The  Optimists  Alumni  Drum  &  Bugle  Corps

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

. . . March On!

Jolly Jesters & Jesters

Former Members of the Jolly Jesters and the Jesters

Alumni Corps members Gerrie Leebody and Tom Mellors marched with the Jolly Jesters. Barry Bell, Lorne Ferrazzutti, Mel Dey, Warren Berger and others all marched with the Jesters.

Jolly Jesters (1957)

Jolly Jesters at Roosevelt Stadium, NJ (1957)

The Jolly Jesters

This corps was organized by a group of men in the Militia and was a trumpet and marching unit for 5 Column, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. The uniform at the time was the army dress blues with white pith helmet. Because of active duty during the war years, the corps was disbanded but reformed in 1947-48 and continued to be a parade corps until entering and winning the Canadian Drum Corps Championships (Senior Novice Class) in 1952.

After attending a contest in Batavia NY in 1954 and realizing just what could be done with a drum corps, the director at that time, Ted Reilly, put his full effort into creating a show and in 1955 this corps performed the first full Canadian M&M show.

A slight alteration to the uniform was made in 1956 – the blue jacket being replaced by a sky blue and royal blue satin blouse. It was also this year that the corps received its first invitation to a major American contest – appearing in Albany NY and drawing tremendous applause from the audience.

Shortly after this, an invitation to participate in a four week competition sponsored by the Toronto Argonaut Football Club was accepted. Four corps took part in this competition, each one appearing during half time ceremonies at a home football game. The Jesters came out on top of this contest. In order to avoid conflict with union and army regulations, the corps rented clown costumes for this appearance and adopted the name "The Jolly Jesters". The name and the show caught on so quickly that it was unanimously decided that the corps would appear the following year in the clown uniforms and carry on as the "Jolly Jesters".

Jolly Jesters (1958)

Jolly Jesters on Queen St in Toronto (1958)

In 1957 the corps appeared in red and white satin clown costumes, with the drum major varying his costume from that of a court jester to that of a comical tramp. During this year the corps increased its popularity and was invited to appear in top contests throughout the United States.

(Bruce: I loved this corps – the half red/half white clown suits were genius as the corps flashed red and white in sequence as they marched. They used to snap the horns up on the starting line and release coloured balloons as they stepped off. And a kick ass hard core rudimental drum line that one could still drool over...)

Listen to MP3s of the Jolly Jesters

  • 1957 (submitted by Ed Law)
  • 1959 from Kingston, NY (submitted by Ed Law)
Jesters at the CNE (1963)

Jesters, CNE (about 1963)

The Jesters

Serious thought was given to reverting back to the dress blues in 1960 in an attempt to create a more serious image and winning type of show. A slight performance error caused us to narrowly miss winning the Canadian Championships during this year.

It was also decided to change the name to "The Jesters" at this time and so once more the corps appeared in new uniforms and carried a new name.

Jesters in Rochester (1961)

Jesters, Rochester, NY (about 1961)

1961 was a difficult year for the corps but it carried on and with the aid of top ranking instructors fought back, despite small numbers, to place a good 4th in the championship contest.

With the addition of excellent talent in 1962 the corps hit the field in larger numbers and immediately established itself as a top unit. This was proven by the fact the Jesters won the Canadian National Championship colour guard trophy and placed 2nd at the Canadian Nationals in Waterloo, Ontario.

A great deal of the improvements this year were made possible by the fact that in July, the corps received its biggest break yet by attaining full sponsorship by the Metropolitan Toronto Police Association.

(I found this write-up on the internet. It was supplied by Bruce Lindsay.)