The  Optimists  Alumni  Drum  &  Bugle  Corps

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

. . . March On!

The Beginnings

On a brisk September afternoon in a small town 60 miles west of Toronto, a group of very determined young men stepped off the line into history.

Toronto Optimists, parade, 1958

Parade in Toronto (1958)

The year was 1958 and the Canadian drum corps scene consisted of three words: Preston Scout House. They were completely immovable, the reigning national champions and so famous, even America knew of them. The idea of anyone threatening their majesty was completely laughable.

Even the newly formed Toronto Optimists were non too optimistic about their chances. Yes, they had been closing the gap all year, but still...

The Optimists consisted of a hardscrabble bunch of kids, most of whom hailed from the “wrong side of the tracks.” They lacked musical talent and knowledge. They’d never done a marching and maneuvering show before. They had never held their hand this close to the flame of high-powered competition.

The one thing they had in abundance was desire - an inherent ability to fight for every inch of ground, to work long after others would rest and determination to never make the same mistake twice.

Drum corps fans didn’t quite know what to make of this shiny new corps. They didn’t adhere to the standard practice of playing martial-type music. They seemed more suited to the Broadway stage, with big, brassy, happy tunes like When You’re Smiling, Song of the Vagabonds, The Hello Song, Hail to Optimism, Big Wide Wonderful World, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, Hello Young Lovers, In The Mood, The World is Waiting for the Sunrise, Columbia, Gem of the Ocean, Oh Canada and “Til We Meet Again.

Some fans were skeptical. The Optimists seemed to be bending drum corps traditions to the breaking point. Others found them to be a breath of fresh air. They were perhaps seen to be a novelty and when the time came, mighty Scout House would quell the upstart.

The time came on September 13. The Canadian Championships were right next door to Preston, in Galt, Ontario. The upstart Optimists corps, under Drum Major Phil Hennings, was actually making a strong run for the roses.

In a previous meeting with Scout House, the Optimists were within tenths. They seemed to be an unstoppable force and they were doing it by scoring higher in all execution captions - bugling, drumming and marching.

The unstoppable force went on first, followed immediately by the immovable object and, when the dust had settled, Bob Mannhardt of Drum Corps World had this to say: “Sept. 13, Galt, Ontario. - Today the Canadian drum corps world was stood on its ear and shaken to its foundations when the previously invincible Preston Scout House was defeated on their home field by the fabulous Toronto Optimists in the annual battle for the Canadian Junior National Championship. (Acrobat article from newspapers)

In accomplishing what had become to be thought of as an impossible feat, the Optimists firmly established themselves as the ‘miracle corps’ of the year, because just one year ago, this corps was a class B standstill unit. They have reached the pinnacle of success, achieving in their freshman year of marching and maneuvering a victory that is nothing short of fantastic.

“I venture to say that no corps in Canada looks forward to the coming year with greater eagerness or enthusiasm than the Optimists, but whatever glories are to be theirs in the future, none will ever eclipse or outshine that thundering moment when the P.A. system announced, “...in second place, Preston...”

Toronto Optimists . . . 81.61
Preston Scout House . . . 80.11
De La Salle Oaklands . . . 77.09
Grantham Boys . . . 75.42
Skyraiders . . . 73.33
Royal Knights . . . 66.97