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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1930s

Published: January 7, 2017 10:03 am ET

Last Comment: January 8, 2017 2:40 pm ET | 6 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind, the first of 2017, takes a very long look back at some of the names, events and happenings from the decade of the 1930's. Robert Smith displays a few old photos and discusses some interesting aspects of the times in the ongoing monthly feature Years Ago. Also included is a Trivia question related to one of this week's items.

1935 - Greyhound: The Sport's Most Popular Performer

​Greyhound and his trainer driver Sep Palin appear in a Hoof Beats magazine special


The immortal Greyhound is shown in a Life magazine photo along with his lifetime groom Jimmy Wingfield. Jimmy often wore a dress shirt and tie during his years of tending to the great horse. After serving in the army during WW II he had a long and successful career in the sulky operating a large public stable [Life Magazine]

Not since the era of Dan Patch has one horse so dominated the news media until the arrival of Greyhound. Pictures of the grey trotting phenomenon are not only found in harness racing publications but also on the pages of other periodicals such as Life magazine. This horse has single handedly captivated an entire nation of harness racing fans. His victory in the 1935 Hambletonian was the highlight of that racing season and several more followed.

These old photos are rare treasures.

1936 - Many Large Stables Wintering in Florida

A view of the huge winter training centre at Seminole Park in Longwood, Florida (Hoof Beats)

Several of the sport's most prominent stables are currently spending the winter in Seminole Florida. Among the large contingent enjoying the great facilities are trainers Ben White, Tom Berry, Sep Palin, Will Dickerson and Fred Egan to name a few.

An excerpt from a Hoof Beats magazine portrays the mood and serenity of this laid-back Southern locale. "The trainers have been making speed with their charges and quarters around 36 seconds with the youngsters is not uncommon." After reading a letter from home outlining the recent storm back home which dumped two feet of snow, Will Dickerson, prominent trainer for the Arden Homestead Stable, said "I am convinced that Orlando is a fine spot to winter." As he read on, large juicy oranges fell at his side and the orioles whistled merrily in a nearby grove.

1937 - Three Generations Compete at Tillsonburg Race Day

​From left - L.D. Lovell "Love " Tolhurst in his 80th year with Laura Belle, his son Fred, 47, with Peter Hal and son Lorne, 24, with Peter Hepburn appear trackside at Tillsonburg during the 10th annual Civic Holiday Celebration. The three generations of the same family all drove during the Town's race day. (Cdn. Sportsman)

August 2: A fine afternoon of racing was enjoyed by a large crowd at the Tillsonburg Fairgrounds in this Oxford County town located south east of London. For years the local Turf Club members have presented the best talent in the area, always offering generous purses. The head of the Club, Jack Clime is well-known throughout the Province and beyond for his abilities as an excellent starter.

On this day harness racing history was made as three generations of the same family all competed on the same race card. Members of the Tolhurst family, well known horsemen of the area, were participants in each of the afternoon's six races but did not all compete in the same race. It is believed that this is the very first time this had ever happened in the history of the sport. Mr. Clime announced to the crowd that the elder Mr. Tolhurst and L.G. Bennett of Port Hope (mentioned elsewhere) were probably the oldest trainers and drivers in Canada. He also added that "both have always driven clean races."

A report of the race day stated that each time the elder Tolhurst passed the packed grandstand, the nearly 80-year-old teamster received a roar from the crowd. He completed the day with two wins and a second in three tries.

1937 - Peter Chilcoot Sets New Track Record at Ottawa

This old photo of The Hon. Earl Rowe was taken at Toronto's Dufferin Park as he received a silver tray following a driving victory. The presenter was Mr. H.C. Hatch, a noted racing official of the day in addition to his owning of a number of good horses raised at his Goodwill Farm at Maple, Ont.

​Three exciting days of racing at Ottawa's Landsdowne Park, part of the Central Canada Exhibition, was highlighted by the setting of a new track record on closing day. Peter Chilcoot, the fast pacing star owned and usually driven by Hon. Earl Rowe of Newton Robinson, Ont., paced his way into the track's official register when he recorded a winning time of 2:05 1/4. In the sulky was Clint Hodgins subbing for Mr. Rowe who was attending to his political duties but managed to arrive before post time and view the race from the packed grandstand.

Also of interest was the "Gentleman's Road Race" which drew five entrants for the $100 purse. After the second heat Pember "Pem" Caldwell a young horseman from Milles Roches, Ont. was summoned to the judge's stand and presented with the Perley trophy for his two straight heat wins behind Arthur Guy. Two stipulations of this event were that an entrant had to reside within 100 miles of Ottawa and also had to have owned the horse he was driving since August 1, 1937.

Each year several major sales transactions take place during these race days and this year was no exception with a number of deals made but as usual no dollar amounts disclosed. The largest sale was termed "a handsome deal" as a filly named Merryminx was sold by an Edmonton owner to L.G. Bennett of Port Hope. Incidentally Mr. Bennett is about to turn 80 and still had a very keen interest in the sport.

