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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1930s

Published: January 2, 2016 8:46 am ET

Last Comment: January 2, 2016 5:20 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's edition of Rewind, Robert Smith takes a look back at some of the personalities and events from the decade of the 1930s in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago.

Note: Despite the tough economic conditions which existed throughout much of the decade, harness racing persevered. In many instances the purses were substantially lowered but the major races continued to be held.

1931 - Montreal Track Offers Big Giveaway

July 20, 1931 - Officials at Kings Park in suburban Montreal are expecting some large crowds at their upcoming Thoroughbred meeting; perhaps even some harness fans. The track is offering an unheard of giveaway to some lucky patron. A fully equipped brand new 1931 Chevrolet sedan has been purchased and each paying customer will receive a chance at winning it if their ticket is drawn. Each ticket stub will be placed in a huge drum and held for a drawing after the sixth race on closing day. During the meeting the car will be on display at the track for close up viewing.

Update: On the final afternoon of racing, Mayor Gayor of St. Laurent presided over the draw and the lucky winning ticket No. 311 was drawn. It belonged to a Mr. R. Chisholm of Bordeaux St., who was in the audience and immediately came forward to accept the prize. He revealed to track officials that he did not currently own a car, nor could he even drive one. Representatives of the Chevrolet Co. immediately offered to drive both he and his brand new car to his home.

1934 - Hambletonian Purse Reaches Record Low

Lord Jim and driver Hugh "Doc" Parshall, winner of the 1934 Hambletonian [Hambletonian Society Photo]

The 1934 Hambletonian attracted its largest crowd ever to that point as an estimated 35,000 eager fans jammed into Good Time Park at Goshen, N.Y. for a 3 o'clock post time. With the entire country plagued by a terrible economy and in the depths of The Great Depression, the Hambo purse dropped to its lowest level in history when just $25,845 was offered up for the annual classic. The inaugural race held in 1926 went for a hefty $73,451 but hard times soon made the big prize much smaller.

That year's race itself had some interesting highlights as two driving brothers from Ohio ended up as the stars of the afternoon. Lord Jim, driven by Hugh 'Doc' Parshall was the winner while Muscletone handled by his younger brother Daryl took home second money. Between the two they accounted for $17,365 or nearly 67 per cent of the pot leaving the other four money winners around $8,500 to divide among them. Winning races was nothing new to 'Doc' as he had been the nation's leader each year since 1929. Two of the eight starters failed to earn a cheque despite competing in the first three heats.

The Parshall brothers were the youngest drivers in Hambo history to that point, a race traditionally considered to be for 'older' and more seasoned reinsmen. 'Doc' was just 34 at the time, in an era when it was considered that a horseman needed to be at least 50 to properly handle a trotter. While the drivers were young, the sire and dam of the winner were not. Lord Jim's sire Guy Axworthy was 28 and his dam Selka was 16 at the time he was conceived.

[Note: To put this purse in today's terms ​the $25,845​ would be equal to $458,725.61 U.S., still a pretty substantial amount.]

1936 - Guy The Tramp Readies For The 1936 Season

Guy The Tramp is readying for the upcoming campaign in California. He is being honed for the season at the track in Pamona by his owner Charlie Crummer, formerly of Chatham, Ont. Mr. Crummer is remembered for his early attempt at putting on races under the lights at Chatham around 1930. While his idea was a good one, it may have just a bit ahead of its time. Guy The Tramp, who sports double gaited records of 2:02 pacing and 2:04 1/4 trotting, has raced against and defeated most of the countries top performers of both gaits. A report in the Canadian Sportsman says "this horse has covered more territory since he first showed up in 1930 than any other campaigner now before the public."

Guy The Tramp, currently the sport's top double gaited performer is shown in pacing gear in a photo taken earlier at Rockingham Park [Kendall Collection]

1937 - New Hamburg Entries Published

A view from the infield on one of the early Derby days at Fountain Park in New Hamburg, Ont.

May 1937: A list of entries for the second annual Canadian Pacing Derby has been released by secretary Earl Katzmeier and appears in several papers across the land. The second annual Canadian Pacing Derby has drawn a large field of 16 hopefuls as of this date. The purse has been increased to $1,500 from the very large initial prize of $1,275 taken home by last year's winner Better Times and London owner J.S. Koch. The entry list includes most of the best pacing talent in the Country with the early favourite being Dillon Mc owned by Dr. Meldrum of Norwich, Ont.

Additionally the Coronation Stake for three-year-olds has attracted a huge 26 entries and offers a purse of $ 500.00. A number of owners have multiple entries. A short list of owners who have entered their colts includes Lew James, London; Floyd Milton, Drumbo; Hon. Earl Rowe, Newton Robinson; James Wellwood, Merlin; Louis Mack, Hamilton; Harold Berry, St. Marys; J.T. Payette, Penetang; Henry Trudell, Rodney; Brooks Bros., London and Wm. Eagleson, Parkhill.

The big Derby Day is scheduled for August 12 at New Hamburg's Fountain Park and promises to be the highlight of the Ontario racing season.

1939 - New Team Pacing Mark Set

Altamont, New York: A record that has been unbroken since 1916 was replaced here as two of the best pacers on the Continent set a new standard for a team pacing on a half mile track. The duo of Billy Direct and The Widower, both from the stable of Vic Fleming and driven by son Charlie Fleming, paced an exhibition mile in 2:04 1/4. The record breaking mile was not achieved until the second try that afternoon. In the first attempt, timed in a sluggish 2:13, The Widower could not stay pacing without hopples. The appropriate equipment adjustment was made and about an hour later the new world standard was set.

This event was apparently staged in a somewhat impromptu fashion at a rather obscure location and without compensation. A small crowd of some 1,500 cheered the day's events as Billy Direct made his last career track appearance. The decade of the 1930's was not kind to harness racing in many ways and this day symbolized the end of a dismal decade.

The team of Billy Direct and The Widower with driver Chas. Fleming prior to their record breaking performance in 1939. Despite the absence of hopples they were both free legged pacers. [Hoof Beats Photo]

January 2, 2016 - 5:20 pmGood stuff Robert ! You must

Joseph Carr SAID...

Good stuff Robert ! You must have quite a library of materials to keep these great articles coming.
Joe Carr

January 2, 2016 - 12:09 pmGood to see that Dr. Meldrum

Dave Aziz SAID...

Good to see that Dr. Meldrum of Norwich was still a prominent name.
It was he who presided over the birth of my mother on the 08 October, 1918 in
Grandma's bedroom, just a mile north of town. House still stands across from Quaker St. and Hwy #59.

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