The Optimists Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"You Better Bleed On The Finish Line"
Doug McPhail's Off the Line wedge in El Cid (1963)
The 1962 and 1963 seasons would prove to be the most successful, creative years in Optimists history. Bell took the horn line to a new level with rich, sophisticated arrangements by Truman Crawford. The 1962 repertoire included Big Wide Wonderful World, Let Me Entertain You, St. Louis Blues, I’m in the Mood for Love, Down by the Riverside, Taboo, I Believe and The Party’s Over. To front his decidedly Broadway show, the corps featured a new drum major.
Jim McConkey arrived in Canada with a dream resume that included stints with Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights and the Archer-Epler Musketeers.
There were three crowning moments in the 1962 season. The corps bought new uniforms using the same colour combination, but the green blouse now shimmered under the lights like a jewel. The first appearance in these dazzling new uniforms was in Rome, NY. In that contest was a corps the Optimists had never beaten, the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights. At night’s end, Blessed Sac marched past the corps in salute. (2 meg Acrobat file about Rome contest)
The final crowning moment of the season came in Waterloo, Ontario., when the Optimists won their fifth consecutive national title. On the record of the performance, right after concert, you can distinctly hear McConkey say, “You better bleed on that finish line.”
The summer of 1963 was most notable for Optimists drill writer, Doug McPhail. He was a quiet, shy man with extraordinary creative gifts. Articles he wrote for “Green Capsule Comments” are among the best literature ever created about drum corps.
Optimists on retreat with Chicago Cavaliers, Mundelein, IL, June 1963
His drill for 1963 was so unique, most of the judges did not quite know what to make of it. There was a wedge off the line and circles and dance steps and asymmetrical forms and straight lines that gave way to curved shapes. It was a vision of things to come.
For the first time in the history of the corps, they competed in the Midwest. Crowds were awestruck at the visual presentation of this unknown corps from Canada. And in one of the rare moments of crowd/judge agreement, Optimists were awarded high marks in general effect.
This visit to Illinois and Wisconsin was also the start of a long friendship between America’s “Green Machine” – the Chicago Cavaliers – and the Optimists. During retreats, they marched on together as one great big green machine. In Canada, the Optimists captured their sixth consecutive championship with the highest score in their history, an 89.