1938 - Race Day at South Mountain, Ont.

Sept. 16: The small community of South Mountain, located in far Eastern Ontario about 30 miles south of Ottawa, staged another successful day of harness racing as part of their annual Fair. An appreciative crowd was on hand to watch three races, each consisting of three heats, thus providing nine separate contests. This track is known throughout the area for the fine July 1st racing program it has held annually for many years.

A total of 12 horses were entered in the three races, evenly divided at four starters per contest and each race carried a Purse of $93.00. While this amount compared favourably with area race meets it was well down from the $125 purse offered the year previous at this track. The nine heats produced just four different winning efforts and the horse in each race with the best standing for the day was declared the overall winner.

In the day's first race Oakley Grattan was a straight three-heat winner for owner Miss Ella Parker of Winchester, Ont. In each heat Rosa Bunter finished second for owner John Thompson of South Mountain. The fastest time was 2:17 in the opener.

In the second race, The Comet was declared the winner as the bay horse won the first heat, finished second in the middle event and came back a winner in the final. Accepting the winner's trophy was owner Jacob Ross of Winchester. A real local favourite Tillie The Toiler took the middle event and paced the fastest heat of 2:16 for owner J.W. Ault of Winchester.

In the third race, Midnight Grattan -- to the surprise of no one -- took all three heats of The Free For All and also paced the fastest trip of the afternoon as he stopped the timer's watch in a swift 2:13. The owner of this consistent pacer is Mr. Chas Pike, also of Winchester thus giving a clean sweep by owners from that nearby town. Midnight Grattan, who sports a record of 2:09 was recently secured from Chas. Sandrelli of North Bay, a well-known horse trader who frequents these parts.

Fans in attendance were a bit disappointed that the most successful horse racing in the area this season was absent from the day's action. The roan mare Lily Part, owned by Dr. Mahlon Locke of Williamsburg, has won nearly all of her starts this season including a trip to Ottawa. On this day, Lily Part and her trainer and driver Cecil Champion were busy at Renfrew where they were engaged in a highly-touted match race with Bedford Grattan. The event, which carried a purse of $175, was won by the mare as she took the first and third of the three heats thus the victory and the "bragging rights" attached.

This area of the country has an abundance of competition at this time of year and a number of horses racing today have either appeared at or will be moving on to similar race days at nearby stops such as Williamsburg, Winchester, Chesterville, Newington, Lansdowne, Spencerville, Avonmore, Kemptville and Richmond.

TRIVIA QUESTION (relating to 1937 Tillsonburg) - In today's Rewind a picture and an account of three generations of the same family appears as they became the first to ever achieve the distinction of all driving on the same racing card. Can you name the family that first had three generations of the same family all competing in the same 1972 race?

January 8, 2017 - 2:40 pmTrivia Answer - The Campbell

Trivia Answer - The Campbell clan appeared in September of 1972 at the Parkhill Ont. track with three generations competing in the same race . The winner of both heats was Jack Campbell then aged 41 ,with Grandpa Duncan 72, finishing 5 - 5 and 17 year old John ,Jack's son who was just starting his career logging a 7- 4 finish .The winning horse was Kitty R Frost owned by Ralph Mackey of Parkhill . A further note to the day's activities includes the fact that a fourth member of the family, Ray Campbell then 45 ,Dunc's son also competed and won another race .The fourth of the four heats of the afternoon (the only one not won by a Campbell) was won by Will Cadman behind Rompin Rhonda .

I had the privilege of discussing this day (many years later) with both Duncan and Jack .Great people !

Note to Bev Heywood ...Your memory bank may be getting full but it does contain some useful information .Thanks for participating .

January 7, 2017 - 8:19 pmI drove at the Sough

Ted Decker SAID...

I drove at the Sough Mountainfair, I believe in 1994 or 1995. Was fortunate to have 3 wins on the card. Two for WEG trainer Victor Puddy. Always a lot of fun at the fairs... the grassroots of harness racing. Too bad the tradition is no longer in most small towns.

January 7, 2017 - 2:51 pmIt's a while back but I

Bev Heywood SAID...

It's a while back but I believe it was at Parkhill in 1972 that Dunc, Jack and John all drove in the same race. My memory bank is getting pretty well filled.

Great articles Robert.

January 7, 2017 - 2:16 pmGreat job Robert. Keep up

Great job Robert.

Keep up the good work.

January 7, 2017 - 12:02 pmAbsolutely wonderful photos

Charlie Reid SAID...

Absolutely wonderful photos and stories as usual.

January 7, 2017 - 11:08 amThanks for the memories,

ron francis SAID...

Thanks for the memories, again, Robert. And, for mentioning racing in my home village of South Mountain (pop approx 200). Even through the 50's and into early 60's village/fair racing in Ottawa Valley was popular on all holiday weekends (not that long weekends changed anything for farmers), as well as fall fair dates. It all ended in South Mountain and Spencerville in early 90's. I had the pleasure to call the SM races in last couple of years. A shame, but, it is a bygone era.

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