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Davenport Trumet Band & Opti-Corps



Back in 1952, before there was even a hint of The Optimists, there was the 18th Toronto Boy Scout Troop, founded by Mr. Bud Parker. The scouts met in a church at the corner of Dovercourt Road and Davenport Road in Toronto. The scout troop had a band and that band eventually became the Toronto Optimists. But that happened later.


A lot happened in 1955. Firstly, the Scout Band moved to the church next door and it became the band for the 157th Boy Scout Troop. No one seems to remember exactly why this happened; however, some people think that it was tied into going to a Boy Scout Jamboree and the new church needed a band.

Toronto Optimists History - The 18th Scout Troop Band (Oakwood Collegiate, Toronto, 1952)

The 18th Scout Troop Band (Oakwood Collegiate, Toronto, 1952)

By 1955 the scouts were getting older and would very soon have to leave the scouting activity. At this time Mr. Al Baggs, who worked with the Boy Scouts as the District Commissioner in charge of Badges, stepped in. He saw the potential of the band and decided to find a way to keep the band together.

Davenport Trumpet Band

After the Scout Jamboree the boys had to leave scouting. At that point the band became the Davenport Trumpet Band with Bud Parker as the head and Al Baggs as Business Manager. As Business Manager he took it upon himself to find a sponsor for the band. Mr. Baggs approached a number of groups, including the Downtown Toronto Optimists Club, but all refused. His second meeting with the Optimists Club was successful and they agreed to sponsor the band. (Rumour has it that Mr. Baggs asked for $300 and promised that the rest of the money would come from performances.)

Here is a video from the 1955 Waterloo Band Festival which, in addition to other groups, includes footage of the Davenport Trumpet Band. The music used as a backdrop is the Davenport Trumpet Band. If you listen closely you will hear the announcer say that the band is looking for a sponsor.


Toronto Optimists History - 1957

(from a 1957 Lions Show programme)

Front Row (L-R): Harry Clark, ?, Ron Cook, Bob Bond, Phil Hennings, Roy Clark (standing), Bob Brown, Peter Coward, Don Yeaman, Charlie Sokol

Back Row (L-R): Phil Taucher, Larry Cheavers, Ian Robertson, Hector Roberts, ?, Mike Layton, Jim Fletcher, Eddy Nanni, ?, Jim Patten, Bill Coleman, Barney Sharp, Al Baggs


In 1955 Mr Baggs convinced the Downtown Toronto Optimist Club to sponsor the Davenport Trumpet Band. Having obtained a sponsor the band changed its name to the Toronto Optimists Boys Trumpet Band, commonly known as “Opti–Corps”. Blue and Gold, the colours of the Optimist Club, were used to create uniforms. These consisted of blue pants, wedgie hats, and gold T-shirts, and later blue jackets with gold trim.

The band began in the "Junior Novice" category which meant that it performed mostly in parades and standstills. In April of 1956, at Stouffville, Ontario, the band placed third and received an award for most improved unit. At the end of the year they returned home from Merritton, Ontario, as the Canadian Novice Junior Champions. In a single year they had risen to the top of their division.

In 1957 the band moved to the Junior “B” Division. This level entailed the use of a counter-march, a preliminary form of marching and manoeuvring, used commonly by marching bands. During this year, the Optimist Club sponsored the first annual Ontario Junior Drum and Bugle Corps Championship. In competition were the Leaside Lions, 180th Squadron Skyraiders, Danforth Crusaders, Preston Scout House, Western Tech, and Grantham Police Boys’ Band. This was a Junior “A” competition, under the auspices of the then aptly named, Canadian Bugle and Trumpet Band Association. This contest presented the corps with a vision of its next step.

Toronto Optimists History - 1st Place Certificate 1956

Certificate for Opti-Corps winning
the 1956 Novice Championship

Opti-Corps' next major contest, in their own class, was the Canadian Championship in Galt, Ontario. Their debut in the Junior "B" division showed the calibre of the Corps. They capped off an already successful season by winning the Canadian Championship. This was an ambitious group of kids and they were ready for their next big challenge.

In their two years of existence Opti-Corps had won two National titles: in their first year as a Junior Novice Corps then as a Junior "B" corps. After the 1957 season the Corps changed its name to The Toronto Optimists and entered the top-rung drum corps category, Junior "A". Would they be able to dethrone Preston Scout House, the reigning Junior "A" Champions, and take first place in the Junior "A" division?

Optimist Club of Toronto Trumpet Band — “Opti–Corps”

This band is a newly sponsored project of the Optimist Club of Toronto (Downtown Club). At Merritton they won the Canadian Junior Novice Championship, 1956 — they placed first in the Welland Chamber of Commerce parade, third in the Maid of the Mist Festival, and more recently were third in the Parade of Champions held in Stouffville, April, 1957. At that contest the judges awarded the Opti-Corps the special trophy offered to the band that, in their opinion, had made the most progress to date.

The Corps is led on the field by Drum Major Phil Taucher; drum instruction is under Don McVicar; trumpets, Rolly Formica, and the musical arrangements are taken care of by Drum Sergeant Harry Clark. The business manager is Optimist Alan Baggs.

On July 6th, at East York Memorial Stadium in Toronto, the Optimist Club and their band is sponsoring the Ontario Junior Championships. This promises to be the outstanding junior show of the year. Six top bands of Ontario will be competing for the Provincial title. As well as cash awards and trophies, the Optimist Club is inaugurating a Provincial flag to be awarded to the winner. The Colour Party of the Opti-Corps is presently carrying the new flag on their left so that the folks and corps fans at this show may get a glimpse of it. There will also be an exhibition by one of the most exciting corps in New York State, St. Joseph’s Drum and Bugle Corps of Batavia. Tickets are available from any member of the band or the Optimist Club. This will be too good a show to miss!

(Text taken from an old contest program.)

Toronto Optimists History - Opti-Corps at City Hall 1956

Opti-Corps in front of Toronto's City Hall (1956)

Optimist Club of Toronto Trumpet Band — “Opti–Corps”

The Opti-Corps is a relatively new project of the Optimist Club of Toronto. Sponsorship of the band was taken over approximately two years ago. Since then the corps has been expanded to almost twice its original strength by the addition of new instruments and a colour party.

The band has given a very good account of itself by winning the Canadian Novice Championship 1956 at Merriton. It placed 3rd amongst the many bands competing in the Maid of the Mist Festival at Niagara Falls, N.Y., and 1st at the Welland Chamber of Commerce parade. More recently they won the trumpet band class at the Kiwanis Music Festival 1957, and at the Parade of Champions held during April at Stouffville, placed 3rd. At this latter contest the judges awarded a special trophy to the band for having made, in their opinion, the most progress. On June 1st of this year the Corps traveled to London, Ont. and entered the Junior Open Class in the London Music Festival where they placed 1st amongst bands from Galt, Simcoe, Kitchener and Waterloo.

Toronto Optimists History - 1957

from a 1957 Optimists Show programme

The Corps is led on the field by Drum Major Phil Tachauer, drum instruction is under Don McVicar, trumpets, Rolly Formica, and the musical arrangements and special numbers are written by Drum Sergeant Harry Clark. Business manager and director of the band is Optimist Alan Baggs.

(Text taken from an old contest program.)

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