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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1950s

Published: January 2, 2021 12:23 pm ET

Last Comment: January 7, 2021 6:57 am ET | 9 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

To start off the New Year, in this week's Rewind Robert Smith presents the monthly edition of the ongoing feature Years Ago.

This month all of the short stories and old photos are centred on the decade of the 1950's. At this time Harness racing continued its triumphant return from the WWII era. The sport slowly emerged from its country roots, many changes were altering the profile of modern day harness racing. As the decade of the 40's faded into history the much brighter lights of the 1950's started to shine through.

1951 - Three Rivers, Quebec: A Thriving Race Town

In 1951 one of the most progressive and successful tracks in all of Canada was located at Three Rivers, Quebec. Races were held two to three times a week with many of the programs staged under the lights. Track operator and owner Joe Darveau was a very ambitious and energetic promoter and did a lot of advertising and promotional work to attract fans and also to secure the best possible horsemen with the better stables.

This year's racing season stretched over six months and the betting was considered excellent. The Town received almost $42,000 as their share of the mutuels and it justified the money they had invested in the track. There were over 100 horses stabled at the track with pacers outnumbering trotters by about 4-1. The largest outfit on the grounds was owned by J.A. Morin of St. Henri de Lévis, Québec.

A view of the track and backstretch at Three Rivers. Above the stables were living quarters where many of the horse people lived and socialized including dances and other gatherings

Late in the season on a Friday evening, the track threw an oyster party for all owners, drivers and grooms. Also invited were members of the press and radio. This event was held at "La Bonne Cuisine" fronting the coliseum. During the evening an announcement was made that a paddock would be built in time for the 1952 season and also that the Racing Club had other improvements planned.

1951 - New All Time Speed Tab Recorded At Wolverine Raceway

Wolverine Raceway, located on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, opened its doors to harness racing in 1950 and immediately began attracting Canadian horses and horsemen. This track was truly a state of the art facility that incorporated all of the frills; most never before seen at a racetrack.

At this time one of the premiere horses in action was an outstanding pacer named Guinea Gold. Six years old at the time he went into late August undefeated for the season having won all 14 of his starts for owner Perl Hungerford of Shelbyville, Indiana and his son Paul who did all of the driving. This horse was a beautiful chestnut stallion sired by Frisco Dale. On the evening of August 31, 1951 the race secretary was still able to find enough talent to stage a race for this seemingly unbeatable horse. The result was another victory by Guinea Gold, his 15th straight, and a new track and State record as the fastest mile in Michigan history up to that point was recorded. Time of the record setting mile was 2:02 2/5.

One of the contestants in the record setting race was a Canadian-owned pacer named Carter Hy owned by the Moore Bros. of Sarnia and driven by Marshall Moore. The son of Bob Lee finished second to the winner and was given special recognition by track announcer Stan Bergstein in a post-race recap. The actual call of the race is available below. This is a rather amazing account of the race given the fact that 70 years ago we had very little technology that reached this level.

1952 - Part Of The McNiven Legacy

Mr. A.P. (Andrew) McNiven, originally from Ingersoll, Ont., resided in Ecorse, Michigan near the City of Detroit for many years. His business interests included operating a dairy at that location. Before moving to the U.S., Mr. McNiven had already developed a keen interest in harness racing and eventually began acquiring a modest stable of horses as a hobby. Among his earlier performers in the 1940's was a mare named Peggy M Mack raced by Michigan horseman Tommy Winn.

Around 1950 he stepped up his involvement with the purchase of two fillies, Fidelis Hanover and Mystic Hanover. These two, along with a Canadian-bred aged performer named Carlisle Hanover, he turned over to well known trainer and driver Harold Wellwood then of Stratford, Ont. For several years his horses competed at Toronto's Thorncliffe Park, several Michigan tracks as well as at Buffalo Raceway and Batavia Downs.

In the late 1950's Mr. McNiven sent Fidelis Hanover to the court of Poplar Byrd and the resultant foal was named Andy Byrd. Unraced until age four he eventually emerged as an Invitational performer under the ownership and handling of Harold Wellwood. At that time he took a record of 2:01 and raced in the top classes for several seasons. When Andy Byrd began his racing career he had a young groom by the name of Bill Wellwood who took very special care of him.

