As I was interviewing all of my informants for the collection, I remembered that there were all kinds of traditions that I learned during my time in the high school marching band, and I wanted to add at least one of my own. So I decided to include the card game, Kemps.

Kemps is a game that I learned about in band from the upperclassmen and later I learned that it’s a game that the upperclassmen in band generally teach to the younger grades so that one the way to football games and such we could all be entertained.

The Rules of Kemps

  1. Maximum of Four (4) Teams
  2. Two players per team
  3. Each teams will have a specific signal between the players
  4. Objective of the game: Collect all four of the same card and only have those four cards in your hand. After this, you signal your partner and your partner will say “Kemps”. Your teams will have won the turn after this.
  5. If another team sees your signal, they can call out Anti-Kemps and win the turn instead.

After the upperclassmen teach the underclassmen the rules, it’s basically a trial by fire, wherein the “newbies” try to apply the rules as best as they can as they attempt to will the game.


One of my fondest memories of band is teaching the lower grades how to play this game and seeing their frustration in trying to learn it. It’s a tradition that I know for sure is still carried out, and one that I look forward playing every time I return home for a visit.