78 Years of Excellence
The Hawthorne Caballeros have an incredibly rich history, spanning almost a full century and filled with both triumphs and hard times like many organizations in the drum corps and marching arts activity.
As incredible as the story of the Caballeros might be, however, it is not so much the story of a drum and bugle corps as it is the story of one man: James J. Costello, Jr., and his half century dedication to a single purpose.
Meet Caballeros Founder, James J. Costello, Jr.
Born in Paterson, NJ on February 20th, 1921, Jim grew up in a drum corps family. His father, James Sr., was a member of the Pellington Post corps and the East Orange Post before joining the St. George Cadets in Paterson. At the age of eleven, Jim Jr. Joined the St. George Cadets as a drummer, and continued to play with that corps until entering the Navy in 1942. Serving as a fire control-man, Jim learned the electrical trade, the skill that would be his livelihood once back in civilian life.
The Second World War ended in August 1945, and Jim, along with nearly twelve million other servicemen, returned home to take up life where they had left off; to start a career, to get married, to buy a house, and to raise a family. The idea of forming a senior drum & bugle corps, for most, was well down on the list of priorities, but there were those who remembered the fun, thrills, and camaraderie of being in a drum corps, and it was still very much in their blood.
On March 20th, 1946, the Caballeros were officially organized by a small group of recent veterans, former members of the St. George Cadets, including Jim Costello, his brother Bob, John McAuliffe (later to become Jim Costello’s brother-in-law), Joe Scarber, and George Hayek. A few short weeks later, the corps made its first appearance.
History of the Traditional Caballeros Uniform
A primary goal of the newly formed corps was to be different from all the others. The concept of Latin, or Spanish style uniform was agreed upon and the corps appeared for the first time in the now familiar Caballero uniform competing in their first field competition in Trenton, New Jersey on July 20th, 1947.
Jim Costello’s father, the late James Sr. was largely responsible for the design. He had seen a small corps in San Raphael, California with a similar uniform and thought it might work well for the Caballeros back home in New Jersey. Obviously it did.
From the beginning, the one facet that “sold” the Caballeros show and brought it all together more than any other single visual feature was the classic uniform. Described more as a costume than a uniform, it was comprised of a black sombrero, a white satin shirt with bright red satin sash, and black bell bottoms with large red pleats.
While the competing corps has moved away from wearing this classic look during their competitive performances, we honor this uniform by wearing it during special occasions, like parades and during the occasional full retreat. Additionally, our alumni corps wears the traditional uniform proudly during their performances.
A Brief Timeline of the Hawthorne Caballeros
March 20th, 1946The Caballeros were officially organized by a small group of recent veterans, former members of the St. George Cadets, including Jim Costello, his brother Bob, John McAuliffe (later to become Jim Costello's brother-in-law), Joe Scarber, and George Hayek. A few short weeks later, the corps made its first appearance.
July 20th, 1947The corps appeared for the first time in the now familiar Caballero uniform competing in their first field competition in Trenton, New Jersey.
August 1947The Caballeros attended their first National American Legion Championship contest at Randall's Island Stadium in New York City, and placed eighth.
1948-1949The corps attended the Nationals in Miami, finishing fifth; but a year later, they were disqualified because they had not finished in the top ten at the 1949 Nationals in Philadelphia. A month later, however, after regrouping and putting in some extra practice sessions, the Caballeros won their first Legion State Championship at Wildwood, New Jersey over the Jersey Joes of Riverside, the 1948 National Champions.
1951After being unable to attend the Legion Championship in 1950 the Caballeros went on to win their first Legion National Championship. Not only did they win their first Legion National Championship, but while in Miami, were offered a trip to Havana by the State Department. Unfortunately, because of prior commitment, that invitation had to be declined.
1953, 1954, 1958-1964After that first win in 1951, the corps went on to capture the championship again in '53 and '54; and then amazingly from 1958 through 1964 - seven years in a row!
1958After the 1958 Nationals, the corps was again invited to tour Havana, and this time they accepted.
1959The Hawthorne Muchachos, the Caballeros' famous junior corps, was formed by the renowned Caballero drum major, Ralph Silverbrand.
1965Drum Corps Associates (DCA) is formed, a sanctioning body founded by drum corps people to be focused on, and devoted exclusively to, senior drum & bugle corps competition
1970The Caballeros win their first DCA championship
1980The final American Legion Championship was held in Boston in 1980, and quite appropriately, was won by the Caballeros.
July 1976The Hawthorne Caballeros plays for the Queen of England when she visits the U.S for our Bicentennial.
1982Something new in ’82- Women are allowed into the drum corps for the first time, joining the color guard. It is said by many that if not for this decision the corps would not be fielding today.
1989During DCA's twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, fans voted the Caballeros their all-time favorite drum & bugle corps.
1994The Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps fields for the very first time and is still performing today. Visit their website to learn more.
2015For the first time ever the Caballeros shed the satin shirts and kick pleats compete in a new black white and red uniform for their 70th anniversary year.
2021The Caballeros celebrate their 75th year and win their 10th DCA championship with an undefeated season.