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'Block P' turns 100 in Fall 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
No where is band tradition and Purdue tradition more intertwined than in the "Block P."
For 100 years the strength embodied in that sturdy letter has represented the strength of Purdue as an academic university and the strength of Purdue in athletic competition. All that tradition dates back to the strength of a man who dared to be different.
That man, as most band alums readily remember, is Paul Spotts Emrick, the first full-time director of Purdue Bands. This fall, Purdue Bands will celebrate the 100 th anniversary of the creation of the "Block P" formation that's been a highlight of the band shows at Boilermaker football games for a century.
It is, and should be, an enormous source of pride to all Purdue alums that among the many great scientific, business and agricultural achievements recorded by the university and its alums, is a single creative event that's impacted the halftime shows presented by every single marching band in America 's high schools and universities.
Special celebrations, events, posters, postcards, merchandise and other ideas are now being put into place for the 100 th anniversary celebration. AAMB director Jay Gephart hopes to field the largest alumni band ever at Homecoming to mark the event. In true Purdue Band spirit, an attempt will also be made to create the "World's Largest Block P" during the halftime show.
Spotts and early Wright era alums are particularly invited to return, even if they no longer wish to march, since they were the early guardians of the "Block P" tradition. There will be a special game day breakfast for them and they will be recognized on the field at halftime.
History of the Block P
In the early 1900s, it was becoming common for bands to march onto a football field during halftime. Because of the military roots of these bands, they would stop and play, always remaining in straight marching rows. But in 1907, Emrick (who was a senior at Purdue at the time) added a new dimension. To the total surprise of spectators at the games, he had the band break out of its ranks and form the letter "P."
Like many of his ideas, it was one that dates back to his family in Rochester and his boyhood spent at a cottage on Lake Manitou . "Most ideas come from nature," he said in an interview with the Lafayette Journal and Courier in the fall of 1953 as he neared his retirement.
As a boy, he said he had watched wild geese fly over the lake in the fall. "Usually, they'd fly in a V," he told the reporter. "But once in a while they'd change formation and fly in various figures. I used to wonder if you could do that with men drilling."
It's now accepted practice that bands will make formations on a field - will enter in one manner and then break ranks and break ranks again and again. It all started with Emrick.
Still a source of pride
For many decades the Block P has enjoyed a prominent spot of the front of the AAMB uniforms. Every time a photo is taken, the Block P is there and remains a source of pride, as 2007 senior and tuba player Dan Montgomery testifies to.
When asked what made him the most proud as a band member, he replied it was wearing the P on his chest. " It symbolizes our history, our school, and how solid block formations can be powerful and a source of strength. I point to it whenever I'm on the jumbotron and I protect it at all costs, that's how much it means to me," Montgomery says.
Check out different Block P's from the past 100 years in our online photo album!
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