These walls would sing – What a history!

Scout House Band’s home base for 80 years closed and locked

The 80-year relationship between Preston Scout House Band and its home building ended on June 1 with Scouts Canada closing and locking the doors of the historic Preston Scout House on Queenston Road as required by the terms for withdrawing from the lease.

Preston Scout House Band Inc. and other community groups have had free access to the building for Scout House Cadets regular weekly practices, board meetings and other events. However, regular Scouting activity has been dwindling recently, with the building gradually falling into disrepair. In order to terminate the lease, Scouts Canada must end all scouting activity and the building must remain empty and locked for about six months after activity ends. Ownership of Scout House, designated a heritage building, will revert to the City of Cambridge.

The Scout House building was originally the stable for horses used to deliver beer for Rock Springs Brewery. In 1936, local businessman Peter Bernhardt gave the scouting association a 99 year lease on the dilapidated building. The original lease was updated over the years as use of the building evolved.

The building became the home of community-based 1st Preston Boy Scout Troop. The troop’s innovative bugle band founded by leader Wilf Blum in 1938 evolved by 1954 into Canada’s famous Preston Scout House Band, one of the best known and popular drum and bugle corps in North America.

The old stable was originally updated and renovated by troop members and community volunteers, who repeated the process twice more after devastating fires. The major incident was a furnace explosion in December 1944. The resulting fire gutted the lower interior section of the building. After the long repair period, 2,000 people attended the open house in April 1948, patiently waiting in line for their turn to tour the restored building which now included a built in sound system, shower facilities and upgraded washrooms and a fenced and landscaped back yard for summer outdoor rehearsal.

Preston Scout House building was also the social centre of the town, drawing up to 500 young people for Saturday night Teen Canteen dances with music coming from the unique built in sound system, wedding receptions, showers, Christmas and New Year events, anniversaries and community banquets.

The five Preston Scout House Band Inc. member groups are now based in five separate rehearsal locations across Waterloo Region.

Scout House Band now rehearses at St. James’ Anglican Church on Ellis Road in Hespeler. Scout House Cadets will use space provided by the City of Cambridge in June, then switch to St. Peter’s Church in downtown Preston. Silver Leaves Brass winter rehearsal location is the Kitchener/Waterloo Naval Association building in Waterloo. Magic of Scout House competitive winter guard is based in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints in Kitchener and various schools throughout the region. The Heritage Drill Team is based at the Royal Canadian Legion, Preston Branch 126.

Board of directors meetings will be held in the David Durward Centre boardroom in the Cambridge Centre for the Arts complex adjacent to Cambridge city hall.

Preston Scout House Band, Inc. is a non-profit corporation with registered charity status able to issue tax receipts to donors, incorporated under the Corporations Act of the Province of Ontario on November 29, 1956. The multi-unit organization offers individuals the opportunity to “Arrange the soundtrack of your life” in marching arts activities starting at age 8 and continuing throughout life.

Prepared by:  Roy Wilson

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