Remembering Art!

helpingthelions

ABOVE: Arthur Delamont, Art Tusvik, Arnie Chycoski playing in Dal’s Lion’s Band at Empire Stadium 1965.

How Art Met Kay!

Art Tusvik went on three trips with the band in the 1950s: 1953,1955 and 1958. As one of the best trumpet players to ever play in the band, Arthur often called back his more experienced boys to help him out. Art was one of the boys during the 1950s trips that got to know quite well, some of the members of England’s famous Ted Heath Orchestra.

I was anxious to hear the connection between the Kits Band and the Ted Heath Band and Art I knew was the one to tell me. He married the daughter of Ted’s best friend and founding member of the band, Jimmy Coombes.

“Tell me about Jimmy Coombes?”

“Kay is Jimmy Coombe’s daughter. Jimmy played with the Ted Heath band right from the start. He grew up with Ted on the streets of London. They had to put cardboard in their shoes, they were so broke. Both of them played in the Ambrose Band. After Jimmy left the band, he was number one call in London for legit theatre, TV, recordings and movies. He played on the sound track for the The Guns of Navarone, with Dimitri Tompkins. Guys like Frank Sinatra would ask for him, Johnny Mathis was another. It was so sad when Jimmy came to Vancouver. He went from being number one call in London, to nobody calling him in Vancouver. It was really amazing how he had to struggle to get gigs over here.”

“Why did he move to Vancouver?”

“His wife moved here, Kay’s mom. Her name was Audrey. He wanted a change. He taught at UBC and played with the VSO. That would have been around 1965.”

“How did you meet Kay?”

“We were in London at the Hammersmith Palais. Ted Heath’s band was playing. I happened to see her running out on to the floor to dance and I liked what I saw. That was on the 1958 Kits band trip to Europe.

The first time I saw Ted Heath’s band was in Blackpool on the 1955 Kits band trip. I knew her dad, Jimmy because I introduced myself to him. I never did play in Ted’s band but I knew many of the guys who did. I wasn’t as good as some of them.”

“Oh I don’t know about that, I think from what I have heard that you were pretty darn good.”

“Delamont taught us the real world, the world of hollering and screaming at us. He toughened us up for life.”

Back Story:

       “How did you first meet Arthur Delamont?”

“I started taking lessons with a guy named ‘Tug Wilson.’ He was in vaudeville with Arthur. I started with him in 1949. I was eleven.  We had all heard about the Kits band. I lived at First and Alma, in Kitsilano. So, I went over to the General Gordon School. I had a brand new trumpet. My father was a fisherman. He had a particularly good trip, so I got a really good horn. I had a copper bell and I traded it in for a Constellation.  It was the same horn that‘Bobby Pratt was playing. Bobby was the lead trumpet player in Ted Heath’s band. What a sound! That’s what turned me on, when I heard him playing at the Winter Gardens, in Blackpool, in 1955. The Ted Heath band played dances at the Winter Gardens. One marathon dance they played was six hours long. Bobby’s sound was remarkable. At the end of the six hour dance, he was still playing screamers. He had as big a sound on double G, as he did on middle C, unbelievable sound. When they recorded, they had one mike in each section. They had to put him about five feet behind the rest of the guys. Jimmy would be sitting in front of him. He figured that that’s where his hearing problems began. They would say to Bobby,

“Take it easy Bobby. You don’t have to work so hard.”

Bobby would just laugh and say,

“Oh let’s have some fun!”

He died tragically. He left Ted’s band to do section work in London. Went off to do a Frank Chacksfield (British bandleader during the 1950s) recording and he didn’t turn up for it. The guys said,

“Where’s Bobby?”

Three days later, he turned up at home, neatly dressed. His wife asked him,

“How did it go?” He said,

“First take!” As far as he was concerned, he had been there and done the take. What it was, he had ‘wet brain’ from alcoholism. Ultimately, he set up the chairs in his kitchen, in front of his gas stove and gassed himself. It was just a tragedy.”

“Did he have an Arnie Chycoski kind of sound?”

“Arnie had a very beautiful, very controlled sound. The Rob McConnell band was very symphonic. The Ted Heath band had a roaring kind of sound. Bobby had the ability to hit double G’s. Arnie had the ability to hit double C’s. It was almost like he was playing a C Melody trumpet. It’s not easy to play that kind of stuff. They were just different kinds of players. Bobby was a jazz player. Arnie was more symphonic and a lead player. In a comparison to Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Pratt would say,

“I don’t have that double C.” But he had a photographic memory and he could remember charts like you wouldn’t believe. He was just an amazing player.”

“You went on three trips to Europe with the Kits band, in 1953, 1955 and 1958. You didn’t see the Ted Heath band in 1953?”

“No, the big deal in 1953 was at the BBC studios where we met Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on the ‘In Towne Tonight’ show. We also played on the ‘David Whitfield Show.’

Later on, when I went back to live in England, from 1959 through 1963, I did a Christmas show in Brighton with David Whitfield. It was called ‘David Whitfield on Ice,’ that was at the end of his career. One of his big records was ‘Cara Mia.’”

“Let’s go back to when you first met Arthur.”

“He hated me at first because I had a brand new trumpet. He unloaded on me. He hit me on the back of the head with his trumpet. Good thing the guys stopped me because I was going to wrap him on the head with mine. He backed off. I had a kind of love, hate relationship with Arthur. I was either really on side with him or really off side. But that’s the way he was. He was either hollering at you or he was nice to you.”

“He was always testing the guys.”

“I remember a fellow who came from London’s, Parker Brass Studios, Phil Parker was his name; a trumpet player. He came from London to Vancouver and he settled here. Arthur scared the hell out of him. He hated Arthur! He played in the Parks Board Band, one of Arthur’s professional bands. He didn’t like the way Arthur behaved. Phil was a fabulous trumpet player but he couldn’t play in front of people because he choked. I sometimes did the same. I remember I was working in a show in London with Michel Le Grand, Modern Jazz Ballet with Zi Zi Jan Mere. She was the star. She was in Les Girls with Mitzi Gaynor. It was big in France. Her husband was a choreographer. I came back from a break, to the pit. I was playing with a guy named Stan Roderick, great trumpet player. I was playing fifth. He was playing lead. I was doubling on double G’s and double C’s. Anyway, when I came back from the break, I saw that the lead chair was empty. I said,

“Where’s Stan?” Someone said,

“Oh he ruptured his lip.”

So, I was moved into the lead chair and I choked. I was heartbroken because I had been really lucky and fortunate to get the gig. It was my chance. I was in tears. I said to Michel,

“I’m sorry.” He said,

“Don’t worry. It’s all right!”

“He knew you were sincere.”

“Yes, I thought it was the end of my night but it wasn’t. After that, I made sure that I was never without a bottle of scotch in my trumpet case.

That’s another story! One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was later in life, when I finally realized that I didn’t need booze to play. Ted Lazenby had the same problem. He was a wonderful player.

Don Charles was an interesting fellow. He was a good singer as well. The girls loved him. He looked a little like Dean Martin. Later on in life, he packed on a lot of weight. He didn’t play so well anymore and ended up working in the post office.”

“Youth doesn’t last forever.”

3amigos

ABOVE: L to R, Art Tusvik, Donny Clark and Don Charles

“No, that’s true. Bill Trussell was a fine player. He deserved far more success than he got, beautiful sound! Donny Clark is another good player.”

“Nice guy as well.”

“Ian McDougall played with Johnny Dankworth in England. He was not in the Kits band but he was a part of the pro music scene here in Vancouver. I worked with Johnny’s band at the Marquee Jazz Club. Quite an experience! When Johnny and Cleo Laine came to Vancouver, I went backstage, at the Orpheum. Cleo remembered my first name. I only subbed in his band for one night. At the time, I didn’t like the way she sang. She had this unbelievably big sound but she was really a phenomenal singer.”

“Did you play in any of Arthur’s other bands?”

bandin-chinatown

ABOVE: Chinese funeral in Chinatown, Arthur in front with trumpet 1960s

“Yes, I played in all his pro bands, his Parks Board Band, the Cunard Band. I played at Chinese funerals. We went and played a Chinese funeral one time in Chinatown at the Armstrong Funeral Parlor. One of the guys, Jack Reynolds, said,

“This guy in here wants to talk to you.” So, we opened the coffin and here’s a stiff inside. They were great times!”

“You must have been pretty young on the 1953 trip?”

“I was almost at the bottom of the totem pole. Gerry Deagle was at the bottom. Gerry also played later in Dal Richard’s band. I worked for Dal at the Hotel Vancouver. Lots of ex-Kits guys in Dal’s band.”

“Do you recall anything about the 1953 trip?”

“We had a great trumpet trio on that trip. Doug Holbrook had a beautiful sound. Arnie Emery played lead. He had amazing technique and an iron face, triple tonguing, double tonguing, he could do it all and Roy Griffith was the other.

Ron Pajala was another good player. Played virtuoso saxophone and was also a great accordion player.  We went to Paris on the 1953 trip. Ron was supposed to be my chaperone. I made a deal with him. If he went with me to the Follies Bergere, I would go with him to the opera. We were in a cafe in Pigalle and a naked lady came and sat on his lap. From that point on, he was never the same. He said,

“To hell with the opera and the museums, I’m going to spend my time here!” I am not sure if those were his exact words but you get the idea.

Kenny Douglas had a great sense of humor. He is a natural born comedian. Bill Good was a great drummer. Too bad he died so early. He died of cancer. Bill Cave was quite a character. It was so great to play in all the old vaudeville houses on the 1953 trip. To be able to play in all those shows, where you actually had to be on, that was the real deal, great experience!

Arthur’s showmanship was so innate. I can remember going to the Pantages Theatre when I was a kid. I saw the Clyde Beatty Circus and they actually had all the animals on stage and the pit orchestra. Zoot Chandler was another good player in the Kits band.”

“Do you remember Lillie Delamont at all?”

“Yes, a very dignified lady but very low key, lovely lady! He was always such a tyrant, such a contrast. Do you remember what Arthur did when he was meeting somebody important? He would extend his hand but miss their hand. He was just letting them know that he didn’t think they were as important as they thought they were.”

“Yes, I remember that!”

“When he wasn’t looking, we would imitate him having a nervous breakdown in front of the band.”

“Oh gosh darn it fellas, why don’t you try harder” and he would throw the music around.

On the 1955 trip, we heard the Basil & Ivor Kirchen Band in Cheltenham. Donny Clark sat in with their band. Here is this little kid standing up with this really fabulous band. These guys were dumb-founded because he could play such good jazz. Donny always had his own way of playing, even at that early age.

I remember when we played At the Gremlin Ball. Arnie would end on a screamer. Arnie was always a very controlled player and Arthur liked that. Whenever I did it, he would get upset because I would just stick it in.”

“Oh, I think he was proud of all of us. We were all his extended family.”

“Yes I know, I was very close to him, especially later in life. I would drive down and play for the cruise ship departures in my taxi cab. Then afterwards I would get back in my cab and go back to work.

One time I was working at the Hotel Vancouver with the Claude Logan Band. Brian Bolam was playing as well. Afterwards, I went driving taxi and I saw a really good looking girl who had been at the dance, looking for a taxi. I picked her up and drove her home. The next morning I awoke on her couch, in a house on 33rd avenue. To this day, I have no idea what happened. She said,

“I thought you would be better off sleeping here rather than driving home.”

She had remembered seeing me playing in the band.”

“Do you remember anything more about Ted Heath in 1955?”

“When Ted was playing at the ‘Winter Gardens,’ in Blackpool, we were playing down the road at the Palace. Every night after we finished playing, a bunch of us would go down to see the Ted Heath Band play. Their trumpet section, just made your hair stand up. I had never heard anything like it. We got to meet the guys down at the local pub afterwards. Earl Hobson got to know one of their sax/clarinet players quite well, Henry McKenzie, he died just recently. He was a conscientious objector. Frank Horrox was their piano player. He also was a conscientious objector. Neither would fight in the war. Nor serve in the military. Jack Reynolds spent more time in the washroom than anyone I ever met.

Bill Millerd was a very quiet guy.  When I was badly injured on the bus, I was sure lucky. Frank Millerd, who was only sixteen, had the presence of mind to take his shirt off and wrap it around my foot, to stop the bleeding. In the hospital, they were able to catch the best foot surgeon in England, before he left on holidays. They brought him back to perform the operation. There was a Catholic priest there as well, wanting to know if I wanted to confess my sins.  I wanted to strangle him. And I will never forget, there was another fellow who came to see me from the Salvation Army. He took off his coat and said,

“Son, how can I help you?”

He made sure that my parents were notified.”

“Can you tell me anything about Ted Heath himself?”

“Ted was a very quiet man. Not that easy to talk to. He was just very quiet. When he was conducting his band, if someone was having trouble, he would go and stand right in front of him, like Benny Goodman. You didn’t want him standing in front of you. His band was so good, so precise!

After Cheltenham, I bailed out because my foot got infected. I left the band. That was in 1958. The Heath band was in Cheltenham at that time. I stayed at Jimmy Coombe’s house. His wife Audrey took me to the hospital every day to change the dressing on my foot.”

“That is when you got to know his daughter Kay?”

“Yes, eventually I rejoined the band. They didn’t want me to play the homecoming concert because they felt that I had abandoned the band but I was seriously ill.  Luckily I got full mobility back in my foot, so that was  good.

I went to a few recording sessions and concert dates with Jimmy. It was a great experience. He was a real character. I kept asking Bobby Pratt,

“How do you play like that?” He would say,

“I don’t know. I just do it.”

So, one of the guys says, I thought I was really going to hear how he did it, he says,

“I do it with brute force and bloody ignorance!”

“How old were the guys in Ted Heath’s band?”

“They were anywhere from twenty to sixty.  Roy Reynolds played with Stan Kenton. He was at my house when Stan died. Just broke him up. He played baritone sax and then switched to tenor sax. If you ever get the chance to hear a recording called, Roy’s Blues, do so.”

“After London, you came back to Vancouver?”

“I came back of course, with the band in 1958 and then I went back to England in 1959. Kay and I were married and we lived in England until 1963. I kind of regret leaving England, I think that I might have done better in England.”

“You played professionally in England?”

“Yes.”

“Anything more you want to add about England?”

“I played a summer season on the North Pier in Blackpool for the David Whitfield Show. At the end of the season, the weather was getting rough and the sea was actually coming into the pit. I remember thinking,

“I’m not going down with the ship.”

          In order to stay in London, I got myself a job as a chauffeur. So I had a day job. I was working nights at an Irish Club in Cricklewood, six nights a week. I will never forget St. Patricks Day. We were told there would be no breaks. There was a guy being chased and they tried to get him on the bandstand. The leader of the band  was a tenor sax player. He had about size twelve brogues. I remember him putting his foot in this guys face and pushing him back into the crowd. The music went flying like confetti.

