By John Kelso
Austin American-Statesman
Sept. 10, 1983

I’m jealous.

When I was in high school up in New Hampshire, our school band took a couple of trips. One year, we went to Canada. On a bus, mind you. Have you ever ridden 500 miles round trip on a bus with 50 or 80 high school brats singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for 10 hours straight?

You get the picture. It wasn’t a luxury outing.

But I’m jealous, and it’s because the Westlake High School band is going to China in June if the money can be raised. The band is the only American high school band ever invited to play in China. The trip will cost about $230,000,, estimated Gerald Babbitt, the band director. Unfortunately, you can’t get to Canton by Trailways.

This isn’t a schlock jaunt. But what else would you expect for a band in a swank place like West Lake Hills? A friend of mine says the people in West Lake Hills have so much money that when he goes into the Tom Thumb out there, he sees guys wearing yachting shirts with the names of the boats stitched on them. When I go to the Skaggs on Manchaca, I see guys with the names on their shirts, too. Names like Texaco. And Bill.

What I’m telling you is that this is going to be one heck of a deal. And if you’re in third grade, and you know that one day you’ll be going to Westlake High, you better learn to play drums or something, Jack, because there’s no telling where the band may be headed in the future.

How do you raise money for something like this? There are several ways. The band had a food booth at Aquafest. The kids earn money by helping do inventory at various stores. There’s a rent-a-kid program. The band members go out and mow lawns or whatever needs doing. Some businesses have donated money.

But the most West Lake Hills-sian proposal when it comes to making money for the trip is something that is being looked into by Westlake Band Parents, Inc. At a meeting Tuesday, somebody brought up the idea of buying a fancy car of some sort and selling raffle tickets at $100 a pop. John Balli, the club president, says he has appointed a committee to check out the feasibility of such a raffle, and that if the club has one, the car won’t necessarily be something as classy as a Mercedes, and that the raffle tickets might cost $50-$100.

If find this an excellent idea for West Lake Hills. I don’t think it would work in my neighborhood, though. If some Crockett High kids came by and asked if I wanted to buy a $5 ticket on a ’65 Chevy with a set of jumper cables thrown in, I’d go for it. If they said something about $100 for a ticket on a Caddy, I’d laugh a lot. My old VW needs an oil change, but I have to wait till payday to get it done unless I got to the credit union.

But in West Lake Hills, a $100-a-ticket raffle might fly. What’s a hundred bucks in West Lake Hills except pocket change? I walked through the Westlake High gym Friday afternoon, and this is the first high school I’ve ever been in that has Abercrombie & Fitch basketball nets. I’m just kidding about that, but I really did see one young lady carrying a poodle in her arms, and a preppy lass with a button on her purse that said, “Are we having fun yet?”

George Phenix, “publisher and janitor” of the Westlake Picayune, says he thinks such a raffle would be a hit in West Lake Hills. “I’ll bet it will work,” he said. “I was driving up from the Lost Creek swimming pool, and from the pool to Loop 360 I was met by five BMWs. In fact, we need a truck for the Picayune. And I think I’m going to have to buy a Mercedes truck, just to keep up with the neighborhood.”

Anyway, whether the raffle is held or not, this is a wonderful cause. And if you call the school, I’ll bet somebody there would be glad to tell you how to chip in.