Whirlwinds of Walla Walla, Washington (1960s)

Vibrant photos of The Whirlwinds of Walla Walla are featured on Bygone Walla Walla‘s website. The organization is a local non-profit with a mission to build and share the visual history of Walla Walla, Washington. Retired librarian Joe Drazan heads the project, which includes the Blogspot site with an archive of posts beginning in 2009.

Nearly a decade ago, Drazan published several photos of the local drum and baton corps. The original source of the photos was Claire Siegel (Coryell), Walla Walla High School Class of 1968. Siegel was a majorette with the school’s marching band and twirled with the corps as a child. She went on to teach baton twirling lessons at the local YMCA. A business card we found dated 1968 lists her as the director of the corps. She may well have been the founder at age 14. How amazing is that!?

Delightful Baton Corps Banner

The photos were all taken in the 1960s. The vibrant red costumes and delightful banner make these images extra special. We especially love ❤️ the words spelled out in rope as well as the adorable red tennis shoes. We have shared four of the photos below, but you can see more by visiting Bygone Walla Walla. Also, they are available on various social media sites.

Two baton twirlers with the Whirlwinds of Walla Walla stand by the majorette corps flag, 1962

Two baton twirlers with the Whirlwinds of Walla Walla stand by the baton corps flag, 1962. We always wish we knew the names of the people in the photos we share, especially the twirler behind the banner.

The Whirlwinds look absolutely smashing in their red and white uniforms, 1966. When we see pictures like this, we often think of all the efforts made by so many to coordinate baton corps activities. For example, just getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time is a small feat. And, again, we love the red tennis shoes.

Whirlwinds baton twirlers, 1964

We have no idea what became of the Whirlwinds of Walla Walla. Claire Siegel, who was elected homecoming queen at the University of Washington, was honored by the Walla Walla YMCA in 2017. Perhaps the college years took her away and the corps was no more.

A resident of Walla Walla named Carol posed this question on Facebook after visiting memories and photos of the Whirlwinds. “How did it happen that this wonderful thing disappeared out of our schools and community?” We see this question almost daily in our historical research of baton twirling. It is a complex issue and one we study as time permits. Ultimately, the question is, in and of itself, a hard pill to swallow. Why did baton twirling become unpopular?

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