I did a show here in Vancouver with Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer. There was a fight afterwards in the parking lot, band mentality, I guess! My first gig in Vancouver was playing at the Cave with Fraser McPherson for the Mills Brothers. I was really too young but I got called because I could read and that was all because of Arthur Delamont. I knew how to read the cuts and to be spontaneous. Arthur taught us how to do it all. He also taught us endurance. Non-stop playing! You had to learn to pace yourself.”

“Brian Bolam worked many circus gigs. You had to be able to read the music quickly.”

“I remember a circus story, after the show, I was trying to get back to my trumpet case to get something. This rental cop was trying to stop me from going into the band room. So I pushed him out of the way. I went roaring around the corner and I’m looking at the lion tamer. His name was ‘Tarzan Zirini.’ He was standing looking at this lion, which was out of his cage. Tarzan had a chair in his hand. The lion looked at me and then looked at him and turned around and went back into its cage. I said to George, that was his actual name,

“I am sorry I got in the way.” He said,

“I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life. If the cat looks at me, he’s got trouble. You’re dinner!”

Another fellow named Bob Hamper who played trombone in Brian’s circus band, always liked to give the cats a razz! They were bringing the cats in, in the wagons and Bob’s making noises at the cat with his trombone.

“Rah,Rah,Rah,Rah.”

The cat leaned over, lifted his leg and pissed at him. Must have gone thirty feet! Bob had to throw his suit away because it smelled so bad.

The bandleader was a real character. He says,

“I told you so. Don’t mess around with the cats.”

He was part Apache, Mexican and Italian. There was a guy who threw a bottle at the band. The bandleader tried to chase him through the stands. He had a pacemaker. He had to telephone in because the pacemaker started acting up. They said,

“We are sending an ambulance to get you. Where exactly are you?”

Great memories! There was this kid who played trumpet and his wife played piano and organ. I remember this Norman Rockwell painting on the wall; of the old farmer and his wife in rural America. They looked exactly like them.”

“Did you ever hear of anyone jumping over board in Southampton, as the boat pulled away?”

“Gerry Deagle almost fell overboard in a storm. I remember on the island of Jersey, we would get the smaller boys to go down these holes and bring up German army helmets that had been dumped. The Germans left a lot of stuff!”

“Do you remember any other bands?”

“Kenny Ball was later on in 1959. He recorded Midnight in Moscow.’ We used to go to Archer Street in Soho, where the musicians congregated. Thousands used to go there to get gigs and to get paid.

Gordy Delamont, in 1958, bet me I couldn’t play a Double F. I did it every time. Just popped it out! Gordy’s daughter Susan came on the 1958 trip. He had a hard time keeping the guys away from her.  She looked much older than fourteen. Brian Parkinson started going out with her on the trip.”

‘How was Gordy Delamont?”

“Nice guy, someone you could hang out with, nothing like Arthur. Arthur was very strict. Gordon was not nearly as strict. I remember in Paris, everyone thought the bidets were foot baths.

Arnie Emery was a remarkable player. Wound up becoming a good doctor as well. His daughter was born blind. She became a good singer.”

“Who would you say were the three people who influenced your life the most?”

“I would have to say for sure, Arthur and Jimmy Coombes. The third one, I will have to think about that for a while!”

Don Radelet

ABOVE: Don and Bill Radelet on their way to England 1939, Don on his bike.

“Do you remember your first interaction with Arthur?”

“Yes,” “Keep still! Get a pair of black pants and a white shirt for your first concert and a little bow tie.” “That was for the General Gordon School Band.”

“You weren’t one of the originals?”

“No, I lived in the neighborhood though, with several of them. Stu Ross was one.

My brother was the first to get a horn. He got a trumpet. I was upset, so they bought me an eight dollar alto horn. Then we went down to Mr. Delamont’s place to have a private lesson. He scared the devil out of me. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. Eventually, he said to me, “You should be on trumpet. You’re smarter than your brother.”

“Who were some of the boys who died in the war?”

“Meade Sinclair, Ross Sturley, Pete Humphrys. I was a very good friend of Pete Humphrys. I received a card from Pete at Christmas time 1943. He said, “Hope to see you soon old boy!”

It wasn’t long after that I found Pete’s picture in the paper. There were several fellows who were killed in action in the air force.

“What was Arthur’s reaction to the loss of so many of his boys in the war?”

“Oh, it really upset him. I remember when the boy died in France on the 1962 band trip. Arthur played a hymn at every concert after that. Deep Harmony was the hymn. I stayed in the band until I joined the Air Force in 1942. When I came back in 1945, I got involved in soccer. Around 1950, after the band came back from England, someone said, “Why don’t you come down to the station to welcome the band back?” So, I borrowed a horn and it was like I had never been away. Then someone said, “Why don’t you come down to the Air force Reserve band?” They had horns that I could borrow. I didn’t have my own baritone. Before long I was playing in every band. Half the Air Force band was ex-kits band members, Don Cromie, Ray Louden, Fraser McPhearson, Ozzie McCoomb. The better players always ended up in Delamont’s Concert band. He was very faithful.

I have been playing cruise ships since 1954. Right up until a cholera epidemic broke out on the boat then off for three years. I have been back with the Cunard for about four years. It was always a bit of a thrill, marching out to the end of the dock. He would play ‘Auld Lang Sang’.

Every band I have played in, there has always been a half a dozen or so ex-kits band members: the Navy band, the Lions band, the PNE band, the Air Force Reserve, the Delamont Concert band. A lot of Delamont’s boys went on to conduct their own bands, Dal Richards, Ken Sotvedt, Ron Smith from Magee high School. He would never say they did well, he would always say, “I wouldn’t have done it that way“.

Around 1954, a bunch of us approached Mr. D about him starting his own Concert band. Dal Richards was one of us. Mr. D got up and said, “I have just got a contract for the British Empire Games.” He says, “It ties in nicely, we just need uniforms.”  Dal Richards got up and said, “Well Mr. Delamont, as you know, it’s dog eat dog in this business. I may have jobs that conflict with your band from time to time.” He was just showing him that he was independent of him at that time. Anytime Arthur wanted an MC though, he was there. But he wasn’t going to let Arthur conflict with his own livelihood.

There were only a few of us who have stuck with him over the years. Stu Ross is one. He was one of the originals. Roy Johnston wasn’t an original member of the band. He came a year later but he has been a soloist with him for a long time, as have Kenny Bucholl and I. For years, he would telephone us up to see what was going on. We played in all the bands and he wanted to be in the know. Right up to the end, he was still calling up. He’d telephone at midnight just to talk if he couldn’t sleep. We never let him down. We played lots of Chinese funerals, dozens and dozens. All my best friends came out of the band, Alan Pugsley, John Symonds. Our wives all knew each other.”

“Who were influences in your life?” “Arthur of course but another was old Bob Quinn, a janitor at General Gordon School. Through him I got involved in top flight hockey at St. Andrews. Through Arthur, I got involved in playing in all these bands. The extra money I made was because of Delamont.

“Do you have any thoughts about the other guys?” “Wayne Pettie is probably one of the top trumpet players in Canada. He plays everywhere in Vancouver, great player. He can play anything.”

“Tell me about the ‘39 trip?” “Safeway was our sponsor. On the boat going over we always had a rehearsal. This was on the drunken Duchess. It was called that because she rolled. We lost our encore book on the boat. For the whole trip we played without our music. He never did know. We were too afraid to tell him. We used to see lots of army trucks moving around. We toured the Blenheim Bomber factory, outside of Liverpool. We knew something big was coming. Sandbags were going up around the buildings, air raid balloons were going up. I guess they knew Chamberlain wasn’t going to make it when he went to see Hitler. Germany invaded Poland while we were there. We were just kids, more interested in girls and going to the amusement parks on the pier.

Our ten cent Canadian coins fit perfectly in the Players cigarette machines. They were going to arrest us all if we didn’t make up the difference. We all had Players cigarettes on us. In Birkenhead we stayed in a real old place. We were taken to Port Sunlight, a soap factory. We were all given samples of soap. We had a soap fight when we got back to our hotel. One bar of soap went through the ceiling. Cost Mr. D, fourteen pounds.

When we were in Great Yarmouth, we were ordered by the Admiralty to: “GET OUT OF ENGLAND.” We were told to go to Liverpool and catch the Athenia. We didn’t seem to mind. We knew some of the girls on the Athenia. They were Americans over on a bike trip. We had met them on the way over, so we didn’t seem to mind having to leave. We couldn’t get through to Liverpool though because of all the cars and trucks on the roads and school kids. This was about the first or second of September. Everyone was getting out of the cities. There were lots of military vehicles. We ended up being told to go down to Southampton where we caught the Empress of Britain. Went over to Cherbourg, where we picked up a bunch of Polish refugees and a lot of Americans. The ship was crowded, there were beds everywhere. We all had life preservers. We never missed a meal. During the day, we were up on deck. We could see the zigzag behind us. We went down the coast of Africa. We could see the crew hanging over the side, painting the portholes black. We were told the submarines were after us. War had been declared! We finally got home and made it to Ottawa. Delamont had us set up under the Peace Tower and started to play a concert. Someone came out and told us to leave. We didn’t have permission. So, we went back to the train.”

“What do you recall about the New York World’s Fair?” “Well, we played for Swifts Ham. We stayed at the YMCA on 20th Street. We had a wonderful time. Every day the bus would take us out to the Fair. We went to all the different pavilions and saw the Billy Rose Show, the sky train, great place!

I remember in Bath, there were about three or four of us in this one room. We had the only window from which you could get to the ground. We charged the guys to use our window because we were broke. That’s where we saw Haile Selassie who was in exile at the time. It was in a freight yard. This old fellow was out painting with his easel and his dog. It was Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia. We stood and watched him painting.

We saw Beverly Baxter, an MP. He showed us around the Houses of Parliament. We had high tea and fancy cakes.”  We could play pretty good by the time we returned home.

“Do you have any thoughts about the 79 trip?” “We stayed in this great old place in Glasgow. We were very lucky.  Did some jobs we were hired to do. He came to me one day and said, “You didn’t bring me anything to practice did you?” I said, “Yes, I have Scenes That Are Brightest!”

Instead, he had me learn it! I had to play it at every concert. He didn’t have any good trumpet players.”

“Do you have any other memories of your band days?” “I remember playing for this one Chinese funeral in particular. We had to change in a funeral home. They had open caskets in the room. That was kind of eerie. We played so many that sometimes we would just leave work and go to them. Only problem was, we would often wind up on the evening news because the fellow was famous. You could only go to the dentist, so many times! Stu Ross was the MC at one of Arthur’s concerts at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. He said, “We have some guys who have gone to the dentist so many times. Stand up Don and show everyone your teeth!”

Jimmy Pattison would always show up late. The curtain was ready to be drawn. He wouldn’t have a bow tie. I always carried a couple of extras. I would pass one along to him. Jimmy was on the committee that organized the reunions. Even at those meetings, he would be in the corner on the telephone. He looked after the advertising.

“The girl that I got to know on the Athenia going over to England, I got a letter from her sister, when I returned, saying, “Norma had drowned on the Athenia!” “We all had to wear life jackets coming back in 1939. He was very concerned. He knew it was risky. After the Athenia was hit, there was lots of concern back home. I know that he split his money up between himself and his wife. It was in a belt which he gave to her in case there was an emergency. She had half and he had half. He was a very sentimental guy. He’s been on the telephone to me crying about his marriage, how lonely he was. His eyes were bothering him at the end. His contact lens’ would go away up inside and he couldn’t see. He had a concert in the morning. George Fischer and his wife, he was a druggist up on Dunbar Street, they sort of looked after him at that time. He liked to be babied. He had to have his apple sauce and tea after the concert was over. There was a sentimental side to the guy, almost childlike in some respects. He would push chairs around and say, “Don, go out and set those chairs up.” He knew I knew where they went and how many we needed. He had me hiring the guys. He’d call me and say, “Don, I need six trumpets tomorrow.”

I didn’t know where I was going to get six trumpets. Often the guys would have concerts on that same day but I usually came up with them somehow. If I sent him the wrong guy though he would give me hell. “I didn’t want him!” he would say. Not only that, I would go all over the place picking up uniforms for the guys who didn’t have them. He wrote something to me once about being a “Real Friend’ to him all these years.  I was one of the ones he always relied on. If I can take any credit for it, I sure earned it. On those hot days, lugging six or seven blue uniforms down to the dock and then if I was a minute late, “Don, where have you been?” I never got paid anything extra. He knew who he could talk to that way.”

“Do you have any last thoughts?”“On the ‘79 trip, we were in a place in Scotland where they have mock weddings. There was a piper playing with his hat set out on the street. Our bus pulled up and Delamont says, “Everyone out and get set up.” He didn’t realize that this piper was trying to make a living. He just takes over but that was Delamont at the end. He then puts his own hat down and says, “We are playing our way around Scotland and we need your support.” That night, Jack Bensted, one of the “originals,” and Ozzie McCoomb, met with Arthur and told him they were going to go home if he did that again. That and the fact he started ranting and raving at everybody because he didn’t have a good trumpet section, upset the guys. After they talked to him and he realized they weren’t kids anymore, it was a great trip. I even gave out flowers, at the end, to all the ladies. I saved the last one and said, “This is for the little girl that didn’t make this trip. Vera!” He was in tears. Just an old softy!

This interview was conducted with Don in 1988. In October 2007, Don entered a nursing home, suffering from the effects of Alzheimers disease.  A great guy! Don passed away in March 2011.

 

 

Remembering George!

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ABOVE: George on the far right holding the winning certificate from the 1966 Kerkrade Music Festival. The following interview was done in 2008 for my book The Lost Chord – Strawberry Fields Forever – The Sixties Boys from the Vancouver Kitsilano Boys Band

George was one of the older boys on the 1966 Kits Band tour of Europe. He has been playing the bass horn now (2008) for 50 years! Mr. D often relied on him to do errands for him on the tour. I will let George tell you more about that.

“When did you join the Kits band?”

“In 1963, I was in the Richmond High School Band. Our bandmaster, Jack Habkirk, had been in the Kits Band, as had most of the music teachers in the lower mainland at that time. He said, “You’ve got to get into a more challenging band.” There was a Richmond District Junior Band at that time as well as a Richmond District Senior Band. Jack ran the junior band until Al Horrocks, who ran the senior band, moved into Vancouver and then Jack moved over to the senior band. Jack was at Palmer Elementary. Bernie Reid, the night school principal, came up with the idea for the district bands.”

“When did the district bands start in Richmond?”

