Category Archives: Orillia

Phone Book Families, Like the Orrs

Years ago my dad had this old 1959 Orillia and area telephone book hanging around the house which he was planning on tossing out until I asked him if I could have it because I knew Gordon Lightfoot’s family home is listed in the pages.

There are others too.

Paging through the Orillia section, I see the GM Lightfoot household at 283 Harvey St., and young Gordon, who would be about 20 when this phone book came out, had moved out of the house the year before. I used to have a couple of buddies who also lived on Harvey St, and my dad worked for a while at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

On the same page as Lightfoot is Norman Ley at 47 Wyandotte. Norman was the dad of Rick Ley, who went on to fame and fortune in both the NHL and WhA.

The book also has listings of the area surrounding Orillia, which includes Parry Sound, and I found Bobby Orr’s family home which you can see at Doug Orr, (his dad) on 21 Great North Road. Bobby’s grandfather, Robert Orr, is listed at 67 River.

Bobby would be about 11 at the time of the phone book.

Searching further, I went into Sundridge and found Bucko McDonald on Main St. Bucko had not only been a star in the NHL in the 1930s and 40s with Detroit, New York, and Toronto, but also coached Bobby Orr in squirt and peewee in Parry Sound. Bucko decided to make the young fellow a defenceman even though Bobby was small and had great skills up front. When dad Doug questioned Bucko about this odd decision, Bucko told him “Bobby is born to play defence.”

Sundridge is also where my mother came from.

Also listed in the pages of this old phone book is the Roger Crozier household in Bracebridge, writer Paul Rimstead’s dad’s farm outside of Bracebridge, and the family home of another respected Canadian writer, Roy MacGregor in Huntsville (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team).

16 And On The Strip

In the summer of 1967, when I was 16, I told my mother that I was going to Los Angeles. Great things were happening on the Sunset Strip at the time, I wanted to be part of it all, and for some reason she said fine.

I’ve wondered about this last part quite a bit over the years, but I think she knew I’d go anyway. My dad kept out of it.

So with almost no money and a bag of sandwiches, I sat in a seat on a train from Orillia to Vancouver and then caught a bus to the border where the customs guy accused me of running away.

I told him to phone collect to my mother in Orillia and she would confirm that I was simply on my way to LA and not running away, which he did, and shortly after I was on the side of the highway in northern Washington with my thumb stuck out, heading south.

All it took to get to LA was a handful of nights sleeping in ditches, and a bunch of rides, including a long and sleepy one with a farmer bringing potatoes from Idaho to either Watsonville or Salinas. We hardly talked the whole time, which was good. I was tired, and I wasn’t all that interested in potatoes.

Not far from LA I got on a bus and sat beside a nice female college student who felt sorry for me, and at some point when the bus stopped at a restaurant, she called her folks in the city to see if I could stay there for a few days. They said no.

From the downtown L.A. bus station I went directly to the Strip in West Hollywood which was the scene of not only young people everywhere milling about, but also bands like the Doors, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield playing at Pandora’s Box, the Whisky, and all the other cool clubs.

There was that night I went to Whisky A Go Go (it’s still going strong), and I saw not only the greatYoungbloods but also the Paupers, a tight and talented Toronto band who would play at the Pav dance hall in my hometown Orillia from time to time.

I also thought that maybe I’d meet a nice California girl at one of these places and possibly get laid.

I was on the Strip for about a week, staying in various dumps far from the good parts of West Hollywood, and being careful not to be out and about after 10 pm because Sunset was under curfew to those under 18 after huge riots had taken place months before. They made some sort of movie about this riot, called, aptly enough, ‘Riots on Sunset Strip’.

But one night, I think after the Youngbloods/Paupers show, I got sloppy, and while walking down the street around midnight, a cop pulled up and asked for ID. He saw that I was only 16, and the next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs that I remember being way too tight, and hauled off to the cop shop.

At the station I asked the cops if they would phone Orillia, just like at the border, and have my folks take care of business. One of them phoned my mother, collect of course, and he told her that I was arrested for breaking curfew and would be sent to a juvenile hall the following morning.

At juvenile hall, with big and impressive penitentiary-style walls, I turned over my clothes and wallet, which was all I had, and put on my new prison clothes. Then I was taken to a dormitory, given a bed and blankets, told the rules, and settled in.

It all kind of sucked of course, mainly because I didn’t know how long I’d be there. It was me and a bunch of guys who were there for better reasons than breaking curfew, playing cards and baseball, and I even had to take classes in a school room where I learned almost nothing about American history.

Then one morning, after about seven days, I was eating breakfast in the big hall when I heard my name called, and an official told me my parents had sent a plane ticket and I was leaving right away. So I left breakfast, got my clothes and wallet back, and was escorted to not only the airport, but right to my seat on the plane. They took curfew breakers seriously back then.

I got to Toronto, grabbed a bus to Orillia, and the first thing my mother said to me was that they weren’t mad, although they probably weren’t thrilled about having to buy a plane ticket because I think they were pretty broke.

