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Putting the band back together
Members of Darlings championship band at MHS will gather Friday for reunion
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Championship Manteca High School band director Leroy Darling stands near the side of his 100-strong marching band student musicians with his daughter Suzy and other majorettes gathered in front of him in the MHS quad. - photo by Photo Contributed

There’s a big band party set for Friday evening, bringing together musicians from the late Leroy Darling’s championship Manteca High School bands from 1958 until 1966 at Chez Shari.

Some 70 former band members have already made their reservations and there is still room for a few more that will be allowed to pay at the door. The cost for the event is $50 with most of the “students” now in their late 60s or early 70s. They are flying in from Missouri, New Jersey, Colorado and Texas to revisit old times and rekindle old friendships in the band that was a weekly attraction for its halftime events at Manteca High football games.

Two of the marching band’s majorettes, Addie and Teddie Darling, went on to become Golden Girls at Purdue University in succession. Addie passed away at an early age in 1961 and a new building at MHS was named in her honor that is located on the northern edge of the quad – “Addie Hall.”

The reunion is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. and will honor Mrs. Frances Darling who stood at her husband’s side during his teaching career, raising their five children at the family home at the corner of Center Street and Lincoln Avenue, now the site of the Manteca District Ambulance.

Ken Schlein, drum major for the band from 1959 until 1962, will serve as master of ceremonies Friday evening, helping to refresh memories that not every marching band can relish. Schlein began leading the 100-strong band in his sophomore year.

Of the Darling children, Brenda and Suzy live in Texas, Leroy Jr. lives in Utah, and Teddy lives in the Manteca area. There are many grandchildren living in those communities.

A family friend, Sharon Mendes, commented: “The Darlings were important to so many kids in Manteca during the 50s and the 60s and many of them will be together again on Friday.”

A native of South Dakota and the son of a Methodist minister, Darling passed away at 74 at his home from the effects of a long illness. Before coming to Manteca in 1953 he taught in Fairfield, Wash.; Irrigon, Ore.; and Sunnyside, Wash. He was the creative band director at MHS for 23 years and helped organize the California Band Directors’ Association and served as its first chairman.

For more information or to make a reservation contact Sharon Mendes at 209.401.1065 or email her at