“The district bands started about 1962. I started playing in 1959. This year will be my 50th year playing the tuba. Jack said, “Call Mr. Delamont up and tell him you are a student of mine and that you would like to join the Kits Boys’ Band.” I took my heart in my hand and telephoned Mr. Delamont. I had just finished playing the Flying Dutchman in the Lower Mainland All Star Band with Fred Turner.”

“Was that for competition?”

“No, I think it was just Fred Turner’s idea. I was also in the BC All Star Band as well that year. That was in Victoria.  I called Mr. Delamont and I said, “I’m George Ellenton. I am a tuba player in Jack Habkirk’s band in Richmond. He says, “Oh John’s band, yes, are you any good?” I said “I think I’m pretty good Mr. D. I was just in both the Lower Mainland and BC All Star Bands and we played the Flying Dutchman. He says, “Have you got a tuba?” I said, “Yes, I just got a new tuba.” He says, “Well bring it along.” I show up on Monday night for the junior band –  the early rehearsal. I go to open my tuba case and no key. I had left the key at home. I had only had the horn about a week and I took it to school every day and I always locked it up. He says, “What, what are you doing back there?”

“Well, I locked my case and I forgot to bring the key.”

“Well geez, uh, gosh!”

He’s flustering around, as he was oft to do, and then he says, “Well, get one of the sousaphones out of there.” I had never seen a sousaphone except on TV, let alone played one.

I finally got this thing on, no shoulder pad, 700 pounds it seemed, strange mouthpiece. I was so uncomfortable but I was a good player in those days, so I adapted and got through the rehearsal. He says, “You can stay for the second rehearsal but if the guys show up you will have to give up the horn but maybe they can get your case open.”

Sure enough, one of the fellows, Jamie Hawthorne showed up. Big Mike Gregg comes in with his French horn, which happened to be a Huttle – the same make as my locked up tuba in the case.  He says,

“Mike, is that a Huttle horn you got?”

“Yes Mr. D.”

“Unlock that IDIOT’s tuba case!”

He took his French horn key over to my tuba case and unlocked the case. The tuba case has never been locked since. I had heard all the stories about Mr. D, the tyrant, so now I knew why.”

“Are there any other early stories?”

“At one rehearsal he was picking on Graeme Monteith, a clarinet player. He usually had a chair nearby that he could bash around. At this particular rehearsal he didn’t have a chair. He gets up and starts thrashing around and he says to Graeme, “You, get up!” Graeme gets up and Mr. D starts bashing his chair into the ground and it breaks. He tosses it off to the side and says to Graeme, “What are you doing standing there? Go get a chair and sit down.” That was one of his famous temper tantrums.”

Charlie Forester and I went through Junior and Senior High school together. He became a geologist with Imperial Oil. I heard he went down to South America to do exploration work for Imperial Oil.”

“Can you tell me anything more about Jack Habkirk?”

“He was a great bassoon player and tenor saxophone player. He also became a great trumpet player. He began playing trumpet when he started teaching band. He was a really neat guy. He played in the Lion’s band. He passed away about 1967. Jack told me a story about the boys practicing their marching on the deck of the ship going over to England in 1934. One of the boys was having problems with his slide and the next thing they heard was, “Slide-Over-Board.” Jack played in Mr. D’s professional band. He played the cruise ships in and out. He was in the VSO. He was a good musician. He had what all the Delamont guys have, the ability to program.”

“Tell me about your early days in the band, leading up to the 1966 European trip.”

“We traveled to Alberta by bus in the summer of 1965, and played at the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton’s Klondike days. In the summer of 1964, we had traveled to Penticton for the Peach Festival. They were fun trips. I remember I fell asleep on the beach in Penticton and returned to put on my uniform for the concert, all sunburned. It isn’t much fun marching in wool pants with sunburned legs. The lead-up to the 1966 trip was fun. The playing gradually got a little more intense and we started marching in the General Gordon School yard. Both my mom and dad had been drill sergeants during the Second World War. They would come to pick me up and to watch. They were not impressed by our first efforts.  However, they were very impressed by the time we returned from Kerkrade. Every foot was in place when we marched triumphantly down Granville and Hastings streets at our homecoming.”

“Tell me about the 1966 European trip.”

“I had not planned on going on the trip. I had just wasted a year, ‘65-66, at SFU. I majored in cards. I had decided that I was going to straighten up and go back to SFU. I had a job in a pool hall in Richmond. I was a pretty good pool player in those days. I had a good salary and was managing to bank most of my salary. Delamont said to me,

“Are you coming on the trip?” I said,

“I don’t think so Mr. D. I have to stay and earn some money.” He says,

“The trip to Europe would be far more valuable than a year at university. If you come up with your spending money, I will pay for your trip.” I couldn’t beat that, so I went and he paid my way. When we returned, I owed him $20. The week after we returned, I applied for a job and got it at the Bank of Nova Scotia. After getting my first pay cheque, the first cheque I wrote was to pay off Arthur. He was quite good to me.

I was the concertmaster on the 1966 trip. I didn’t really do anything except start one rehearsal when he was held up. He used to give me a hard time about my conducting. He would say,

“You have no pattern!” Imagine, him telling me I had no pattern, he was all over the place but it worked for him. I remember someone saying once,

“There are two volumes to a Delamont band, loud and ‘Oh my God.’ The trip was exciting. I was kind of a father confessor figure, I guess because I was older. I kept a diary of the trip but, unfortunately, I can’t find it. I remember some of us did a pub crawl in Woolwich Arsenal. In Edinburgh, George Bouwman and I decided we would have a drink in every pub along the street from where we stayed to Princes Street. We were so bombed! I remember the kindness Mr. Delamont showed me in Kerkrade. I had a migraine headache. We were supposed to march into town after the marching event. We went back to our home stay and I lay down. I usually sleep off the migraines. When I woke up, I could hear the band playing. I got my uniform on, put the sousaphone together and caught up with the band in time for the last number. After we had finished, Mr. D came over and said, “What happened?” I said,

“I’m sorry Mr. D. I had a migraine headache and passed out.” He said,

“Okay, I hope you feel better.” It wasn’t a big deal. He was good that way.

I remember Wally, which of course was the name we gave him, his guardians at the airport told Mr. D that he was not to go anywhere that alcohol was being served and that he was to be in bed by such and such an hour. All good Christian values as they saw it. When we got off the bus at Woolwich Arsenal, Mr. D said, “Wally, I’m thirsty. Go into that pub over there and get me an orange pop. That was Mr. D being defiant. Don’t let the boy go anywhere near where there is alcohol. Wally, go into the pub and get me an orange pop.

I always remembered the theory if we were supposed to be somewhere at say two o’clock, if Mr. D arrived at 2:10, he was not late, we were all early. It was a great trip!

In Cologne one of the valves on my sousaphone was sticking so Mr. D said, “Go find a music repair shop and get it fixed.” I looked in the yellow pages and found a shop, all in German of course. There I am walking down a street in Cologne, in my slacks, sweat shirt and sports jacket with the body of the sousaphone wrapped around my shoulder. I eventually find the shop and the fellow of course speaks no English. Anyway, he fixes the valve. On my way back it is starting to get hot because the sun has come out. Here I am wearing my slacks and sports jacket, so I decide to go into a bar and have a beer. I get talking to this guy and he buys me a couple of more beers. When I come out of the bar, I am totally disorientated. I have no idea where I am, so I see some railway tracks. I figure the best way to get back into town is to follow the railway tracks, except I begin following them in the wrong direction, out of town. I realize my error when I see a sign which reads, “Dusseldorf that way!” Finally, I flag down a taxi. He doesn’t speak any English either. All I can remember about the charming converted bunker where we stayed was “am zoo” or by the zoo. So, I say,

“Take me to Cologne Cathedral.”

He takes me to the Cologne Cathedral. I finally find the streetcar that takes me back to the bunker. I whip into the bunker, assemble my sousaphone, rush as fast as I can down to the bandstand and sit down just in time for the opening down beat.

Paris was really neat. We had three folders of music and played a lot. There was a friend of mine over there from university, so we palled around for four of five days.

Southend-on-Sea was fun. We played many concerts and marched in the Carnival parade every day. We also had our free time in Southend – where the boys could go off and visit relatives for a few days. Those of us that stayed behind had the run of the amusement park where we ended up staying. Great fun! Wally caught the chicken pox. Dartmouth was great! We were the “boys from the colony” and our money was “no good” for any purchases. Mr. Delamont liked to prove he could out walk you. If he was walking on the other side of the street he would make a point of over taking us, except he would cross the street just as he was over taking us and bump us to prove he could out walk us.

Edinburgh was neat. We took the train to Scotland. I remember I needed to have a cigarette, so I went down to the urinal in the train station, to the farthest urinal and lit up a cigarette. In a moment I hear, “George, put that out!” Mr. D didn’t particularly care whether you smoked or not – just as long as you didn’t smoke in uniform. He had followed me all the way downstairs and into the urinal. It seemed like every time I tried to grab a smoke with my sweater or uniform on, he would catch me. He probably had to go to the urinal too but it seemed like he was always looking over my shoulder.

I remember the pride of marching down Hastings Street when we got back. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”

“I worked for the Bank of Nova Scotia. I married my first wife in 1969 and separated from her in 1971. It didn’t work out. Her name was Marie Louise and my present wife’s name is Mary Louise. I just picked the wrong one. I spent four years at the Bank of Nova Scotia (1966-’70) and then four years at Canada Permanent Trust (1970–’74) during which time I spent a couple of great years in Kamloops.

I did a lot of theatre in Vancouver in 1968. I played in the pit orchestra, string bass for Guys & Dolls in June of 1968 at Metro Theatre. I was watching the actors on stage and I thought they seemed to be having more fun than we were in the orchestra. I have a rule, “No one is allowed to have more fun than me.” I took some theatre workshops and began auditioning for musicals. My first musical was in Ladner in 1968, Oklahoma. I was cast as one of the dancers. I did a lot of musical theatre between 1968 and ‘70. I usually had four shows going at once. I hurt my back re-doing Oklahoma in 1969 so I began to turn more towards producing. I did some conducting as well. I conducted Pajama Game for Richmond Theatre at Metro theatre in Vancouver, and was the Assistant Musical Director for Metro’s production of Kiss Me Kate.

In Kamloops, I did mostly dance – tap and ballet. In 1974, I came back to Vancouver. I thought about going to university to become a band director. I went to Douglas College in New Westminster in the daytime – Len Whitely and Wally Robertson were running the program at that time – and drove bus in the evenings. I was just about to get married to Mary and it was all too much, so I dropped out of college. They were sad to see me go because they had been so happy to have a mature student.

I drove transit from 1974 through 1987. I started playing tuba again. During that time I did a lot of dance work but no musical theatre. George Bouwman, my high school buddy, and also a trombone player on the 1966 tour, got me to join the Delta Concert Band, conducted at that time by Bobby Herriot. That is where I met my wife Mary Howland. She was doing her practicum and was conducting the Delta Band because Herriot was away. Then she took over the band program at Eric Hamber School from 1974 through 1980. It was a big program. Mary and I were married in 1975.

In 1985, I am driving bus, studying dance and then I went off to Western Kentucky University to get my DEA, dance teachers certificate. I started teaching dance in the community centers. I would drive my shift, come home and have a nap and then teach dance from three to seven.

I started teaching tap for Bev Rose. She was my mentor, the one who told me I was going to be a dancer in Oklahoma. She ended up being my daughter’s godmother. Eventually I left transit in 1988 and became a house Dad. During that year I auditioned for Gateway Theatre’s production of Cabaret. I got the role of “Herr Schultz.” I was about 38. That summer I did Westside Story at TUTS. I was cast as “Doc.” It was a great cast!

In October of 1988, I got a telephone call from my friend Bobby Bruce who performs as “Nearly Neil.” I first met him during the run of Cabaret (he was the EMCEE).  Bobby said, “They are opening this new dinner theatre in Port Coquitlam called “Maz and Mes” and they are looking for a musical director. You should give them a call. I called the number and I heard, “G’day, Maz & Mes!”  It was with a strong Australian accent. I said, “You have an ad in the Vancouver newspaper for a musical director?” “Oh ya darling, what’s your sign?” “Capricorn!” “Ah good, we’ll get along just fine!” She sets up an audition at her restaurant. I went down to her restaurant which they were converting into a dinner theatre and it was just a pile of rubble. I did the audition and got hired. I spent five wild and wonderful years at “Maz & Mes.” We did five shows a week and some specials, and it ran every night from mid October to December 24th. I had two weeks off in the summer, so I did about 1,500 shows in all. I was still

teaching dance at the same time. I served the meals, did the show and then I came back and drank with the customers afterwards. I made good money. It was lots of fun. It was hard on the body though because I was in my 40s and the kids I worked with were in their 20s. From Maz, I learned about programming variety. Maz had been a performer and a comedian in Australia. She married a Canadian and moved back here. Nothing matched in her restaurant – different pieces of china, different chairs. It had its own unique atmosphere. One day I came in and looked up on the balcony and all the chairs were the same – brand new. I said to Maz, “Come on Maz, we are losing touch with who we are!” “What da ya mean George, what da ya mean?” “Look at all those brand spanking new chairs, all in a row.” The next day when I came in, I looked around. The new chairs had been dispersed throughout the theatre.

In 1991, I wound up buying the dance school from Bev Rose. She had operated the school out of her house, so we bought the house as well. The school was in Tsawwassen. Now, I am working five nights a week at Maz & Mes and running my own business, which I had never done before.

I started playing piano when I was five. I am probably one of the last piano players around who can not only read charts but play almost any time in any key, due to all my variety experience because I had to come up with 60 songs or so each night for each performance.

The dance school was very successful up until 2005, when I let myself be persuaded to take the school in a different direction and to take on associates. After that, the business went into the tank. In 2007, I had to shut it down, sell the house and pay off all my debts. Here I am starting all over again at age 60.

I had a great time with the kids. We put on some great shows. The kids that I mentored are now mentoring me. Tracy Neff is going to be a big musical star. She did Company at the Stanley Theatre and Guys and Dolls at Gateway. She went to school with my daughter. Jennifer Page, a girl I mentored at Maz and Mes works regularly in Las Vegas.

I studied Russian ballet as well. I am recognized by Nadia Kalmanaskaya, in California, who has stated that I qualify to teach the first two levels of the Vaganova Ballet technique. That is the technique used by the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet. I have been down to Los Angeles to do shows with her as a performer and emcee.

My latest come-back started at Gateway last Christmas (2007) in My Fair Lady.  Imagine that a comeback at age 60. Half the people that I used to work with are no longer around. Ray Michaels doesn’t call me anymore. Maz says, “No George, that’s because he passed away.”

My latest project is my “Frankly Yours” show. It is a loving tribute to Frank Sinatra. I started as a singer in the Elgar Choir at age 8.”

“Who are the three people that you feel influenced your life the most?”

