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Dukes Organize Minor League Team

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Boys 8-11 Are Practicing

Dukes Organize ‘Minor League’ Team

By Glen Harris

The French Dukes are back from Washington after receiving one of their highest honors. But they don’t act like it.

One might think that after marching in the inaugural parade and being saluted personally by President Nixon they might be inclined to lean back and take a well-deserved rest.

But the Dukes aren’t the type to sit on their laurels. Right now they are practicing two hours a night, three nights a week.

Ozie Nicholson, director of the Dukes, says the pace will pick up later this spring when the drill team begins practicing for the state meet in Muskegon. Practice for that contest will be two hours a night, six nights a week for a month.

And if they win in Muskegon the pace will really get tough. For the national championship next August in Washington, D. C., Nicholson says the Dukes probably will practice two hours every night, for two months.

But it is this kind of practice and preparation that got them their invitation to march in the inaugural, and a salute from the President.

The salute came as they performed one of their "French Dukes Specials” for the President. As they neared the reviewing stand on Jan. 15, they broke from a four-column formation into a single line with each boy saluting the president. He, in turn, saluted each of them.

And while the Dukes have earned their honors they may soon have competition from their own backyard. Nicholson said the Continentals, a drill team for boys aged 8-11, have been practicing for about four months.

From now on, the Continentals will be the "minor league" for the Dukes. These younger boys are operating under the same rules and learning the same formations as the Dukes. And as the older Dukes move out, the Continentals will move in.

This will not only allow the Dukes to maintain a full squad but also will cut down on the training needed before the boys enter the older drill team.

Nothing definite has been set up yet, but Nicholson said the Continentals may give their first public performance within a month.

The Dukes and the Continentals both are sponsored by Ann Arbor’s Elks Pratt Lodge No. 322 and both operate under a constitution set up several years ago. The constitution spells out the bylaws for the groups and describes the duties of the various ranks.

The boys can be punished for numerous violations, from walking out of formation without permission to insubordination. Punishment is usually a demotion in rank or possibly a suspension.

While all the drill team members are Negro there is no rule pertaining to race. But the boys must pass a rigorous physical examination and then must learn the 60 different drills the group performs. A three-week trial period follows after which the commander decides if the candidate is ready.

Presently the Dukes have 25 members, but currently enough boys are being tested to bring the membership to 36. The Continentals have 18 members and Nicholson said that number probably will not increase for awhile.

Nicholson said the Dukes usually schedule about 12 performances a year. Their next is tonight at Tappan Junior High School.