The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto Optimists: 1963
1963 was a big year for me because it was my rookie year. And it was a big year for the corps! The highlight of the winter was the small corps. This corps consisted of about 15 guys who performed a full music and drill show. The music was a mix of other corps music, some of our own music plus some new music we had planned on using. These guys performed at all of our shows when there was space for their drill. Click here for an article on and photos of the 1963 small corps.
Joe Gianna, with flags pointed at his belly, at the end of El Cid
In 1956 when Opti-corps started to compete the corps purchased a set of Gold drums to go with Opti-corps' Blue and Gold uniforms. These drums never really matched the green uniforms and, over the years, these drums were badly beaten - literally and figuratively. It must have been around May, before contest season began, that we got a new set of black and white drum. Finally, we had drums that looked good with our uniforms!
We'd only started learning our drill on Easter weekend (mid-April) so May 26th was a tad early for our first contest of the year. The show was the Preview of Champions in Jersey City and we were all jazzed. The night before the show we went to Garfield to watch a contest. We got to see Sac, Garfield, Cabs, Sky and a couple of others. What an amazing start to the trip! The next day we were standing on the line and I was very thankful that I was carrying a flag because my mouth was so dry that I could barely speak. Talk about anxiety!
Part of the way through the show we had a BIG shock. I can't remember exactly when it happened but I know that I heard the 2 minute warning much too soon. Perhaps we were playing "I Believe", our Colour Presentation, when the final gun went off. To be honest, it felt even earlier. After we finished our Colour Pres we still had to play "The Party's Over"! We got a penalty for being overtime. This was a rather rude way to discover that the stop watch that the corps had been using to time the show was not as reliable as we would have liked.
Our concert had been planned as "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "It Ain't Necessarily So". Unfortunately, these numbers made our show too long. "The Preview" was the only contest that year when we played those songs. I believe it was Karl Bossert's dad who saved the day by quickly arranging our new concert, "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Once it was arranged we only had about 2 weeks to learn it before our next contest in Welland, on June 22nd. Thankfully, we had it ready for the show. And this time we weren't overtime!
Photo of Optimists and Cavaliers on retreat together, Mundelein, Il, June 1963
Our next contests were VERY close together. On June 30 we had a contest in Mundelein, IL and the next day, on July 1, we were competing back in Canada, at Port Hope. Two contests in 2 days with about 2,000 kms of driving (and very little sleep)! OUCH! Of course, the Mundelein show was the highlight since this was the first time the corps had ever gone to the Midwest. I can't remember whether it was fact or fantasy but I have a vision of our Drum Major, Jim McKonkey, cracking a whip behind Joe, Jack and Jeff, the three guys playing the trio in "El Cid".
The crowd loved our show (we took top GE and the crowd was on their feet for the whole show) but we got clobbered in M&M. We discovered that the M&M rules were a bit different in Illinois. While we came in 5th, a big part of the difference was in our low M&M score. We did reasonably well in horns & drums (see the recap below). On retreat Cavaliers and Optimists marched out as one very big corps and the crowd ate it up! While disappointed at our placing we headed home determined to improve. Such a fantastic trip! If you have a few minutes, you can listen to a recording of Optimists in Mundelein. (Also referred to as the "The Boys in Green" or the "Blue & Gold" show. This is the only recording of Optimists' 1963 show that I've been able to find.)
After this show we had to rush back to Canada for a July 1st show in Port Hope. I can't remember why we were delayed but I know that we changed on the bus as it moved towards Port Hope. When we arrived we went straight from the bus to the starting line. Thankfully we arrived in time to compete — barely. AND we won the contest!
Photo of Optimists being inspected before starting their show (1963)
|Recap from the Mundelein, IL show, June 30, 1963|
|Norwood Park Imperials||17.2||22.6||25.6||7.24||72.64||3|
|Belleville Black Knights||14.8||22.4||25.5||7.68||70.38||6|
El Cid (Nationals prelims, Waterloo, September 7, 1963)
In 1963 St Joe's joined the ranks of the top US corps. They didn't go to either Nationals, however, at one show they came in less than 2 points behind Cavaliers, who won the VFW Nationals. And, during the course of the summer, they beat Garfield, Royal Airs and Kilties. With their rise came a friendly rivalry between us and them. During the summer of '63 they beat us in the states and we beat them in Canada.
Scores in the US were all over the place. I remember an August show in Syracuse which St Joe's won where we beat Garfield by over a point. The following weekend we competed against Garfield in Pittsburg. Even though our score improved by almost 6 points Garfield's increased by nearly 11 points! This time they beat us by over 4 points. I think that might have been the contest where we ran into traffic problems on our way to the show. Going through a tunnel, we opened the windows and made noises like a siren. As the bus exited the tunnel the cops were looking into the tunnel wondering what happened to the emergency vehicle.
We encountered some challenges during the summer but we continued to improve! September came and so did the Nationals where we scored 89.0, the highest score that Optimists ever got in a field show! Of course, with exaltation there is occasionally an accompanying disappointment. In this case, the disappointment was that Fleetwood, which was supposed to come to Canada and record the Nationals, never arrived! It would have been great to have a recording of that show!
After retreat we played for the crowd, then we proudly marched and played our way back to the school where we were changing. I suspect that the local residents weren't overly happy with the late night parade but we were ecstatic!! What a year for a rookie! (by Bob Carell)
By the way, no one has been able to find a recording of Del's 1963 show. If you happen to have one would you please contact the Del alumni or us. I know they'd consider it a treasure.
|Scores for Optimists and some of our competitors as the summer of 1963 progressed|
|Corps Name||Preview of
|De La Salle||78.22||79.95||81.10||86.00|
|St Joe's Batavia||78.51||80.90||81.35||79.30||84.15||didn't go|