Three of our Museum folks played in Base Bands; in fact, all three were a part of the band at Cold Lake, though not at the same time…
Steve recalls, “Back in the days of “RCAF Stations” most of the larger stations had bands, a bunch of volunteer musicians and wannnabes from all the trades and ranks who played for all the station parades and participated in local festivals, parades and various school concerts. The band was the good will ambassador of the RCAF and the station.
I started my association with the bands at Greenwood N.S. as a member of the percussion section. I was fortunate to have two very fine drummers to tutor me and was soon up to speed. The band practised 4 hrs per week, played for all the parades on the station and as I said for various festivities in the local area. Summers were very busy for the band; most weekends the band was somewhere doing what bands do.
We did get perks – no extra base duties, no orderly corporals, sergeants or orderly officer. The band was supported by the various sections since that was your primary job; unless there were pressing operational requirements the bosses insisted you attend practices and performances.
The band became a very enjoyable part of my service life. Later in my career I was posted to Cold Lake and one of the first things I did was get involved with the base band and stayed with it until I retired. Again, it was a most enjoyable and educational time.”
Can you find Steve in the photo below?
Len said that, “My dad played in the RCAF Training Command Band and I decided that’s what I wanted also. So I joined up in 1965 with the intention of going into the TC (Training Command) Band. But they were pushing electronics at the time and I thought, hmmm, that sounds interesting, so I ended up being a radar technician on the little radar stations on the Pine Tree Line out in the middle of nowhere.
That was the end of my musical career until 1978, when I got posted to CFB Cold Lake where they had a base band which i joined immediately. Five years later I got posted to CFB Greenwood and played in their base band. Then in 1988, I retired and moved here to Comox. The Comox base band had folded quite a few years before because they couldn’t get enough people due to shift work. So I played with the Comox District Concert Band and the CAMPA Band.”
Our Museum Director, Lynn, recalls, “When I was in High School I heard about a Military Band that would pay me to play my French Horn and where I would be able to continue playing music after I finished school. I joined the King’s Own Calgary Regiment band in my last year of high school (you could join when you were 17). The band had been recently set up and was composed mainly of students who had been playing in the Calgary Stampede Band (a fairly well known marching band at the time). It was a great time for me. We “paraded” (meaning we went and practised) twice a week, Tuesday evenings and Sat mornings and then we were in demand to play for parades (both Military and civilian – city parades all over Alberta and into BC), Mess Dinners, other ceremonies (such as Remembrance Day or Funerals etc). We had to do some of the military requirement of course – We had to qualify at the rifle ranges and I still remember taking my Junior Leaders Course on weekends with the final exercise out in Suffield crawling through cactus. I also had a chance to attend the School of Music in Victoria (CFB Esquimalt) for a few weeks a couple of summers. This was quite a shock to members of our fairly new band as the requirements at our home unit for drill and uniforms (and haircuts for the guys) had not been as rigorous as elsewhere! It was a great group of people and a great way to make some money. I made enough to pay for my first year of University and then spending money for the rest of the time I was taking my Engineering degree. (Engineering jobs for the summers paid the cost for Uni for the next three years). I also had some friends from the King’s Own who joined the Reg Force as Musicians, one of whom is still playing with the Naden band! My friend Delia is still playing in the King’s Own band today – she has been in the band for 40 years now and has done almost that many Stampede parades!!! I also played for some time in the volunteer band at CFB Cold Lake (4 Wing now) when I was first posted there. That band has a Reg Force conductor and is made up entirely of volunteers. Some military and quite a few civilians. They too play lots of parades and mess dinners.
I really enjoyed being part of the bands over the years and being able to continue to play my French Horn.”
And finally, one of us directed a band. Val remembers, “It’s been said that many of our special life experiences are connected with food and/or music. Some will recall a dinner – who attended, the reason for the gathering, and the food served. Some will recall attending a concert featuring a favourite musical artist; or perhaps what they were doing when a special song was played…
My Dad was a member of 442 SQN Sea Island (Auxiliary) following the war. Christmas was always a special time for our families as we gathered for the Children’s Christmas Parties; I would have been five or six years old at the time…
The Station Band was a part of the celebrations, playing Christmas carols for a sing-along, anticipation growing as the children waited for Santa’s appearance. At one point, the band’s director asked if there was someone who would be willing to direct the band for their next song. Up went my hand and I was selected. They pulled up a chair for me to stand on, and away I went! I can still vividly see myself up there with the band…”
** And you? Do you have any memories connected with Base Bands? Let us know!