Ironton High School marching band members have a special #039;grandpa#039;

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2003

Many people have the privilege of seeing grandchildren covering their living rooms at Christmas time, but Claude Brown's grandchildren cover a football field.

While the members of the Ironton High School marching band sweat in the practice field to eventually sweat in front of large cheering crowds at football games and band competitions, Brown has been by their sides for 13 years as a member of the Ironton Band Boosters.

One reason why Brown has stayed with the band boosters for such a long time was having two granddaughters, Mary Louise George and Megan George, in the band. However, even though Megan George will graduate from high school after this year, Brown still plans to work for the band boosters for as long as he can because of his love for the children, who have become more than his granddaughters' bandmates.

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"The kids call me grandpa," he said.

Brown said he believed that name originated from one of his granddaughters' friends calling him grandpa because she didn't know his name. Eventually, the name stuck because more and more band members did the same.

"It makes me feel closer to them. I like to think of them all as my grandkids," he said.

Brown's work includes lining the practice field and bringing the band members water during the hot days of band camp in August, traveling to away games and competitions, carrying equipment onto the field and working at concession stands.

"On Friday, we're there at 8 a.m. getting the stand ready," he said. "It's a long day. We finish at about 11 or 12 at night. It's pretty hard and fast-paced."

However, Brown knows that the band needs his help because if he and the other band boosters did not do this work, it would be put on band director Bill Rath. In turn, Rath would have less time to work with the children, he said. Also, many band parents do not have the time to work with the band boosters because of their jobs or having to care for the children's younger siblings.

Besides that, he said he also loves the look on the children's faces when they win a competition.

"The band is hard work," he said. "It's hot; it's time consuming. Those kids deserve a lot of credit. Sometimes, they want to quit, but they stick with it."

Frequently, band members run up to Brown, thanking him for the work he has done. The color guard bought him a sweatshirt that had "#1 Grandpa" on it.

Brown graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Charleston, W.Va., in 1957, and played the snare drum in the marching band for four years. Because of this, he said he knows what time and energy the band members put into their performances, and he also knows the value of having band booster organizations.

"We had a lot less," he said. "We didn't have band boosters. We pretty much had to pay for trips and raise the funds ourselves."

According to Rath, the band is very fortunate to have Brown on hand.

"We'd have a whole lot more work to do without him," Rath said. "We really appreciate all work he has done. He is an asset to the band."