The  Optimists  Alumni  Drum  &  Bugle  Corps

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

. . . March On!

St John's (Girls)

Alumni Corps member Heather Hyslop Lowe and the members of St John's Winter Guard marched with St John's. In addition, Alumni Corps members Barry Bell, Bill Kane and Brian Collingdon once instructed St Johns.

Heather Hyslop Lowe has added: "Some of the other instructors we had in the mid-70's who had Optimist connections were Vic Kruklis, Gord O'Halloran and Jim Kane. Following the 1976 season we had a number of our members branch out and join the highly successful Seneca Optimists. We had Debbie McArthur, nee Biggs, Kelly Kenny nee McHutcheon, Maryann Kane, nee Ernst, Sandy Stoklosa, nee Douglas (R.I.P) Patsy Choc and Penny Tudhope. Also, one of Seneca Optimists guard instructors was our former Guard Captain, Wendy Paquin, nee Ernst".

Photo of: St John's Girls (1968)

St John's Girl's (1968)

St John's Girls and St John's Drum & Bugle Corps

The St. John's Drum and Bugle Corps' roots date back to the early 1950's. In 1953 an all-girl drum corps was established at Brantford Catholic High School under the direction of Rev. Frank Dentinger.  A few years later, in 1958, they added a 10-member colour guard party. "Back in the day" there were quite a few all-girl corps. In fact, there used to be an "All-Girl" category at the Candian Nationals. During it's many years in competition St John's picked up numerous awards at competitions across North America. The culmination of six years perseverance arrived at Seagram Stadium in Waterloo, on Sept 8, 1962 when St. John's won its first Canadian Class "A" Girl's Championship.

Money was always scarce for corps, and, if there was no money, the corps couldn't compete. In order to subsidize their travel St Johns, like all of the other corps of the time, would play parades along the way to their competitions. At times it was very gruelling. In 1968, the group decided to break away from the Brantford Catholic High School and, in 1981, the corps was renamed the Brantford Girls Drum and Bugle Corps. It was about this time that the corps began a Bingo to help pay the bills.

Photo of: St John's Girls (1975)

St John's Girl's (1975)

As for Brantford Girls 81-85, THINK PINK! We actually were the first to make DCI Finals in both 1981 & 1982 A/All Girls after our 2 years (1979 & 80) to rebuild. That was tough! (from Heather)

Photo of: St John's Drum Corps (1976)

St John's Drum Corps (1976)

By 1985, with membership dwindling, the corps decided to allow boys to join. At that time the corps took back its St. John's moniker. The group remained co-ed from 1985 to 1999 and membership increased, with participants coming from Brantford, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.

The re-energized group won several national and provincial championships and, for the first time, was a finalist in the world competitions. But, in 1999, the St. John's corps lost its bingo revenue, a huge hit for an organization that had an annual budget in excess of $250,000, and participation again declined. The club was inactive for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. St Johns became a parade-only drum corps, playing Canada Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas parades.

From 2001 to 2006, participation again surged with about 35 members back in competition. The corps last competitive year was 2006. Like so many other corps, membership was so low that they couldn't compete. St. John's is now the oldest junior drum and bugle corps in Ontario, with only two others still in operation – in Sudbury and Kitchener-Waterloo.

Photo of: St John's Winter Guard (2012)

St John's Winter Guard (2012)

St John's Winter Guard

Even though they no longer have drums or bugles, the St. John’s Winter Colour Guard refuses to let its nearly 60-year history fade away. A St. John’s colour guard has been in existence since the late 1950s; however, the Winter Guard is quite new, having been created in 2010.

The current guard is made up of ten young ladies, aged ten to sixteen, and is part of the Brantford Entertainment Arts Team. The guard's performances are both creative and expressive. They combine expressive jazz dancing with the more traditional colour guard tools such as coloured flags, mock sabres and rifles. The guard spends two days a week practicing in Brantford and three weekends a month competing in New York state.

During the summer of 2012 many of these young ladies will be performing as part of the Optimists Alumni Colour Guard.