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.