SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – An iconic member of the Syracuse community died recently.
In the 1940s when men went off to fight in World War II, women were first allowed to march in the band to replace them. However, once soldiers returned from overseas, the organization started removing women from performing.
Syracuse marching band alumnus Lansing Dimon recalled the feeling those women had as they were being kicked out of the program. He says that when he would speak with women from that time period, the overall feeling was negative. One woman even said to never contact her again due to the distress of the removal and the treatment she received.
Dorothy Grover — aka Dottie —- never received such treatment. She was the second featured baton twirler at Syracuse University from 1949-1953. She performed with the Syracuse University marching band and brought them to the football team’s first bowl game, the Orange Bowl, in 1953.
When the band originally formed in 1901, only men were allowed to participate. That tradition was kept, generally speaking, until 1947 when Jessie Ann Harp, the first ever twirler, joined the group. Dottie’s popularity on and off the field could be coined as the reason for the band’s new name: “100 Men and a Girl,” said 1958 graduate and band member Robert Chancia.
“She kinda put it on the map,” Chancia said. “She was as prominent and popular as the big football stars. There were no flag bearers or drum majors or anything, it was just 100 men marchers and the one girl in the front of us, which made it very novel, very unique.”
Nonetheless, the featured baton twirler prevailed for over 70 years. According to Dimon, people at the time never thought about the significance this position played for the university and beyond.
“You know, the little things then, that seem pretty happenstance like they are just there that day,” said Dimon. “You know, 10, 20, 30, 50 years later all of a sudden are, are you know the stuff of legend.”
Syracuse University has had 25 baton twirlers throughout its history. Some of these twirlers include Janet Kay from 1957 to 1961 (who has since started a scholarship fund for twirlers in her name), Melaine Rottkamp from 1987 to 1990 and currently Trina Catterson.