I told a friend of mine who’s an LA cop about this a few years ago and he said that nowadays there’s no way they’d put a kid in juvenile for such a minor thing as curfew breaking. There’s way too many real criminals, and I’d just be taking up space.

Which is what I kinda thought at the time.

July 14 1967 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with The Youngbloods and Paupers. The night I was there.

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Too Busy For the Habs That Year

003 This is my passport photo taken when I was 17.

I was getting ready to go on a big trip, which ultimately would cause me to miss most of the  Montreal Canadiens’ 1968-69 season.

I’m unable to talk about watching Rogie Vachon and Gump Worsley in goal and rookie coach Claude Ruel winning the Stanley Cup in his rookie coaching season and most of the other details of that year, mainly because I wasn’t around.

When this passport picture was taken I was working in a factory, having quit school after grade ten, and was saving my money. I worked for a year in this old place, but on November 22, 1968, a month after I turned 18, my friend Robin and I took a train from Orillia to Montreal, boarded the Empress of England, and sailed for eight days and nights until we reached Liverpool, England.

My thoughts weren’t on the Habs at all. They were filled with swinging London, the Beatles, long-legged lovelies in mini-skirts, Carnaby Street, and of course the great British bands like the Stones, the Who and the Kinks. The sounds that had come out of there while I was stuck in Orillia, and all the photos which described to me a special place where kids were cooler than cool, drove me crazy until I knew I needed to go and see for myself.

From Liverpool we took a train to London because that was ground zero of all that was good and cool about England, and we took a room at the YMCA. (A few years later I also stayed at another YMCA in Sudbury, Ontario, and I don’t know about now, but I can tell you, YMCAs aren’t the Ritz).

I had no idea what was happening with my Habs and I’m ashamed to say it, but I suppose I didn’t really care at this time. We were in England and that was all that mattered. While Beliveau and the Pocket Rocket zigged and zagged and the team geared up for the playoff run, I ate fish and chips, rode double decker buses, and wondered if my hair had grown a bit more.

At one point we went to the Beatles’ office on Savile Row, knocked on the door, and asked a lovely young secretary lady if the boys were in. She said no, and to this day, I’ve wondered what I would’ve done if she’d said yes.

We traveled up through the Midlands in the dead of winter, into Derby and Nottingham, hitchhiking from the other side of the road of course, and I recall sleeping standing up in a phone booth one freezing night. We also got beds at a Salvation Army shelter for the down-and-out, and it was the two of us with heavy woolen blankets over top of us, listening all night to old, homeless men snoring and burping and farting and talking drunken gibberish.

We were in Swinging England! Robin bought a Victorian top hat at  the Portabello Road flea market which he wore when it wasn’t wet and windy. And we saw John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (with future Stone Mick Taylor on guitar) at a jam-packed Railway Tavern (Klooks Kleek), a place that also housed bands throughout the 1960s like the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Yardbirds, and more.

Back home, the Canadiens were rolling along to a first place finish, with big Jean Beliveau ending up second to Phil Esposito for the Hart trophy as league MVP. Yvan Cournoyer finished with 87 points, just five ahead of Beliveau, and Tony Esposito, who of course became a huge star in Chicago, was a Hab that year and replaced Gump Worsley in goal when Worsley had some sort of nervous breakdown.

And in the playoffs, the Canadiens first swept the Rangers, beat Boston in six games, and took out St. Louis in four games to win their 16th Stanley Cup.

There’s just not a lot I can tell you about this Habs season. I was busy.

Sticks on Heads

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There’s nothing like some good, honest hockey violence to stir the innards. For some of us anyway.

The picture above shows just another in the ongoing saga of one of the nastiest, meanest hockey feuds in history that began in New York and carried on in Toronto. It involved the Canadiens’ Ken Reardon and Rangers/Leafs Cal Gardner, and went on for years.

If you’re not crazy about fighting, you might want to go to another one of my posts like when I went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival or something gentle like that. Because this post won’t be for you.

The Habs were in New York, late in the 1947 season, and with about thirty seconds left in the game, Gardner crosschecked Reardon in the mouth and Reardon lost a couple of teeth and was cut on the lip for about twenty stitches. Emile Bouchard hit Bryan Hextall over the head with his stick and Hextall and Bouchard proceeded to pound each other a bunch of times. Then Reardon said some bad words and some guy sitting behind the bench yelled that he shouldn’t swear because his girlfriend was with him, so Rocket Richard hit the fan over the head with his stick and blood was all over the place.

Reardon was not impressed with what Gardner had done to his Hollywood good looks and told a reporter that before he quit hockey he was going to get Gardner. And although he swore it was an accident, in 1949 he “accidentally” broke Gardner’s jaw on both sides in Montreal after Gardner had been traded to the Leafs.

The feud and the fights continued for years. In the above photo, the two lovebirds show some little playfulness at Maple Leaf Gardens. That’s Leaf captain Ted Kennedy on the left and Montreal’s Doug Harvey on the right, along with referee Bill Chadwick.

