OPINION: When Lionettes were the pride of a marching-mad city

Sarnia's famed Lionettes, seen here marching in Frankenmuth, Michigan, won honours at numerous competitions through the 1950s and '60s.
Submitted PhotoSarnia's famed Lionettes, seen here marching in Frankenmuth, Michigan, won honours at numerous competitions through the 1950s and '60s. Submitted Photo

Nadine Wark

It was gratifying to see that the Colts Drum Line has found a new home where members can store their equipment and meet for rehearsals.

The group has partnered with Community of Christ Church, which is right across the street from the drum line’s original home at the former St. Clair Secondary. Its director and instructor, Shawn Bryan, has a dream that one day Sarnia could once again boast a full-fledged drum and bugle corps.

At one time in the 1960s, the city had three drum and bugle corps: the Lionettes, the Marching Angels (both all-girl) and the Sertomanaires (all-boy and later mixed). The Marching Diplomats appeared later that decade and the Bluewater Buccaneers in the ‘70s.

My teen years were defined — along with the Beatles — by being a member of the Lionettes. It gave me a chance to experience places beyond Sarnia-Lambton, make new friends and learn how to play an instrument or be a member of a color guard (flags and rifles).

The corps travelled by bus to perform at out-of-town parades and competitions. It was the thrill of competition, with field shows involving music, marching and maneuvering and intricate drills — one cohesive unit working together.

I have a great memory of marching past supporters lined up on Christina Street to Norm Perry Park, where a pageant and competition was taking place that evening. The international affair had Canadian corps joined by outfits from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.

Because many corps travelled to the same parades and competitions, friendships were formed that lasted a lifetime, and eventually some weddings as well. When we travelled long distance we’d billet in homes or unroll a sleeping bag in a school gym.

Many unsung heroes worked behind the scenes to make these events happen, including parents, directors, sponsors, chaperones, instructors and marketing people. Sometimes instructors came from out of town to work with the horn lines and color guard.

I wonder if those glory days could ever happen again for Sarnia-area youth. Running a drum and bugle corps is no small undertaking.

It’s often said, “There’s nothing for young people to do in Sarnia and nowhere to go.” So it would be wonderful if a corps could fill a void and give our youth an opportunity to experience all that a drum and bugle corps offers. Believe me, there would be no complaints of nothing to do.

The Colts Drum Line is currently recruiting young people ages 10-21 years. If it continues to grow, perhaps a sponsor will step up and invest in our youth.

A large drum line would be great for Sarnia, but a drum and bugle corps would be even better!

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia