The  Optimists  Alumni  Drum  &  Bugle  Corps

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

. . . March On!

The Strange Case of the City of Toronto Flag

Submitted by: Phil Hennings & Glenn Copp

Here’s a delightful tale from the corps’ early days back in 1958. This is an eye witness account by Phil Hennings who was right in the thick of the action.

Recently, Glenn Copp went looking for the flag and learned a lot of background information. After Phil's article you find some additional information which Glenn discovered in his search for the flag.

If you have an anecdote about the corps that you’d like to see here, please write it up and send it along (including photos, if possible).

Presentation of the City of Toronto flag at City Hall, 1958

In the Fall of 1958, after winning the Canadian National Championships, we were invited to march up Bay Street to the Old City Hall. There we met the Mayor of Toronto – Nathan Phillips, for whom the new City Hall square is named.

Marching up Bay Street in a parade is an honour that was usually limited to Stanley Cup Hockey Team winners and Football Champions. As a result, it was a real privilege to be honoured in this way.

The Toronto Optimists Executive and the Mayor gave a congratulatory speech and the mayor presented the corps with The Toronto Flag.

As far as I know this flag was never given to any other corps.

The photo on the right shows Phil Hennings, Optimists Drum Major, with Nathan Phillips, the Mayor of Toronto. The corps can be seen in the background.

1958 presentation of the Toronto City Hall flag

This flag was carried by the colour guard to represent Toronto. It was black with a gold fringe and in the centre was the City’s Coat of Arms.

As Drum Major, I greeted the Mayor and he presented the Toronto flag to me in a canvas bag. Reporters were asking the Mayor and myself to show them the flag but (very quietly) Mayor Phillips leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Don’t open the bag, son.”

Of course, I asked, “Why?”

And the mayor said, “There is no flag in the bag! It’s still being made!!”

The reporters were very puzzled because all of them wanted to take pictures of the presentation of the flag. I wonder whether they ever learned the reason.

Even though we paraded up Bay Street many times after that 1958 appearance, this is one of my proud moments with the Corps,. (A little bit of history from a long time corps member.)

Presentation of the City of Toronto flag at City Hall, 1958

Another photo of the presentation. Phil Hennings is DM, then Mr Baggs, Barry Bell, ? and Mayor Phillips

Does Anyone Know Where This Flag Is Today?

Sorry about the quality. This is a small piece of the original
which shows the colour guard with all flags waving in the breeze.
Click on the image to see the original photo.

MORE ON THE HISTORY OF THE CORP'S CITY OF TORONTO FLAG, SEPTEMBER 1959
(by Glenn Copp, added May 4, 2007)

Toronto's pre-amalgamation Coat of Arms

Toronto's old Coat of Arms
that was embroidered on the flag
(from City of Toronto Archives)

We have been looking at the possibilities of replacing or reproducing some of the Corp's original flags. While doing this we came to meet and speak with Mr Ken Spink of what used to be Dominion Regalia. They manufactured most of the original flags.

He told us that the idea of the Corp's being presented with and carrying this flag was entirely the product of Al Baggs, our founding director's rather fertile mind. It seems that when Baggs first approached the Mayor and the City, although agreeable, the City had a problem. The City did not have an official flag. And so, Mr. Baggs, the City and Dominion undertook the task of designing the first and original flag.

When the Corps and Phil Hennings attended the official presentation, Phil was told by the Mayor not to open the canvas sleeve because the flag had not even yet been made. In fact, the flag had probably not even been designed at that time. The Press were disappointed because they had brought their photographers. And so, our Mr Baggs had been instrumental in the creation of the official flag for the City.

Only three such flags were originally made: one for us, one for the City and one which was retained by Dominion. When the City moved into the new City Hall, the City's one and only flag disappeared. Dominion then made a fourth. This was the last to be made. The one that Dominion had has also disappeared in the intervening 48 years. The City presumably still has theirs. So who's got our's?