Behind the scenes: Uniform Cleaning

Making sure The Cadets always look good

Summer is suddenly in full-swing here in Cadetland, as highs have been well into the 90s—which must mean at least the upper 90s out on the turf. The corps is sleeping and showering at Westview High School during our three-day stay in Tennessee, and each morning everyone rides the buses over to the stadium at the University of Tennessee at Martin, about ten minutes away. It adds a few extra logistics, but the staff prefers to rehearse in larger stadiums whenever possible so they can see and hear the corps from a better vantage point.


As I mentioned in yesterday’s video update, Monday was the first of many uniform laundry days. The uniforms are the other half of my job here on tour, and our sewing intern, Linda Kanen, and I got to work as soon as breakfast was over yesterday.

First, I ran to Wal-Mart to buy them out of OxiClean. The next challenge was finding stores that would trade me $150 in quarters (since our nearest bank is 70 miles away), just in case the laundromat ran out.

Once I got back with detergent, stain remover and ten pounds of quarters, the admin team helped load up the bed of the pick-up with every drumline, hornline and pit member’s uniform (116 total). Up and down and the equipment truck stairs with armloads of cream and maroon uniforms, damp and smelly with sweat.

Then we drove over to the only laundromat within 15 miles of Martin, TN. From noon to 9:00 p.m. yesterday is a blur, but here’s a run-down of the process: Haul all of the uniforms in by the armload and pile them everywhere. Ignore strange looks from locals. Once heaps of cream and maroon are covering every inch of table and counter space, pick a section (we started with the drums). Dismantle all the uniform parts: So, take off the buckle, put it in a bag; unsnap the crossbelt and throw it in a washing machine; un-Velcro the cummerbund, pull off the drop sash, and place each in a separate washer. Pile the jacket and pants on a different table, and move to the second drummer’s uniform.


Once that’s done, start the washer that has the cummerbunds, grab some stain remover spray and start going through drummer jackets, thoroughly checking and treating each one. Once each jacket has been doused, put them in an extra-large, front-loading washing machine and wash on the “Delicate Cold” cycle. (Every time I push “Start,” a small part of me is terrified that somehow the jackets will get washed in warm water and come out pink.)

Then we move to the drummer pants. Take them off the hanger and go to town with the OxiClean spray. Check the knees and ankles (normal problem spots from walking and kneeling), then everywhere else. Wash on warm.

Explain why there are "band" uniforms everywhere to the sweet old lady who just walked in.

Once the wash cycles finish, hang the cummerbunds up, hang the jackets back on the hangers, dry the pants and fold immediately. Bag everything up, label it, done.

Repeat for the front ensemble, trumpets, mellophones, baritones and tubas. Somewhere around nine hours later, we loaded up the bags of pants, cummerbunds, drop sashes, crossbelts and buckles and piled jackets on top of them in the pick-up. Then it was just a matter of taking everything out back at the high school and laying all the parts out for the members to pick up as quickly as possible in the morning.

And there you have it! The ten hours that keep The Cadets looking sharp.


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