Drum Corps International
Canadian tidbits

Canadian tidbits

by Drum Corps International

The following is a collection of tidbits on Canadian corps that has been collecting in the Fanfare vault. Jud Spena contributed the following about a drum corps practice that, sadly, isn't utilized much anymore. A few months back I read the Fanfare column titled, "A Trip Down Memory Interstate," contributed by Jeffery Mason. Being an upstate New York native from Watkins Glen, it did indeed bring back a lot of memories. He mentioned staying with the Squires for a weekend in 1973. I have some very clear and fond memories of that and wanted to write about it. This was a unique time. Watkins Glen is a very small town in a rural area and it was always big news when our annual field competition, Echoes in the Valley, was held. Usually, we had the local corps from Corning, Elmira, Geneva, etc. in the show. But on occasion, corps would be invited from out of the area. Two times we had corps from Canada attend, the Guelph Opti-Knights and the Seneca Princemen. Both times, instead of sleeping on gym floors, the corps member stayed at our houses. Usually you were paired with your counterpart. A snare drummer would stay with a snare drummer, a contra with a contra and so on. Our show was always held on a Sunday afternoon and the corps from Canada would arrive on Saturday. On those weekends, we didn't have a Saturday contest, hard as it may seem to believe, so the evening was free for social activities. The Glen is a tourist town, so there was always plenty to do, such as boat rides, swimming and hikes through the state park gorge. Some of the families held parties and we would have scores of kids devouring tons of soft drinks, popcorn and chips and generally having a great time laughing at each other's pronunciation of our common language. It was a riot and a great way to get to know people. Now, as I said, this was big news around Watkins Glen and the local paper would do a full- page photo spread of the visit. What made it so funny was that they would get four or five kids in uniform and pose pictures at various places around town. You would see a picture of kids at a local snack bar having a burger, fries and Coke in full uniform. My favorite was the one where three members—again in full uniform, with baritone bugle, rifle and shako plumes—were casually lounging on the trail in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. Later in the season, our guests would return the favor when we visited them in Ontario. The families were more than friendly and hospitable. They put out huge picnic lunches and generally went out of their way to make us comfortable. Another funny twist was that the kids from the Princemen lived in suburban Toronto. They were basically city kids. Now as I said, Watkins Glen is a small town and they were amazed when we ran into kids we knew when we were showing them around town. When one of the families drove their guests home on a dirt road (they lived on a dairy farm), the Canadian kids were concerned that they were going to run into Indians. During our 1973 visit to Scarborough, in the Toronto area, the Princemen hosted the Squires and General Butler Vagabonds. Interestingly for me, at the 2004 DCI World Championships in Denver, I ended up sitting next to the guys from the Vagabonds who stayed at the same house. That contest was held the same night as the second DCI World Championship in Whitewater, Wis. These "home and home" exchange visits were fairly common. I know some of the kids and families remained in contact with each other for years after. To many this will sound like ancient history. I hope it sheds just a little light on drum corps' days gone by. Tom Hodges marched Royal Crusaders in 1969-1973, De La Salle Oaklands in 1974 and Etobicoke-Oakland Crusaders 1975-1980. It was the 1976 U.S. Open night show in Marion, Ohio. The Oakland-Crusaders were so fired up for this show. After all, it was the United States' Bicentennial year and this Canadian corps was well positioned to take its shot at being the first non-American corps to win this competition. Before the show, the buses rocked side-to-side with everyone chanting "EAGLE ... EAGLE ,.. EAGLE" in reference to the likeness of the U.S. Open trophy. The corps was ready for this one. The crowd was in a frenzy after watching Phantom Regiment perform a near flawless show as the Crusaders prepared to enter the field of competition. Phantom Regiment had a super clean horn line and marching program. The Crusaders had arguably the best drum line and the general effect captions covered. At the end of the first push of "Swan Lake," (our opener), the crowd was on its feet. The members took off further from there. It was our drum major, Joel Allyne, that could masterfully tie the crowd into our show. Our concert was "Malaga," a great Spanish number. As evidenced by this picture below of Joel, (from a 1974 photo of DeLaSalle before the corps turned to blue uniforms), he got into the show and usually took his hat off. In preparation to start our concert number that night, Joel made his move by taking his hat off and placing it on the wings of the trophy as if to say, "You'll be ours soon." That number and our show finished with more excitement than any other of the season.
We ended up not winning the show, losing to Phantom by .9 points. I can remember the musical analysis score dropping by 1.1 points. Back in 1975, Joel had already demonstrated his leadership skills for a few years. Many of us in the Crusaders had gotten a little smitten with some girls from the General Butler Vagabonds. We were staying in a Holiday Inn not too far away from the Vagabonds. Curfew was 10 p.m. or something too early for those not wanting to go to bed. Joel was aware of the situation. We called a cab about 8:30 and departed down the road to visit our summer friends. We were having a good time. The problem is when having a good time, time seems to roll on very quickly. Needless to say, it was about 11:10 when we thought we were sunk. There is no way we could get back through the halls of the hotel when returning. Joel was with us though. He went in to see the corps director and gave him the "all is quiet down this hall" story, then took him away to the lobby. This allowed the remaining curfew busters to sneak back to their rooms and go undetected. Joel, thanks for many years of superior leadership and providing positive influence to the many that knew (and still know) you. Here's a really interesting historical photograph, courtesy of Brian Hogan, an alum of the Toronto Optimists.
This photo was taken at a show in Mundelein, Ill. in 1963. Both the Cavaliers and Toronto Optimists had very similar green uniforms and drums. Each was known in their respective countries as "The Green Machine" and each had won several national titles. At the retreat in Mundelein, the corps went on to the field together. Thanks, Brian. That certainly is a fascinating photo!


Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.

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