Excerpt from the past. Corps History No 53

Around the age of 20, Paul Johnson (already a brilliant cornet soloist with our senior band, having been professionally taught) took on the training of the Young People’s band.
One of his earliest trainees was a very young Ron Foot who frequently caused Paul’s blood pressure to rise, but who was for ever grateful for this introduction to the privilege of Salvation Army banding.
Paul’s incredible service was to last 30 years! For a while during World War II while he was serving his country as an officer in the East Surrey Regiment I looked after these duties until King George VI invited me to join the Royal Army Service Corps as Paul needed help to win the war.

For 16½ years of Paul’s service I was privileged to work alongside him as YPSM. Not only did he create a very fine YP band but his Sunday school bible teaching was of the highest standard, being based on his practical experience as a probation officer to which he also applied his Christian principles.

On Saturday 19 September 1964 we met to honour Paul’s ‘retirement’ from his band leadership, his reward being appointment as bandmaster of the senior band! The local newspaper made mention of him having trained ‘hundreds of boys’ (no girls in the band then!) and quoted his rueful comment that ‘it is more difficult now to get boys who have the patience and concentrated effort to learn because of too many other distractions. Entertainment comes easy without them having to make too much effort’ .Sounds familiar? A handsome presentation was made to Paul and tributes were paid by some present, with others being read from grateful senders in many parts of the UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Brazil, Australia and Canada.

Mention has been made in earlier columns about the many and varied ways Paul cared for his flock, including a new year meal to reward the players and collectors for hard work during the Christmas carolling season and many social occasions, such as the packing of a huge number of youngsters into his car to take them swimming at Surbiton Lagoon. The band under his leadership gave countless progammes and conducted meetings, and a number of visits to the Kentish countryside were highlights.
There was also the proud moment when our YP band was chosen as ‘the finest in the West London division’ to perform at Sunbury Court as an ‘exhibition band’. For many of these precious years our Anne was at his side, encouraging and supporting Paul in all that he did.

Next month: I write a poem for Paul’s 30 year record.
Ron Foot