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The plan I had formed to become attached to the Queens's Own Regimental Band, and thereby "attach" myself to a good cornet at the expense of the Canadian Government, was a simple yet feasible one. My father (at that time organist at the Jarvis Street Baptist Church) had an excellent choir, one of its members being a tenor singer named Dave Young who also was first trombonist and quartermaster sergeant in the Q.O.R. Band. In my boyish mind I had figured it out that, if I could make a favorable impression upon this singer, his influence as first trombone player and quartermaster sergeant possibly might gain for me the coveted position.
The more I thought about the plan, the stronger become its obsession, and one Saturday night I mustered sufficient courage to try to put it into execution by going to the choir rehearsal with my father and having a talk with the singer sergeant.
We (my father and myself) walked to the rehearsal, but I took good care not to drop any hint of my reasons for going. He seemed to be somewhat surprised at my suddenly awakened interest in church choir work, however, and suggested that perhaps when I had grown a litle older I might find it enjoyable to join and sing in his choir.
It seemed to me that the choir rehearsal would never end, but, of course, it did, and when it was over I hung to the heels of Sergeant Young until he was ready to depart. Just as he was putting on his overcoat preparatory to leaving, I hurriedly put the fateful question as to whether there was any opportunity for me to play cornet in h is band and then waited breathlessly for the answer. It is doubtful if anyone can imagine my feelings when very good naturally he replied: "Why not come to band practice on Monday night? I will introduce you to the band master and ascertain if he is in need of another cornet." I thanked the man and asked him what time I should be there. He told me to come early, and added that as quartermaster sergeant, having charge of all band accessories, he would look up an instrument for me.
I walked back home with my father that night, but cannot recall one word that he said. My feet were on the earth, but my head was in the clouds, yet even in the exuberance of my feelings I was careful not to mention my talk with the sergeant. I knew, of course, that membership in the regimental band meant an enlistment, and also knew that my father would oppose any idea of a boy of my age entering the army, although my older brothers had been members of the same band but now were out of it. I slept but little, if any, that night, but tossed around in the bed until Sunday morning while fervently wishing the day would come, pass quickly and bring Monday. On Sunday morning I went to church with my father and after the service waited around to see Sergeant Young again. In my boyish anxiety I thought that possibly he might have forgotten what he had said to me on Saturday night, and wanted to remind him of it by saying that I would be there early. As a matter of fact, so great was my eagerness to get into the "Queen's Own" that right then I would have gone to the band room and waited for Monday night to come if he had told me to do so.
I was in a fever of excitement all day Monday, and because of my mind being wholly fixed upon the coming night with what it might or might not bring forth, I made so many misses in my lessons that it was necessary for me to remain after school hours and make them up. All through the day, too, I was filled with fears - that perhaps there might not be any opening for another cornet; that perhaps all the cornets belonging to the band might be in use, and other fears which now appear foolish. But more than anythng else, in a sense I was afraid to meet the bandmaster, who had the reputation of being a strict disciplinarian and never over looking faulty playing when it came to rendering band music.
Then come another fear in the thought of an obstacle which might confront me - getting away from home that night! Having to remain after school hours to make up imperfect lessons might easily furnish a reason for mother to keep me in the house for more study, as one of her mottoes was: "Be perfect in all you undertake." My mind certainly did work fast while on my way home from school. As soon as the house was reached I went in with a rush, found my mother, and, throwing my arms about her (I was much taller than she even then), poured out my excuses; and pleas with boyish fervor, almost in one breath I told that my late arrival home was because of having missed lessons that had to be made up, that I had been invited by Sergeant Young to come and hear band practice that night, that the lessons were missed in the excitement of thinking all day about the invitation and please might I go to hear the practice.
I never had told an outright falsehood to my parents, for they always had taught me to be straightforward in everything, so I felt a little guilty at not having been more fully open and above-board with them concerning my ambitions to secure a real cornet and belong to a real band. To my great satisfaction I was given permission to attend the practice, because Dave Young was favorite with my father and was known to be a good man.