In 1949, American Legion Argonne Post 180 assumed sponsorship, and membership was open to any area youths. The Post was named after the famous WW I battle in Argonne Forest, France.
During the 50s and 60s they marched against the best corps on the Great Plains like the Sky Ryders from Hutchinson, Ks, and the Troopers from Casper, Wyoming. They gradually improved and competed in several VFW, American Legion, and DCI championships. In 1955 the corps won its first state contest. From then on, they were often the Kansas champs.
Probably their best year was 1972 when, under the direction of Glenn & Sandra Opie, they won the American legion championship and placed 5th in the DCI championship. Unfortunately they did not do as well in succeeding years. The last marching/competition season for the Argonne Rebels was 1979.
Many residents of Great Bend remember hearing the rebels practice at night. (The Opie horn line could be heard in almost all parts of Great Bend). I would drive my '56 Chevy to the practice field behind GBHS. I remember the high observation tower that someone built on the practice field. I never climbed it, but I think it was tall enough to see Pikes Peak. Who built it, and what happened to it...
Argonne Rebels Drum Corps and Civil Rights
In 1963 the Argonne Rebels traveled by bus from Great Bend, Kansas, to Miami, Florida. They stopped for dinner in Birmingham, Alabama (Continental Trailways had confirmed it would be safe). While food orders were being taken, several members of the Argonne Rebels were assaulted by white supremacists because three members of the Argonne Rebels were African American. One Argonne Rebel was taken to a hospital for medical attention. The Rebels went on to Miami and placed 10th in the American Legion National Championship.
African Americans were never barred from joining the Argonne Rebels. In 1958 the Rebel feeder corps had three African American musicians, there could have been others prior to that date. Sandra Opie gave music lessons to several Great Bend youths, so they could be good enough to march with the Rebels. One of her students was Phil Briscoe, an African American youth.
Argonne Rebels Drum Corps and Women's Liberation
At first the Argonne Rebel color guard carried real WWI 30-06 Enfield Rifles. Later they carried real WWII Springfield Rifles that could fire live ammo. According to Glenn Opie, "The reason we liked them is that they were unique. Each weighed around 12 pounds, and as you would flip the rifles, etc., they would rattle - good showmanship!"
Gar Shields emailed that a girl named Wynette McCarter was drum major in 1954. Marcia "Cannady" Ochs emailed that the Color Guard in 1955 was commanded by a girl named Jackie Johnson carrying her saber. Two other girls, including Marilynn Johnson carried rifles and competed at the state tournament in color guard competition. These girls carried modified rifles that were made lighter by hollowing-out the wooden stocks. It was also about this time that the Rebels started competing against the all girl corps from Enid, Ok., the Legionettes.
Argonne Rebels Drum Corps and Sex and Marriage
It is believed that 20 to 30 couples have married after meeting each other in the Argonne Rebels. I recall one overnight Rebel bus trip. A couple hid behind the uniforms hung in the back of the bus, and made-out! The next day, one of the chaperones moved the uniforms to a different part of the bus.
Argonne Rebels Drum Corps and Gambling
There are rumors that during the 1950's some of the Drum Corps expenses were paid by profits from illegal slot machines next to the bar at the American Legion Argonne post. The post was raided more than once, and the slot machines confiscated.