The Majorettes Have Arrived
So far from all the previous posts, there no single doubt that majorettes are well established band leaders who have built an immense base of fans.
The most previous post explains how baton twirling was a common practice as early as 1930s. Actually twirling books in the 1940s had cover illustrations showing both male and female twirlers together. Although during those times twirling teaching was a male affair, it degenerated into an almost female-oriented practice commonly associated with girls and hence the idea of male baton teachers seemed completely strange.
In the 1940s in Houston, Texas the place to be was Silvils’ Drive-in restaurant. Mrs. Silvils had waitresses who dressed like majorettes. She had designed complete uniform for these waitresses who served as car-hops and when they wore the uniform their looks would remind you of majorettes. This made the restaurant so popular that the waitresses had to be increased to match up the number of clients.
There were also some other restaurants which imitated this one. Yet still, others like Top Hat Restaurant in Spokane had images of two majorettes as part of their sign which was attached to the roof top. There was Bailey’s Drive-In in Florida with a twirling majorette on their sign.
In the preceding year, during Charro Days in Brownsville, Texas which featured a parade in the annual celebration of Texan-Mexican friendship would have the majorettes taking part wearing short skirts. There were several high school band taking part in the event had none of the majorettes wore slacks or shorts. They all wore short skirts.
Some calendars produced later had illustration of majorettes’ images. One image was of Billy DeVorss which was used extensively in mass-producing advertisements, calendars and other printed materials.
Catalogs for Rock-ola brand jukeboxes featured majorettes during 1940 & 1941 and ladies dressed as majorettes as part of Rock-ola’s sales presentations.
While all this was happening, even more bands had been going beyond having a female drum major leading the band. She’d now have several baton-twirling majorettes accompany with her. The main girl would be known as drum major, drum majorette, head majorette, lead majorette, majorette leader, or captain of the majorette squad. The majorettes would be called drum majors, drum major girls, girl drum majors, drum majorettes, baton twirlers, twirlers, baton girls, and even cheerleaders. The last may appear as a surprise because you might have seen girl cheerleaders at football games and other competitive events, and they all do things differently. Cheerleaders have also been called “football majorettes”.
There’s one interesting detail about their uniforms that you need to note. Majorettes wore short above-the-knee skirts or shorts long before cheerleaders did. As a matter of facts, they were wearing short skirts long before they became the fashionable “miniskirt”.
The April 28, 1941 issue of Life Magazine had an article about Betty Atkinson, an ice show performer, a “pioneer” majorette, and another Long Beach drum majorette school alumnus. If you peruse a few pages after the article, you spot an ad for something called “Sport-Tights”. This is a garment worn by active ladies, and they’ve been showing the product worn by a majorette. You’ve could also have seen advertisements that has in some way included majorettes in other magazines or media.
Majorettes were seen in featured in several advertisements of almost any type of product you might think of. They’d be spotted advertising anything from baby napkins to ladies mascara to men’s shavers.
There have been times when you just couldn’t go long without seeing a majorette, or hear about a majorette, or see her picture, somewhere doing something besides leading a band in a parade. Majorettes were in enough print, advertising, and other media, and often enough, they were becoming as much a part of popular culture as anything else.
They were becoming far more common in school bands, and there have been schools that have required the majorettes to maintain a good grade level in order to stay on as part of the band. You could be sure that their majorettes were not only good twirlers, they were good students, good academicians.
In 1942, you’d have seen a MGM publicity film about their music department. It included a musical number called “We Must Have Music”, and that one featured Judy Garland dressed as a drum majorette. This number was an out-take from the movie “Ziegfield Girl”, and a photo of Judy in her majorette uniform also appeared on the front cover of a movie-fan magazine. Majorettes had survived another “out-take”.
Another big boost to the majorettes and their twirling came in 1945 when Don Sartell started the organization that would be named the National Baton Twirling Association, usually just called “NBTA”. It has since had hundreds of thousands of twirlers of all ages, colors, and skill levels as members. Majorettes could participate in NBTA-sponsored events and competitions, and keep in touch through “Drum Major”, NBTA’s official magazine.
There are other twirling-related organizations such as USTA, WTA, DMA, and others that have done a lot to promote twirling as the good and worthwhile activity that it is.