“Arthur Delamont would be one. He taught me a lot about music and programming. Maz Gehring of ‘Maz & Mes,’ she taught me a lot about comedy, timing and programming.  The third influence would be a tie between Bev Rose and Nadia Kalmanovskaya, my two dance mentors.

Of course I have to include my family – my wife Mary and my wonderful children. I have a beautiful 28 year old daughter, Jodie and a talented 26 year old son, John. My daughter was a very good dancer. Jodie toured the states twice with ‘Dance Caravan.’ She liked to be around her friends. She was accepted to the summer program at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet but she decided not to go. John’s artistic talent manifested itself visually, as he works as a designer in the video and computer gaming industry.

One last story, when we were in Southend-on-Sea on the 1966 trip, Delamont asked me to go into London each day and pick up the band’s mail at Canada House. I went in about four times. On this one day I was feeling a little thirsty, so I stopped off at the bar in the station for a drink. While I was sitting at the bar an elderly English gentleman sitting at the far end of the bar said to me,

“Can I buy you a drink son?”

I recognized him immediately. He was the spitting image of my grandfather, except my grandfather had died in 1953. We chatted for a while and then I thanked him and boarded my train down to London. When I got back home, I told my mother about meeting this man who was the spitting image of my grandfather. She said,

“He could have been a relative. Your great grandfather had two families. We are not sure how it came about but he probably married twice.”

“Deja vu?”

“All of us boys who played under Mr. D became known as Delamont’s boys. All the girls who went through my school became known as George’s girls!”

 

Ron Wood

Ron Wood’s Memories

IMPRESSIONS OF ONE OF THE YOUNG GUYS

THE RUN ACROSS CANADA

RON WOOD

 

The great adventure or the trip of a lifetime as many were calling it began at 9:00 pm, Saturday May 13th at the CPR railway station in Vancouver, B, C. We all arrived early as this was certainly one train we did not want to miss. My “oversized” light blue metal suitcase and my horn case seemed to be a challenge in itself to lug down the station platform as I was a skinny 13-year-old (soon to be 14 on June 6th).
I was totally amazed at the thought of going on the trip with all the big guys. Everything seemed to be awesome in scale. I recall the large train sitting on the track with the steam “hissing” from the hoses at the connections between the railroad cars. I recall my Mother looking very apprehensive and my Father, who was president of the Band’s Parent Association (of course there was only one boss of the band—D) was standing there proud of his achievement and so he should be.
I always had thought that the trip had been financed by postcard sales, concerts and the $100 we each had to pay. However, from the many phone calls at the house I learned that Dad, Rich Brown- Ritchie & Gordie’s Dad and Harry Gregory, Ian’s Dad – the committee plus a few others had raised about $85,000 for the Band, primarily from their contacts in the Vancouver Rotary Club. Mr. Brown had got all the food we carried across Canada from his Wholesaler clients.
Anyway, I was ready with my red T-shirt, navy blue sweater with the Maple Leaf and matching blue cord pants, topped off with something else to carry, a navy blue trench coat.

As I strode to the train after saying my good-byes there stood the porter who had placed a step stool below the steps into the train. “Hi young fella,” he said. Now I really did feel skinny. He said just call me Jim “Cool Breeze”. Man he was big and I found out later that he had been a line backer for the Hamilton Ti-Cats before the CFL. As I clambered aboard and walked down the narrow passageway past the entrance to the “Washing Up Room and John” I detected the disinfectant smell like Dettol that was to be with us for the entire trip.
As the passageway broadened to reveal two rows of plush seats facing one another I bumped along until I found my allotted home for the next while. I don’t have a record in my diary, but it probably was my friends Mike Hadley and Tim Hawes who bunked in with me. The two double seats, we found, folded down to make a bed for two. Then along came Cool Breeze with a big key and unlocked an overhead berth for one that hung down and included the heavy dark-green curtains that provided privacy–in a Band what was that! As I recall we dispensed with any ladder and rather deftly put one foot on the lower armrest and with one swing were up in the upper berth, hopefully not hitting your head in the process. Excitement was running high so it was after midnight before everything settled down.

We awoke as the train was chugging along the Shuswap Lakes. This first day we stopped at Revelstoke where we played an afternoon concert followed by and evening concert at the Avalon Theatre. One of the numbers featured was the comedy piece Village Band. Garfield White did some MCing and used his well-worn phrase ” Some Bands are good and some Bands are loud, but this Band plays good and loud.” The audiences were not large, but it was a start.
We left Revelstoke at 1:00 am and traveled to Calgary. The morning turned out to be sunny and as I lifted the blind in the lower berth we saw a herd of Elk bounding along parallel to the train. As we cleared the decks in the first car the routine was to get cleaned up in a hurry using the six hand basins in the washroom which somehow went like military precision. Then we all sat down to breakfast as D outlined all the rules of the day and assigned the duties required. As we sat down we, of course, were famished.
After cereal along came the comedy act of Cy and Ron. You held up your piece of bread and Cy slapped a gob of butter on it, followed close behind by Ron holding up a large 4 pound tin of Empress Strawberry Jam—yelling Jaaaam-Jaaaam! And with a flurry slapped a tablespoon full of the good stuff on your outreached piece of bread–meanwhile D who suffered from Diabetes had a small bowl of fruit up in the first few berths. All was put away as we arrived in Calgary at 12:30 PM and played a concert to a sell-out crowd in the Western Canada High School where I had my first visit with relatives.

The next day was Tuesday as we traveled toward Swift Current, Saskatchewan. We stopped off at Medicine Hat and slid down out of the train trying to look somewhat disciplined as D ran up and down the ranks pressing everyone into position (Ding bust it all, Fat Heads, Chumps!) and then making last minute changes in position for better sound and then wheeling around to the front for a quick downbeat.
Being one of the little guys I was pressed into service to sell postcards at which we quickly became adept—“They cost us 25 cents each to print you know so please ‘elp my boys get to England.” We had a few minutes before the train took off so a few of us went over to the Ice House. Since this was a half century ago (Can You Believe It!) the train coaches didn’t have air conditioning. So under each coach there were three metal coffin-like containers about three feet square and some five feet long with the outer side opening down.
The Ice House contained stacks of these ice blocks with straw between them and over them. The railway hands would haul each block on to a small hand pulled flatbed truck and ease it over to the train and with more than a little bit of skill grasped the ice block with tongs, swung it in one motion into the coffin and slammed the locking levers into place with a large hammer. It was now time to get aboard and be on our way.
As I stepped up into the train I noticed a bucket hanging under the outlet from the toilet and smiled as the tune came to mind about not using the lavatory while in the station to the strains of Humouresque. We arrived at Swift Current where it had rained heavily and there was mud everywhere. Our concert was sponsored by the Swift Current Lions Band. Swift Current and Moose Jaw have been and still are “hotbeds” of Band music.

The next morning we were awakened by someone playing Reveille and were told we would soon be in Regina where we were to be guests of the RCMP at their National Training Facility. First we had lunch with all the Mounties in their Mess Hall. Then the Mounties Band put on a countermarching display in front of the Headquarters Building in our honor. Several of the Mounties took us in groups to the Museum, Stables, Chapel, Gymnasium and finally the Olympic-sized swimming pool where they train for water rescue using overturned canoes etc. In the evening we played our concert to a full house, including many Mounties.

Thursday was a general clean up day in Brandon. By that time our socks and maroon T shirts needed work as we all took turns using the hand basins and hanging our stuff on lines rigged up or on the food packing boxes. On Friday after about a week away from home I started to feel green around the edges, probably due to the change in drinking water. I was sitting on some of the boxes, looking forlorn I suspect, when D whistles in and says in his usual brisk manner “Ron, your not homesick already are you?” I was “hurt” to the quick as I was far from being homesick and felt I was a man of the world – besides about 12 other boys were sick and some were big guys. With that D left in what seemed like a puff of smoke.
1950 was the year of the big flood in Winnipeg. As we crawled along the track by-passing the city our track was running along the top of a dyke with water on both sides. Pretty dangerous at the time I guess, but we didn’t think much of it. As we got into parts of the city we could see the water level up to the second or third floor of the industrial buildings. We pulled into Kenora, Ontario, had some pictures taken for the local paper and then went to the Radio Station to hear the Four Notes perform on the Air. Our concert had been cancelled as all halls were being used to house flood victims.
We thought it was great to have the free time, but D was like a volcano. The next day we were in Port Arthur where, in addition to playing we went on a sightseeing excursion to Boulevard Lake where it empties into the Upper Current River. At the smaller falls I was amazed how brown the water was from natural runoff compared to our clear glacial waters back home.

On Sunday we were at Sudbury where parts of the landscape looked like the moon – I guess from the air pollution of the IOCO Nickel Mine there. In the evening we played to a crowd of over 1,000 at the Capitol Theatre. Then it was on to the big city and home of the Maple Leafs – Toronto. We arrived at the huge Union Station where I for some reason was fascinated by the ceilings, which were monumental in concept. Two concerts were played at High Schools – one of which was Danforth Technical School We all went for a swim at one of the schools. A sightseeing trip was arranged that included the Zoo, Casa Loma, and Maple Leaf Gardens plus I rode a Subway for the first time.

It was now on to Montreal and then Quebec City on the CNR Boat Train so we had to pack up all our stuff with the thought of a trip on the High Seas running through my head. As we pulled into the Shipping Sheds we couldn’t see the Boat, but after clearing Customs and Immigration we all swarmed the gangplank and there she was the RMS SAMARIA ——–and that’s another story!

 

Robin Scott

Memories of Robin Scott

 

 

From Robin Scott (1950 trip) July, 2005:

“….It is interesting that two thirds of the band of 1950 are still around.

Trombone playing must prematurely age one as I am the only one left.

 

Your invitation has prompted me to reminisce about the trip. [Barrie Gillmore invited all the 1950 Band members and their partners to a dinner at his home, July 31, 2005.] My mother kept my old scrapbook of the trip so I dug it out to peruse the old tattered paper with its “falling out” memorabilia. In review, this really was an outstanding adventure for us! Most of us had never travelled very far afield even in Canada.

Most of us came from families of modest means and could never have afforded such travel. There we were at the age of 15 or so, travelling through and visiting 10 or 11 Canadian cities.

Then voyaging on an ocean going ship with restaurant service for every meal and lots of diversions: I have noted music, cinema, ping pong, dances and sing songs.

In England, riding a subway was an adventure and our ration books were a reminder of our own rationing a few years earlier.

Looking at the railroad map with cities of Blackpool, Bolton, Manchester, Bath, Exeter, Torquay, Weymouth, Bournmouth, Glasgow, Edinbourgh, Aberdeen, Eastbourne, and London all circled brings back memories of railroad travel.

Remember, they still had steam engines which were pretty dirty, so it was good that we wore those blue clothing that didn’t show the dirt.

And, there was nowhere to sleep even in long trips to Scotland. Some of us even tried to sleep in the luggage racks!

We were able to visit all the famous London sites that are still popular today.

We saw the Tower, the Zoo, Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey and were even greeted by the Lord Mayor. St. Paul’s was memorable for climbing to the dome but also for the view of it standing untouched by the bombs while the surrounding neighborhoods had been flattened.

In the other cities we were able to see real castles and cathedrals and other buildings like nothing we had ever seen before. The Hippodrome program is of the Follies and the Palladium had Nat King Cole and his Trio among others.

When was there anything like this in Vancouver in 1950?

In industry, we saw diesel engines being manufactured, Brick being made, china being produced and decorated and chocolate being made into candy, beer being brewed, and cotton being produced from bale to yarn to cloth. Remember, in those days, and even today, there is very little manufacturing in Vancouver so this was all new to us.

The Holland trip was special in two ways besides seeing the canals and windmills etc. The hospitality was outstanding as the people were so thankful to the Canadian troops that had liberated them. But what still remains with me, is the language abilities of the kids we met. Here we had struggled with high school French which at the best enabled us to read a little, while all the young people there were fluently multilingual in four languages plus a dialect.

Our finale in Paris capped off the trip. Here we were introduced to French bread and wine. The wine was $0.29/liter as I recall. I have a picture of Dick Hall partaking of both.

Of course, none of this would have happened without “D” and we are all indebted to him for making this happen.

Again, it was a great trip and adventure.

I hope you all have a great reunion and many reminiscences of our trip 55 years ago.

Cheers, Robin
 

by Norm Mullins

August 26, 1990

  1. CANADA, THE ATLANTIC, AND GREAT BRITAIN

 

Saturday, August 26, 1950, forty years ago to a day, Peterborough, England: my diary says I walked downtown in the morning to see the public market, bought some peaches and pears at 5 pence per pound, and went to a football game in the afternoon. That evening: “Two absolutely sold out houses for our final night at the Embassy Theatre. There were lots of autograph hunters.”

For thirty-nine boys and their bandmaster that summed up, somewhat prosaically, 156 days of travel in Canada, England, Scotland, the Republic of Eire, Holland and France, during which they visited 51 cities, played 208 concerts, 23 street parades, and 4 radio programs.

Today as many as possible of the “Class of 1950” have come together with families and friends to recall that single most important event in our lives and to remember, too, the man who drew us together, dragged us about, and drove us to achievements beyond our own expectations.

It all began in March of that year when Mr. D, as we called him, decided to make his first postwar tour. From then on our lives were filled with Monday and Thursday practices, the Vancouver Music Festival, large and small fund raising concerts in North Vancouver, at the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce, a Rotary Convention, and the Legion Hall in Mission, church concerts at Canadian Memorial, Ryerson, St. George’s United, and, typically cold, wet and dreary, the Easter morning Sunrise Service at English Bay, all culminating in our Farewell Concert at Kitsilano High School. Our parents, apart from their own financial sacrifices for us, were busy raising money with rummage sales, teas, and raffles to help pay for this long trip.

Saturday, May 13th, we convened at the CPR Station on the waterfront and after playing a couple of marches and a hymn, said our farewells to families and friends whom we would not see again until mid October. For the younger boys – some only 14 years of age – and their worried parents this was a heart wrenching scene and even for the older, more blasé ones, there was more than one lump in the throat.

For the next ten days we practiced and played our way across this very large country. Between overnight stops for concerts at Revelstoke, Calgary, Swift Current, Regina, Brandon (in place of Winnipeg which was suffering its worst ever flood), Port Arthur, Sudbury, and Toronto, Mr. D. arranged us in our Pullman car seats and drilled us in our music. This was a formidable task because we had many bookings to play in parks in Britain and Holland, twice a day, six days a week – 12 full two-hour folders of music. In addition, Mr. D. had made up an entirely different program for Canada and condensed versions for theatres overseas.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, at Quebec City, we boarded the Cunard liner R.M.S Samaria, for a ten day crossing of the Atlantic. Twice and sometimes three times a day we practiced and three times played concerts aboard the ship until early on Friday, June 2nd, we arrived at Tilbury Docks in the Thames Estuary and travelled by bus through the beautiful, green countryside of Kent to our London hotel. There we experienced our first sensation of fame when we were surrounded by newsreel and bulb-flashing photographers recording for fleeting posterity our arrival on British soil.

