The Optimist Lancers & Cadet Lancers

The Story of the Optimist Lancers and Cadet Lancers

The Etobicoke Optimist Lancers were formed in the autumn of 1969 and were the creation of Richard (Dick) Brown. The Lancers were to be a 'feeder corps' to the renowned Toronto Optimists, a drum and bugle corps who competed successfully at the Junior A level and had multi-national titles to their credit.

In the spring of 1970, the fledging drum corps from Etobicoke became known as the "Lancers" in tribute to the 27th Lancers of Revere, Massachusetts. The 'corps colours' were orange, green and white complete with a rakish white Australian style bush hat. As the summer of 1970 progressed - the Lancers forged into a very strong street parade unit with a very strong drum line, a competent horn line and a graceful colour guard. A Drum Major (David Burgess) and Colour Guard Captain (Debbie Brown) were selected to complete the package. The repertoire for that summer consisted of "Perot" and "Red Sails in the Sunset". Highlighting the summer – the Lancers had the honour of being the first drum corps to play at Ontario Place for their opening day celebration.

1971 saw the Lancers evolve into a very solid and well received street parade unit. The Corps added two new musical numbers to their repertoire ("Song of the Vagabonds" and that time honoured Bob Dylan classic "Blowin' In The Wind") and the song "Perot" was mercifully 'retired'! The Lancers had their first taste of competition on the field at the Ontario Provincial Championships that summer. They competed in the Standstill Class and placed second. It was a terrific first time effort and made the Lancer members interested in further competition somewhere down the line.

The year 1972 was a banner year for the Lancers Drum Corps. New musical numbers were added to illustrate how much the Corps had progressed with the additions of "Games People Play" and "Wagon Wheels". Both songs featured soprano bugle soloists (John Burgess and Scott McCabe respectively doing the honours) for the first time. The Lancers took their 'show' west that summer and wowed the crowds at the Calgary Stampede. Upon their return to Ontario, the Lancers decided to try their luck again in competition and entered into the Canadian National Championship in the Standstill Class. This time, their hard work and dedication was rewarded with a First Place being awarded to the "Orange, Green and White"! To top off that victory, the Lancers also won the Canadian National Street Parade Competition.

1973 saw the Lancers make the 'jump' to M&M (marching and maneuvering) competition at the Junior C level. Under the watchful eye of Russ Blandford and the rest of the superb Lancer instructional staff (including the likes of Bill McLeod and Lorne Ferrazzutti), the Corps showed that their years of dedication to marching in countless street parades had paid off. The Lancers kept "Games People Play" as their off-the-line and "Wagon Wheels" as their exit number. Added to this exciting mix was "Put Your Hand In the Hand" (into concert), and "Aura Lee/Cecilia" medley for the concert number and a beautiful, stirring rendition of "British Grenadiers" for their colour presentation. The Lancers completed an undefeated season at the Junior C level - capturing the "C" Canada title, the provincial title, the Canadian National Junior C title and repeating as the Canadian National Street Parade champs.

1974 - After the successes of 1973, it seemed only logical that the Lancers make that "big jump" into the Open Class ranks and try competing against such stellar drum corps as the Etobicoke Crusaders, the Toronto Optimists and De La Salle Oaklands just to name a few. The Lancer staff decided to retain two "tried and true" musical numbers from their Junior C success by keeping "Wagon Wheels" (exit number) and the colour presentation of "British Grenadiers." Added to the mix was an off-the-line from Masterpiece Theatre called "The Masterpiece", a really 'kicking' drum solo based on the number "Smoke On The Water" and a concert medley of "Cecilia" coupled with the amazing "MacArthur Park." The Lancer members approached the 1974 season with "optimism" based on their previous undefeated season in Junior C. However, it was not to be for the "Orange, Green and White" that summer. Outside of Canada, the Lancers did reasonably well in competition but inside Canadian boundaries, the story was completely different. The Lancers took heavy defeat after heavy defeat despite their best efforts on and off the field although they did successfully defend their street parade champion status at the Canadian Nationals. Ultimately, the continuing defeats eroded morale right down to almost zero. At the end of the 1974 season, many of the Lancer members decided to continue their drum corps careers elsewhere and it looked like the Optimist Lancers would fold operations and fade into drum corps history.

Sadly for the Lancers but fortunately for the Optimists, a number of members “graduated” to the Toronto Optimists in the winter/spring of 1974/1975. These individuals were front and centre of the rejuvenation of the Toronto Optimists following their very rough 1974 season.

1975 looked mighty grim for the Lancers until the Optimist Cadets Drum And Bugle Corps (Scarborough) under the guidance of Mr. Edward (Ted) Baker graciously offered to merge their operation with what remained of the Etobicoke Optimist Lancers. The "Cadet Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps" was born! The two separate Corps merged together quite well although there were a few rough spots and some "ruffled feathers" as the two became one - not unlike any sort of "marriage"!! The Corps kept both styles of uniforms with the horn line adopting the Optimist Cadet style tunic and pants topped off with white plumed shakos while both the drum line and the colour guard went with the Lancer-style blouse and pants/skirts. The drum line went with the white plumed shakos and the colour guard opted for the 'beret' style hats. All in all, the look was stylish and worked well on and off the field. The music for 1975 included an off-the-line of "Paint Your Wagon", an into concert of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", a concert of "Eres Tu" and an exit of "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair)". The Cadet Lancers did very well and managed to win the "C" Canada Championship and came second at both the Provincial and Canadian Nationals in the Junior C categories, just being edged out by the London Midlanders. The Cadet Lancers did win the Canadian Nationals Street Parade Competition for 1975.

In 1976, the Cadet Lancers built upon the solid foundation of the previous year and came out with a truly dynamic show that featured an off-the-line from the overture from the rock opera "Tommy" made famous by the "Who" and a new exit number from "Jesus Christ Superstar" - the ever popular "I Don't Know How To Love Him". Retained from the previous year was the ever popular swing tune of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and the concert production of "Eres Tu". The 1976 Cadet Lancers fielded a horn line of 38, a drum line of 24, a colour guard of 24 flags with 8 rifles, led onto the field by two Guard Captains and two Drum Majors. This unit was successful in winning the Canadian National Junior C championship against a solid unit from Simcoe, the Golden Lions. The Cadet Lancers also posted a victory as the Canadian National Street Parade Champions for 1976.

(The article above was taken from the Lancer & Cadet Lancer Website which, sadly, no longer exists.)