The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto Optimists: 1967
Off the Line (1967)
Since 1967 was Canada's centennial year the Nationals were being held in Ottawa, our National Capital and the home of our main Canadian rival. Cadets LaSalle from Ottawa, a corps that had only come onto the scene in 1964, had beaten Optimists in the prelims to the 1966 Nationals. That was Optimists first loss to a Canadian corps since 1961 when Del came in first three times (at the CNE, at the prelims to the Nationals and at the Grape Festival). In 1967 LaSalle planned on bringing home the trophy from the Nationals. Not to be left behind, Del was also signaling a change. They had adopted Cadet style uniforms and were now starting to add former Optimists to their instruction staff. The competition in Canada was heating up.
Optimists' season got off to a rousing start with a win in Batavia over the Magnificent Yankees. Yes, we only won by a narrow margin; however, the show was in early June and this was our first win in New York State in a few years. We followed it up by a 3rd place finish at the Shriners, 5.4 points behind Boston Crusaders and only 1.8 behind Cavaliers (listen to us at the 1967 Shriners). Since the Shrine show used American Legion rules and had an international panel of judges our 1967 season seemed to be off to a promising start.
July 1st arrived and with it was the annual Port Hope competition. The results were a bit of a shock. The score sheet showed Optimists with 83.91, Cadets LaSalle at 82.31 and De La Salle "Oaklands" not far behind at 79.15 LaSalle's score had jumped from a 71.95 to 82.31 in just two weeks and Del's score had improved by 9 points in the same period! Yes, we had gained 4 points but the gap between us and LaSalle had shrunk from 8 points to 1.6 points. The competition in Canada promised to be more intense than it had been in a very long time! "Resting on our laurels" was not an option.
End of 1967 Colour Presentation
Our competition was changing. In 1965 we only had two contests in the US (one against St Joe's and one with Troopers and Garfield). In 1966, we had more contests but they were not against the top three corps. This year we went nose to nose with the best in the U.S. In fact, we competed against each of the top five American contenders at least three times. How did we compare? We're not sure because the scores depended on where we were. In the two contests in Canada we did quite well; however, things changed when we headed south. If you look at the chart below you'll see what I mean.
When Optimists began competing in the US we noticed that the scores we received south of the border were often lower than those that we received in Canada. Some variation in scores can be attributed to the effects of travel and to different rules in different jurisdictions; however, in an attempt to equalize the playing field, major competitions tended to use American Legion rules. Both of the major international contests in Canada (Shriners and North American) used Legion rules and both had an international panel of judges. Still, differences were often quite large. Consider the CYO Nationals in Boston and the North American in Toronto. At CYOs we went against the top two US corps, Boston Crusaders and Cavaliers. We received 74.8 while Boston got an 88.0 and Cavaliers scored 84.83. Four days later, in Toronto, Crusaders and Cavies scores had changed little (Boston won with 87.02 and Cavaliers had 85.3) while Optimists score increased by 8.2 points to 83.0! As corps members, we just wanted a valid comparison between ourselves and our competitors. We felt that was not happening and it was very frustrating. (hear us at the 1967 CYOs)
Life sometimes throws us a curve ball. The week of Nationals arrived and one of our soloists had to report for duty at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Suddenly we were without a key player.
|Scores for Optimists and some of our competitors as the summer of 1967 progressed|
|De La Salle||70.18||79.15||75.10||74.41||81.066|
|St Joe's Batavia||85.66||78.76||76.81||83.21||4|
|St Lucy's Cadets||79.48||81.76||80.05||5|
Toronto Optimists (Nationals, Ottawa, 1967)
The moment of truth arrived and we were in Ottawa for the Nationals. We knew we would have to work harder because we were in LaSalle's home town; however, we were feeling confident because, just a few days earlier, we had beaten LaSalle by almost 5 points. While we could have done better, we felt like we'd done a good show in the prelims. The judges begged to differ and gave first place to Cadets LaSalle (84.216 to our 83.783). While life is full of rude awakenings a few hours before finals was not a great time to experience one! The corps put together a plan. Of course, like all tourists our first priority was to ensure that we were photographed in front of the parliament buildings (I still haven't found a copy of that photo). We'd certainly allow some practice time; however, it was critical that we didn't burn ourselves our practicing. We wanted to be rested for the evening show. As last year's winner we could choose whether to go on before LaSalle, and have them compared to us, or perform after them. We decided to go on before them. With a plan in place, we headed off to have our photos taken (really!).
On retreat at Nationals with
a handwritten "10" on drum
Having won nine consecutive National Championships, many people wanted to see another corps win, so we were used to hearing some fans boo us. We were not, however, prepared for what happened that night. It was not just the partisan crowd but Les Diplomates who were booing. Dips had not been allowed to compete at Nationals because their paperwork had been sent in late. They had won in 1966 and planned on winning again in 1967. We seemed to be the recipients of their frustration and anger. The collective "boos" were so loud that we could not even hear our drum major's commands. C'est la vie! I think that the boos pushed us to try even harder.
A year's energy all comes down to this one show. We took a collective deep breath to try to focus ourselves (we were a bit over-hyped) and confirmed our resolve with a yell of "Take Ten" (In some memories it was "Let's Go". Hey, we're older and our memories differ! You can listen to the recording and decide for yourself.) What is clear that the rest of the world disappeared as we set our focus on the show. As LaSalle stood on the inspection line, watching us, we stepped off the line. During the opener we were more "enthusiastic" than we should have been; however, as we regained our focus and got further into the show the jeers changed to cheers. Other than that I really don't remember much of anything about that show. For me, that meant that we had moved and played as one. We finished our show and exited the field. While we didn't see their show we could hear that LaSalle performed to thunderous applause. There was nothing we could do but wait. (Listen to us at the 1967 Nationals)
Now it was time for Retreat. We had not done a perfect show so we were worried. I'm not sure that anyone outside the corps could truly understand the burden created by nine consecutive National titles. None of us wanted to be "the corps that lost". The scores were announced and, thankfully, we could celebrate. Someone used a magic marker to write a big "10" on the bass drum. Frans Rood's photo on the left shows that moment. (by Bob Carell)
For further information you can view an Acrobat File of Vern Johansson's Drum Corps News article on the 1967 Shriners' International or view an Acrobat File showing reports from the Ottawa newspapers on the 1967 nationals.