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SC Rewind: Rewind Turns 10

Published: June 8, 2019 1:16 pm ET

Last Comment: July 26, 2019 1:11 pm ET | 7 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind column Robert Smith reminisces a bit about the start up of Rewind which just reached the ten-year mark on the calendar earlier this week. His piece remembers a number of memorable reader's comments sent in over the years. Included are a few great old photos; great even if you have seen several of them before.

This past Thursday was June 6th. In addition to being the anniversary of a famous day in Canadian history which was D-Day June 6, 1944, and also the birth date of our youngest daughter Lori, it also marked the 10th anniversary of the very first Rewind column appearing on the SC website on June 6, 2009. My, how time flies. Today I have chosen to recall a number of past Rewind columns and have selected several memorable comments sent in by various Rewind readers. The comment feature of the weekly stories to me has been a very important part of the whole exercise. While I try to cover the basics, you -- the readers -- invariably have something interesting and important to add. It has been one of the rewards of doing this little job.

These selections have been made strictly at random and are not in any specific order. This is not intended as "best ever" or anything akin to a contest, just an acknowledgement of the importance of reader's input. Hundreds more could have been chosen.

1. On June 6, 2009 the very first Rewind featured a reminiscence of the well-known horseman Levi "Jiggs" McFadden of Dresden, Ontario. The first comment ever received was sent in by Mary Ann Powell as she shared her memories of the day's subject. It was a nice way to start the newly created column. Her comment read as follows:

Thank you for the write-up on Jiggs McFadden. As a child I attended a lot of races at the tracks mentioned in your article, as my parents were avid horse racing fans, especially my dad. My uncle owned a horse named Golden Hy, "Goldie", that he drove. I can remember watching him drive from the top of the ferris wheel at Wallacetown Fair. He was a great storyteller, and "Jiggs" was a very familiar name to me. Goldie was eventually bred to Richard Hal D, producing Hy Hal. It was interesting to learn that Richard Hal D won the Canadian Pacing Derby in 1955.

2. The weekly Rewind dated August 23, 2014 was titled "Remembering Fall Fairs." It covered some of the grassroots stories behind the early years of harness racing. It drew a few comments, mainly from those who had experienced it first-hand. Among the comments was one received from Marvin Chantler who wrote about his personal experiences attending these once popular gatherings. It read as follows:

Another great job Robert. I remember and it seems like yesterday visiting the Cookstown and Beeton Fall Fairs where racing was held every year.
I actually learned to Chart for the Canadian Trotting Association at the Cookstown Fair and was thrilled to get a day off from school to march in the Parade and watch the races at the Beeton Fair.
It was worth your life to drive in the races because the men looking after the crossings had a very hard time keeping people from running across the track when the races were on.
Those were the fun years.
Good memories.

Harness racing at an old fall fair in the 1930s

3. On Saturday January 16, 2010 the Rewind story took readers back to a favourite spot of many as the title read "The Downtown Track" which of course was a reference to the legendary Greenwood track in Toronto. Rewind stories down through the last ten years have often included references to Old Woodbine and later Greenwood. This comment undoubtedly spoke for many in the reading audience.

Norm Brunet wrote the following:

As a teenager I spent many summers at woodbine grooming the horses with wonderful memories. Keith Waples, Ron Feagan and Bill Wellwood were the big wheels at that time. Keith Waples had an open pacer called Sanka because the dam was named Caffeine...John Hayes had a powerful stable with Keystone Pat. Dr. John Findley had Canny Choice.
The boys from Montreal came in August, Gilles Gendron Gilbert Lacharite with the Miron Bros. horses all called "Mir", Rosaire Bouthiller...Roger White (Silent Majority).

Most exciting though, the first week in August was Grand Circuit week. Dancer, Haughton and O'Brien were in to compete with their beautiful stables and one groom per horse which we don't see anymore. Fresh Yankee (O'Brien) beat Crane Hanover by a neck (driven by Henri but trained by Herve Filion) in the Canadian Trotting Derby. Roland Beaulieu had Columbia George who won in 1.56.4 which was a new Canadian record and went on to win the Jug that year.

We'd have lunch at 'THE MECCA' restaurant a block away on Queen street, steak and mushrooms was the specialty. We would watch the races from upstairs outside and had a great view at the finish line and of course we would line up for the french dip roast beef sandwich down on the main floor which was cut fresh for $1.25, wow what a deal, of course I was only making $60 a week then so everything is relative. On hot days we'd go for a swim across the road to the city pool or hang out at the beach...what a great time, miss the old Greenwood.

4. The Rewind of March 12, 2016 titled "Canada's Greatest Racing Day" took readers back to 1961 and a famous day at Montreal's Richelieu Park. That was the day Adios Butler came to town and many people feel it was certainly one of the greatest days in Canadian harness racing history. A gentleman named Murray Brown who was present that day sent along the following:

I was one of they lucky ones to be there that day. Its a day that I will remember for as long as I live.

I got there at about 10.00 AM and the grandstand was more than half full. the parking lots were full well before noon. People were parking as much as as two miles away and were walking to the track. The air was electric. The excitement was palpable. By race time, one could barely move.

