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John Robins
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- John Robins Roast - 1986
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Northstar Centre

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CDCA 1934-1984
"Salute to 50" Years

CDCA Salute to 50

Submitted by: Carol Betts
(Reprinted from the 1986 edition of the NYO "Big Apple")

On April 24th (1986) as other people were getting ready to turn their clocks ahead an hour, associates, friends and foes alike of John Robins, the J.R. of Canadian Drum Corps, from Canada and United States gathered at the Northstar Centre to strike their matches, light the logs and fan the flames as they turned back the hands of time and reminisced over the 30 years that John has spent in drum corps in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

John officially retired as the Executive Corps Director of the Northstar Youth Organization December 31, 1985 after 30 years association with the 48th Field Squadron Royal Canadian Engineers, the Senior Flying Dutchmen, Junior Flying Dutchmen, The Northstar, Dutchboy Cadets, Dutch Boy and, Cadets of Dutch Boy Drum & Bugle Corps.

John is the current President of the Kitchener-Waterloo Drum Corps Association, a past President of ODCA/CDCA and a winner of the ODCA Award of Merit.

During his many years in drum corps John has had a disagreement with most everyone in drum corps at one time or another. However, whether people agreed with John’s way of doing things or not, everyone seems to be of the opinion that in the end he was always right and the end results were just what he had said they would be (as hard as that may have been for some of them to admit.) That’s quite an accomplishment and as one J.R. fan once quipped, maybe, "He should be cloned so every drum corps can have one."

From the cheers, warm round of applause and opening notes of "Please Impeach (Release) Me, Let Me Go" as John arrived at the Northstar Centre to the closing notes of “You’ll Never walk Alone" played by the mini-corps of Dutch Boy and the Cadets of Dutch Boy all wearing the uniforms of the Corps John has been associated with over the years, the roasting of John Ross Robins was a definite success.

SURPRISE was the key word for the evening - - not only the business of keeping the evening a secret from John but the many surprises that were in store for him as voices from the past, present and probably future, one-by-one stated their case and then presented him with a memento of the past or a gift for the future. Was John surprised? Only John will ever know and he’s not telling.

How did all this take place? well, way back in February, the Committee of Carol Betts, Joan Bilinsky, Janis Bradshaw, Myrna Cloes, Earl Cloes and Don Daber, ably chaired by Pat Murphy began to meet in secret to put ideas into motion and to pull the programme together. At the same time as all this planning was going on, photos and articles were being gathered for a Souvenir Book and slides were being prepared for a slide presentation of John’s drum corps activities over the years. Don Daber created all the graphics for the evening including the cover of the souvenir book, table programmes and posters and even managed to convince John that he needed John’s slide ‘collection to put together a historical presentation for ODCA on the growth of a drum corps in an Ontario town over the years. John, however, hating to have his photo taken and shown about removed (or so he thought) all the slides of himself before turning the slides over to Pat and Carol for supposed delivery to Don in Toronto. (The slides actually went from Kitchener to Windsor to London and back to Kitchener but never any further east than that.) Not to be foiled, Ken Becker found slides John had missed; Don created slides from artwork and old photos John didn’t know the Committee had; and then Ken made a few choice selections from the K-W Record’s Film Library that added just the right touch to the slide show to show yet another side of John.

All the while all this activity was going on with everyone trying to keep John in the dark, John was getting more and more frustrated because he couldn’t get anyone to help him with a 10th Anniversary Reunion for the Corps - in fact, no one even wanted to talk to him about it. Trouble was, John wanted all the records the Committee needed to pull the guest list together and Earl and Myrna Cloes just never seemed too co-operative at all - from John’s point of view. As for the Committee, they just kept stalling.

The day of the Roast finally rolled around and imagine John’s reaction when following the KWDCA walk-a-thon (which started and ended at the Northstar Centre), when he was told he couldn’t use the office to write drill because "Al says no one can use it without his permission." Poor Janis, she didn’t think John would ever speak to her again but with all the mini corps uniforms, etc. laid out in the office just how was she going to explain that to John - - housekeeping?? - - never! Once John was off the premises, the walk-a-thon people were condensed into one corner and the mop and pail brigade and decorators took over. Within a few short hours, the Northstar Centre was transformed with streamers, posters, flags, and signs; the tables were set; and all was in place awaiting the Guest of Honour’s arrival while the Committee and their helpers madly rushed off to change.

One-by-one and then from near and far more and more of the guests arrived and then thanks to Isabel and Don Woltz, the Guest of Honour - surprise, shock, handshakes, smiles, looks of amazement as friends and faces from days-gone-by were seen and recognized and then on with the Roast.

