Through snow, rain, hail and even a tornado, the St. John’s Drum and Bugle Corps plays on.
“We did a show in an electrical storm once with no shoes and no flag poles,” said Kim Earl, a corps member from 1972 to 1978. “The show must go on.”
Like its members’ resolve to put on a show, the corps has lived by that mantra for the past 60 years – sticking it out through membership highs and lows, becoming one of the longest running and few remaining drum and bugle corps in Ontario.
St. John’s Drum and Bugle Corps will mark its 60th anniversary in September with three days of events running at locations across the city.
“This is one of the longest running drum corps in Canada, one of the longest lasting all-girls corps around and 60 years is a long time,” said Earl, a member of the reunion committee. “We still have members around from the very beginning of the corps.”
The St. John’s Drum and Bugle Corps began in 1953 as an all girls drum corps at what was then known as Brantford Catholic High School.
Over the years, the corps has taken on various incarnations, performing various marching, maneuvering, parade and winter colour guard routines.
It reached its peak during the 1970s with as many as 150 members travelling across North America representing Brantford in competitions and bringing home championship trophies.
“Back then we’d be on tour for a couple of weeks in the United States and when we would come back it would be announced on the radio,” said 1971 to 1977 alumnus and reunion committee member Karen Neault. “We even had a police escort and everyone would greet us as we came home. It was a great feeling to have the support of the community behind us.”
To boost membership, the corps was made co-ed in 1985. Since then, membership has dwindled, but there is still a push to keep it going.
The corps is currently made up of girls aged eight to 16, who use a combination of jazz dancing, coloured flags and mock sabres and rifles for their routines.
Its longevity is due to the camaraderie of its members and the joy of performing, according to 1968 to 1980 alumnus Joy Pow.
“The members are like our family,” she said.
Pow and former members Earl and Neault became friends through the corps and have continued both their friendships and love for performing through the United Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps out of Simcoe.
“The corps is just something you’ve got in your blood,” Neault said.
As a 12-year member, Pow said the corps made her who she is as a person.
“I think it’s shaped us as who we are because it taught us respect and discipline,” Pow said.
Pow’s favourite memory of her time in the corps was a trip to Des Moines, Illinois, when the St. John’s corps was beaten out for the championship. The crowd was devastated, booing the judges’ decision.
“We slept on the gym floor in sleeping bags and a group of people came in with this trophy that said ‘No. 1 in the eyes of the spectators,’” she said. “We were all crying.”
Pow, a member of the reunion committee, hopes September’s reunion will help reconnect old friends to reminisce about good times.
“It just meant the world to me,” she said. “We made so many friendships.”
The reunion committee hopes to collect names of alumni and years they were members leading up the to reunion. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-720-9290 for more information.