On October 16, 1953 a meeting occurred at the Brantford Catholic High School for girls who were interested in joining a newly formed band, known as the B.C.H. Girls’ Trumpet Band. The first Director of the Corps was Father Frank A. Dentinger, Principal of the Brantford Catholic High School, later Father H. J. Hayes took charge. The first instructors were Bob Shewchuck on drums, Fred Nicholas on bugles, George Mellor for drill and drums, and later Gord Easto on drill. The first Drum Major, known then as a “Drum Majorette”, was Linda Glendinning.
Originally there were sixteen members and their first uniforms were ankle-length grey skirts and white blouses. In the fall of 1954 new uniforms were issued in green and white – these colours would be worn until 1976. Membership increased each year and in 1956 Majorettes became part of the Corps. In 1958 a ten-member colour party was added, and by 1959 the Corps had fifty-three members.
In 1960 the Brantford Catholic High School changed its name to St. John’s College; the Corps then became known as St. John’s College Drum and Bugle Corps. In 1964, St. John’s College became an all-boys school and the all-girls Drum Corps was no longer a part of the school. The Knights of Columbus then took over sponsorship of the Corps and the Corps was known as the Knights of Columbus–St. John’s Girls’ Drum Corps, or the K. of C. St. John’s Girls’ Drum Corps. In 1970 the Knights of Columbus ceased their sponsorship of the Corps and St. John’s Girls Drum & Bugle Corps became a self-sponsored organization. The Corps was solidly supported by its Board of Directors, led by the Executive Corps Director George Mellor, parents committee, the City of Brantford, its citizens, industries and businesses.
They began competing in 1956 and started a long history of winning parades and Drum Corps competitions in Canada and the United States. They won their first Canadian and Provincial Championships in 1962. Their reign as Canadian National Champions continued from 1963 – 1967, and then they recaptured this title in 1971 - 1974; winning once more in 1977. They held the Provincial Championship title consecutively from 1962 – 1977. The Corps gained true international stature in 1972 by winning the All-Girls U. S. Open Championships, making them the first Canadian All-Girls Drum Corps to achieve this. They also won the International All-Girl Open Championship in 1972 and 1973. Other honours that were bestowed upon the Corps include in 1975 they were presented with the Holiday Inn Peace Flag. It marked the “first time that the flag, designated by Holiday Inns to promote world peace through tourism, will have a recipient other than a world government leader”. In 1976 they proudly carried the United States Bi-Centennial Flag alongside the Canadian flag; the only Canadian Drum Corps to have been honoured by the U.S. Open Drum and Bugle Corps Championship Commission of Marion, Ohio.
Winning these Championship titles created popularity within the City of Brantford, and as result their membership rose to 110 in 1973. They were also the “youngest” Corps, as their average age of its members was 14 years old. This prompted the management of the organization to create a junior corps and the Belles of St. John’s were born. They were active until 1979 when they merged with their senior Corps.
The Corps changed their name to the Brantford Girls Drum and Bugle Corps in 1981, as to more adequately describe their position within their community. Due to community support and involvement, the Board of Directors voted strongly in favour of identifying the Corps with its hometown. In 1983 they again won the All-Girl International Championship and were presented with a trophy that was 4 feet high. In 1984 they were featured in the movie “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird”.
1984 marked the last year that the Corps would be all-girl and in 1985 they became co-ed and changed their name back to St. John’s Drum and Bugle Corps.
The tradition of winning continued well into the 1990’s as in 1995 they became the Canadian National A-60 Champions for the fifth consecutive year and made several consecutive appearances in the Drum Corps International Championship Finals.
A decline in membership prevented the Corps from competing in 1999 and forced them to continue only as a parade Corps. They returned to competition in 2002 and in 2003, they celebrated their 50th Anniversary and became one of the oldest junior Drum Corps in Canada.
After several years of waning membership, inactivity as a competing circuit and the overall decline of the Drum Corps activity in Ontario, the organization was revitalized yet again in 2009 with the rebirth of St. John’s Winter Guard. Currently there are twenty-three members among two Guards; the Senior Guard’s members are between the ages of 13-22 and the Junior Guard’s members are between the ages of 7-13. This could not have been possible without the restructuring of the Board of Directors, the ongoing support of many volunteers, alumni and members of the community.
The History of St. John's Drum and Bugle Corps
These images and articles are from the Collection of Tom and Belle Collard.