The race itself did not disappoint.

Georges Giguere was one of the greatest promoters and genial hosts our sport has ever known. Legend at the time had it that Mr. Levesque had not quite acquiesced to Georges' request for the $25,000 purse, but Monsieur Giguere went ahead with it anyway, perhaps risking his job if things did not work out well.

A personal sidelight. I was 19 years old. On the Wednesday evening before the race I was sitting in the grandstand at Richelieu and was approached by a man who I had never seen before. He asked me if I spoke English. I of course said yes. He said "thank goodness". This was his first trip to Canada and he couldn't speak a word of French.
Richelieu, as opposed to Blue Bonnets, was situated in a predominately French-speaking part of Montreal. We went for something to eat after the races and I translated the menu for him.

It turned out that the man was Stanley Dancer's right hand man, Dick Baker. Eddie Cobb had asked Stanley if he could borrow Mr. Baker to go to Montreal and train Adios Butler on the Thursday morning before the race. Cobb had to be in New York where he was racing.

I was there the next morning when Dick trained him. He told me "he couldn't have been better". He said that if the weather was good he would shatter the Canadian record on Sunday. It was and he did.

Adios Butler, in rein to Eddie Cobb, glides to the wire in 1:58.2 with a huge Richelieu Park crowd looking on. Finishing second is Bye Bye Byrd (Clint Hodgins) with fourth-place finisher Tar Boy (Levi Harner) also in the picture. Out of camera range on the inside was third-place finisher Apmat with Billy Haughton in the sulky. [Hoof Beats]

5. On November 18, 2017 the caption was "Albatross At Greenwood" a title that needs very little more explanation about an event from 1972. The story apparently struck a special chord with Rewind follower Eric Sherban who submitted the following as one of the 11 comments that accompanied that week's feature.

Smiles prevail in the Greenwood winner's circle following a thrilling victory by Albatross in the 1972 Canadian Pacing Derby. From left is Mr. Ed Daugherty, President of Liberty Bell Park and the H.T.A., Albatross and a member of the Amicable Stable, the owner, driver Stanley Dancer and on the right is Mr. E.P. Taylor, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Jockey Club.

I too, was a part of what I believe to be the largest crowd ever in Greenwood's history. Back in the day you read of these legendary horses' exploits in the newspaper. It was like the circus coming to town. They were celebrities. This race had one of the greatest stretch drives ever. Back and forth the length of the stretch. If Nansemond didn't break at the wire it could have gone the other way. This race is a memory I'll never forget.

Thanks Robert, for another great story. Keep up the good work bringing back more memories of a glorious time in harness racing history.

6. On October 22, 2016 that week's Rewind story revolved around the history and some tales from the legendary training centre near Cobourg in Eastern Ontario called "Grasshopper Flats". This story seemed to bring out a lot of memories and great comments. I could have picked out several and after endless deliberation I had to take two. (A dead heat, I guess) It seemed appropriate that two folks involved with the track's long history be chosen.

A monument to the founders of the Hamilton Township Track better known by its long time nickname Grasshopper Flats. It was started back in 1948 and is still in use today as a training centre. The granite marker pays tribute to Cliff and Edith Hie as well as Jack and Floris Gordon for their combined efforts in creating this training centre.

Thank you Robert for the wonderful article. The Hie family is proud of our father's commitment to harness racing. He provided a life long career for so many of us including Roger, Doug, Garth, Krissy and many, many others. The friendship between our family and the Gordon family remains today and together we are thankful that you have shared our story. Already today many, many people have read it, commented to us and have enjoyed the memories.
Carman Hie

PS one missing detail is that around the three quarter pole at Grasshopper Flats was also a favorite late evening parking spot for Garth Gordon....

Garth Gordon (partly in his own defence) wrote the following:

Great article Robert, thank you. Yes sir the grasshoppers had to find some place to hide on the second Saturday of June from 1954 to 1960. Because that worthless piece of land that was sold for $300.00 came alive with excitement, laughter and competition on the racetrack and on the ball field. Cliff Hie would not allow any cars on the infield. I remember standing on the infield watching the ball game and the horse races at the same time. There is nothing more for me to tell for you have told it all, Robert; well done. Most of the horsemen from those days are gone now but not forgotten by me anyway. Thanks for taking the time Robert.

P.S. The part about the late evening parking spot is not true. For anyone from that area will tell you that it was Carmen's car parked there at the 3/4 pole in the early sixties, not mine.

7. On December 3, 2016 that week's Rewind carried the title "Waples Goes 8 For 8" and also observed Keith Waples' 93rd birthday. Always a personal favourite of mine (and most of the rest of the world) the mention of his name invariably brought out a lot of nice comments.

It was pretty hard to pick just one but I did and it is shown below as sent in by Allan Casselman lovingly known as "Cass".

A quote I have always remembered by Mr. Waples: "You better talk to people on your way up because you won't have time on the way down" This is how Keith has lived his "93' years. Still has time for everyone, and is still at the top. I wish he had wrote a book about what he has done in his life, because he sure never told anyone how GREAT he was. "Happy Birthday Keith".