Ken Becker performed the duties of Master of Ceremonies for the evening with enthusiasm and obvious pleasure and the evenings events were video’d by David Cusimano for John’s future viewing pleasure.

Following Grace by Paul Stumpf, everyone enjoyed Engineer’s Roast Beef, Senior Dutchmen Chicken, Jr. Dutchmen Mashed Potatoes, Dutch Boy Cadets Mixed Vegetable, Northstar Salads, Dutch Boy Cake, Cadets of Dutch Boy Ice Cream and Executive Tea and Coffee. The cake was a real work of art and was topped with accurate to the last detail crests of the corps John has been associated with over the years.

The Roast itself got off to a roaring start with the slide presentation and many a hearty chuckles was heard along with shouts of recognition as Ken ’took everyone through the drum corps life of J.R. - - it has to be seen to be believed and those who didn’t see it missed the treat of a lifetime. John’s hearty laugh and roar of approval was a sign of his delight and pleasure with the show.

Then it was front and centre and John was seated in a rocking chair on the dais with all the comforts of home and .. on with The Roast!

Speakers and presenters included Ralph Norman; Al Strassburger; Joan Bilinsky who presented John with the original Souvenir book; Barry Bell; Al Tierney; Don Daber; Tony Van Rixhordt, from Ellis and Howard (John’s employer); John Agnello representing Great Lakes Drum Corps Association; Clyde Prack representing Kiwanis Kavaliers; Janis Bradshaw; Ron Gaus; Paul Neu (former drum major who came all the way from Texas); Meryl Groff representing John’s Cadets of Dutch Boy corps camp pool playing buddies; Harry McGhee; Professor Stay-In-Step direct from the Heraldry Institute of Germany who presented and explained John’s family crest (actually Mark Sinden in disguise) -- and another well done act you’ll never see the likes of again; Bill Renaud Sr. and Dave Phillips representing Ventures Drum and Bugle Corps; Carol Betts representing the gathered guests; Al DiCroce; Pat Murphy representing the Northstar Youth Organization; Dave Meikle and Brian Murphy of the mini-corps; and Earl and Myrna Cloes representing the Flying Dutchmen Alumni.

During one of the breaks, John was overheard to say, “Me, signing autographs! Can you believe it? Me!" as he smiled and gamely carried on signing copies of the Souvenir Book for all those who asked.

The presentation gifts to John included on the fun side: a cook’s apron, a bottle of scotch in a horn case complete with glasses, new t-shirts, a model toy staff vehicle, a supply of cigarette lighters and pens, a weighty new key chain complete with keys, a menu from Mother’s Pizza Parlour, a pair of worn-out running shoes,
a bottle of champagne, an autographed photo of John Agnello, a set of framed business cards, Thunderbird wine and Rolling Rock beer, a pendulum pool set and a new foam mattress for under his sleeping bag.

On the more serious side, John was presented with a beautiful china eagle,
a 35mm camera, fishing pole, reel, case and tackle box, travel certificate for the trip(s) of his choice, honourary admission ticket to all NYO events and a one-of-a-kind Northstar Youth Organization initial ring designed especially for the occasion. Last but by no means least the piece de resistance should always be left to the last, Earl and Myrna Cloes on behalf of the Flying Dutchmen Alumni Association presented John with a certificate establishing the John Ross Robins Scholarship to be presented annually to
a marching member of the Northstar Youth Organization going on to higher education.

Those of us who know John well know that all the gifts, speeches, presentation, etc. are things John will remember with pleasure over the years but for John, the establishing of the scholarship will always be the most meaningful gift of all for John has often talked of wanting to see a scholarship for NYO marching members set up and now his dream has been realized. what better way to remember the man who has done so much for NYO and drum corps in the Kitchener area and Ontario over the past 30 years.

Following the presentation of the scholarship, the mini-corps played ”You’ll Never walk Alone“ and there were very few dry eyes in the hall when the last note of music faded off into the night.
John’s expression of appreciation was that of a man who was sincerely pleased and touched by the things that had been said about him, the expressions of friendship that had been voiced, the gifts and the warmth and memories shared with many of his friends from over the years.

As the song goes, John will never walk alone because in drum corps as in no other activity (or so it seems) you never loose your friends. They are always there, maybe not nearby but there regardless. Time does not fade drum corps friendships, it only enriches them.

To all those who contributed in any way to making the John Ross Robins Roast the roaring success that it was, the Committee says Many, Many Thanks. Without all of you, we could not have done it on our own.



Mini-corps 1986
Members of the mini-corps