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SC Rewind: A Night At The Races 40 Years Ago

Tillsonburg-1945.jpg

Published: August 14, 2010 9:34 am ET

Last Comment: August 18, 2010 10:09 am ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind Robert Smith recalls attending a night of racing at the Tri County Fall Fair in Tillsonburg, ON and shares some of his memories from 40 years ago.

How often have we used or heard the saying, "No, I can't remember that; I can't even remember what I had for dinner last night"? I can readily identify with that scenario but sometimes with a little help our memories recover.

I happen to remember exactly where I was and what I was doing almost 40 years ago this weekend. I also have the old scorecard as they were called many years ago to prove my whereabouts. We were visiting family in Tillsonburg at the time and it just seemed to be the appropriate thing to do, to take in a few races. Even at this time, racing at the fairs was on the decline but nothing to compare with the almost total extinction we see today. It seems to be an inevitable fact that one day soon the last of the great old fair racing get togethers we once knew will "go the way of the buffalo" as the time worn saying goes. I hope not.

I have assembled a few statistics as gleaned from the program and based on some rather sketchy information, part of it from a rather "hazy" area called my memory. As anyone who ever attended a race program such as this knows, many late changes were announced (some were not) and often a great deal of information was missing from print. If I have made any major errors I apologize and don't mind being corrected if someone's first name was Elmer and not Ernie!! I have put most information such as names in alphabetical order.

I know that several of that evening's participants are still with us and undoubtedly have clearer recollections than I. I do remember it being a very warm and pleasant late summer evening and that a fairly decent crowd was on hand. I spent most of the time in the paddock they had set up for the occasion, using one of the barns nearest the track. I do not recall having to pass a very rigorous security screening.

Here are my recollections:

Winning drivers - Bill Bannon, Ken Bogart (2), George Cheyney, Russ Morgan, Doug Nash, Ed O'Flynn, E. Pellow.

Other drivers - Ross Avey, Abel Bastarache, Geo. Douglas, Dick Field, Larry Fitzsimmons, Russ Gallant, Harold Goit, Irwin Hamilton, Dan Kenney, Cliff Lilley, Don Lindsay, Martin Maylard, Peter Miller (Ohsweken), John Roloson, Don Taylor, John Thompson, Mel Whitaker.

Winning horses - Brownie Chief, Jeanne Doolittle, Miss Bonteale, Oxford Danny Boy (2 heats), Oxford Skidoo, Robra Brewer, Star King.

Fastest mile - 2:10.4 by Oxford Danny Boy, winner of the feature, owned by Dr. J.R. & Jay Blackwood of Woodstock and driven by Ken Bogart of Shedden.

Purse Money - Each single heat race had a purse of $125. The featured two-heat race was for $300. The total purse outlay for the eight heats was $1,050.

Best Named Horse - (Chosen by an impartial panel of one) - Barn Boss owned by W. Rutledge of Simcoe, driven by Harold Goit to a second place finish.

Starter - Art Whitesell of Tillsonburg, who else?...

This was once the training ground for new horses, young drivers and aspiring fans. Although harness racing never had a farm system, this was about as close as it got and seemed to work marvelously well for a long time. Tillsonburg no longer holds races but the stables and track are still there thankfully and the fair is still held each year and is now in its 156th year.

In summary I am glad I went to the races that evening; little did I know the notes I made on the program would not be used for another 40 years. I wonder where I found the 25 cents to buy the program??

August 18, 2010 - 10:09 amI first met George Cheyne

I first met George Cheyne (No Y on the end, BOB! :-) in 1964 when he had a farm on Torbram Rd between Steeles Ave and Derry Rd - the Airport - in the middle of what is now Bramalea-Brampton!!!! He was racing Ann Hal and June Pick at Greenwood. I had my stud colt "Quinte Lad" pastured at George's as a yearling that summer. George still has one racing, Cheyneville Bow, who just won on Aug 15 at Flamboro.
I met Mel Turcotte when he was training at Tillsonburg and, of course, "Chappy" Chapman trained there, too.
I raced at Tillsonburg fair when Jack Warner was stabled there and Jack kept my horses overnight to race on the second day and drove for me!

August 16, 2010 - 12:51 pmThanks for your words of

Thanks for your words of encouragement Bev.,your comments are most welcome . The old "score card" does not show any officials on hand for that evening and unfortunately I did not take note of who did the announcing . I certainly do recall the memorable Mr. Gregg and remember what an outstanding job he did and probably often for the old proverbial "peanuts" as pay . I would love to do a story on him but I am a little "short" on info. but do believe I have a picture of him presenting a trophy to a well known driver .

August 15, 2010 - 11:26 amBob, jusy wondering if your

Bev Heywood SAID...

Bob, jusy wondering if your "score sheet" shows who was the announcer for this event?
Would it by any chance have been the late Tory Gregg ? A great announcer from CKNX Wingham. He did a tremendous job at these race meets. He was the sportscaster for many years on CKNX, I always remember his program signoff - "It matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game". Would love to have you do an article on this great race and sports announcer if you can. He announced Western Fair when it first started its parimutuel meet back in the early 60s.
Thanks for your great efforts to keep the memories alive.


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