Note - This Mr. McNiven was a brother to Robert McNiven and thus an uncle to Jack and Don McNiven of Killean fame.

Carlisle Hanover is shown in the winner's circle at Wolverine Raceway with Harold Wellwood receiving congratulations from turf writer Al Kaufman of the Detroit Free Press. The seven-year-old had just lowered his record to 2:06 for owner A.P. McNiven. This horse was affectionately known around the barn as "Gus".(Harness Horse photo)

1953 - Dufferin Park In Full Swing

With drivers all bundled up a field of horses reaches the finish wire in race number five at Dufferin Park. The winner (5) was Maxine's Rose driven by Bob Givens. A close second was Millers Boy (8; Don Claveau), Merrie Fleet (7) was third for Russ Caldwell and the grey horse Volation Tom (4) was fourth driven by Harold McKinley. The other three horses in the field did not get in the photo (Globe & Mail)

In February of 1953 Dufferin Park was in the midst of another successful season of winter racing. An old clipping from the Globe & Mail newspaper gave a fairly detailed recap of the afternoon's racing held on Wednesday, February 11, 1953. A total of six races which amounted to 10 heats made up the program. The feature of the day, a Class A Trot had two winners. The opener went to Don Climatic (Francois Leboeuf) covering the 6-1/2 furlongs in 1:52 while the second heat was won by Dannie Rocket in rein to 21-year-old Bud Gilmour scoring in 2:20 2/5 for the mile.

A number of familiar names were driving that afternoon and I will list most of them as best I can, in alphabetical order. Many probably still have relatives or connections to today's racing although the passing of 67 years tends to eliminate quite a few people. The list includes Jack Bannerman, Bob Bomar, Albert Boucher, Don Claveau, Al Colton, Sted Craig, Les Dunlop, Elmer Fritz, Roy Gartley, Jacob Geisel, Bud Gilmour, Shorty Guise, Bill Habkirk, Albert Hanna, Homer Harp, Bill Harvey, Harry Ingles, Honorat Larochelle, Frenchie Leboeuf, Marcel L'Heureux, Joe Hodgins, Harold McKinley, Hughie McLean, Johnny Mullin, Sibley Nott, Percy Robillard, Howard McQuigee, F. Pouliot, Albert Rogers, Danny Talbot, Theo Turcotte, Vern Waddell, Keith Waples.

1959 - Big Day At Goderich Announced

A banner day of racing is planned for Labour Day, Monday September 7th, 1959 at the Goderich Track. While a few of the other local Town tracks no longer hold their annual race meets, Goderich continues to be popular as this will be their third meeting of this season. Two years ago the Turf Club at New Hamburg, Ont. held their last edition of the Great Canadian Pacing Derby citing a lack of entries and declining interest. That great race was first held back in 1936.

The Goderich Trotting & Agricultural Assoc., headed by President Don MacKay and Secretary Hugh Hill, will stage nine heats of racing in four different events and all will be for pacers as there does not seem to be too many trotters available currently. Headlining the afternoon will be the Supertest Stakes for three-year-old pacers. Always an interesting event, this year's edition should prove exciting and has drawn a total of 15 entries from across the Province. Oddly this year the popular Herbert Stable of London under the guidance of the father son team of Bill and Jack will not have any entries which is a departure from past years when they have fared very well with their home bred colts and fillies. The race will be held in two eliminations with those having the best four finishing positions returning for the final. The remainder will race in a Consolation event. Officials from the Supertest Petroleum Co. will be on hand to make the customary presentations to the winning connections. The overall purse for this event is $4,547.52. With the other events going for a maximum of $400 it is easy to see why this race is so valuable to colt racing horsemen.

Past winners of this event include:

1945 - Miss Billie Direct (Inaugural)
1946 - Jean Herbert
1947 - Lee Grattan Bars
1948 - Jay Herbert (Record holder for winner's time 2:08.2)
1949 - Dillon The Great
1950 - Silver T Lee
1951 - Vi Hy
1952 - David Hal
1953 - Hi Lee Boy (Stakes Record by heat winner Barney Diplomat 2:08)
1954 - Mr. Galvin
1955 - Captain Wright
1956 - Johnny Johnston
1957 - Bimbo Chief
1958 - Flicka's Ensign

Extra prizes such as blankets will be awarded in each race and M.N. MacDonald of Goderich has donated a halter and shank to be presented to the most attractive outfit. Race officials for the day include Allan Dickenson ,Hal B. Watson and A.M. Knight of nearby Clinton. The McDonnell Starting gate from Hamilton will be on hand with son Bill in the announcer's perch calling the action while his dad Tom will be the starter. The timers will be Jack Morrissey of Crediton and Joe Shelton of Kincardine.

