The New York Skyliners have won every major title available to a senior drum and bugle corps, including the DCA Championships, and the New York State and American Legion National Championships. The New York Skyliners were the 1963 World Open Champions, 1971 and 1975 DCA Champions, and most recently were the 1999 and 2002 Drum Corps Associates' Class A World Champions.
Membership meetings were first held in 1945, and the point was to create a senior corps for members of two units that were returning from service in World War II. Members of this corps were drawn from two New York City American Legion junior corps: The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Post #1197 and the Grand Street Boys from Post #1025.
The membership was accepted into the American Legion, and the new post was chartered in 1946. The post was named after Raymond A. "Gabby" Garbarina, a young man who played with both the Grand Street Boys and the Hearst Post corps, who had lost his life in the war. The new post was known as the Raymond A. Garbarina Memorial Post #1523, New York City. The corps itself was also known as the Raymond A. Garbarina Memorial Corps, and later, the Garbarina Skyliners.
The corps' first appearance was an exhibition at a New York Giants football game at the Polo Grounds. They began competing the following season in 1947, winning the New York State American Legion title that year. The 1947 American Legion National Championship was held in NYC, but corps from the host city were not allowed to compete, so Garbarina had to sit it out. The 1948 Championship was held in Miami, and lack of funds prevented the corps from attending. The 1949 Nationals were held in Philadelphia, and Garbarina won their first national title. During the period from 1949 - 1951, Garbarina Skyliners competed in 41 contests and won 38 of them.
After the 1949 season, the corps became known as the Garbarina Skyliners, and later, the New York Skyliners. In 1951, corps member John F. Mazarakos died as a result of a very long time suffering from an illness stemming from his service in the jungles of the South Pacific. His name was added to the post charter, becoming the Garbarina-Mazarakos American Legion Post 1523, and it still survives to this day.
Additional history from the 50th Anniversary Yearbook, which was published in August 2005: As noted above, membership meetings were first held in 1945. However, how did it all start?
1940s - When New York Customs House employee William St. John organized a junior drum and bugle corps in 1932, the boys of his corps averaged nine years of age. They lived in the area around the West End of 125th Street, in New York, where the West Side subway rumbled overhead. There wasn't much room for kids to play there.
Ten years later, in 1942, St John's junior corps was still going strong. They had become one of the four best junior corps in the East and had been sponsored at different times by three separate Posts of the American Legion and one VFW Post.
The older members disbanded for service around the globe with the armed forces of the United States. "When we come back from the war," the corps agreed, "let's form a Legion Post of our own. We will name it after the first of us to be killed in service, and we will stay together and be the best senior drum & bugle corps in the country."
In 1945 the first meeting for the organization of a new senior corps took place at the Manhattanville Post of the American Legion, located on Broadway and 107th Street. Present at the meeting was William St. John, Director of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Post Junior Drum & Bugle Corps and quite a few young men just discharged from the armed forces who wanted to form a new Senior Drum & Bugle Corps.
During that year, William St. John met with a tragic accident while on duty with the United States Customs office. It was a loss from which the corps almost never recovered. The determination and spirit with which the corps went ahead with plans for a senior unit was a precursor of the dedication and "Never Say Die" attitude that would someday be a Skyliner trademark.
Most of the men had returned from serving in the Armed forces, and a second general meeting decided on naming the post and the corps after a young man who ate, slept and had his heart and spirit in drum corps. The first to be killed was Raymond A. Garbarina (nicknamed "Gabby"). This man gave his life in the service of his country during World War II. Gabby was a short, blond curly haired fellow whose personality was unmatched in drum corps circles. Originally from the Grand Street Boys Junior Drum Corps (one of the best junior corps in the country prior to World War II,) Gabby left the Grand Street Drum Corps and became a member of the Hearst unit, another corps regarded as one of the best in the nation. Rudy Caprifolio became the corps' first director, a position he held until 1949.
In 1946, the membership was accepted into the American Legion and the post received their first charter - known as the Raymond A. Garbarina Memorial Corps, later called the Garbarina Skyliners.
Always interested in the young men and someone who never put himself in the limelight was Sam Aaron. Sam had served with the 212th Regiment during World War I. His outfit was wiped out with the exception of 12 men, including Sam. They were well known as the "Dirty Dozen." During the hectic days of the Hearst Corps, Sam was always willing to help and the corps shall always cherish and remember him. It was Sam Aaron who loaned the corps the money to get it started off the ground. Instruments were hard to get after the war because factories had not yet converted to peacetime production. The corps purchased horns (second hand) and paid as much as $50 for one. Sam also put up the money to get the boys to California in 1950. The corps was fortunate in getting back two of the finest instructors in the country: James J. Donnelly, a music instructor from Paterson, New Jersey and Colonel Edward Pierce, who instructed percussion and marching and maneuvering. These two men were largely responsible for the Skyliners' early progress and the Winning of the National Championship in 1949.
Practice was held at the 125th and Fort Lee Ferry. Post rooms were located at 55 Tiemann Place, Manhattan, just one block off Broadway. The Corps' first appearance was an exhibition at the Polo Grounds for a Giant Football game. Hank Goldstein, a bass drummer with the corps since its inception (also commander of the post for one year and later the manager of the corps), went to Elkhart, Indiana late in 1947 to attempt to purchase the Conn Bugle from the Conn Instrument Company, only to be informed that the company had discontinued manufacturing this bugle. The corps used a mixed set of horns until 1957.
