 1970.
Then it really was over. What an exciting ride it had been! I was and am so grateful to have been a part of the whole musical experience. But it wasn’t just the music. It was the performing, the fun, and most importantly, the friends, that made it so fantastic. It was the fact that Mr. Henderson was convinced we were capable of being better than we ever dreamed we might be, and then provided the leadership, the motivation, and the tools, (and again, the people) to make it so.
As Bob Hope used to say….thanks for the memories.