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Tuning into history

Former Redskins Marching Band member recalls time under the lights

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November 2nd, 2016
Charlie Veitenthal and his wife Barbara with the Redskins Marching Band cap.

Charlie Veitenthal and his wife Barbara with the Redskins Marching Band cap.

“It was a thrilling experience and one I will never forget,” Charlie Veitenthal says reminiscing about the six years he spent playing the coronet in the Washington Redskins Marching Band.

Since 1937, the Washington Redskins have played professional football in the nation’s capital. They are distinguished as the first team in the NFL with an official marching band and also the first team to have a fight song, “Hail to the Redskins.”

Recently Charlie, his wife Barbara, and 80 of the couple’s neighbors at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., enjoyed a V.I.P. tour of the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. 

“It’s great luck that the Redskins train right down the road from our home at Ashby Ponds,” says Charlie. “Through the years, I’ve continued to follow the team and attend as many games as possible.”

“Growing up, I always knew my dad was a huge Redskins fan,” says Charlie’s daughter Carol Huebner. “He is also very proud of his Redskins Marching Band experience. In fact, there were times when we watched the games at home that he would bring out his horn and play “Hail to the Redskins” much to our and our neighbors’ delight.” 

Proud past

In 1945, at just 14 years old, Charlie, following the advice of a school friend who was already a member of the Redskin’s Marching Band, took the bus down to Griffith Stadium and auditioned for the band, playing “Hail to the Redskins.” 

Not long after he was selected for the band, Charlie was recognized in The Washington Evening Star newspaper as the youngest member of the band. He was photographed alongside the band’s oldest member. 

“After Sunday school, I would catch the bus down to Florida Avenue and walk over to Griffith Stadium where the Redskins played at that time. I would drop off my horn in the marching band’s dressing room and head over to the players’ dressing room. I would meet many of the players as they came in to get ready for the game.”

Charlie and the band practiced every Thursday night, preparing for the Sunday games. On occasion, he would travel with the team to their playoff games. He remembers the cold of those late season games the most. 

“As members of the band, we wore large headdresses that made it impossible to wear a coat,” he says. “I remember playing for a championship game in Cleveland in the middle of winter. My mouthpiece began to stick to my lips, which makes it very difficult to play. Thankfully, at half-time I was able to sit on the bus and warm up.”

In 1951, Charlie left the band to serve in the Army during the Korean War. When he returned home, he chose not to go back to the band but continued his support as one of the team’s biggest fans.

A walk down memory lane

Earlier this year, Charlie enjoyed a tour of the Redskins’ training facility with his Ashby Ponds neighbors. While he was there, Ginny Jurgensen, granddaughter of the legendary Washington Redskin quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, wished to learn more about his time in the marching band, and Charlie provided an interview of his experiences to members of the Redskins staff. 

As a special treat, his daughter Carol presented him with a photograph of himself in his band costume.

“It was terrific that he was able to share that during his interview,” says Carol.

When not cheering on his favorite team, Charlie and Barbara enjoy attending a variety of happy hours, movie nights, and special events at Ashby Ponds, where the couple has lived since October 2015. And every Sunday, without fail, Charlie can be found cheering on his favorite team.

“I’m impressed that with all the changes of the last 70 years, the marching band is still going strong,” he says.

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