Vance Masters
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© Alfred EisenstaedtAlfred Eisenstaedt's 1945 LIFE photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square symbolizes the cathartic joy of V-J Day.  Around the world, patriotism ran high and in the prairie city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Ina and Paul Schmidt welcomed their second child, a baby boy, into the world, choosing names to reflect that eventful day.  Vance Jerold Schmidt was born August 14, 1945, on the final day of World War 2.

Vance’s early years were certainly not easy.  Before he turned 5, his father succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis.  In those days, there were not a lot of career opportunities for women, and money was tight.  His mother struggled to raise her young family - Vance, and his sister, Arlene.  The only affordable housing was located in a rough and tumble neighborhood, populated by street toughs and bootleggers, in Winnipeg’s north end.  At the age of 6, Vance developed a limp that eventually caused the small child to endure body casts and a 3-year stay in Shriner’s Hospital.  When he was finally released, his world had changed dramatically.  His mother was remarried, he had a new stepfather, Clarence Masters, and a new home in a different neighborhood.

Times were still tough for the family, but the one bit of entertainment they could afford was the radio.  Having spent the better part of his formative years in the socially restricted setting of a hospital ward, Vance emerged as a somewhat shy, unsure little boy.  The radio had been his only link to the outside world.  The music of the big bands that had diverted his attention away from the endless drudgery of tests and physical therapy, now served as replacement for the friends he had left behind when the family had moved.  Too poor to afford a musical instrument, he would sit for hours on end in front of a footstool, attempting to reproduce the drum patterns he heard.

Recognizing their child’s natural talent, and that this was no passing fancy, Ina and Clarence scraped together the money to provide their son with some formal instruction.  Vance studied under the tutelage of Willie Wendt, percussionist for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.  It would be several years before he would own a real drum set of his own.

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