As a passing word, at the time when I was "sworn in" to the regiment and had to state my age, the officer in command asked: "What is your age?" "Fourteen, Sir", I said. "You are eighteen!" he said in a tone that would admit of no contradiction. This was the legal age for enlistment, and although too scared to open my mouth, much less to contradict, I was not too frightened to realize that my good friend, Sergeant Young, had "fixed" things for me.
The regiment was formed into line and also carefully inspected, and after a few words to the men from Colonel Otter, the officer in command, the bugle again sounded - this time for Advance! The doors of the armory were then thrown open and I started forth on my first march as a boy-soldier. The parliamentary opening occurred in the month of February, which as quite cold, however, for believe me I was at fever heat with joy and pride. I was so greatly elated that had a bullet gone through me it is doubtful if I would have minded it at the moment.
My troubles began when the band reached the outside air and commenced playing. It was with difficulty that I kept the mouthpiece in place at all while marching, and even at that it slipped and "skidded" so much all around my lips that is was impossible for me to produce at tone. I wonder if any of my readers recall the first time they ever tried to play an instrument while marching in parade line. Well, I did my best and blew as hard as I knew how, but no sound could be induced to come from my cornet. I kep at it, however, working harder than any man in the band, but without results. The other members were used to such kind of work in such sort of weather, and as there were eleven cornetists in the band besides myself (and all playing) my deficiencies were not noticed.
When the first selection was finished the bugle section took up the marching music and carried it on while the band rested, but during the interval of rest (and owing to the intense cold) the valves of my cornet froze so that I could not press any of them down. This frightened me, for in my ignorance of such matters I thought that some dire accident must have happened to the instrument to put it so completely "out of business," and I felt responsible to the Government for the cornet going wrong. I meant to have stated before this that the streets were filled with ice and snow to such an extent that when I tried to march my feet slipped so that it was all I could do to stand up and walk, not to mention playing an instrument at the some time.
But the worst was yet to come, for when the bugle section had finished and the signal was given for the band to start another march, I naturally placed my cornet in position to play. To my consternation the mouthpiece at once stuck to my lips and when trying to take the instrument away from my mouth the skin on my lips came with it, and stuck to the mouthpiece. This of course put me "out of business" as well as the cornet, but I had been taught a great lesson, namely; when playing out of doors in cold weater keep the mouthpiece warm by holding it in the mouth when not playing and never let it get cold. Of course the older members of the band were used to playing under such conditions, and being wise to the predicament that might result protected themselves against it.
The Parliament Building was reached at last, where as Guard of Honor the regiment and band were drawn up in line outside at Present Arms until the ceremonies inside were over, then marched back to the armory for dismissal. The Government pay for this "job" was only fifty cents a man, but whether much or little it was not so much the pay for which I cared as the honor of being permitted to play (or, in this instance, hold) a cornet in the band of this eminent regiment.