SHAVERTOWN – Bobby Baird was 18 when he took the stage with the U.S. Navy Band's Sextet at President Harry S. Truman's Inaugural Ball in 1949, and it's an experience he recalls vividly.
I had played before hundreds of people before, Baird, 82, said Monday on the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
But for an 18-year-old kid to be playing before thousands of people, well, that was quite an experience.
Baird played at the ball and marched and played with the U.S. Navy Band as it paraded through Washington, D.C., on the way to the Capitol and Truman's swearing-in ceremony.
Baird said he was the youngest member of the U.S. Navy Band.
The whole thing was just amazing, he said.
Baird, who served in the Navy from 1948-52, said when he was deciding which branch of service to enter, he auditioned for the West Point Band and the U.S. Marine Corps Band. But the U.S. Navy Band was the one he wanted most.
Baird played in each one of the 48 continental states – and in Canada and Mexico.
I was just a kid, he said. I was in awe of everything.
At Truman's inauguration, Baird said, he remembers the president and Mrs. Truman entering the hall and dancing to the music of the Navy Band.
He said he played most of the solos.
Baird said the band has a reunion every two years, and he attended the event last year. After being the youngest member of the band in 1948, Baird said he was the second-oldest member at last year's event.
Baird is still playing his trumpet. The well-known area entertainer, best known for Bobby Baird and the Dixieland Band, is proud of his career, which spans 77 years.
He is filled with memories of Julius La Rosa, Arthur Fiedler, Harry Truman, Ed Sullivan, Esther Williams, Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and many other big entertainment figures of the past.
When the president is inaugurated, I think about playing at President Truman's ball, he said.
And I think about my dad, Bob Sr., who was a true patriot. He would be very proud.