The souvenirs of the Cardozo High School Band's six-day trip to California -- Mickey Mouse hats with big ears, 'coon skin caps from Disneyland, pennants, plastic roses and buttons that say, 'I was there, Tournament of Roses, 1981.' -- will soon be put away and forgotten.
But the 170 wide-eyed band members that well-wishing Washingtonians sent to Los Angeles and Pasadena are not the same 170 that returned. Life seems different for some of them, even back home in Washington.
"I feel mixed up inside," said Lynda Jones, a tall 16-year-old with hair pulled back into a pony-tail tied with rubber bands and with bangs in front. For most of the trip, she and her girlfriend, Frances (Misty) Hall, were all giggles and chewing gum, despite their otherwise worldy mannerisms.
"I try to tell people what it was like, and all I can think of is 'wonderful' and 'beautiful,' but those words don't help other people understand what I feel and what it was like," Jones said.
Another who felt a similar confusion was piccolo player, Brenda Lyles, 18, an aspiring musician.
"I felt like 'Dorothy' in 'The Wizard of Oz,'" Lyles said aboard the return flight home. "Los Angeles was beautiful, and I had a good time but when I was there, I got homesick and wanted to go home.
"Now that I'm going home, I feel like a changed person. I think I grew up a lot, and now I realize that one day, I'm going to have to leave my mother and family and go out on my own, and do for myself.
"I want to get back in an airplane," said Lyles, who was one of a half-dozen teen-agers who cried in fear during the trip from Washington to Los Angeles. There were no tears on the return flight. "Now I'm looking towards the sky."
Experiences changed them. Their Rose Bowl Parade success -- a grueling 5 1/2-mile rapid tempo march over the same route that other bands walked -- showed them what determination could do and symbolically gave these inner-city youths new hope that hard work and endurance really can make a difference.
"I paid close attention to everything that went on there," said Thomas (Cato) Hamilton, 17, of 729 Quincy St. NW. "I was determined to march in the parade 'till the end and not drop out.Mr. Gill [the band director] told us last year that if you march hard and don't feel pain, then you're not doing your job.
"What that says about life is that it's going to be difficult sometimes, but good things don't come without sacrifice or pain," he said. "You have to work for success."
For many of the band members, the trip was a once in a lifetime chance that broke the limits of inner-city life. Seven of every 10 band members came from one parent, low-income households, nine of every 10 had never flown before, most had never been west of the Mississippi River and a large number had not traveled beyond the Washington metropolitan area for more than an overnight trip, according to band director Robert Gill. a
In California, things were different. "That's Spanish architecture," Hall said during a bus ride through Bel Air, pointing to a house that had a clay tile roof and an arch entryway. Jones and Hall traded other examples of Spanish architecture, homes that matched pictures they had seen in their high school Spanish classes, and talked about neighborhood features they do not see in Washington.
"Washington is beautiful too, but not where we live," Jones told a reporter, as the band's bus sped along one artery in the maze of Los Angeles freeways. "I don't feel any of the pressures that I feel in Washington, where people rob you, where people steal. When I walk to school, I see drugs, I see people wasting their lives away."
The Los Angeles they saw was clean and beautiful, even though radio broadcasters in Los Angeles announced during the visit that the city of angels had more murders last year than any other city in the country.
"I feel trapped in Washington," said Jones, who lives in a subsidized apartment at 5th and S streets NW with two sisters and her mother, who was widowed 11 years ago and now supports her family by working as a housekeeper at Howard Johnson's. "Blacks don't seem to get anywhere there [Washington] and it hurts me to think that black people are stuck in the same situations. This trip has shown me that you don't have to be rich to travel and explore, to learn new things."
In many ways, theirs was a trip of firsts: the first band from the Washington area to perform in the Tournament of Roses parade, and the only predominantly black band in the parade. Cardozo marched before friendly, predominantly white audiences, surprising youngsters who said they didn't expect whites to be friendly.
"A lot of the band members were surprised that other races were friendly," said Hall. "Most of them never met Hawaiians before. Secondly, they don't bother with whites unless they have to, since they live in a predominantly black neighborhood."
Some band members learned for the first time about things that others take for granted: packing a week's worth of clothing and keeping up with luggage themselves, traveling in an airplane, living in a dormitory and making a long distance phone call collect.
In her diary, dated Dec. 30, 1 p.m., following a band performance in Pasadena, Jones wrote: "It's really fun to meet kids your own age who are different from you in some ways, but emotionally all teen-agers somehow always know where each other are coming from. Sometimes, I wonder what the world would be like if adults could communicate with each other as well as children can."
Some have found it difficult to come to grips with the meaning of the trip.
They made pen pals with band members from Colorado, Hawaii and Texas. Cardozo Band member Vincent Jordan, for instance, proudly wore a shell necklace he got from several Hawaiian band members after they taught him how to hula. Each item triggers a different memory.
In many ways, the impact of the trip was delayed because the band's days in California were a hectic collage of quick impressions glimpsed between practices, performances, early bed checks and sunrise awakenings.
But LeRoy Joyner, one of several band alumni who marched in Pasadena at Gill's request, said time will make the difference.
"When they get into bed at night and lay there and think about all the things that happened, how hard they worked," he said, "That's when it's going to hit them."