George Hayek, Sixty-Eight Years and Counting

Many of us have heard the commercial on the television or radio regarding the most interesting man in the world. The drum corps community has one such man and he is George Hayek from the Hawthorne Caballeros. 2014 marks sixty-eight CONSECUTIVE years of marching for him with no plans on retiring just yet.
George was born on October 1, 1926 in Paterson, N.J. and started his drum corps career at age 10 as a drummer with the Sacred Heart Crusaders. From 1938 until 1941 he was recruited to march with the Saint George Cadets by Jim Costello before the corps disbanded in 1943. As a member of the Army in World War II, George was stationed in the Phillipines before finishing in Japan in 1945 and 1946.
Just after the end of World War II, several former members of the St. George Cadets got together to formulate plans for a new senior drum corps. Jim Costello Jr., his brother Bob, Joe Scarber, John McAuliffe, and George Hayek were the founding members as the Hawthorne Caballeros were officially organized on March 20, 1946. Their main competition in their early years were The New York Skyliners, Reilly Raiders, Archer-Epler Musketeers, Yankee Rebels, Lt. Norman Princemen, and the Jersey Joes.
In 1951, in Miami Beach, Florida, George competed in his first National Championship as a snare drummer. On the way back from Nationals in Florida, the equipment truck caught fire and destroyed mostly all of the uniforms and percussion equipment. Many of the corps in the area came to their aid and put on a benefit fundraiser to get the Caballeros back on track. In the 16 American Legion National Championships that George competed in with the Caballeros, the corps won all 16!  I asked George what his most memorable moment was after all these decades of marching was and was very surprised by his answer. In 1958 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., the Caballeros won the National Championship. Drum Major Ralph Silverbrand threw his sombrero into the stands to the delight of the fans and that moment was the best for George Hayek.
1971 was the last year that he marched as a member of the competing corps playing snare and tenor drums. He then continued to march holes and spots with the honor guard until 1994 when he joined the Alumni Corps as a member of the Honor Guard. Being a part of the Alumni Corps, gives him the energy to still be on the field marching and to keep the memories of drum corps days gone by still alive. Their color presentation of ” Flamenca Cha Cha ” still brings the fans to their feet at every show as they insist on keeping this tradition alive.
Other involvements in drum corps include teaching marching for several small corps in his early years as well as drill writing. He has also served as a marching judge during his career. George was very much a part along with former DCA President Michael Petrone in starting the famed Dream Contest held in Jersey City each year. After the passing of Cabs Business Manager, Bob Murray, George stepped in and kept the Grand Prix running and securing the stadium facility. George is also somewhat of a hero as on the way to a show in Lynn, Massachusetts last July the bus he was riding in blew a tire. The bus veered out of control and along with corps director, Paul Bongovi, they held the bus driver down to keep control of the bus so it would not flip over. This may have had a tragic ending if it were not for Paul and George.
In 1994, George was elected to the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame and in 2002 was voted into the New Jersey Drum Corps Hall of Fame. George gives much thanks to DCA announcer Fran Haring who always gives him the recognition he has earned at the shows that Fran is involved in. For all you football fans. If you think that Tim Tebow invented his famous pose, you are wrong. George says it was Caballero Drum Major Ralph Silverbrand who actually started it back in the 1950’s.
In January of 2013, George lost his lovely wife Lorraine after sixty years of marriage. They had three sons with none of them being involved in the drum corps activity. To this day George still works at his Mid East Market store that his father started in 1929 and is run by his two surviving sons. His parents were from Lebanon and besides English George speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish. His hobbies include teaching seventh and eighth grade basketball to the youth in Clifton, N.J. and keeping score and running the time clock at their games. He is also a member of the Paterson Old Time Sports Club and Clifton Optimists Club.
First year Caballero Alumni Corps Director Paul Bogovi refers to George as his new ” go to guy ” when he needs things done. George has a saying that goes ” if you want to stay young, don’t hang around old people”. The key to George Hayek’s success is easy. He never smoked, rarely consumes alcohol, and is in great health. He loves the activity, the fans who cheer his corps on, and the longtime friends he has made along the way is why he keeps on going. His goal is make it to age 90 on the field and then that is it. Well, maybe. I found George Hayek to be an extremely energetic individual with a drum corps memory that is outstanding to say the least. His love of the activity and the Hawthorne Caballero organization is what keeps him going. He may not always do drum corps, but when he does it is for SIXTY-EIGHT CONSECUTIVE years!!
Thanks to the Hawthorne Caballero Alumni Corps and its director Paul Bongovi for their input into portions of this article and their great hospitality.
Bill Flaker