Scout House 2nd Annual Black Thursday Tribute Pub Night

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The mood and atmosphere will be anything but dark during the second annual Preston Scout House Alumni Band’s Black Thursday pub night, an extension of a tradition established in the early 1960s by members of the Guelph Royalaires. Last year’s event attracted more than 100 drum corps veterans for an evening of bright, lively conversation between old friends celebrating their drum corps heritage.

This year’s event takes place at the Preston Knights of Columbus building, 333 Speedsville Road, on Thursday March 28, beginning at 7 pm. Black Thursday is one of the social events marking the Band’s 75th anniversary in 2013.

Black Thursday pub nights were an important social link in the chain of close relationships between the drum and bugle corps that flourished in the Guelph, Cambridge, Brantford and Kitchener/Waterloo area over the past 50 years. Many members of the junior corps of the day, including Preston Scout House, later marched with the Royalaires in senior competition.

Preston Scout House Alumni Band, of Cambridge, now presents Black Thursday pub night as an opportunity for individuals of any age and background to celebrate drum and bugle corps and marching music involvement at any time during their lives.

The popular event began as a house party on the evening before Good Friday, with a few members of the Royalaires invited to enjoy some liquid refreshment following the regular Thursday evening practice. Since the next day was a holiday from work for most corps members, there was time to socialize long into the night because no one had to get up early in the morning. The event was dubbed Black Thursday by Wayne King, a member of Preston Scout House before he joined Royalaires.

Black Thursdays grew to become major social events following the 1966 season when Royalaires acquired a former school as a base of operations, allowing more people to attend the parties for a longer time. At the height of their popularity, Black Thursday pubs sometimes didn’t wind up until sunrise on Good Friday.

From the late 1950s through the 1960s, when Royalaires won six straight national championships, many former members of Preston Scout House continued to march with Guelph after they aged out of junior activity at 21. At the end of the 1966 season, Royalaires received a major boost in fortunes when many former members of the Kitchener Flying Dutchmen joined the corps, which then operated briefly as the Waterloo/Wellington Royalaires. Both Royalaires and Dutchmen evolved out of military bands with extensive local history.

The Kitchener Flying Dutchmen senior corps originated in 1960 as a second unit of the 48th Field Squadron Royal Canadian Engineers Trumpet Band, which did not compete in field shows. The Engineers band was formed in 1954 and ended activity in 1961.

The Royalaires emerged from a similar relationship with the Canadian Army’s 11th Field Regiment which under various names traces its origin in Wellington County all the way back to 1857, when the 11th Field Artillery Regiment was created from the traditional county militia structure of the day.

The re-organization of the Flying Dutchmen following the exodus to Royalaires in late 1966 set the pattern for junior drum corps activity in the area for the following 40 years.

The young remaining members of the Flying Dutchmen senior corps became the Flying Dutchmen junior drum and bugle corps in 1967, under the direction of John Robins. The Dutch Boy Cadets were formed in 1969 under the direction of Don Ross, to serve as a feeder corps to the Dutchmen. The two operated separately until 1976 when they merged to form a new group called Northstar, which dissolved a few years later in 1978.

Before disappearing, Northstar formed a feeder group in 1977 called the Cadets of Dutch Boy, which became Dutch Boy Drum and Bugle Corps in 1980. Its feeder corps was also called Cadets of Dutch Boy.

After considerable success in Drum Corps International (DCI) competition, Dutch Boy ended operations after the 1993 summer competition season. The Cadets carried on, becoming known in 1998 as Dutch Boy and competing until 2009.

The highly successful Waterloo Ventures drum and bugle corps was established in 1972 as an activity for girls in the region. Over the next 20 years, the Ventures won five DCI world titles before transforming into a winter guard operation in 1994.

In 1971, a year prior to the Ventures appearing on the drum corps scene, former Guelph Royalaires horn player Jack Turner founded the Kitchener/Waterloo Kiwanis Kavaliers drum and bugle corps, which competed in DCI contests until 2006. Membership in every section increased sharply in the winter of 1987, following a merger with St. Andrew’s of Cambridge. The Kavaliers received another boost in 1995, when many former members of the Ventures joined after their corps ceased operations.

In Brantford, St. John’s Drum and Bugle corps started in 1953 as an all girl unit at Brantford Catholic High School. The group operated as a girls-only corps until 1985 when boys were allowed to join. Under various names, St. John’s won a number of provincial and national championships before the final year of competition in 2006. Scout House Alumni Band and Preston Scout House Cadets drum line will perform at St. John’s 60th anniversary reunion weekend in September.

The huge swirl of drum corps activity that flourished throughout the area became a closed circle in the 1980s when Royalaires were competing in Drum Corps Associates (DCA) contests. Many members of the local junior corps would join the ranks of the Royalaires in late August after the DCI season ended, in time to compete in the DCA championships on Labour Day weekend.

And just as the junior corps activity began to fade away at the turn of the century, Scout House Alumni Band marched back into activity with members from many of the former local corps. Scout House Alumni Band now includes about 200 marching and associate members from more than 20 communities across southern Ontario who have previous marching music experience with more than 70 organizations. About half of the current Alumni Band members marched with the original Scout House Band, some as long ago as the early 1950s.

The Spring Opening arena show in Preston Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, April 28 will be Preston Scout House Alumni Band’s 400th performance since first appearing on stage at the Great Alliance of Seniors (GAS) reunion in Mississauga in the spring of 1999. The Spring Opening, offered free in recognition of the Band’s strong community support, will feature the full marching band, colour guard, drill team, Silver Leaves brass ensemble and Cadets drum line.

Since its first stage show in 1999, Scout House Alumni Band has performed in parades, field shows and concerts in communities across Ontario and Quebec, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, West Virginia and Maryland.

For more information about Preston Scout House Alumni Band, contact Activities Director Nancy Weiler at telephone (519) 653-3376, email prestonscouthouseband [dot] adm [at] sympatico [dot] ca or visit the Web site at

Posted by on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013. Filed under Current News, DCA News, FrontPage Feature.