Long Island Kingsmen
The Long Island Kingsmen were founded in the fall of 1963 in Kings Park, NY as the Kings Park Kingsmen by Noel Borden. The corps had been originally started as a small exhibition group for the local Catholic church, but that only lasted a few short months. Noel took the remains of this group, obtained a sponsorship from the local VFW Post 5796, and began the process of forming a competitive Drum and Bugle Corps.
The first few years saw the corps competing in the Sounds of Suffolk Association, a circuit of corps from the eastern half of Long Island. The corps progressed from a standstill group performing in Class D, to the Class B champions in 1967. That year also saw the corps' first big trip off Long Island, competing in the NY State American Legion Championships in Syracuse, NY. The following year, the corps repeated its Class B championship title in the Sounds of Suffolk Association, and also competed in the Class B Chamionship preliminaries at the World Open in Lynn, Massachusetts.
In 1969, the corps made the move up to the Long Island Circuit, competing against corps from all over Long Island, as well as New York City. The corps big trip that year was to the VFW Nationals in Philadelphia, PA, where they got to compete against corps such as the Kilties, Cavaliers, Troopers, and Boston Crusaders for the first time. Many of the members were awestruck at these corps' performances in Finals!
The winter of 1969/1970 brought a big change to the Kingsmen. The first major change was to the corps name. Since the membership had been growing for several years to include members from outside the town of Kings Park, Mr. Borden decided to change the name to the Long Island Kingsmen. The second big change occurred due to the unfortunate demise of another long-running Long Island drum corps. The Medford Grenadiers, a corps sponsored by the Medford Volunteer Fire Department, had fallen on hard times. A change in the management of the fire department had seen the corps fall into disfavor with their sole source of income. Bert Ellis, the Grenadiers' Director, contacted Mr. Borden to see if the Kingsmen would be interested in having the remaining members of the Grenadiers march in the corps based in Kings Park. Mr. Borden agreed, and the ranks of the Kingsmen swelled to bigger numbers than they had ever seen. The corps hit the field in 1970 with nearly 100 members, a huge corps for that time on Long Island.
That summer brought many new experiences for the Kingsmen. It all started with their traditional spring weekend camp, held in the tiny Catskill Mountain hamlet of Grahamsville, NY. The entire Main Street of Grahamsville consisted of a general store, a fire house, an ambulance station and a church. Up the hill was the county high school, where the corps practiced. In the spring of 1970 the corps joke was that the Kingsmen had doubled the town's population for the weekend! 1970 was also the year that the corps did its first "tour". With shows in the states of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, the corps finished the tour at the U.S. Open in Marion, OH. But, the biggest show of the year for the corps was the Long Island Circuit Championship. All year, the Kingsmen had been nipping at the heals of the Winn Center Toppers, a perennial powerhouse in the circuit from Brooklyn, NY. At the championship, the corps put on the best show of its young life and captured the championship by a few tenths of a point.
The year 1971 brought other firsts for the Kingsmen. The traditional first show of the year in the east at that time was the Preview of Junior Champions, held in Bridgeport, CT. All the major east coast corps of the day, including Blue Rock, 27th Lancers, Garfield, Boston, and Blessed Sac, were invited, along with the Kingsmen and the Pembroke Imperials. Although the corps placed last, the huge crowd gave them a great response, particularly at the end of the show, when the corps played its signature, "King of Kings". The corps competed in several other big, "invitational" shows that year, as well as shows in the Greater New York circuit. The corps also hosted its first major competition on July 11, 1971 at Hofstra Stadium in Hempstead, NY. Corps such as the Anaheim Kingsmen, Blue Rock, Garfield, 27th, Blessed Sac, St. Joe's, etc. made this inaugaral event a huge success. Late in the season, the corps spent a week competing in Wisconsin and Michigan prior to its appearance at the US Open. The year closed with the Greater New York Circuit Championship.