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Does anyone remember the Kay- and Cillo-ettes?

July 27, 2011 - LLee Janssen
I recently was surprised to find an old photo online of myself and a childhood friend dressed in our uniforms as Kay-ettes, one of two baton-twirling groups conducted by Kay Cillo from a studio downtown on Government Place, behind where the Bullfrog stands now and across from the police parking lot behind City Hall.

The Kay-ettes were the younger of her baton-twirling students, who then progressed into the Cillo-ettes. Both groups spent the spring practicing in Brandon Park in preparation for as many parades as we could possibly march in during the summers and into fall, right on up to the Mummers Parade, then held on dark and spooky October nights.

Summer meant rented school buses that we yearned to board en route to another small town full of people lining the streets, the beat of the drummers in a high school band to set the rhythm (Kay's eternal hope that we would be behind a band), the tapping of the wanderlust encrusted in my soul.

The highlight each year was a weekend trip to Niagara Falls for the Maid of the Mist Parade, along with a healthy dose of sight-seeing and an amusement park with perhaps the best Fun House on the planet.

It gave us a goal worth pursuing through weekly lessons all winter.

Only once during winter did we march in a parade. It was Gov. Milton Shapp in 1971. The parade was brutally cold, yet we persevered. A few girls ended up with frostbite. An early lesson in politics? Perhaps, but great pride in overcoming something difficult, something I wanted to do.

I also wanted to march in a parade in Philadelphia. My parents considered it too dangerous, and that was the only time I stayed home.

Life was simple back then. I loved being part of a group and the adventure of being allowed to travel a bit, even if it was to mostly remote small communities. It set the stage for years of travel as an adult, wanting to get to every place across the nation. As of this writing, I've been to all 48 continental states and have my eyes set on numbers 49 and 50, and my sons have far outdistanced me.

Kay, if you see this, let me say "Thank you!" for opening my eyes to a world of possibility.

And Cheryl, thank you, too, for posting the photo ... I had a hard time believing, at least for a moment, that I was ever that young!


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That's me on the left with my best friend from childhood, Cheryl Costley.