Starting at Weymouth on the Channel coast, for the next ten days, we dashed about England. At beautiful Bournemouth one of our trombonists, Walter Goral who is here today, got the shock of his young life when Mr. D. told him that for three days he was going to have to lead the band because there was a Musicians’ strike underway and Delamont, as a member of the Union, could not work. On to Eastbourne, North to Blackpool and South again to Exeter and Torquay the streets of which, to our surprise, were lined with palm trees.

We observed more than a little of the terror and destruction suffered by Britons in the war which, after all, was only five years past. In Exeter we saw the shell-holed flag of the Cruiser H.M.S. Exeter which had fought the pocket battleship Graf Spee and what we thought was a “parking lot” of red gravel and soil which had been a block of brick houses demolished in a reprisal raid by German aircraft. In London, we saw the miracle of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing virtually untouched in a wasteland of bombed out buildings.

For hard working, hungry boys, we endured food, especially candy rationing, sausages that tasted like turkey stuffing, and kippers for breakfast, in our view the most barbaric eating experience one can have inflicted upon him.

After an interlude in Holland, we returned to Britain and took up our round of appearances in Glasgow, Edinburgh (where a week later our place was taken by the United States Air Force Band), and Aberdeen, Wembley Stadium in London (where we played to a crowd of 80,000 people attending motorcycle races), Golders Green’s popular vaudeville theatre, Blackpool again, the cotton-mill town of Bolton in Lancashire, South to Bath, on to Peterborough, Manchester, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, back to London for a horse show at Harringay Arena, and, finally, a return to Manchester until September 16th when we left for Ireland.

Our introduction to the Emerald Isle was not good. We had to cross the Irish Sea in a 60 mile per hour gale which left everyone on the ship near death from seasickness. Once on land, stomachs and morale improved and we came to enjoy Dublin Town and the block-long crowds that lined up to buy tickets for our performances. We shared a little in the fading history of British rule in Ireland by going into the middle of O’Connell Street and climbing to the top of the Nelson Column which a few years later was blown to bits by the Irish Republican Army.

On Saturday, September 23rd, we played our last concert in Dublin and in Europe. At this point, Mr. D. gave us an unexpected three days holiday. Nineteen went to Paris and the others scattered to revisit newly made friends or to take in the sights of London.

The following Thursday, we were reunited and set off once more for Tilbury, the Samaria, the Atlantic and Canada. Arrival back in this country did not mean the end of our work which continued unabated although somewhat different in form. To get as much home exposure as possible, every time our train stopped for more than a couple of minutes we would rush onto the platform, play a number or two, and jump back on board as the train pulled out of the station. In this way we saw those wide spots in the railway: Three Rivers, Chapleau, White River, Schreiber, Brandon again, and Broadview. We stopped over for concerts in Saskatoon and Edmonton and hit the boards again at Calgary, Banff, Field, and Revelstoke where there was already snow on the ground.

Sunday, October 15th, we awakened early and eagerly for our last day on the road and restoration with our families. Only as Burrard Inlet came into view were the first twinges of regret felt. There was yet to be our homecoming Concert and one more church concert a week later but never again would all thirty-nine of us and our bandmaster meet in one place to work or play or even to reminisce. For that we have only our memories.

 

  1. ARTHUR W. DELAMONT

 

C is open, D is first and third, E is first and second. What is that? It is the valve fingering for the C Scale played on a trumpet, an alto horn, a baritone and a bass and it is the first lesson I was taught by Arthur W. Delamont more than fifty years ago.

Who was this man who had such an influence on our lives? His basic historical facts are easier to comprehend than are the reasons for the influence he had on the characters and careers of thousands of young boys and, for a time, girls who came within the range of his baton.

Arthur Delamont was born 98 years ago in Hereford, England. He and his family were active members of the Salvation Army and young Arthur first learned to play a cornet in one of its bands. Throughout his life he was a devoted Christian and never smoked, drank or swore although we all observed occasions when his frustrations with us would have driven any lesser man to drink and when he shouted things that had the sound and fury of blasphemy without quite contravening his religious convictions.

In 1910, the Delamont family moved to Canada. Tragedy overtook them when, on a trip to Britain for an international Salvation Army convention in 1914, their ship, the Empress of Ireland, was sunk in the St. Lawrence River and Mr. D.’s brother Leonard was lost.

Apart from an avid interest in motorcycle racing, Arthur’s life turned more and more to music. He began to play with a dance hall band and faced his first crisis: the Army said stay with us and the hymns or take the sinful route with the fox-trotters but not both. Arthur chose the wider range offered by his spirit than the narrower one demanded by his faith and his destiny was struck.

In the early 1920s, Mr. D. migrated to Vancouver. He played in the pit orchestra at the Pantages Theatre (later renamed the Beacon), as lead trumpet in the Vancouver Symphony, the Stanley Park Malkin Bowl Sunday evening concerts, and, as radio grew in popularity, with virtually every musical group hired to do shows in that medium.

In 1928, he decided to apply his talents to the young people of Vancouver. He organized and led bands in Grandview, Point Grey Junior High School, General Gordon School, North Vancouver, West Vancouver (where Bobby Gimby of “CANADA” fame learned to play the trumpet), and, pooling the best of all these, the Kitsilano Boys Band. During the War he established the 111th Squadron Air Cadet Band with players “conscripted” from all his bands around the City.

His success with the Kitsilano Boys Band can be described only as “incredible.” Year after year it was the top of its class at the Vancouver Music Festival and at an international contest at the Canadian Pacific Exposition in 1935 it achieved an impossible 199 out of 200 points. In 1933, it beat the best of America’s bands at the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1934, 1936 and 1939, Mr. D. took his boys to Britain where they competed with senior, near-professional, military and industry-supported bands – and won. In the West of England in 1934 they took first place against 20 other bands gaining a prize never before removed from Britain. In 1936 at the Crystal Palace, they outclassed 22 British bands. After 1950, Mr. D. made five more triumphant tours of Britain and Europe.

Mr. D. was honored for his contributions to youth by being named Vancouver’s Citizen of the Year in 1946 and in 1979 received national recognition when he was awarded the Order of Canada.

It was difficult for us to believe that Mr. D. had a human side to him but he was married and had two children. Mrs. Lily Delamont was house mother to us all on our trips and her kindness and devotion unquestionably calmed and soothed her husband in his worst hours as it drew our undying affection for her. Vera, their daughter, participated for years in the band’s work and spends much of her time perpetuating her father’s memory. Gordon, their son, will be remembered for having authored the best children’s music training books in North America.

Success is not won easily and Arthur Delamont’s boys can attest to that. While hundreds enjoyed great achievements under his direction, thousands gave up and went their own ways without him. Call him “bandmaster” if you will but “taskmaster” is a more appropriate title. At practices, he would go over and over the difficult parts and pieces; he shouted; he blared his trumpet at the slightest mistakes; he stopped using costly batons because so many got broken from being thrown across the room. The most agonizing experience was to be singled out to play alone the impossible bars we could not master while the others looked on in disgust at our incompetence until their turns came.

Concerts were dreaded but inevitable. Rehearsals became more hideous as the fateful day neared. At the theatre, no matter how hard we tried to organize the seats on the stage, Mr. D. threw about chairs, music stands and people until he was satisfied and only then could the concert begin. During playing, he would grimace and glare at those who missed notes and once in a while, horror of horrors, stop the music, apologize to the audience, and start again at the beginning.

Mr. D. never let us quite master any piece of music. After weeks of preparation and the presentation of a concert, at the next band practice he would go over once more the parts we had played badly and then produce a whole new folder of music and the demands would start again.

Desire for punishment is not what motivated us to endure the pain and embarrassment we suffered. Rather it was a determination to show the Old Man that we were not going to be cowed or defeated by him. But then, as our playing began to give promise of professionalism, we stayed because the music itself got to us and, more importantly, a sense developed of belonging to a team of fifty or more individuals joining in one single, beautiful choir of elegant sound brightening our lives and the world around us.

Arthur Delamont was not a scholar of music or its composers or sources. He persisted in pronouncing Weber’s name as “Webber”. He likely knew that the 1812 Overture had something to do with Napoleon and Russia but he wasted no time edifying us. Even when we began playing a new wartime march called “British Eighth”, he didn’t know or tell us that it referred to the victorious allied army in North Africa. Mr. D.’s sole and abiding interest was playing the music not talking about it.

The question remains: did he make us better than we were or did he succeed because we were already more determined than those kids who didn’t stay around to suffer the “slings and arrows” of an outraged bandleader? Most of us believe that but for Arthur Delamont we would not have been as ready to face life’s challenges. When something seems impossibly hard, consciously or not, we remember that Mr. D. never let us quit and we don’t quit now and when the grim face of defeat confronts us, we recite C is open; D is first and third and, remembering our mentor, steel ourselves to the task.

Many of Mr. D.’s boys have gone from this world since 1928. Owen Morse from our 1950 tour group is among the missing. Tony Verrell, a man with a spontaneous and inexhaustible sense of humour, became a priest in this very Parish of Maple Ridge and his death is still deeply mourned. Roy Dawson died with his bride of one day in a grinding car accident. George Fisher, man Friday to every logistical need of Mr. D., has passed away as have trombonist Charlie Bowman and horn player Bramwell Stride. The only boy to suffer a serious accident during a band tour, Rick Patterson, unfortunately died of his injuries in Vienna. [See Note 1] Many others in the years since 1928 have likewise left this world.

Mr. D. too has gone. He played his last concert at a basketball game the night before his passing and he made his last obeisance to his faith by serving as chaplain in a Masonic Lodge function where he suffered the heart attack which removed him from us. His God owed him eternal life in heaven but part of him will live on forever in us and those to whom we pass on that determination he instilled in us for perfection always a little beyond our grasp but nevertheless worth the anguish of the struggle.

In the crypt in St. Paul’s Cathedral which many of us visited is the tomb of the great architect Christopher Wren which bears the Latin inscription:

Si monumentum requiris circumspice
(If you would see his monument, look about you.)

Arthur Delamont built no castles or cathedrals, no spans or skyscrapers, but he built MEN and if you would see Arthur Delamont’s monument – a living monument – look about you.

 

III. NINE DAYS IN HOLLAND

 

Of all the great events of the summer of 1950, the most exasperating, exciting and memorable one began on Saturday, June 24th. The day before, we had arrived back in London, recorded a BBC program for later broadcast, and packed music, instruments and personal effects for the morrow’s move to the Netherlands. We had to be at Liverpool Street Railway Station virtually at dawn. Mr. D. was in a particularly foul mood. To save the cost of tipping porters, he had us load forty sets of instruments and suitcases and boxes and boxes of music into the baggage car. Shouting all the while, he drove us into the train to Harwich where the hollering took up again as we transferred everything from railway to ship.

After a respite as we crossed the North Sea on the Dutch ferry Koningen Emma, the racket began again on our arrival at the Hook of Holland as we moved our tons of luggage into a small passenger train which had no baggage car and necessitated our filling the aisles and seating space with our effects.

Everyone was irate and Mr. D. came to realize how upset we were. It was getting late in the day and he assured us that when we got to the town where we were to spend our first night on the Continent, there would be no practicing and no concert, we would have supper, go to bed, and get a good night’s rest to ready us for the ensuing week of work. Slightly mollified, we turned to watch the flat, flat scenery of the bulb-growing lands of Holland.

As the sun was setting, our train pulled into the town of Hillegom. To our surprise, the streets around the station were full of people and a European Oompah, Oompah band was booming out a welcome. We assumed someone important must be on our train and realized it was us only when a swarm of Boy Scouts descended on our car, seized all our dunnage, and formed up behind the local band to lead us on a parade past the applauding crowd.

This was the first train to stop at Hillegom since before the War and, more significantly, the first opportunity for the people of that town to express their appreciation for their liberation by the Canadian Army from long cruel years of occupation.

We were uncertain where we were being led until we arrived in front of a building called the Flora. Outside the streets were full but inside, the hall was jammed to the walls with people anxiously awaiting our CONCERT! While down deep this seemed like a double-cross, we were so thrilled by our reception we would have played anywhere, anytime and play we did. The audience was wild about our music and we were showered with gifts: a huge bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Delamont, and handkerchiefs with hand-painted windmills, miniature wooden shoes, strawberry-flavored soft drinks and rich, creamy Dutch pastries for all of us.

Highlight of the evening was the presentation of a flag in the colors of the town of Hillegom. Ladies of the village had worked for weeks to sew this gift of green and gold silk to bestow upon us as a symbol of gratitude for the freedom brought to them by Canadian troops. Emblazoned across the pennant were the words, “Hillegom (Holland) Dankt Kanada” – Hillegom, Holland, Thanks Canada! None of us, of course, was old enough to have been in the War but we were never more proud of our country than on that night in that lovely little town among those warmhearted, grateful people.

And then to sleep on clouds of eiderdown in beds in the homes of our local family hosts.

The next day, back to earth and back to work, we commenced our travels to Scheveningen on the North Sea, Zandvoort the racing car capital of Holland, Eindhoven the home of Phillips Electronics, the rural and seaside resort island of Texel, Bergen op Zoom, the national broadcasting station at Hilversum where we recorded a half hour program, beautiful Amersfoort, ancient and war-torn Middleburg, and finally Oosterbeek. Here we were to take part in a music festival and competition with senior bands from all over Europe.

The Festival hall was a huge tent set in the middle of one of the great farmland fields into which gliders and paratroops had been dropped during the Battle of Arnhem and we were as conscious of that history as we were concerned about how well we would stack up against the best bands of a dozen nations vying for prizes that summer in Oosterbeek.

Mr. D. decided we should enter the marching competition. The Kitsilano Boys Band is a concert band not a marching assembly. Yes, we tramped along every year in the PNE Parade or stood out on the street in front of Mansion House playing for the Lord Mayor of London but we had no experience walking in alignment, wheeling at corners, or countermarching at the end of a street. Nothing daunted, Mr. D. convened us on a crescent road in Arnhem. After lining us up this way and that and giving a signal to the drummer to strike a beat, he started us off.

Now we had had so much music to learn that summer, it was impossible to have memorized any of our programs but there was one march, Washington Post,  that we played so often we all knew it by heart. Here was the ideal opportunity to take advantage of that fact: we could forget about trying to read the music and concentrate fully on the inadequacies of our marching. But that was not the Delamont way. Out came a brand new piece of music none of us had ever seen before and which we had never rehearsed. Now we had to learn to march and play at the same time.

