Remember When the St. Thomas Academy Crack Drill Squad Was On Ed Sullivan?

Remember When the St. Thomas Academy Crack Drill Squad Was On Ed Sullivan?

My dad, a graduate of St. Thomas Academy — then called St. Thomas Military Academy, and located on the college campus — sent this video he found, noting, “This was about ten years before us. Same drill routine, though. Can you imagine how big a deal it would have been to be on the Ed Sullivan Show back then?”

It’s the school’s crack drill squad on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1953, performing their drill routine for a seemingly appreciative studio audience. “I was so struck by these youngsters” on a trip to St. Paul, explains Sullivan, “I wanted to bring them out to New York sometime.”

I had so many thoughts while watching this video.

  • 1953. Eisenhower was inaugurated, the Korean War ended, the Oscars were broadcast on TV for the first time.
  • That backdrop! Sullivan refers to it as “the wonderful faces carved in heroic stature out of the stone of Mount Rushmore.” I thought of my girlfriend’s observation that “Mount Rushmore is one of the weirdest things that America has.”
  • Drill squads are also among the weirdest things America has. Let’s pass guns back and forth — in rhythm!
  • Did the shortest kid always have to stand in the middle? I asked my dad, who said he thought yes.
  • I love the applause moments. Sullivan used an “APPLAUSE” sign to cue the reactions, but I still enjoy at least the illusion of the idea that an auditorium full of New Yorkers burst into spontaneous cheers when these high schoolers started marching in windmill formation: St. Paul’s equivalent of the Rockettes.

I visited St. Thomas Academy — by then moved to its current location in Mendota Heights — when I was considering high schools. On the day I visited, they were taking a quiz on 50 reasons to support our military. I was like, “Waiter? Check, please!”

Jay Gabler