With funds in the treasury low, the corps decided to hold an annual ball. The first one was held at Manhattan Center and it was a huge success. With the money earned from this affair, the corps purchased new instruments. The next project was how to earn enough money to purchase the necessary uniforms. Someone in the organization hit upon the idea of raffling a new automobile in order to make money to purchase new uniforms.
The quartermaster, George Davenport, loaned the corps the money to purchase the car. At that time, cars were at a premium. The first Post Commander, Thomas J. Kerrigan, finally prevailed on a local auto dealer to get a car which was received a month later. In February of 1947, the corps had the car out every day. Vinnie Ratford was out with the car every day for months pedaling tickets. The corps also had a schedule set up for all the members to get out with the car one night a week. Also, when the corps went to parades, the car followed and wives and girlfriends of the members would sell tickets while the corps was waiting for the parade to start. The corps would play several numbers to draw a crowd. Tickets were sold from February until June of 1947. The Corps' First Annual Spring Dance at the 14th Street Armory was held. A 15-piece band was hired and during the evening, a representative of the New York County American Legion drew the winning ticket. After five months of being pushed and chased by the police, the corps derived enough money to purchase the uniforms. The spirit and cooperation of all members made the various fund raising projects successful.
The uniform of Garbarina was originally designed by some of the kids who were members of the old Moe Wolff VFW Corps in the 1930's. If memory serves correct, Adolph Ryter designed the present uniform. The first design included black shakos and the jackets had black piping. As the Garbarina Corps, the shakos were changed to white mother of pearl with red plumes. The jackets were then changed to include gold piping.
The corps' very first contest was in the summer of 1947, competing and being accepted as a member of the Interstate Circuit. It was held in Trenton, New Jersey where the corps placed third behind the Stratford Connecticut Yankees and Doremus Post. The year of 1947 was a hectic one for all members of the corps. Rehearsals, selling tickets, parades, contest, etc., gave the members very little time for their families, but they gave their all for the corps.
The first American Legion State Contest for the Garbarina corps was held in 1947 at Niagara Falls. By winning their first State Championship and taking the title away from the LeRoy Seniors, Garbarina began its history of always being a force to be contended with.
With the New York State convention in Niagara Falls in 1947, Garbarina began an almost unbroken string of stunning victories which included 33 consecutive firsts by margins unprecedented in major competition by either seniors or juniors. Commencing with 95.4 at the State and 94.6 at Stratford three days later (beating Doremus, the national champions-to-be by 5 points,) a four year long domination of the national drum corps scene that went virtually unchallenged, had started.
In 1949, 1950 and 1951, the corps went to contests every weekend, meeting all units, big or small -Jersey Joes, Doremus, Connecticut Yankees, Hawthorne - you name them and the corps beat them, big!! In this period of time, in 41 separate contests, the Skyliners finished first 38 times, second twice and third once. Rarely was the margin of victory even close; there was little doubt of the overwhelming superiority of the Skyliners.
In 1947, the National Competition of the American Legion was held in New York City. At that time the rules and regulations of the American Legion Committee stated that a corps from the host city would not be permitted to compete. All the Garbarina members had to sit this contest out. Doremus of Hackensack, New Jersey won this contest.
In 1948, due to lack of funds, the corps was unable to go to Miami to compete for the national title. That year the Jersey Joes of Riverside, New Jersey edged out Hackensack for the title. In 1949, the National Contest was held at the Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The N. Y. Skyliners won their first National Title, beating the Jersey Joes, the defending champions. Hank Goldstein and Edward Dito took over Directorship of the Skyliners, bringing them into a new decade (the 1950s).
- History: New York Skyliners
The corps is best known for it's ability to play a strong, loud, emotional show. The corps has had several signature pieces over the years including Elk's Parade, Little Old New York, And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, Alabama Jubilee, and New York, New York. The corps' signature closing number is I'll Take Manhattan.
The Skyliners uniform consists of a red cadet style jacket with black and gold piping and a white citation cord as well as an American Legion and New York City patch on the left arm, black pants (tuxedo pants were later replaced by bibbers) with a red and gold stripe, and a red and white shako. Uniform accessories have changed colors throughout the years. The cross sash has always been white with the exception of gold in the early '80s, the cummerbund has been black, white, and gold depending on the year, there has been either a black and red, white, and gold drop sash when one was used, and shoe color has been both black and white. Plumes have been different styles and colors. The current uniform consists of black shoes, white drop sash, cummerbund and cross sash, and white plume.
- Note: The uniform was changed briefly in 2000-2001 to a full black uniform with a red front jacket with gold sash due to financial issues affording a new set of cadet jackets to replace worn out ones.
"Garbarina" is the corps' official song sung to the tune of Oklahoma
Members that have marched and paid dues in full for 5 consecutive seasons are considered 'ring members.' They are permitted to purchase a corps ring that is gold with a black onyx stone with gold inlay that reads 'Skyliners.' After 10 consecutive seasons a member is considered a 'Diamond Member' and they are permitted to have a small diamond put into the onyx stone.
- The Skyliners are undefeated in Class A Performance
- The Skyliners were the first corps to recieve DCA medals for winning Class A. The Chieftains won the title in 1997 and Heat Wave won in 1998 but Sky bought their own medals for their 1999 win resulting in DCA providing medals for every year after.
Official website: New York Skyliners