It was astonishing what a mental "boost" a young chap gets when at last a long cherished ambition and yearning has been realized. As told in the last installment of this autobiography, I now possessed a cornet that was my own, or "mine" so long as I remained with the band, and I took mighty good care of it. However, the government's instrument was not in the best of condition when I received it. The valves did not work well and the slides were pretty well corroded, but the instrument being "approximately" fine, I at once set about remedying these defects and soon had them bettered. Even though only a boy, I knew that the instrument must have been accumulating dust and dirt in the band storeroom for quite a length of time; this, and the fact that I did not know who was the last fellow before me to use the cornet, made it advisable for me to give it a thorough cleaning, inside and outside.
To do this I poured strong ammonia into the cornet, but phew! The ammonia was so strong that when I blew it through the instrument the overpowering fumes nearly strangled me, and my eyes became blinded for a short time. Perhaps it would be better to leave it to the readers imagination as to what came out with the ammonia; but I there were any microbes lingering in that cornet at the time it came into my possession I certainty had killed them before using it, or rather the ammonia had done so. Anyway, it no surely was clean on the inside but how about the outside! The powerful solution had turned that part of the instrument into a beautiful (?) oxidized blue and I thought it was ruined, but after treating it to a good hot-water bath, followed by a vigorous shining up, that old cornet had the appearance of a new one - a condition in which I kept the instrument during the whole time it was in my possession.
It is not at all difficult for anyone to keep an instrument in first-class condition, if he only will take as good care of it as he does of his body, and yet I know of scores of players who never use water to cleanse the inside of their instrument - at least not for months, sometimes not for years. The genus "hobo" is too lazy and careless to use water for ablutionary purposes, but are there not many instrumental "hoboes" in the music world?
After attending band rehearsals regularly for several weeks, the strangeness of my new environment wore off and I began to gain confidence in myself, together with a broader sense of freedom. Then by becoming used to my surroundings in the band room and getting acquainted with the members of the band, who were all good fellows, I began to enjoy the rehearsals. Being only a boy no one paid any particular attention to me, for which I was glad and with my entire being filled and thrilled by the music itself. I even forgot my own identity at times. Then came the eventful moment when orders were read for the band to report with the regiment at the armory on a certain day to perform guard duty at the opening of the Canadian Parliament, which came in the afternoon of that same date. Of course I had to be excused from school, but only with the understanding that the lost lessons must be made up on the following day.
In one of the Gilbert-Sullivan operas the captain of the English Heavy Dragoons sings with pride of the time "When I first put this uniform on," and probably I experienced the same sort of emotion when at last the opportunity came for me to put on my regimental uniform and parade as a "real soldier"; furthermore, I doubt if anyone even can imagine the pride I felt in being immaculate when "all dressed up" in full regalia. I reported at the armory that day on time with the rest of the band, and when the bugle sounded the call to fall in, I stood proudly erect and responded to my name in the roll call like a full grown man. Then followed inspection, which of course was another new experience for me, and I fairy trembled as the officer inspected my uniform from the neck down, I even tried to stretch up a little taller than usual fearing to be called from the ranks as being only a boy fourteen years of age.