Rosebuds blossom again: Invitation allowed drill team to step out of the past

Carlotta Murphy is nothing if not friendly.

And our interview was ambling along like a shady stroll on a summer’s day when her voice snapped to attention and commands shot out of her mouth like a bullets from a barking machine gun.

“Squads to the rear, hut!”


“Twine time!”

“All squads triple on the back step!”

Instead of being 68, she was 18 again and proud captain of Junior Elks Rosebuds 298.

She joined the Rosebuds the summer she would enter the 7th grade.

“I’ve got to add that up,” Murphy said. “That had to be … 1963,” the year same year she moved from Springfield’s Fulton Elementary to Keifer Junior High.

Like the those in The Herd, the Elks boys drill time, “we were initiated in and everything.”

Solemn ceremonies in the Elks Lodge off South Yellow Springs Street made her and her drill teammates charges of Junior Daughter Rulers Leo G. Robinson and Angela DuPree.

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And there were rules to follow.

“You got checked,” Murphy said. “Uniforms had to be clean. We had to keep our grades up, also.” And there were etiquette classes at the YWCA next to the High Street United Methodist Church.

Pitching in on garage sales and bake sales was part of the drill, because money for the uniforms didn’t come from nowhere. The outfits were an ensemble of white dresses, black dresses and reversable capes — plus white boots, leather with wooden heels.

For six Mays, starting when she was 11, Murphy and other Rosebuds took those boots to Nisley’s Shoes in the Arcade Building.

“We loved Mr. Nisley. He would look forward to seeing us.”

It was his job to fit the boots with metal foot stops that would punctuate their steps on the pavement during the Memorial Day Parade.

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Of course, it was a few years before Captain Murphy led the Rosebuds along the parade route.

Her training came first, all under the commanding watch of Junior Daughter Doris Benton.

“We loved Miss Doris,” Murphy said in tones indicating it was God’s will that Doris and disciplinarian started with the same letter.

In her first years, individual instruction came from “the older girls, who would take us to the side” - girls like Patricia Portis, Grenda Gilbert, Diane Thompson and Brenda Singleton.

Practices were at the YWCA, the parking lot at Fulton Elementary (in warm weather), and anyplace else that was available during the winters.

Regardless of location, the practices focused on the drilling needed to get 40 sets of Rosebud feet to execute the steps in unison.

“It was all footwork,” Murphy said. “It had to be precise.”

“If anybody missed it,” she added, everyone would hear the shaming words she first listened to as a young Rosebud and later spoke with the required annoyance and impatience as a captain. “Start it over.”

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On parade days and competitions, this all seemed a small price.

Parades, Murphy explained, were relatively straightforward. Somewhere along the route, she would call out most of the names of the Rosebud step list.

Marching was interrupted for pauses at three or so places along the route where the crowds were best. The Rosebuds then performed a brief three-step routine - the same that would be at the judges stand.

She would salute the judges, the squad would salute the judges, the performance would be given, and the Rosebuds would pivot and move smartly along.

As fun as it was to be in front of the hometown crowds, Murphy liked the competitions better. The routines were more complex, and the days involved trips on chartered buses, hours spent with friends and the pressures of competition.

Then there was the pure fun of unjudged performances before groups of Shriners and Masons - outings that would have been impossible without the financial support of the community.

The Rosebuds history would have remained Memorial Day memories had it not been the Sisters United for Prevention, the awareness group that invited team members to perform Feb. 15 at a Valentine benefit for the Springfield Regional Cancer Center.

Of course, some of the Rosebuds are gone now and others unable to perform.

But the five women who joined Murphy to strut their stuff remembered the steps as readily as she did the commands. Blanche Carter and Barbara Short, Cynthia Fisher and Irene Dill, Marlene Avery and Murphy — all were decked out in pink T-shirts identifying them as the Junior Elk Rosebuds 298 .

So what if seniors might have been the more appropriate word. They all looked sharp, felt young again and performed for a crowd that loved them.

Surely, Miss Doris would have been pleased.

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