Audubon "Bon-Bons" All-Girl Drum and Bugle Corps
Represented by Carol Pennisi Terreri
The Audubon Drum and Bugle Corps is the best known and most successful all-female corps. Celebrating their 75th Anniversary, the group was founded by Joseph and Florence Bernert in 1938. “J.B.” as he known, was in charge of the Murray-Troutt post #262 color guard and was given the task of starting a drum and bugle corps. He and his wife, “Mrs. B” believed it should be an all-female group to provide an activity for girls. Murray-Troutt sponsored the group for decades.
The nickname “Bon-Bons” was adopted early on and helped establish their identity. Drum and bugle corps were dominated by all-male groups with very few co-ed groups, let alone the “radical” idea of an all-female corps. In their early years, the girls fought to be accepted as legitimate contenders against the boys. It was no help that the all-male judges perceived them less capable than their male competitors. The Bon-Bons will to excel is expressed in a song that was created by the girls while traveling on their bus. Part of the lyrics included:
We are the girls of Audubon
We go proudly marching on
Our name is famous, we’ll take our stand
As the best bugle corps in the land!
J.B. and Mrs. B. created an environment of nurturing and discipline. The girls were expected to act like proper young women at all times, had precise rehearsal and travel dress codes, and had intense uniform inspections prior to competing. While traveling the country for their competitions, determination and talent were continually stressed. J.B. was known for saying, “We’ll outwork them and out-think them and we’ll beat them.” The Bon-Bons soon achieved success and won their first major competition in 1956. They would continue to win numerous competitions against the all-male corps and paved the way for other all-female corps. They captured 10 all-girl national championships and have been named the “All Time Best All-Girl Corps” in the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
The Bon-Bons had their final season in 1978 and the name was retired. The Bon-Bons Alumni Chorus was formed in 1994 by J.B. and Mrs. B’s son Bill “Rip” Bernert. The Alumni Chorus carries on the memories and excellence of the Bon-Bons and continues to perform today.
* * * * * * *
Carol Pennisi Terreri joined the Bon-Bons in 1959 and learned to play the soprano bugle. In 1968, she became drum major of the corps, holding that position until she aged out at the end of the 1970 season. Carol holds the distinction of being the only member to march in three separate decades. She stayed with the corps until 1977 as a marching and color guard instructor. She has been co-director of the Bon-Bons Alumni Association with Bill Bernert since its inception in 1994 and has been director since Bill’s passing in 2012.
Carol remains an active drum and bugle corps member. She performed for 12 years as a drum major with the Archer Epler Musketeers and is in her 13th year with the Caballeros playing soprano bugle. But, Carol will always consider herself first and foremost a Bon-Bon. “I learned much more than how to march and play a bugle,” she said. “My experiences taught me to become a responsible person, a good citizen, and how to work with others to achieve goals. Any one of the more than 1,000 girls who passed through our ranks can tell you the same.”