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Toronto, Ontario, Canada

. . . March On!

Toronto Optimists: 1960

Toronto Optimists play concert at Rome, NY in 1960

The 1960 corps playing concert in Rome, NY.

Memories submitted by Terry Sweeney

Well, it was the fall of 1959.The Drum Corps season was over and decisions had to be made. Mel Dey, Jim Stewart and myself decided to try out for The Toronto Optimists. Ron Cottrell had just returned from spending the 1959 competitive season in England and decided to follow us and hopefully join the reigning Canadian Junior Champions.

For the past two years, one in Royal Knights, and then Leaside Lions Jungle Kings we had listened to them at our rehearsals near the Shell Tower on the CNE grounds and they sounded great. Did we have any chance of joining? Down we went to Jarvis Collegiate, each of us played for Barry Bell (wow) in a stairwell. We all made it.

I joined the solo soprano line (lead line today) with Al Morrison, Jim Patten, and Warren Berger. A week later more Jungle Kings followed: Phil Campbell, Dave Nesbitt, Neil Ibbitson, Bill Thorne, and Doug MacKenzie. Later in the year we learned that we were most welcome as the Corps had lost a number of members. That winter we practiced at Jarvis Collegiate and then moved to the CNE grounds in early spring.

Toronto Optimists on the line at the Preview of Champions, Jersey City, 1960

The Optimists on the line at the 1960 Preview of Champions in Jersey City.

Our first show with the Optimists was in Jersey City in May. We were billeted with The Chicago Cavaliers who were chasing Blessed Sacrament. We made a lot of friends, played acey-deucy and practiced hard for the show.

Out we went onto the field at Roosevelt Stadium which was filled with thousands of spectators. As we stood waiting for the inspection Barry could see that the newcomers were nervous (what a crowd) and asked permission to face the Corps backfield away from the crowd to complete the inspection. The 1960 season had begun. With the inspection over, we turned and stepped up to the starting line. We opened with Meadowlands off the line. It was a powerful number and we did an acceptable show finishing with a standing ovation. Last place and boos from the crowd to show their displeasure with the placement left all of us empowered and ready for the season.

If you want you can listen to our show at the 1960 Preview. For some reason the concert did not include "In the Mood". Instead, the corps played "Blue Skies". If you remember the story, please share it with us.

Toronto Optimists on the finish line at the 1960 prelims in Hamilton

On the finish line at the 1960 prelims in Hamilton

Falconer NY, a senior contest, and we wowed the crowd and finished about 8 points above the rest, even though our split hornline marched towards each other and one line (mine) came in four beats too early!!! With a party and dance afterwards it was a great experience. August saw the Corps in Rome NY. Blessed Sacrament (The Golden Knights) had just won the VFW Championships. Their bus arrived at the practice field covered in sayings: “Chariot of the Gods”, “Pinnacles of Perfection” and many more. The members opened the windows and piled out of the bus. No door exit for these guys.

That evening found us on the starting line, again waiting for inspection, perhaps we were nervous but not like Jersey City. We had worked hard all season and knew that we were ready. Of course, during inspection on the line Blessed Sac formed up behind us and the comments flew. The only one that I can remember is: “get this garbage off the field”. At the retreat ceremony the “garbage” placed second to Sac by 0.5 points.

Another Canadian Championship with De La Salle becoming our new rival, a show at Varsity stadium and an indoor show in Buffalo NY and the season was over. The “Green Machine” had arrived and I and my buddies are a part of it.

To finish off, here's another recording of the 1960 show. At this show, "Blue Skies" has been dropped and "In the Mood" is back. The LP from which this came had Optimists on one side and Royalaires on the other. Apparently  it was recorded in Guelph.

Special Notice

We want to add a page of memories for each year of the Toronto Optimists, the Seneca Optimists and the Optimists Alumni. What you see above is an example of what we are trying to create. We hope that these pages will help to rekindle happy memories of years gone by.

Our goal is to gather corps-related memories specific to a particular year, rather than "generic" memories that would apply to all years. These memories could be about such things as performing in the corps, traveling with the corps, watching the corps from the stands, excerpts from articles in old corps mags, etc. It's not necessary to submit a whole year's worth of memories since contributions from different people can be edited and merged together to form the web page. We'll save the memories that people submit and, once we have enough material, we will compile them into a web page for that particular year. We'll probably add photos, recordings, etc then we'll post that page on the website.

If you have other memories of this year, or any other year, that you would like to submit, please send an email to Bob Carell (toronto_optimist at