Mr. D. never came closer to what we lawyers call “a shortened expectation of life” than on that day. The boys were wild with rage which was not improved by Mr. D. running through the ranks shouting and slapping people on the head for being out of step or out of harmony. That fury continued through the next hour until we went to the testing ground and marched with such precision and played with such brilliance we took first prize.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION TO ABIDE WITH ME

 

Along with the marches, overtures and novelty numbers, Mr. D. invariably always included a hymn in every program and during our engagement in Aberdeen the one he chose was Abide With Me. By coincidence, that week McKenzie King died and, with his usual sense of showmanship, Mr. D. announced to the audience that in honor of the memory of this famous Canadian we would play – what else – Abide with Me. As you will see and hear, the arrangement is wonderfully smooth and moving and, part way through our presentation at Aberdeen, one of the trumpeters, little Brian Bolam, barely 14 years old, stood up to play the solo.

I looked out into the audience and saw someone rise from his seat. I thought this was too early to leave. And then another person and another got up and pretty soon the whole audience was standing and, more remarkable, on many faces tears began to stream. They take their religion seriously in Scotland. Now you will hear this famous hymn again but this time the solo will be played by Fire Chief Brian Bolam.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION TO THE LOST CHORD

 

Arthur Delamont was an accomplished trumpet player in his own right. Into his old age he continued to practice scales, chords, and long, sustained notes to improve his tone. To illustrate his talents, he worked into our repertoire several pieces one of which is The Lost Chord.

The presentation of the piece is this: the band plays the first few strains; Mr. D. turns to face the audience and plays the solo; as that nears its end, the volume of the background music increases and increases until, at the last, the trumpeters leave their seats and line up across the stage on each side of Mr. D., smallest on the inside, tallest on the outside; at a given point all the trumpets come up simultaneously and the whole band pours out a triumphant chorus. This was the greatest show stopper of them all.

Sad as it was, Mr. D.’s funeral was unusual in that it was also a band concert. Kits Band alumni players got together to pay homage and towards the end of the service they played The Lost Chord. At the front of the church Mr. D. lay in his casket and on top of the bier his trumpet was displayed. When the band came to the solo, Brian Bolam took up Mr. D.’s instrument and for what we thought was the final time we heard this great number played from the horn of the leader who had dominated our lives for so long. Relive with us now those moments as the band plays The Lost Chord and Brian recreates the Master’s Voice on Mr. D.’s own trumpet.

by Norman D. Mullins, Q. C.

Note 1:

John Rands has corrected one item in Norm’s memoirs: John writes: “Norm mentions Rick Patterson’s death in his excellent article. Rick died on the 1962 trip in Paris, France.”

Aug12019

ABOVE: 2000, Norm on the right.

Howard Lear

Mr. D and Me

by Howard Lear

January, 2001

 

The guest speaker stood uneasily at the front of Mr. Jaeger’s Grade 5 social studies class at General Gordon School, shifting his weight from one leg to the other. He had come to recruit boys for his band. He spoke softly, confidentially, with a tendency to mumble. Although he was a fit and trim 50 years of age, his hair was silver-white. His demeanor was earnest and serious, but once or twice he flashed a shy grin, displaying teeth whiter-than-white against his swarthy complexion. He talked about a boys’ band which he had started about ten years ago. The band had become very successful, winning a gold medal in a competition at the Chicago World’s Fair. They toured in England prior to the outbreak of World War II and now were planning a trip to Hollywood. The prospect of trips to far-away places was alluring, especially to England, the birthplace of my father and three of my grandparents. I was definitely interested in joining up.
“We practice ‘ere in the basement every Monday and Thursday evenin’,” he added in what remained of his Herefordshire accent. “Thursday,” I thought, “That’s choir practice night. Should I quit the choir?” I had been a choirboy for three years now along with a dozen or so other boys. Singing in the Sunday services had become part of my life and I was enjoying it. The bandmaster asked those interested in joining the band to come forward. A friend, Dave Armstrong, responded eagerly. I stayed seated.
Once in a while years later, I listened to Dave and Glen Buckley gleefully recounting tales of band trips and the terrible temper of the bandmaster, or Mr. D, as they called him, and sometimes on a Monday evening, I would hear Glen, who lived across the street, whistling an improvised tune as he walked home from band practice. On these occasions I often recalled the decision I had made years before.
In the fall of 1947 Dave, Glen and I along with Brian Gurney, who had lived across the lane from me since we were six, joined the Barbershop Quartet Club at Kitsilano High School. With the encouragement of the club sponsor, Mr. Ivor Parfitt, we formed our own quartet, the “Four Notes.” We became quite successful. Mr. D heard about this through Dave and Glen, who were by now veteran members of the baritone section, so he invited us to sing at a couple of band concerts and then to enter a talent contest he had organized to select an act to accompany the band on its forthcoming five-month tour of the British Isles.
Subsequently, he chose the “Four Notes” to be that act. There was a catch, however.

“I don’t want no dead wood on this trip,” he muttered with a wagging of his head.

“The two of you who aren’t in the band, you can’t just sing in the ‘gwardet’. You ‘ll have to learn to play. That’s all there is to it.” I thought to myself, “The trombone. I’d like to play the trombone.” Eventually, he decided that I would play the bass drum and Brian would learn the alto saxophone. And we did. Brian, a natural musician, quickly found his way around on the sax and could play anything by ear – but he couldn’t read a note. (This made him useless for playing in the band, nevertheless Mr. D insisted that Brian attend every practice, every parade, and every concert as a member of the sax section, even though he was not allowed to blow one note.)
In the band at last at age 19, I struggled to learn to play the bass drum and cymbal during Monday and Thursday evening band practices in the basement of General Gordon School, and also at noon hour rehearsals of Mr. D’s U.B.C. Pep Band in one of the “shacks” in the northeast corner of the campus. My playing was somewhat tentative, not the quality Mr. D wanted in his bass drummer. “Hit the thing! Break the blasted thing!” he roared, and bustled through the rows, snatched the drumstick from my hand and walloped the drum with all his might.
Ready or not, I was one of the 39 members of the Vancouver Kitsilano Boys’ Band who, on May 13, 1950, boarded two CPR sleeping cars, which were to be our home during our 11-day trip across Canada. During that time we played 13 concerts before embarking at Wolf’s Cove for England.
At 9:50 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, the band members were assembling for a rehearsal in the Port Garden Lounge of R.M.S. Samaria. Why the word “garden” should be applied to this barren, mean space was a mystery. The bare ceiling, oppressively low, revealed wires and pipes and structural supports and a lone naked light bulb afforded a meager addition to the grey light let in through the salt-sprayed windows. Already the air was stuffy and smelled of breakfast, but now that we were in the English Channel the ship was steady and we expected to be spared the nausea of sea sickness which had dogged us on the Atlantic. Tomorrow we would be landing at Tilbury docks on the Thames and then performing on the BBC Radio show “In Town Tonight”. We had been rehearsing three times a day on the Cunard liner whilst crossing the Atlantic in preparation for our outdoor concerts at various Glasgow parks and at the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. As these concerts, fourteen in all, were to be two hours duration with each program entirely different, the rehearsals were necessarily very intense and difficult.
I tightened the skin of the bass drum and awaited the ordeal ahead. A deafening cacophony of squawking clarinets, braying trumpets, rattling snare drums, and groaning tubas, mixed with gruff snatches of conversation filled the crowded room. Suddenly Mr. D burst in and the noise level dropped a notch or two. After adjusting his music stand, he snatched up his trumpet, blew a mad flourish of notes, and silenced the room. He had our attention.
On this day our rehearsal had focused on the piece we would be playing on the BBC, Sousa’s march, “Washington Post”. Mr. D was determined that we create the best possible impression so that our agent could more readily line up engagements for the band in the months ahead. However, he was not pleased with my work on the bass drum and cymbal. Afterward, he called me aside and addressed me quietly and gravely, “I know you’re doing your best, ‘oward, but it just isn’t good enough.” He then went on to tell me that snare-drummer Barrie Gillmore, would replace me for the broadcast.
Several weeks later I was replaced again by Barrie, but this time it happened in the middle of a concert. We were playing the finale of one of Tchaikosky’s symphonies at the elegant Parade Gardens bandstand in Bath and it was not going well. The clarinets were struggling through a busy passage which was originally scored for violins. My problem was to enter after a long rest during which I was counting bars. Then, by my count, it was almost time to enter, but playing outdoors and from the back row it was impossible to hear clearly the shape of the music. Mr. D, head in the score, was intent on keeping things together and gave me no cue. I came in anyway, with drum and cymbal blazing away fortissimo as marked, thereby obliterating the clarinets’ efforts. I winced as I realized I had miscounted. With a menacing glare, Mr. D caught my eye and violently jerked his thumb towards Barrie. I passed the drumstick to him. My embarrassment was heightened because in the audience was my father’s cousin, Cyril Guest. Cyril did not comment on the incident afterwards and neither did I. I regarded Mr. D’s treatment of me in the context of his determination to have his band perform at the highest possible standard, an aim that all the band members supported, including me.
On another occasion, which had nothing to do with music, we were having supper in the cafeteria of the Glasgow YMCA. I left my place to get some dessert. When I returned to the table, Mr. D was sitting in my place, talking to the other boys. I halted behind him.

To myself I thought, “Should I just sneak away and find another place? No, when he realizes that he’s taken my place he’ll probably call out, ‘Why on earth didn’t you say this was your place?’ implying I was too timid to do so.” Dessert bowl in hand I edged up along side him. “Excuse me, sir, you’re in my seat,” I stated politely. “What!” he screamed as he turned toward me and leapt to his feet. “‘oward Lear! I never thought I’d hear that from you!” “B-but, my dirty dinner plate’s right there,” I stammered. As he stomped away angrily Mrs. D approached to calm him down and they exited together. Hot with embarrassment, I sat down in my place and addressed my dessert. The incident was discussed among the boys, the consensus being that the fault was mine. I should have simply taken another place.
In the YMCA dormitory later that night after lights out, restlessness and the need to cut loose resulted in an outbreak of pillow fights, accompanied by hooting and hollering and wild giggling. The noise level increased. The door flew open, and there in his striped flannel pajamas, lit by the light from the hallway, stood Mr. D. He launched into the Riot Act. When he paused for breath, the sudden silence was broken by Brian’s tenor from the far corner crooning “Someone’s Rocking My Dreamboat.” Over the stifled sniggers Mr. D protested petulantly, “We don’t need no lullaby!” and retreated, slamming the door behind him.
The excitable Mr. D was never more excitable than immediately before a concert. His excitement, which was liable to flare up into a display of temper aimed at some “wrongdoer,” served to galvanize the band into taut, focused readiness as, perfectly still, we watched with a bitter taste in our mouths for his swift downbeat which would unleash us into a hectic march. Our state of tension was greater than usual before one show at the Golders Green Hippodrome.  Thirty minutes before curtain time the story flashed through the band.  Arnold Emery, a 15-year old trumpeter and son of a prominent Kitsilano citizen, was drunk.  The story was that between shows he and an older boy had visited the pub around the corner for a pint of beer, Arnold’s first ever. The principal trumpeter, Cyril Battistoni, and some of the others were trying desperately to sober him up.  The call to go on stage came.  Arnold was still pie-eyed. As we waited on stage for the curtain to rise, Arnold tootled a carefree run on his trumpet and was frantically “shushed” by those around him. We were frozen with fear, imagining D’s reaction if he found out.

D Strode in from the wings.  Tense as the skin on the snare drums we awaited
his downbeat.  The first numbers passed without incident, although D glanced at
Arnold a few times with a quizzical frown.  Then came the moment we were
dreading – the trumpet trio, with Arnold on third trumpet.  The three trumpeters
stood and stepped up to the footlights.  Raising his trumpet to his lips, Arnold
swayed back and forth – then steadied.  Somehow he got through it, albeit with
more puzzled looks from D, who never commented on the incident afterwards.
Did he know?  We never found out.

In 1990 the members of the 1950 band tour held a reunion. Mr. D had died a few years earlier, yet we felt his presence among us. We retold stories about him, toasted him, praised him and expressed our gratitude and love for him. When music was distributed and we blew a few tunes with trombonist Ron Collier conducting, we missed him, for without him out front frantically swishing his baton the old excitement just wasn’t there.

by Howard Lear

Gordon Laird

Gordon Laird’s Memories

The Legacy of the Kits Band

 

by Gordon Laird Friday, December 15, 2000

It is only recently that I have thought of the changes in my life which are owed to the Kitsilano Boys Band and Arthur Delamont (Mr. D.).

Love of Music:

This did not start for me in the Kits Band. It started by listening to Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman on the radio, following my sister Daphne’s example. I started by loving “swing”. Everything else has been derivative for me. In the Kits Band we learned a lot of other kinds of music. I was introduced to classical musical “from the inside”, that is, by playing it, rather than by listening to it. I still would rather play music than listen to it. But almost every time I hear a classical selection I remember playing it in the band, and sometimes where we played it.

There was something special about “Hymn Toons.” Mr. D. never put his religious ideas onto us. But they were there, and the closest I came to it was when we played “Abide with Me” “The Lost Chord” or “Denton Park”. The close harmony, the organ-like effect, particularly of the clarinets in the low register, was unforgettable.

Presentation and Showmanship:

All my education about how to present things came from Mr. D. and the Kits Band. Mostly it was unexplained. We watched, listened and learned. Every concert the chairs would have been set up before we arrived. Then Mr. D. arrived and proceeded to have us rearrange them into a pattern which suited his pleasure. This had to do with eye appeal and effect. In England, when the stage curtain opened onto the stage, there we were, resplendent in shocking white, electric red and black. We made a tremendous immediate effect. This was combined with a strong and effective opening number, such as the Washington Post march. There was immediate impact on the eyes and the ears. Verboten was: slouching, crossed legs, different colored stockings, instruments akimbo. Marilyn told me that when we witnessed the final practice in the Armories for our 1998 concert, that it looked like a bunch of sloppy old men. BUT when the PERFORMANCE happened, there were the white shirts, red ties, black stockings and shoes, and all the instruments on the knees in a row. Marilyn can guess, with great accuracy, which of my present band colleagues were once in the Kits Band.

Mr. D. almost never explained his philosophy. We had to watch and learn. In contests it was the aspect evaluated as “Deportment”.

40 years later I was shocked to sit beside a young student clarinet player who slouched in her chair, with one leg over the other. She was not bad on the clarinet, but at that moment that didn’t matter.

Mr. D. looked for opportunities to give bands the “stage experience”. He didn’t explain that either! In the West Point Grey Band, having played the clarinet for a few months, we were on the stage in the huge auditorium performing. I learned from that experience that it is necessary to take every opportunity to give the players the experience of performing.

