Friday, January 3, 2014

Military Monday: Tom Clark McBride and Capt. John Slatter

Capt. John Slatter
Captain John Slatter, hubby's celebrated great-uncle, taught thousands of buglers and musicians during his five distinguished decades as bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders Regiment in Toronto.

Tom Clark McBride
One was a young teenager named Tom Clark McBride, who first met Capt. Slatter at summer camp on Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1941. Tom served as the captain's batman during the two-week camp period (see photo at right, with Tom in one of his 48th Highlanders uniforms).

When Tom's regular music teacher, James Downie, left for WWII Navy duty, Capt. Slatter took over the musical training until Tom was old enough to join the Navy.

More than 70 years later, Tom's daughter Catherine contacted me for information about Capt. Slatter, part of her research for a scrapbook for her Dad. We've been exchanging e-mails ever since, having fun finding out more about the good captain. She sent me the photo above, showing Capt. Slatter around the time he met Tom.

Catherine has been kind enough to write down a few anecdotes from Tom's time with Capt. Slatter. These first-hand personal insights reveal the captain's personality and his compassion--showing us John Slatter the man, as well as Capt. Slatter the bandmaster. Thank you so much, Tom and Catherine! 
  • When my grandmother [Tom's mother] took Dad to Boddingtons (a music store in their area) to get his cornet, which was his first instrument, the captain went with them to make sure he got the right instrument for him. It was a silver cornet made by Besson of England. My Dad and his Mom thought the Captain was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He certainly didn’t need to do that but was kind enough to do so and I think obviously interested in my Dad.
  • If anyone made a mistake the captain would know who goofed and stopped everything. He’d then walk over to the offending “instrument” and ask for your instrument and physically check it out and test the operation of it. If it was ok, no sticky valves etc. he would hand it back and say it seemed to be fine, go back to where he stood and resume practice. It was done in a nice manner, never crabby or anything. Needless to say nobody goofed if they could avoid doing so. Dad would have been about 15 then.
  • One day they were marching in a parade of some sort, possibly Santa Claus, with a number of military bands such as 48th, Black Watch, Queens own, etc. Dad was marching along as was everyone else when out of the corner of his eye he spotted the captain marching in the middle of the six rows, waiting for the drums to catch up. It seems they had somehow changed tempo and so the captain corrected them, then marched back to the front where he had been and was supposed to be.

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