The Governaires Drum and Bugle Corps
In March of 1919, members of the American Expeditionary Force convened in Paris to create the American Legion, a patriotic veterans’ organization. World War I veterans returning home from Europe started posts across America. The first post in North Dakota was founded in Bismarck on May 20, 1919. Post 1 was named after Private Lloyd Spetz, the first person from Bismarck to die in the war.
From the beginning, music was an important and unifying force within the American Legion. Posts across the county formed drum and bugle corps. Drums and bugles gave direction and a beat to march to. They performed in their communities and competed against each other at the local, state, and national levels. The Lloyd Spetz Post 1 Drum and Bugle Corps was founded in 1928. In 1930, $5,000 was raised for uniforms, drums, and bugles. The 18 member corps wore white World War I metal helmets, green blouses, and red pants and black puttees -- a strip of cloth wound around the lower leg, which was common in military attire back then.
The Post 1 Drum and Bugle Corps proved to be popular, traveling across the state to perform and to compete against other drum and bugle corps. Post 1 was so impressive that in 1959 Governor John E. Davis designated them as the state’s official corps and named them the Governaires. Multiple governors over the years gave the Governaires the same honor.
On this date in 1978, The Bismarck Tribune devoted a half page spread to the Governaires’ fifty-year anniversary. By this point they were North Dakota’s most decorated drum and bugle corps, winning 22 state American Legion competitions. The Governaires had also traveled to eight states and Canada, and had competed at national American Legion conventions. In 1978 the Governaires were still a very active group of 37, playing the latest hits, such as the Star Wars theme song. By this point their uniform had simplified to blue pants and shirts. Interest in the corps waned in the 1980s, and the Governaires played their last song at the 1989 State Centennial celebration.
As of 2020, the Jamestown Drum and Bugle Corps is the last one in the state. They were previously known as the Militaries, but changed their name after the Jamestown American Legion post could no longer afford to sponsor the group.
Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa
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Hendrickson, Lucille. “City Legion’s Governaires Mark 50 Years of Marching, Playing,” The Bismarck Tribune. Bismarck, ND, January 26, 1978, pg. 9.