It was a common experience for a young player to be given his first experience “on stage” only to have Mr. D. say to him, just before the concert began, “Don’t play a note!”, or “Fake it!”.

I don’t consider myself a very disciplined person in most aspects of my life. But at performances with any band I am totally uncompromising. I want my clarinet up on the knee at the correct time, and I want to see everyone else’s there as well. Mr. D. spoiled me for other conductors. If they don’t show enough strictness and strength I am disappointed. I don’t want a conductor who wants to be a “pal” with me!

An International Outlook:

In 1950 I was 19 years of age when I embarked with the band to Europe. I had traveled during summer holidays with my family, but the farthest would have been Washington State and Vancouver Island. When my brother, Doug, was working in Williams Lake I drove with my Father and Mother to see him, so we experienced the old, unpaved, Cariboo Highway.

That was the extent of my travel in the first 19 years of life with my family. My horizons of travel began to broaden for me with the Kits Band. We had a trip to the Calgary Stampede, one to Vancouver Island and the biggest of all, to Hollywood, California. But this was only a foretaste of the trip of all: the one to come.

We boarded the train at the C. P. R. Station in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, May 13, 1950, we played “a couple of marches and a hymn” (I am indebted to Norm Mullins and his daily diary entries for our trip for the accuracy of the historical notes) and we were off on the greatest adventure of our lives.

The band had commissioned a couple of train cars, and two mothers helped cook the food for us. We were exploring Canada and stopped at many towns to play our concerts. (Norm: Revelstoke, Calgary, Swift Current, Regina, Brandon [in place of Winnipeg which was suffering its worst ever flood], Port Arthur, Sudbury, and Toronto).

I dare say that none of the boys had been farther east than Calgary before this trip, except for any who were born in the east. We were discovering our own country!

Along the way I had the “ambassador” experience of having lunch with my Aunty Bess and Uncle Merv in Toronto, and my Uncle Douglas and Aunty Daisy in Montreal. By that I mean the unique experience of being a representative: representing your family, representing your City, and ultimately representing your Country. We were all to have many more “ambassador” experiences.

In Quebec City, Tuesday May 23rd we boarded the Cunard liner R.M.S. Samaria. This was my first ocean voyage longer than the ferry trip from Vancouver harbor to Victoria! And it was a ten-day trip! This was something very new for me and for my whole family. I was the first to take a trans-Atlantic voyage since my father immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1913. When we arrived at the Tilbury Docks in the Thames Estuary outside London, I was the first of my family to set foot in England.

It is only now at a distance of 50 years, that I can assess the impact of my arriving in England.

The oldest monument I had ever seen in my life would have been the Legislative Buildings in Victoria. Now I was to see Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace. In a few weeks I would be in Holland (the first in my family to set foot in Europe) and then a few weeks later to be in Paris standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

In the space of weeks I had been exposed to many different lives and customs. Everything we ate for each meal had its own national or local tradition. Coming from the unilingual west coast of Canada, I was hearing all kinds of accents and languages, even within England. I learned to love the Manchester accent, and to be able to compare it to Cockney, as well as “B.B.C. English”.

When I set foot in England I became international and never looked back. I was never good in languages in high school, I now embarked on a love of language which has involved me with a half-dozen modern and ancient languages. I knew that this trip would not be my last trip to Europe. It was 23 years later that I brought Marilyn and five children back to Europe, to live in Germany. We visited Holland and England, and remembered the places and relived the experiences from 1950. Many of my Kits colleagues have done the same.

Ambassadors for Canada:

We learned what it was to be Ambassadors for Canada. The most vivid memories of this was the one week in Holland. We were not prepared for the overwhelming appreciation and love shown us by the people in Holland. We, in Canada, had a relatively tame experience of the war. Unless we had a relative in the forces the experience was “way over there”. Yes, we were part of the “War Effort” but that had nothing to do with personal imprisonment or personal physical danger to ourselves, our families or our homes.

We were to learn very quickly that it had been an entirely different experience for the Dutch. Their country had been invaded and all their rights were denied. They had been starved of their daily food rations. This lasted four years under increasingly worsening conditions. All of this was very recent to them in memory.

They also remember that the first troops they saw at the liberation were the Canadian troops. They remembered vividly their first sight of the healthy, friendly, Canadian soldiers. One Dutch person commented on the fact that they were tanned and well-fed. Many of the Dutch people must have vowed to never forget a Canadian person in their lives and to treat all Canadians with great respect.

So we, who had no part in liberating them, inherited the respect which our Canadian soldiers had earned some 5 years before our trip. We were presented with flags which stated: “Holland Thanks Canada”.

None of us will ever forget this experience and many of us have returned to Holland since to share with our families our wonderful experience.

The Matador of the Musical World

by Gordon Laird

November 27, 2000

He stopped the band in its tracks with a yell. “Stop!  Stop!” “You are not going to ruin my music that way!!”

He was a strikingly handsome man in his late sixties with a shock of white hair. Fashionably dressed, he pulled his red cashmere sweater over his head, threw it on the floor and did a little dance on his sweater. He glowered at the roomful of young boys and girls, each of them hanging on tight to their trumpets and clarinets and trying with all their might to avoid the terrible look in his blazing eyes.

“OK, take it from the top!”

You have now been introduced to Arthur W. Delamont, world-famous conductor of championship bands and most especially of the Vancouver Kitsilano Boys Band, which traveled to Europe many times under the title: Vancouver Boys Band.

Stories about Arthur Delamont abound among the “boys” who made up his bands from the early 1930’s until the 1970’s. The event I described took place in White Rock, B. C. and was acted out in front of members of the White Rock Band. But it could have been any band of any year. After our reunion concerts, the last of which took place in Vancouver in 1998, the “boys” repair to a hall to remember old times. Over beers or hard liquor, both habits learned in Europe on band trips, the stories flow and cascade over each other.

The time Mr. D. (behind his back we called Arthur Delamont “D”) bawled out the Dutch volunteers who had billeted the “boys” for the night and fed them breakfast. Mr. D. told them that buns and cheese was not a substantial enough breakfast for “his boys”.

The time, reported to me from a member of an earlier trip, when one of the “Boys” turned up late for the concert in Bath, England. Mr. D. threw down his baton and walked off the stand. When he did not return to conduct the concert one of the “Boys” had to step in and conduct.

I recall one night in Penticton when the “Boys” were bedded down in a school gymnasium, together with an opposing band. The night was filled with flying peas from pea- shooters: tens of pounds of peas. Only conscripted fathers attempted to keep control on the “boys” and to handle confrontations with the fathers of the other band. Mr. D. was nowhere to be seen.

In the morning Mr. D. arrived, looking as if he had stepped out of a bandbox, with white pants showing a razor-sharp crease, angrily bawled out boys and fathers, and marched the band through town, giving their best number at the reviewing stand. The White Rock Band won its first trophy, and everyone went home tired and happy, with great yarns to tell. Mr. D. had paced out the route of the parade the night before.

Arthur Delamont was born in Hereford, England, the son of Salvation Army parents. He learned to play the cornet in the Salvation Army band and entered upon a distinguished and prize-winning career as a solo cornetist. The Salvation Army background showed in the fact that he never drank, nor smoked, and he didn’t exactly swear, yet the words he would use when angry, which was most of the time, were as close to swear-words as anyone has heard.

In 1910 the Delamont family moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. A tragedy befell them on a trip back to England for a Salvation Army convention, in that they were survivors of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in 1914 in the St. Lawrence River. Leonard Delamont, Arthur’s brother and conductor of the band, was lost in that tragedy.

Arthur’s musical interests and obvious talents were putting him at loggerheads with the rules of the Salvation Army. He found that he could get jobs in dance-halls and musicals, and this was against the strict ideals of the Army. Arthur parted company with them and moved to Vancouver in the 1920’s.

In 1928 he decided to form a Boy’s Band which was called “The General Gordon School Band. We “Boys” always remember the story in this phase: “I saw a couple of boys on the street and I thought to myself, ‘I could teach those boys to play…’”

We grew bored in hearing these old stories but there was more than a grain of truth in them. Out of those “couple of boys” Arthur created a band which won trophies against top English senior colliery bands. His did it through his own genius.

In this day in which tact and carefulness, especially with children, are the marks of “political correctness”, it reminds me that Arthur knew nothing about either tact or careful relationships with children. But we “Kits Boys” will never forget what we learned from Arthur Delamont. He changed every one of our lives, each in different ways. I think we are all better people for having known him.

We have something in common with other “Boys” from any of the bands. Because we shared something in common, we are already known to each other – we recognize each other. I have noticed that in later life meeting a member of “our trip”, with whom we did not have much in common at that time, we recognized the brotherhood of shared experience we have with each other. The bond is there: immediately and forever. This is a legacy from one man: Arthur Delamont.

Gordon Laird

How it all started for Gordon

Glen Buckley’s memory of buying the flute, and then the baritone has excited my memory about those early days. Mr. D. came into our home room class at Point Grey Junior High school and was introduced by our teacher. I remember that he was a very striking looking person, very handsome. I cannot be sure now if his hair was pure white in color nor am I exactly sure whether he carried his trumpet with him.

He asked who would like to join the Point Grey Junior High band. Only two of us put up our hands, Glenn Startup and me.

We were to meet with him after school in a basement room of the school. I am unclear what happened next, because I know I didn’t decide that I would play the clarinet, so I have to assume Mr. D. made that decision. Glenn decided on a trumpet (or Mr. D. decided for him!)

My next memory is my mother and I going to Vancouver Music on Seymour street. We choose a metal Albert B flat clarinet. Odd for two reasons: one, that it was metal, which looked more like a skeleton of a clarinet rather than a clarinet, and two, because the Albert system was an old-fashioned system, which required a more spread finger formation, and had fewer keys to help ease difficult passages.

In other words, this was the hardest way to start to play the clarinet. Imagine how I feel now when parents go out and rent or buy a Yamaha clarinet or sax for their fledgling musician! That is not anything like the problem I was faced with. And I didn’t know enough to know I had a problem!

I think the owner of Vancouver Music was a personal friend of Mr. D.’s.

Aug12022

ABOVE: 2000, Gordon seated with the ladies.

Michael Hadley

MICHAEL HADLEY’S MEMORIES

“Discipline in D: memoirs of Arthur Delamont, an extraordinary man”
(European tours 1950 & 1953)

April 22, 2000

I never understood why Mr. D decided to take me on the 1950 trip. In fact, I still don’t. It all began when a white-haired man came to Point Grey Junior High School to recruit youngsters to play “in a band.” Wonderful idea! I had never ever done such a thing. And under the inspiration of an uncle who had played the bugle in the Army I was ready to launch into a career. I chose the trumpet.

Thus, Monday after Monday I joined a rag-tag-and-bob-tail group of largely uncoordinated instruments which oom pah ed and screeched their way through school band versions of “Colonel Bogey” and “The Imperial Eagle.” In between I practiced at home on such memorable fare as “I’ve been working on the railroad,” “Sweet Annie Laurie” and scales, scales, scales. I can still picture Mr. D pacing up and down behind the long line of would-be instrumentalists seated on the stage in the old school auditorium. Playing his silver cornet with left hand only, he would beat time with his right (and occasionally thump some laggard or ‘fat head’ on the shoulder).

Then followed the daunting experience of private lessons with Mr. D, my affection for this blustery perfectionist was tinged with awe, and a strong sense of my own inadequacy. Humility, I guess you’d call it. Mondays after school would find me bicycling to the Delamont home with trumpet strapped to handle-bars – butterflies in my stomach becoming increasingly active as I approached the house on the hill overlooking Alma corner and the harbor. He’d sit beside me in his studio, recount an anecdote or two to settle me down – and then the workout would begin. “Won’t you?, Won’t you?” I still hear him saying, while he waved his right hand up and down. (He was actually saying, “One two, one two!” while beating time – but I thought he was merely being polite).

And then, before I could quite understand what was happening I had become a member of four bands – Point Grey, North Van, West Van, and one on Keefer Street. Apparently Mr. D had phoned my parents to ask whether he could take me to England with the Kits Band. My Dad’s observation that he didn’t think I was good enough met with a characteristic rebuttal: “That’s my decision.” And it was. The demands sometimes seemed more than I could handle: concerts and rehearsals with each of these bands, together with continuing private lessons.

Not long after this rigorous regime had begun, Mr. D presented me with an upright alto horn. Actually, to say he “presented” me with a horn is rather overstated. For, one evening as I stepped into the Keefer Street Band’s practice hall with trumpet in hand I was told quite simply – and directly – “Here, blow this.” I pulled a battered old upright with a slightly crumpled bell out of a malodorous canvas bag — and my happy career as a horn player began. Not long after that I acquired a mellophone, and slipped into the second stand of the Kits Band. (I continued to play with the other bands as I sorely needed the experience).

Most of the Kits Band members had earned the privilege of the 1950 trip to England, Scotland and Holland (lively recollections of “the Hollywood Trip” were still all the rage). I, by contrast, seemed to have made a dock-side leap onto a stage already well served by experienced and competent young musicians. I was only thirteen, and still green. I’d celebrate my 14th on tour.

My first concert with the Kits Band was memorable for many reasons, not least of all for a rap on the knuckles. Call it the beginnings of wisdom, if you like. The curtain was about to go up in the Orpheum Theatre when Mr. D held a last-minute conference about a possible change of program. “Alright, boys, we’ll take either (then followed some choices) or …” (and then a couple more). In my enthusiasm for the occasion – and also a touch of vanity at being asked what I wanted to play – I suggested in my high-pitched voice that “We’d better do William Tell.” D’s dark scowl and sharp rebuke flashed across the stage. “Listen here, young fella,” he growled as he capered indignantly on his toes and threw his baton onto his music stand. From then on I knew the value of ill-informed opinions! Ultimately, we did “do Tell”, but only because the lead stands recommended it.

The old man could be brisk and critical, of course, calling us all kinds of colorful biblical names like ‘Deuteronomy’ whenever piqued; He was ‘tough love’ without apology. But equally memorable is his beatifically radiant smile when the music was right, or at the sheer pleasure of a joke or a special human encounter. I found him an excellent teacher: he set high standards, drove till he got what he wanted, and nurtured those who met his criteria. Like others before me and since, I warmed to him.

The 1950 trip is a matter of record. Suffice it to say that it remains a pivotal experience in my life: musically, culturally and emotionally. It marked as well the beginnings of strong intellectual interests that would inform my life. Following that, I went on the 1953 European Tour as First Horn, and would have been taken on the next overseas tour as well (playing trumpet) if I had not entered the navy in 1954 while at UBC.

