News Column

Majorettes from 1964 still have the moves

August 1, 2014

By Charlotte Ferrell Smith, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Aug. 01--They marched away with an armload of awards in the 1964 Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette Festival.

Fast forward to 2014 and they still have what it takes to wow the crowd with a high-energy routine.

Four members of the 1964 Stonewall Jackson High School majorette corp performed to the music of "Shout" at the school's 50th reunion at the Charleston Civic Center last Saturday night.

"This is a first in the history of the school to my knowledge," Sue Holt Gregg said before the performance. "I'm so excited I can't stand it. I'm excited we all can still move. We are performing to one of my favorite songs, 'Shout.'"

Gregg, who was the school's head majorette, took responsibility for being the "ring leader" of the performance. However, the other ladies were happy to comply and practiced in advance by watching a video of Gregg doing a fast-moving routine to "Shout" and incorporating numerous dance moves -- Twist, Monkey, Pony, Jerk, Swim, Shimmy, Mashed Potato, Skate, Hitchhiker, Egyptian and Locomotion. The routine included steps from performances 50 years ago.

The women have not let time or distance sever friendships. Nor have they let those things take a toll on their physical well-being.

Each lady is an active, accomplished individual.

They all vividly recall the hours of practice that went into honing an award-winning majorette corp. Being part of the group created a sense of camaraderie, a desire to remain active, and a sense of motivation that followed them throughout their lives.

Gregg followed a career path that included schoolteacher, insurance agent and artist. She is now a full-time potter living in Goldsboro, N.C. She also enjoys ballroom dancing competitions.

Meanwhile, Thelma Jean Thompson Fisher, also took some credit for assembling Saturday's routine.

"Sue and I put the routine together to 'Shout' and sent out the video to the others," said Fisher, now a resident of Lake Norman, N.C. "I found a picture of us at the 40th reunion posing as majorettes. (In high school) we worked very hard every summer. We twirled fire. There was a sense of camaraderie. It is the best memories of how teenage years should be. We all played an instrument. It was a time of friendship and learning. We formed lifetime friendships."

Fisher, now a chaplain with Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is a retired NASA engineer and former corporate director of Charleston Area Medical Center. She enjoys the outdoors and Shag dancing.

Janice Carpenter Moore, who now lives in Clearwater, Fla., is a retired nurse and Hospice volunteer. She loves crafts and making things for other people. She also cuts a lot of grass.

When computer glitches made it difficult to view the routine sent by email, she decided to come to Charleston a couple days early and practice with her friends.

"We all look pretty good for a bunch of old women," said Moore, who wears a size 10. "We exercise every day of our lives. I walk, stretch and do whatever hits me. I do something every day. I took dance in junior high and high school."

Being active during the teenage years carried over into adulthood.

"Sue was our drill sergeant," she said of majorette practice days. "But she didn't ask us to do anything she wouldn't do. We worked our butts off."

She counts among her favorite memories the day the majorettes had their picture taken while standing in the fountain at the state Capitol.

"I'm not sure that was legal," she said.

Kay Coffman Brown of Charleston taught in Kanawha County schools for 35 years and has had no problem filling her time since retirement.

"I have been happily retired for eight years," she said. "It is wonderful. There area so many things to do that you wonder how you got it all done while you worked."

Exercise is an important part of her routine. As a child, her mother encouraged her to be part of a swim team and to take dance lessons. As a majorette, practice was ongoing.

"As majorettes, we practiced constantly," she said. "It paid off for us. We took every prize our senior year (in the festival) except Miss Kanawha Majorette."

The ladies possess another priceless prize to this day.

"We have all remained friends," she said.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at or 304-348-1246.


(c)2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

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Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)

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