SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1930s

SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1930s
Published: July 6, 2024 01:14 pm EDT

This week's Rewind is the monthly feature 'Years Ago' and this time it's all about the decade of the 1930s.  That means the names and places go back a very long way; getting close to 100 years ago.  

1930s -  Orangeville Race Days Drew Huge Crowds

Orangeville track

A very old undated photo from a race day at the Orangeville Fairgrounds.  For a very long time one of the Province's biggest race days was held here on July 1st as part of Dominion Day celebrations as it was called back then.  

For many years the renowned Orangeville veterinarian Dr. W.H. Riddell organized a large race day each year on July 1. His gathering showcased the best talent in the area and from beyond.  He reportedly personally guaranteed that the advertised purses would be paid to competing horsemen in the event that bad weather or other circumstances limited the day's receipts.  After the good Doctor's passing in 1943 the tradition of his race day was continued for quite some time. 

Dr. Riddell was a lifelong horseman in addition to his profession and also served as Mayor of the Town of Orangeville at one time.  In 1934 he achieved a distinction that had never occurred previously.  He became the first person to breed, own, train and drive a Futurity winner when his filly Reta R. captured her division of the annual classics at the Exhibition Grounds track in Toronto.  

The purse for the 1934 Futurity won by Reta R  was $3,000, a figure that remained at the same amount for seven years in a row until it was raised to $3,500 in 1937.  This three-year-old filly trotted in 2:16 1/2 to win the event,  a time that was about three seconds off the existing record of 2:13 1/4 set in 1933.  

A Photo Memory From Orangeville 

Lee Counterpart

Driver Clint Hodgins, Dr. Riddell (holding trophy), Hon. Earl Rowe and owner's son Fred Saint receive a trophy following a victory by Lee Counterpart in the three-year-old colt race in 1936. The winning entry travelled to Orangeville from Wallaceburg, Ont., quite a distance in those days. 

1937 - Three Generations Race At Tillsonburg Fairgrounds 

The Tollhursts

Photo courtesy of Canadian Sportsman 

On August 2, 1937 three members of the then well-known Tolhurst family competed on the same program at the Tillsonburg Fairgrounds. It was familiar territory for the family as they had all driven there many times and were well known in the community as residents of nearby Dereham Township. The occasion was the 10th annual Civic Holiday race meet sponsored by the Lake Lisgar Improvement Club.

The starter for the day was Mr. Jack Climie of Tillsonburg, who was also the owner of the winningest horse, Peter Hal. In addition to being one of the best known and most skillful starters of this era, he was also an authority on the sport. He stated that to his knowledge this was the first time at least in Canadian history that three generations of the same family had ever competed on the same program. His comments were extremely complimentary and particularly praised the career of the near octogenarian "L.D." stating that he had driven clean races throughout his many years in the sulky.

I would tend to take his word and agree that this was quite an event.

1937 - John Francis B. On The Rise

A young horseman named Elmer Fritz from Walkerton Ont. had a fairly successful 1937 season with his horse John Francis B.  This bay gelding sired by Charley Grattan made a number of starts at several different  tracks and ended the season on a high note.  They started the 1937 season at Durham, Ont. on June 9 and finished 2-2-3 in a Class 26 Pace for a $150 purse.  Their next stop was at Walkerton on June 23.  Here they finished 5-5-5 in a five horse field,  but in a tougher class.  

The next stop was at the July 1 race day at Seaforth.  This was again not a productive day as they finished 6-5-8 with Betty Grattan taking all three heats, the fastest in 2:14.  From here they went to Elmira on Sept. 4  where they engaged in a long afternoon of racing that took five heats to decide a winner.  After winning the opening heat John Francis B finished second and fifth in the second and third heat.  He then began to regain his form and won the final two heats. All of this for a purse of $120.00.  

The season ended on Sept. 17 at nearby Hanover.  On this day he was 1-1-1, winning all three heats for a purse of $100.  The records show he retired to winter quarters with lifetime winnings of $459.25 and a lifetime record to date of 2:12 taken at Elmira. 

Note - This horse may have made other starts during the 1937 season as accurate records were not always kept at this time in history 

1938 - Owen Stable Wins Second Trotting Futurity 

Baroness Lee wins the Futurity

In the 1930s one of the most coveted awards in the sport involved winning a colt Futurity.  For many years these annual races were held at the Exhibition Grounds in Toronto during the C.N.E.  Horse owners and breeders paid into a fund that provided rather large purses for the participants in these annual races which were first held in 1929. 

When the 1938 Futurities were held on Sept. 8 a very special happening occurred when Mr. Joseph Owen of Jarvis, Ont. and his son Leonard captured that year's three-year-old trotting event with their homebred filly Baroness Lee.  While the victory itself was a great honour it was extra special as it marked the Owen's second Futurity triumph.  In 1933 Lee Hanover, a full brother to the winner, won this event.  He went on to further fame when he was sold to U.S. interests for a reported $8,000  and eventually became the first Canadian-bred to trot in 2:00.  

Lee Hanover had an exceptional career in the U.S., often racing on the Grand Circuit.  One season he was undefeated on the Grand Circuit, winning all of his 14 starts.  After his racing career ended in the Homer Biery stable he was returned to the Owens where he lived out his retirement. He died in 1949 at the age of 19.  In 1982 he was enshrined in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. 

1939 - New Track Record Set At Kensington, P.E.I.

Jane Azoff sets record

A headline from The Charlottetown Guardian newspaper, 1939 

Kensington P.E.I., July 12, 1939 - Upwards of 1,500 fans were on hand for today's race day at the Kensington track.  The grandstand, which seats about 400 people, was jammed well before the first post and the balance of the crowd settled elsewhere.   The meet was favoured by excellent weather and the track left nothing to be desired. 

 Prior to the first race the starter introduced each horse in the free-for-all along with their record, owner and driver as they paraded past the judge's stand. The star of the day was the pacing mare Jane Azoff as she set a new track record of 2:08 1/4 with driver Willard Kelly doing a superb job of handling this fine performer for owner C.H. Horton of Murray River.  This pair went on to win all three heats with the other two clocked in 2:09 3/4 and 2:10 1/4. 

Here is an excerpt from the P.E.I. Sports Hall Of Fame:

"Many suggest that the first public racetrack on P.E.I. was built near Kensington at Travellers Rest in 1877. Conditions at these early tracks left much to be desired, and the race was often decided by factors other than the speed of the horses."

Quote For The Week: "Life is a journey. Enjoy the path that takes you there." - Unknown 

Who Is It?  

This week I have a trifecta of photographs shown below that were all taken about 50 years ago.  Each one of these gentlemen were born during the decade of the 1930's.  They have all passed on,  but each one had a long career in harness racing.  Who are they?  

Who Is It #1

Who Is It photo question

This fellow was born in 1932. 

Who Is It #2

Who Is It photo question

This fellow was born in 1937. 

Who Is It #3 

Who Is It photo question

This fellow was born in 1930. 

Brain Twizzler - What do each of these fellows have in common?  Clue: it has nothing to do with their careers or lives, it's just a coincidence. 



This week's trio of pictures all drew correct answers; again no problem for our panel of experts.
# 1 was Don Corbett
# 2 was Ken Carmichael
# 3 was Bill Carroll
On the brain twizzler question Sheldon Rose was on the ball. All of these fellows just happened to have surnames that started with the letter "C"
Thanks again for getting involved.

All last names begin with “C”.

Who is it 1???
Donnie corbit

Who is it 2???
Kenny Carmichael

Who is it 3???
Bill carroll

C. H. Horton's first name is Charlie.

Have something to say about this? Log in or create an account to post a comment.