Though relations between Mr. D and myself were almost always invariably good, they were not always smooth sailing. I no longer remember the details, but at one point we had hurt each other rather badly and I wanted to quit. So, I folded up my Kits Band uniform and delivered it to his door. Mrs. D answered the bell and accepted both the bundle and my faltering excuse. But she was soon on the phone, saying: of course, Mr D was angry and upset, but I had been overhasty and perhaps not a little sharp-edged. Back I went to the Delamont house to ask for my uniform back. “Not till you’ve asked him; he’s in the garage.” she insisted. The dark look, the reprimand, my apology, and the offer of my old uniform: that’s all I really remember. But I do understand the wonderful feeling of reconciliation. Much later when I had left the Kitsilano Boys Band for my next stage of life (study, playing my trumpet at gigs, or in the UBC Big Band), I kept in touch with Mr. D. Two occasions in particular come to mind.

In 1958 I received one of the most extraordinary telegrams that had ever come my way. At the time I was working for the Department of Trade and Commerce at the Canadian Pavilion in Brussels, Belgium. It was the “Universal and International Exhibition,” and the Kits Band was again on tour in the UK. The thrust of the message ran something like this: “arriving Brussels in ten days time, require accommodation for 39 boys, plus double accommodation for Band mothers and spouses including self and wife, and Gordon, wife, and daughter; also urgently require engagements. Regards,  Delamont.”

The Brussels Fair had long since been attracting crowds of visitors and performers of all kinds; accommodation was at a premium, and Mr. D had a budget that was not being helped by a Musicians’ Union strike in the UK. In short, I managed to bring it off: engagements, accommodation, and a reception by the Commissioner General for Canada on one occasion, and the Belgian hosts of the Exhibition on another. But there was a sadly moving side to the visit as well. Mrs. D (Lillian) was very ill – perhaps she had been so long before the tour began. No longer always clear in her mind she needed medical care. I called the doctor and met him in their accommodation: a small room in a tourist lodge. Serving as their interpreter (French/English) during the medical examination and consultation I found myself involved in their private lives in ways I could never have imagined. I was deeply touched by the sharing. I knew at the time that I was giving gifts such as I had once received from them.

Mr. D and I met again in Hamburg, Germany, in 1961 when he was planning a European tour. I was based at the time as a Visa Officer in the Canadian Embassy, in Cologne, but travelled frequently throughout Germany giving public lectures and press conferences. He flew from Britain, where he was trying to arrange bookings for the following tour. Of course, by then the old Moss-Empire vaudeville circuit in which the Band had appeared from 1939 through 1953 had disappeared, television was giving stage shows tough competition, and in many cases even park concerts were no longer possible. I recall drinking tea in his hotel room discussing possible concerts and program on the continent for 1962.

There was silence for about year when in 1962 another Musicians Union Strike in the UK caught the Band off guard and triggered another memorable telegram from Mr. D: “arriving in Cologne in 10 days, require accommodation for 39 boys and [etc etc]…. Urgently require engagements. Regards,  Delamont.” And, of course, it all took place. I recall in particular a hurried meeting between the Musical Director of West German Radio and Mr. D and myself in order to select material for a one-hour live program (How different from the time I had urged Mr. D to “do William Tell” at the Orpheum). Then we were on the air. During my commentaries with the German announcer I sat near Mr. D, who kept looking my way for confirmation of timing and cues. The ‘live’ performance was excellent.

But this tour had its tragic side. This was the first tour in which a boy lost his life. During innocent horse-play in their ‘digs’ in Paris one of the lads incurred a fatal head injury. No one realized the seriousness of his condition until he fell into a coma hours later. Medical aid came too late. Alerted by a member of staff that some ‘tussling’ had gone on, the French police arrested another boy under suspicion of murder. It was a dreadful situation. The Band had to leave Paris for engagements in Cologne, leaving one of their members dead, and another in jail. I recall conversations between me in my office in Cologne and my colleague in the Canadian Embassy in Paris trying to sort matters out. I especially recall the release of the bandsman, and his joyous arrival on the railway platform in Cologne under a tumultuous welcome from the Band. But Mr. D was worried: parents at home were wanting to end the tour and bring the band home immediately. He and I consulted at length, sometimes over tea in our apartment, and he decided to carry on. That was his style. And to my mind his decision was correct.

A final memory of a grand gesture: My wife and I lived with our one-year old daughter in an apartment on a street called Deutscher Ring, Cologne, just a few steps from the Rhine River, and near the hostel where the Band was put up. The Band had just completed a park concert, and was marching ‘home’. Knowing that I had just returned from the office, Mr. D — with white suit and silver cornet — marched the Band right past our low balcony on which I stood with my wife and baby girl. Striking up one of the old favorite numbers, he saluted and, smiling one of those incomparably radiant smiles, marched on.

And now for the Coda: I have been a professor for some thirty years. When I stood in the West Block of the House of Commons in Ottawa in 1998 to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada – the highest academic honor in the country – I did not stand alone. One of the great spirits who had played a major role in who I am was also there: Mr. D.

From him I had learned that at any given stage of my life I always had more music in me than I ever thought; that with discipline and the courage to accept competent criticism I could make that music actually sing; and that whatever my ‘music’ might be in my different careers – naval officer, foreign service officer, author, professor – it would become richer by my listening closely to all the other players around me. Mediocrity was never an option. Mr. D’s greatest gifts lay in teaching me to work within the music, to set high standards, and to accept the responsibilities of a disciplined life. And if my own life is any example, as a teacher, and, latterly, a social activist, he taught me as well to risk investing in the raw potential of other human beings. How else could I explain the impact of four short years in the Kitsilano Boys Band.

Aug12117

ABOVE: 2000, Michael Hadley right.

1947 Hollywood

jimmy Pattison1

ABOVE: A young Jimmy Pattison polishing his car and on his way to band practice.

Above: December 27, 1946 Kits Band banquet at the Hotel Vancouver

Here is the account that George Kyle sent me of his recollection of the 1947 Kits Band trip to Hollywood:

Regarding the Kits Band, I have the photo of the banquet at the Hotel Vancouver. However it seems that I can’t locate it at the moment. I have moved twice in the past 18 months and it appears that I put it in some place that seemed logical at the time but is no longer logical. But I have no other pictures of the band. I retired in 1983 and moved to Europe where I stayed for 11 years. A lot of things got jettisoned with my many moves, and the photos were tossed when I crossed the Atlantic. I regret it now, but I had to lighten the load. The banquet photo stayed with me all along the way. I’ll let you know when it turns up.

The LA trip was truly a Hollywood trip. We stayed at the Hollywood YMCA on Wilcox Avenue between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, and which is still standing. Wilcox is about three or four blocks west of Vine Street. It is a rather gritty part of town now. While we did not play a concert there, we did play a radio broadcast in a studio on Highland Avenue — it wasn’t a network studio, but the program was supposed to be broadcast regionally. It was not broadcast live, and I think Mr. D tried, but was unsuccessful in getting a copy of the transcription. Our only concert there was the one at the Shrine Auditorium. I also remember that a lot of us received some tickets for a big benefit show at the Shrine with Jack Carson as the MC.

Here are some of the details as I can recall them. We left Vancouver on a couple of Pacific Stage Lines buses and were transferred to another private carrier in Seattle. Our first stop was Olympia and I think we did a concert there in a park and spent the night in a hotel in the center of the city. The next stage was to Portland and I believe our concert was at Swan Island naval station there (not San Francisco, which I will comment on later). From Portland we continued on Route 99 to Eugene and then crossed over on 58 and picked up Route 97 which took us to Klamath Falls, where we played, I believe, for a local social club.

We then followed Rte 97 south to where it joined back with Route 99 (which we took for the rest of the journey south) and our next stop was at Redding where we had a lunch or early afternoon date and I believe we stayed there for the night. If we didn’t stay there, then it was on to Sacramento where we stayed at the local YMCA, but I don’t remember anything about playing there. The next day we played a noon concert in a park at Fresno and continued thru the valley, over the Grapevine, getting into Hollywood around 10 that evening.

As I recall, we were in the LA area for about four or five days, maybe more and we got a lot of sightseeing in. Ed Hardy and I had lunch with some friends of mine at Clinton’s cafeteria in downtown LA (the last Clinton’s cafeteria closed about five years ago, a victim of the popularity of the buffet restaurants). We also went to Santa Monica on the red line street car that made the trip on Santa Monica Boulevard all the way out to the pier. I also remember visiting the Southern Cal campus and the Coliseum.

One of the big events was going to the Hollywood Palladium and seeing the Gene Krupa Orchestra. The best I can make out, Gerry Mulligan was with Krupa at that time. I think some of the guys went to the Ken Murray Blackouts that played in a location on Sunset Boulevard on the other side of the street from the Palladium. Just about all of us caught at least one radio broadcast. One of the most difficult tickets to find was for the radio broadcast of the Victor Borge Show which had Benny Goodman’s Band on stage.

You are right about taking different routes for the two directions, at least as far as it was possible. We returned north by taking Highway 101 that went thru Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, etc on the believe Mr. D’s efforts were unable to get us a concert there. We did have a band portrait (in uniform) taken in front of City Hall. I remember that I went over to Oakland with, I believe, Norm Mullins to visit some of his family’s friends.

The return trip crossed the Bay and joined up with Route 99 which we took all the way back to Vancouver. It was on this leg that we did the concert in Ashland. We also stayed in Portland again, but no concert. From there we went straight back to Vancouver. I think Norm Mullins should be able to fill in and/or correct some of the details from my failing memory. You probably remember that Ed Hardy’s father was sort of the band father for us. He was a nice gentleman.

Enough for tonight, I have enjoyed our correspondence. More!

Best regards

George

Dear Gordon: Again your diary has brought back some memories and reminded me of others I had forgotten about. Here are a couple of notes that might remind you of other incidents.

Regarding June 20, you referred to Clem David’s Chapel. His correct name was Clem Davis. I wasn’t able to pull up the link to Glen Buckley’s article about him. From my memory, Clem Davis was a very active preacher in Vancouver for a number of years during the depression, I believe, and into the 40’s. He had quite a following there. Then sometime after the war he moved his operation to LA. Apparently he had gathered a rather large following there, too by the time we got down there. I don’t know of the nature of Mr. D’s connection with him, but Mr. D was in contact with him and this led to Mr. Davis being somewhat of a sponsor of our stay in LA. Our concert on Sunday, the 22nd at the Shrine Auditorium followed his service there (the Shrine Auditorium seats about 6,000 and the audience for the service filled about half the main floor. It has been used for many years up to 2003 for the Academy Award ceremonies). Most of the congregation stayed for the concert. There was no admission charge but a collection was taken up for our concert and I remember Mr. D being amazed at the amount raised (I was one of the counters).

Regarding Saturday, the 21st, you mentioned our visit to the Hollywood Palladium, which in that era was one of the main dance halls in the country where the big bands regularly played. Several of us went there to see Gene Krupa’s Orchestra.

Your notes also mentioned our having breakfast regularly at the Ontra restaurant, a popular place for locals on Vine Street between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. One morning the group I was with noted Guy Kibbee and Percy Kilbride having breakfast a few tables away.

Another favorite activity in our free time was to try to get tickets for the radio broadcasts at the NBC and CBS studios on Sunset Boulevard. You had to wait in line for tickets, particularly for the more popular shows (many of which were taken and never hit the box office). You mentioned one show which I think a lot of us got to see.

A few of us (but not me) were lucky enough to get admission to the Victor Borge Show — this was at the time when he was just getting started in the US.

Also a few (very few, I think) got to see Ken Murray’s Blackouts staring Marie Wilson — t his was a review which played in Hollywood for several years. I think minimum age limit and price kept most of us from even thinking of it..

I think nothing really needs to be added to your notes on the return back home thru San Francisco, Portland etc. The trip was effectively a direct trip home and there were no concerts after we left LA.

Sorry I can’t come up with any more. Do Ed Hardy or Norm Mullins have any info to add?

Regards

George

Here is another account, with a different emphasis, by Glen Buckley, one of our “Baritone Players”:

My recollection of the trip to L.A in 1947 or was it 1946 is as follows: In 1947 the Kits band travelled south for a one week engagement in Los Angeles. Our last stop before reaching California was Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was over 100F when we arrived in the late afternoon for a concert that evening. The humidity was incredible and the hall in which we played had no air conditioning and the open windows caught no breeze. There was a constant flurry of hankerchiefs and fans as the uncomfortable crowd watched our performance. Our discomfort was much worse. Dressed in black pants and white shirts we wore a crimson/black cape around our shoulders and tightly clasped at the throat. The music stands flashed in the glaring light and seemed to intensify the heat on stage. Mr. “D” in his white suit was perspiring freely as he conducted us through the final opus. There was generous applause from the audience, quick praise from our host and then a mass exit to the cool darkness outside.

We returned to a school gym later in the evening to bed down on old army cots. It had been a long day and that combined with the humidity had sapped all of us. Normally on such a trip there would be some horsing around but fatigue ruled the night. Lights were extinguished and soon the labored sleep and snores of a tired band punctuated the night. It was perhaps 2am. when the first thump was heard followed by a quiet curse. And then seconds later three more thumps jarred the blackness of the night. “What the hell is going on?” someone yelled. “Turn on the goddamn lights” shouted another. The gym lit up and we gazed upon the clutter of cots and the four guys that had fallen clear through to the hard floor. The room erupted in laughter and then more cots disintegrated followed by crashing bodies with legs sticking through the ripped material. Within minutes there was nary a one left. It was absolute bedlam. That morning, as we dressed blurry eyed for the bus trip to L.A., it was learned that the cots had been made years before to help the Japanese who suffered many casualties in the 1923 earthquake. The cots never reached Japan but languished in storage until the Kits massacre.

We arrived at L.A. and billeted at the Y.M.C.A. Our stay was for one week with nightly concerts at a Pentacostal church. Mr.”D” knew the minister who, some years before, had a parish on the east side of Vancouver. Prior to our journey south, oblique comments had been made by Mr.”D” suggesting that our host had been forced to leave the east side because of his flamboyancy and misuse of collection funds. The good minister, aware that his exceptional talents would likely be appreciated by the State of California, drove south. He was not mistaken in his belief and his church flourished.

Each evening before the concert began he ceremoniously placed on the stage a large basket containing countless ampoules filled with water. The huge crowd was left to wonder as no explanation was given. The band played for precisely one hour and fifteen minutes followed by a thunderous ovation from the audience.

The lights dimmed and onto the stage swept the minister in a crimson flowing robe. He soon mesmerized his flock with his deep voice which crescendoed to the ultimate praise of God Almighty. And then he paused and said, “This band is also the voice of God. These young and talented musicians have come all the way from Canada to entertain you tonight.” He then proceeded to the overflowing basket and removed two ampoules which he raised above his head and said, “I bless one for the congregation and the other for this splendid band of young men. Before you depart my good friends take two capsules of this holy water and double your generous contributions.” And they did.