The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto Optimists: 1968
1968 Colour Presentation
One of the trademarks that distinguish the truly successful Corps is their consistency in winning year after year. Whether it be Sac, Cavie's or Garfield all of them have had their rebuilding years or years where they might not have been as competitive as others. Such was the year 1968 for the Optimists. It was an odd year in that, not only did we have a major age-out component, but we also changed 90% of our music. Barry Bell took over from Truman Crawford and created all arrangements. Ron Kaiser no longer played in the line and became full time drum instructor. To add to the mix we also lost four french horn players. As a result, we switched to mellophones. Also, we added our unique, horizontally-mounted, double bass drums to the drum ensemble. Yes, it was a year of change and it was also a year of losing, a real first for the Corps.
The winter of 1967 and early '68 were at times discouraging because rehearsals were small. The problem was not poor attendance; instead, there was a lack of members. As Spring rolled around some old members returned from University and things began to take shape. The drumline was spectacular and would carry the whole corps forward for the rest of the year. By mid-June, at the Shrine Show (Listen to our performance at the Shrine Show), we were finally up to 30 horns; however, we were still much smaller than competition who were then fielding anywhere from 36 to 48 horns. Needless to say we were blown out at this show (and many others to follow). Thanks mainly to Barry Bell (horns), Ron Kaiser( drums) and Jack Roberts (drill instructor), we created a plan to improve, a plan which included many extra rehearsals. During the Summer months it was not unusual to rehearse as often as three or four times a week. Of course, we also had our weekend shows and the pre-show rehearsal time. Our scores slowly began to improve. This Corps was not nearly as talented as some with which I had marched but, when it came to sheer determination, there was none more motivated.
Toronto Optimists (1968)
As always the Optimists had a group of veterans who led the Corps by both their example and by their confidence. Drum Major Vern Johansson was the backbone as were old timers like Paul Thompson, the Roussel brothers and Wayne Dean. A host of last year's rookies also stepped up – guys like George Tamaki, Dwight Angus and others. It definitely was not always pretty but the drive was certainly there to win yet another championship.
The situation with our Canadian competition had also changed. In 1966 Cadets LaSalle had taken over as our main Canadian competition and in 1967 they were even stronger. This year LaSalle was down but Del was back with a vengance. In 1967 Del had enlisted Al Morrison, a former Optimist, as an instructor and, in 1968, they emergenced with a gang of ex-Optimsts taking the helm of that Corps – guys like Terry McKolskey on horns and Harry Clark on drums. Del beat us at our first encounter. And at our second. And third.... As the summer progressed both corps kept improving and the gap remained. On Aug 17 at the North American we were still over a point behind Del (Listen to us at the North American). Two weeks later, at the CNE, on the Monday before Nationals, we finally beat Del. And we did it by 2 points! That victory surprised a lot of people. For those of us in the Corps we had a feeling that it was inevitable. Difficult? Yes, but we had a good feeling about where we now were. We were small but very tight!
Optimists drum line (1968)
Nationals arrived and I still remember going to the starting line for the evening show. As we marched through a gamut of the Senior Corps getting ready to go on after the Juniors a large number of Ex Optimists, both Commanders and Ambassadors, were on hand to cheer us on. And on we went. It was a very inspired and emotional show and number 11 was in the bag! We all knew that this was not the best Corps that the Optimists had ever fielded. At the same time we were all very proud that the Optimists tradition lived on. Like the other great Corps of our era we found a way to be not only competitive but to find strength in our past and use it to win. Listen to our show at the 1968 Nationals.
A nice follow up to the year was our opportunity to perform the half time show at the Grey Cup in Toronto. I don't remember how we were able to hold together the complete field show into November with members aging out and returning to school but we did. Performing in front of some thirty to forty thousand fans plus National TV should have been a rather special treat but it seemed like nothing more than a dress rehearsal to me compared with Nationals. When one begins to reminisce about the good old days you kind of have to smile about a drum corps being field entertainment for the Grey Cup. I wonder what the Guess Who or April Wine were doing that day?. (memories from Brian Byrne)
Note: If anyone has a video recording of our 1968 Grey Cup performance, please contact us!
|Scores for Optimists and some of our competitors as the summer of 1968 progressed|
|De La Salle||77.133||77.450||77.550||80.060||78.300|
|St Joe's Batavia||75.100||85.800||81.980||6|
|Des Plaines Vanguard||82.530||4|