San Francisco had one. Victoria had one. Why couldn't Seattle have one, too? In 1951, twenty-five Chinese American girls from Garfield High School organized a social club and called themselves the Chi-ettes. The purpose of the club was discussed at their first meeting: What could this group do for the community? Some of the girls had seen or heard of the San Francisco and Victoria Chinese Girls Drill Teams and asked, "Why can't we represent our community through a drill team?"
They turned to Ruby Chow, a well-known Chinese American leader with formidable fundraising skills. She was the logical person to ask for help in establishing this drill team. Ruby had also thought of a Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team and asked Ted Yerabek, a member of Seattle's reknowned Police Drill Team, to teach police drills to the girls. The Chong Wa Benevolent Association, lead organization of the Chinese community, thought if Ruby wanted it, she should be in charge of it. Girls outside the Chi-ettes were recruited, and the rest is history. Fifty unbroken years later, the drill team and Aunty Ruby are still going strong.
The first ten years were the establishment years:
In short order, Aunty Ruby secured Chong Wa to sponsorship for the team. Through husband Ping's Cantonese opera connections, she had beautifully sequined, red satin uniforms designed and made in Hong Kong. Seattle was wowed by the team during their first parades in the summer of 1952. Long and loud applause, cheers and whistles greeted the girls at every parade. The drill team began its large collection of trophiesoften winning the grand prize at consecutive parades.
- Establishment of the girls as a team
- Establishment of the corps of team volunteers
- Establishment of traditionstoilet duty, red lipstick and no boyfriends hanging around
Off stage, this group of teenage girls was typical. Some of them were studios, some athletic, some shy, some outgoing and some naughty. Drill team girls have gone on to become elected officials, respected professionals and national beauty queens. Then there was the girl who threw her used drill shoes at Aunty Ruby and quit in a huff the first year. And the girl who quietly stepped over Aunty Ruby's sleeping body to sneak out on a date during an out-of-town trip. And the girl who knew all the steps and out-danced the Portland kid who challenged her.
Memorable highlights of the first ten years: establishment of the team itself; national reocgnition through the "You Asked For It" television show, a feature spread in Life Magazine during the 1955-56 season; summer out-of-town trips with no air conditioning, and the pride of performing well at parades. The first ten years truly began something wonderful.