No one can blame the women in this group for tooting their own horns.
The U.S. Women of the Air Force Band will have a reunion this week in Myrtle Beach and is giving two free concerts for the community, both at 7:30 p.m.: Wednesday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10804 in Little River and Thursday in Coastal Carolina University’s Wheelwright Auditorium, in Conway.
Jan Wurst of Myrtle Beach, a clarinetist and one of the concerts’ conductors, said former WAF members have gotten together almost annually for about 15 years at sites across the country, including its first Grand Strand get-together in 2007.
Wurst was one of the 235 people who served in the 50-member band in its tenure begun in 1951 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, until its disbandment in 1961 over larger variables involving gender issues and military staffing.
She called the WAF the “only one of its kind” in the U.S. armed forces, but through reunions, they have not let the music or memories, and awareness of the band’s history, end.
“Nobody is younger than 65,” said Wurst, a WAF member from 1953 to ’58. “I think our oldest is ... 88. She will be conducting; she no longer can play.”
Retired from teaching music in Fairfax County Schools in Virginia, Wurst gathers with fellow artists to paint once a week, and she plays in the Pawleys Island Concert and North Myrtle Beach Community bands.
Capt. MaryBelle J. Nissly – she was hand selected by Col. George Howard. ... She was our only leader. ...
Also, women who got married had to get out of the band, and that’s been the problem. ... We still have about 60 members we have not found, because married people change their name and we’ve lost track of them.
Myrtle Beach is universally know throughout the country. They’ll say, “You live in Myrtle Beach – wow!” That’s why I planned this in the fall. The waters are still warm enough, if they want to swim. ... We’ll be at the Sands Resort, because we have to have a rehearsal room and a banquet room.
But this is the life. When we were girls, we’d squabble a bit ... but the years have mellowed us. Any kind of hardships or hard thoughts, or anything of that hard nature, is long gone. We only think about making music together and entertaining our audiences.