The Optimist Cadets

The Beginnings of the Optimist Cadets

Optimist Cadets (Knights of Columbus Hall, 1968)

Optimist Cadets (Knights of Columbus Hall, 1968)

In 1967 two men who were to exert much influence discovered the Optimists. These were brothers, Al and Greg Tierney. The Optimists realized that unless people could be recruited and trained, the Corps could run into difficulty in the future. The original “Peanut Squad” (as the Bantam Optimists were sometimes called) had been disbanded in early 1964 to keep the main corps alive. Now, it was decided that a feeder Corps was, once again, needed. The process was set in motion.

Optimist Cadets Crest

Optimist Cadets Crest

Recruiting was tough and practice facilities almost non-existent. This was not good. In fact, the whole summer was spent looking for recruits and practice facilities. It was felt that the suburbs of the city were the best place to pursue this idea, and this led to a lucky break. The Scarborough Knights of Columbus were looking for another youth activity. With baseball and hockey already well covered in the community they were open to new ideas. Like everyone, they were short of money; however, they did possess a practice facility.

Optimist Cadets (Batavia, NY, 1969)

Optimist Cadets (Batavia, 1969)

A Grand Knight attended an Optimists practice and was impressed by the discipline. A meeting of the executive of the Optimists and the Knights of Columbus took place. Later there was a second meeting with the general membership of the Knights of Columbus.

Attendees at these meeting saw slides of the Optimists as well as the 1965 movie of the Optimists that was filmed at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. All of the K of C men were in favour of this promotion. While they could not contribute financially they agreed to provide their clubhouse for practices as well as assisting with the recruiting drive. On September 1st a final decision was taken to accept this offer. A plan was developed that culminated in a recruiting day on September 17th.

Optimist Cadets (Shriners parade, 1970)

Optimist Cadets (1969)

Handbills were distributed with much of the work being done by the Knights (at this time of year the Optimists were busy preparing for the Nationals). On the 17th, the Corps paraded from the Knights of Columbus Hall to a church. There, on the church steps, they played to a crowd of a thousand. Slides were again shown and short speeches were given by Mr. Daber and Mr. Greg Tierney, Chairman of Youth Activities for the Knights of Columbus. Applications were handed out and, by the end of the day, forty–seven had been completed and returned. The first rehearsal was set for September 23. During that week a small article in the Toronto Star brought a sudden increase in phone calls to everyone who was involved. Suddenly, the recruiting drive became not only a success but in danger of being swamped. At the first rehearsal, the original forty-seven recruits were there along with another ninety-five newcomers. Now, membership in the Optimist Cadets, as they were called, stood at 142, with the prospect of more to come as time passed. Thus, money notwithstanding, we now had “The Optimist Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps”, Mr. Al Tierney, Director, Mr. Greg Tierney, Manager. It was a Parade Corps for boys 10-14. Both of the just mentioned men had played a large part in this activity. They would play even larger roles in the future, but this endeavour was most important for the future survival and success of the Corps. They even began their own newsletter, “Cadet Capsule”, edited by Al Tierney.

In 1975 the Optimist Cadets merged with the Optimists Lancers to form the Cadet Lancers.

Note: much of the above material was taken from Colin Hedworth's History of The Optimists (with modifications)