SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1920s and 1930s

SC Rewind: Years Ago, 1920s and 1930s
Published: December 2, 2023 11:15 am EST

In this week's edition of Rewind Robert Smith offers up the monthly version of 'Years Ago' in which he recalls happenings and personalities from a certain decade.  This time he has assembled a few facts and old photos related to both the 1920's and 1930's.  This was a very early period in the history of Canadian harness racing. 

1920 - Rena Bison Canadian Champion Race Winner Of 1920 

The champion race winning horse for the 1920 season was a 12-year-old grey mare named Rena Bison.  Owned and driven by Clifford Chapman Sr., who then lived in Saskatoon, Sask., she won a total of 27 races.  As a testament to her durability she raced in two different provinces,  Saskatchewan (12  tracks), and Ontario (9 tracks).  She took her season's record of 2:11 3/4 over the C.N.E. track in Toronto in early September.  Rena Bison started in 102 heats that year, winning 40 and also had 34 seconds and 18 thirds. 

During her career, which started in 1913 and ended at age 14,  Rena Bison won 62 of 240 heats and added 58 seconds and 46 thirds. In 2000 this remarkable performer was voted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame joining several members of the Chapman family.  When she finished her racing career in 1922,  she could have rightfully been referred to as "The Old Grey Mare." 

Rena Bison

Rena Bison is pictured with her owner and driver Clifford Chapman Sr. (Photo courtesy of Chapman family archives) 

1924 - A Young Clint Hodgins Recovering In London Hospital 

The following newspaper article appeared in a London area weekly newspaper describing a serious medical situation involving Clinton Hodgins of Clandeboye, Ont. The piece describes the recovery of the young lad who went on to have a Hall Of Fame career in harness racing as he distinguished himself in a rather long career, racing in both his native Canada and later in the U.S. 

The newspaper account did not describe in any detail how the accident occurred. 

He passed away in a London hospital in 1979 at the age of 72. 

article on Clint Hodgins

1937 - Big Race Day Held At Picton, Ont. Fairgrounds  

Picton program

The front cover of the "Programme" from Picton 86 years ago 

July 5, 1937 - As part of the celebrations for the Picton Centennial and Old Boys Reunion a great day of harness racing was held at the town's fairgrounds on this date.  The afternoon featured four races, each one going three heats, with generous purses being offered to the owners.  The biggest winner of the day was the outstanding horse Simcoe Harvester, owned by J.T. Payette of Penatnguishine and driven by Cecil Champion.  This horse won all three heats of the featured pace which carried a purse of $400.  He had one of the fastest records of any horse racing in Canada at this time,  having recorded a mile in 2:04. On this day he turned in the best time of 2:09 3/4 in the opening heat. 

Other winners on this day included Shirley R for New York owner Ed Jones, Victor Patch with owner Wilmer Hillock up and Worthy Widow owned by C.W. Hodgson of Haliburton.  The day's purses totalled $1,500,  somewhat high for that day and age.  It is interesting to note that most of the horses had traditional names,  many of the Grattan strain, but one mare was called simply Cigarette.  She finished 4-2-3 in her race.  

1938 - Walnut Hall Farm Stallion Roster, Season of 1938 

Walnut Hall stallion roster from 1938

The above ad shows the list of stallions in service at Walnut Hall Farm.  A picture of mares grazing with foals paints a pastoral scene at this great farm.  Three of the six stallions were sired by Guy Axworthy and two by Peter Volo.  

1939 - Houghton Sulky Co. Catalogue Available 

Houghton Sulky catalogue

The Houghton Sulky Co. has issued their latest catalogue for customer viewing as displayed above dated 1939.  This company was started in Marion, Ohio in 1904 by Mr. W.H. Houghton and has been known for many years to be a fine and reputable supplier of goods for the horse trade and in particular those involved in harness racing.  Their fine sulkies are regarded by many as the best in the business.  It has 24 pages with pictures of carts, sulkies and turf goods on every page. 

Houghton Sulky catalogue

Each year during the harness racing program at the Marion County Fair the sulky company offers a number of high class sulkies as prizes to race winners.  The generous offerings by the sulky maker are said to attract a better class of entries.  This company currently features their top sulky known as "The Greyhound Special" named in honour of the sport's best known performer.  

Quote For The Week: "Eavesdroppers seldom hear well of themselves." Line from The Waltons TV show 

Who Is It?  

Who Is It photo question

Can you correctly identify the gent pictured above?  He raced at various tracks in Canada many years ago. 


Who Else Is It photo question

This photo is truly a mystery as it made its way into my collection without any identification.  I was told that it was taken at a track in Western Canada (perhaps Marquis Downs?) but beyond that I have no reliable information.  If anyone can put some names on this very good quality picture let us know.  Both horses appear to have very similar markings. 

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