In 1945, at just 14 years old, Charlie Veitenthal, now a community member at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va. became the youngest member of the Washington Redskin's Marching Band.
"It was a thrilling experience and one I will never forget," says Veitenthal, reminiscing about the six years he spent playing the coronet in the band.
Distinguished as the first team in the NFL with an official marching band and also the first team to have a fight song, "Hail to the Redskins," the Washington Redskins have played football in D.C. since 1937.
Not long after he was selected for the band Charlie was recognized in The Washington Evening Star newspaper as the youngest member of the band. He was photographed alongside the band's oldest member.
"On Sunday's after Sunday school I would catch the bus down to Florida Avenue and walk over to Griffith Stadium (where the Redskins played at that time). I would drop off my horn in the marching band's dressing room and head over to the player's dressing room. It was in this area that I would meet many of the players as they came in to get ready for the game."
Charlie and the band practiced every Thursday night, preparing for the Sunday games. On occasion, he would travel with the team to their playoff games. It is the cold of these late season games that he remembers the most.
"As members of the band we wore large headdresses that made it impossible to wear a coat," he says. "I remember playing for a championship game, in Cleveland, in the middle of winter. My mouthpiece began to stick to my lips, which makes it very difficult to play. Thankfully at half-time I was able to sit on the bus and warm up."
In 1951, Charlie left the band to serve in the Army during the Korean War. When he returned home he chose not to go back to the band but continued his support as one of the team's biggest fans.
Last month, Charlie, his wife Barbara, and 80 of the couple's neighbors at Ashby Ponds, enjoyed a V.I.P. tour of the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. During the visit, Ginny Jurgensen, the granddaughter of the legendary Washington Redskin quarterback Sonny Jurgensen met with Veitenthal as he shared his marching band experiences with Redskin staff members.
"It's been a long time since I played in the band," he says. "A lot of things have changed in the last 70 years, I'm happy that the marching band is still going strong."
About Ashby Ponds: Ashby Ponds, one of 18 retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, is situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Virginia (approximately 30 miles west of Washington, D.C.). The community is home to over 850 residents and has over 120 resident-run and resident-driven clubs and groups, an indoor pool, a fitness club, transportation services, 24-hour security, and flexible dining options. More information about Ashby Ponds can be found at www.ericksonliving.com.