Trivia Question: On this race day at Goderich it turned out to be a "one man show" as a local driver won a total of seven (he drove in eight) of the 10 heats held that afternoon including the Supertest final. A lot of you in the reading audience will remember him; he left us just a few years ago. Can you name him?

Quote For The Week: "He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness and for his love of his family," said about Alex Trebek, the famous and beloved Canadian personality we just recently lost.

Who Is It?

Does this fellow look familiar to anyone? He was driving during the decade of the 1950's.

Stay tuned to see the correct answers which will be posted during the upcoming week.

Special Thanks: I would like to thank Rewind follower Terry Mullen for supplying the recording used in one of today's stories. Terry's late wife Ann was a member of the Moore family who owned Carter Hy. I am indebted to Terry for sharing this rather amazing piece of technology as we knew it 70 years ago.


January 7, 2021 - 6:57 amThe answer to this week's

The answer to this week's Trivia question and "mystery" picture had a repeating sound to it. It was Ron McGee who won 7 out of 8 drives at Goderich and also Ron McGee in the "mystery" picture. I was pleased to hear from Dick White who added some detail to the day's events. The owner of the Supertest winning horse Poplar Flash C. that day was a gentleman named W.J. "Wib" White of St. Marys, Ont.  An edition of Rewind was devoted to this day at Goderich  back in February of 2010. Thanks to everyone who supplied information on the current status of the once popular Goderich track site. Not too many of the old tracks left.

January 4, 2021 - 6:45 pmAdd On Question: My good

David Darocy SAID...

Add On Question: My good friend Mr. Ed Harrison tells me that the property is now a recreational park and the only remaining structure is the old arena but no longer is in use. Did not do a very good job on the spelling of my original answers, maybe should send them in a bit earlier in the day. Happy New Year to all.

January 4, 2021 - 9:33 amBottom photo is Ron McGee.

Lorna Davis SAID...

Bottom photo is Ron McGee.

January 3, 2021 - 9:17 pmAnother interesting

James Milne SAID...

Another interesting collection of stories Robert. I checked with a colleague in Goderich who told me there is nothing remaining of the track or buildings. The town has poured a lot of cash in to make it a park. There always was a large contingent of good horsemen from the town plus they must have produced the largest number of racing officials per capita in Canada! My cousin Jack Milne, who was instrumental in reviving the Owen Sound Raceway, was probably the last administrator for the Supertest stakes. When the OSS started I think the Supertest Stakes faded.

January 3, 2021 - 3:32 pmAdd On Question: If the

Add On Question:
If the judges will allow it I am going to add a further question to this week's Rewind. The 1959 item shown above described racing at the Goderich, Ont. track which was more than 60 years ago. Can anyone in the reading audience tell us if the old track or any portion of it still exists?  I do NOT know the correct answer. Quite a number of years ago I can recall driving past it and there was still activity but no racing.

January 3, 2021 - 1:04 pmTrivia Question: Ron McGee.

Dick White SAID...

Trivia Question: Ron McGee. Would have been 8 for 8 but Polar Flash C made a break in the stretch to finish a close second to Patsy Chief L in the first heat of the Supertest Stake but came back to win the final. Poplar Flash C was a pacing half brother to Kintoo Colby and Ardee.

January 3, 2021 - 9:21 amJust a wild guess, I'm

Just a wild guess, I'm stumped on this one, but I'm going to say Sonny Giesel.

January 3, 2021 - 9:03 amBottom photo kinda looks like

Gord Brown SAID...

Bottom photo kinda looks like Gary Payne.

January 3, 2021 - 2:31 amTrivia Question - Ron

David Darocy SAID...

Trivia Question - Ron Magee.
Who is it? Ron Magee again?

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