8. On May 8, 2011 that week's Rewind was titled "Ladies In Silks". It coincided with Mother's Day that year and was devoted to the many females who have driven horses competitively. Many great comments were received, most of them suggesting further names to add to the list. One gentleman submitted a comment saluting mothers in general and made special reference to his own mother. Here was the note from Howard Portelance.

Mr. Smith,
Thank You for taking the time to do this piece. Like so many of us, we are proud of our Mother's accomplishments. There is no doubt in my mind - reading through this article, she (Jackie) would have considered herself in the company of some great ladies! I tip my helmet to all the ladies that do a great job within our industry.
Howard Portelance

9. On July 12, 2014 the title "Dresden Over The Years" headed up that week's Rewind. Quite a few nice comments were submitted but I chose one sent in by someone named McFadden which seems to be synonymous with Dresden Raceway. Here's what Dale McFadden said:

"Brings back a lot of memories. I spent a lot of my childhood at the track cleaning stalls for my uncle Dennis McFadden and working in the paddock on races days distributing and removing saddlecloths and head numbers. Race days were a family affair with my grandparents Len and Mary McFadden, aunts, uncles and cousins. Thanks for this story."

10. Back on August 30, 2014 that week's Rewind was titled "Doc Findley turns 9-0" It drew an even dozen comments wishing Doc a happy birthday. Veteran horseman and all around good guy Hector Clouthier sent in a heartfelt message on that week's story. Here is how it went.

Great aricle about an exceptional man. Dr. John is a legend in the sport of harness racing and quite possibly the best role model for anyone who aspires to a career in harness horse racing. He was a breeder, trainer, driver, owner and one of the most honourable competitors on and off the track. Everyone has their favorite Doc Findley story and believe me those stories revolve around his dedication to win.....fairly, squarely, decently, by the rules but to win and that will be this remarkable man's lasting legacy.

Happy birthday to this icon of our sport. Doc has been and continues to be a wonderful friend to not only myself and my sister Sandra but was a very, very close friend of our late Dad!
Hector Clouthier

Comments do not have to be lengthy or literary works of art to be effective and appreciated. A few examples shown below:

  • Jack Darling said: "Merry Christmas Robert, and as always, thanks for sharing all these treasures with us."

  • Bert Clish wrote: "Always nice to see photos from the past. Thanks for doing this each week."

  • Rick Karper wrote: "You are doing a great service Robert. Keep it up."

Your comments DO matter!

Who Is It?

Left: Can you identify this driver? My apologies for less than perfect picture quality which I hope doesn't hamper identification. Right: Can you identify this fellow in a slightly better photo?

As always, stay tuned for the correct answer during the coming week.

July 26, 2019 - 1:11 pmThanks for the great

Darcy MANN SAID...

Thanks for the great memories. All the horseman from the old Greenwood will remember the late night meals after the last race. Many would head over to Coxwell and Queen for a steak at the MECCA restaurant.

#5 Was probably the greatest weekend ever as a 17 year old kid. I got to see Albatross beat Nansemond in the 1972 Derby, and as soon as the race was over we raced to the Guildwood train station for the overnight train to Montreal. Sunday, we were at Blue Bonnets to see the great Strike Out win the 1972 Prix D'ete. After the races, supper across the street at Ruby Foo's and then the overnight train home. Luckily my father was the conductor on the train both ways. I may have missed a couple classes early Monday morning at school.

June 12, 2019 - 11:45 amThis week's "mystery

This week's "mystery pictures" were correctly identified by Doug Hie who spotted Graydon Sheldon (left) a fiddle player from around the metropolis of Manilla Ont. and Gerry Bookmyer the pride and joy of Sycamore Ohio. Thanks to everyone for your guesses and well wishes.

June 9, 2019 - 8:30 pmI have no idea who the

Garth Gordon SAID...

I have no idea who the gentleman is on the right as you look at the picture of the mystery photos. But I do have to agree with you Doug, I think the gentleman wearing the glasses on the left is Graydon Sheldon, the last man my father Jack Gordon talked to. While standing in front of barn 3 at Greenwood Raceway talking to Grayson Sheldon my father collapsed and fell to the ground dying instantly of a massive heart attack on December 15th, 1970 at the age of 56.

June 9, 2019 - 5:55 amThanks for all the "Great

Thanks for all the "Great Rewinds" for the last ten years Robert!! I have sure enjoyed all your sharing of these wonderful happenings. I hitchhiked from Marmora to Richelieu Park in Montreal to watch Adios Butler etc. That shows why I wasted many years following my passion "The Horses".

June 9, 2019 - 12:19 amThe picture on the left sure

W Doug HIe SAID...

The picture on the left sure looks like Graydon Sheldon and the picture on the right looks like Gerry Bookmyer. We will wait to see what Garth says.

June 8, 2019 - 10:43 pmOn the left, could it be Mr

On the left, could it be Mr Harry Ingjes

June 8, 2019 - 1:46 pmSugar Gagnon, George Wain.

Gord Brown SAID...

Sugar Gagnon, George Wain. Actually first one might be Graydon Sheldon

Oh those were the days. Thanks Robert, AMAZING as always!

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