Ken Reardon went on to become Frank Selke’s right-hand man in Montreal’s front office. Gal Gardner eventually retired from pro hockey in 1961 and played senior hockey in Orillia for awhile. I remember seeing him play at the Community Centre when I was a kid.

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An Old, Scratchy Sweater

I put this on an Orillia Facebook page this morning and I thought, what the hell, I’ll put it here too.

I got this old Orillia sweater (below) and I’m hoping someone might have any info about the team. It’s wool and a scratchy old thing (really scratchy), probably from the 1940s or 50s, and says ‘Orillia Flyers’ along with the letters ‘WS’.

I’ve come up with a few things and maybe I’m way off, but it’s how detectives work, right?

1. I’m assuming this is a hockey or lacrosse sweater so that eliminates the Orillia Flyers Ladies Softball team from years ago, a team I read about in an old Packet & Times newspaper story. And with this type of scratchy wool, there’s no way in the world this could be a baseball sweater, even though the ‘WS’ could stand for ‘Women’s Softball’.

2. Before there was the Community Centre, Orillia’s arena was located at the corner of West Street and Coldwater Rd. Could it be that the ‘WS’ stands for ‘West Street’? The West Street Flyers?

3. If I turn the ‘WS’ around and make it ‘SW’, maybe it could stand for South Ward. The South Ward Flyers?

4. There’s an Orillia, Iowa but in the ’40s and ’50s the population was about 600 so they probably didn’t have too many hockey or lacrosse teams.

Outside the Church

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Bob Haggert, trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s, got married in Orillia to a local girl who was the daughter of someone my grandmother knew. So my grandmother told me about the wedding at a church in Orillia (St. Paul’s United Church on Peter St) and I went up there and there were a whole bunch of Leafs standing outside the church talking and smoking and probably commenting on how hot the bride was.

I was about 11 or 12, and I remember only Dave Keon and Red Kelly. The rest are a blur. And I swear on my mother’s grave, the next morning at my own church, Guardian Angels, Keon and his wife sat right in front of me and my family!

Most of the circa 1962 Toronto Maple Leafs were standing outside a church in Orillia, and the only other person there was a little guy who appreciated the whole thing but probably wished they were Montreal Canadiens instead.

Canadiens Clubbed at Classic

The Canadiens fell 3-0 to the Ottawa Senators at the frigid NHL 100 Classic at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, in which had been an important game for both teams considering the distant playoff hopes.

A game mostly dominated by Ottawa, and a game where Sens’ goalie Craig Anderson probably froze his ass off due to lack of action.

It was two points the Habs needed and two points they failed to get. It’s too bad. But I think I speak for most Habs fans when I say we’re all kind of numb about wins and losses now.

I was at Lansdowne Park many times when I lived in Ottawa, mostly when Tom Clements and Tony Gabriel lit up the CFL, and when it was warmer than -20 like Saturday for the Habs-Sens tilt.

Bryan Adams sang a couple of tunes during the second intermission of this NHL 100 Classic, and we got to see a couple of shirtless guys sitting on some poor bastards’ shoulders, rocking to Adams’ music.

That had to be tequila or vodka climate warming, don’t you think?

Habs were struggling when losing 1-0 in the third, but when Jonathan Drouin got stripped of the puck by Bobby Ryan and the game became 2-0 with just three minutes left, of course it was as over as can be. The Habs had shown no offence throughout, so why start then?

Ottawa’s third goal was an empty netter.

I’ve never been a big fan of outdoor games, although I’ve always like the slightly unusual down-close camera angles on the side. But the players seem to like it, and there’s something about skating outdoors.

Skating outdoors, like in this picture that hangs proudly on my living room wall, bringing back many memories of me and my friends playing on an outdoor rink at Mckinnell Square while growing up in Orillia.

This cool piece,  measuring two feet by three feet and produced on thick card stock, was originally in a Quebec school in the 1940s, as dated on the bottom of it.

It’s a scene from the 1930s, used as part of student storytelling, essays, copying, or whatever else they came up with in class.

There’s a fishing scene on the other side, and I think it’s part of a series of school posters.

What’s funny about it is the Montreal player on the left, handling the puck, is actually Leafs star Charlie Conacher.

The boys now hit the road for a six-game road trip beginning in my neck of the woods, Vancouver, which is 120 km south of me. My neighbour and buddy Tony is heading down, so c’mon Habs, win for Tony.

At the Sports Celebrities Dinner

Roger Crozier was there, and so was Andy Bathgate and hurler Sal Maglie and a host of others, including my peewee baseball team that rolled over unsuspecting teams from around Ontario.

I played either second base or shortstop, depending on who was pitching. If Doug Roe was on the mound, I was at shortstop. If it was Lorne Wingrove throwing, I moved to second base and Doug played short.

It was the 3rd annual Sports Celebrity Dinner in Orillia, from June 1964, organized by local radio personality Ken McDonald, later known as Jiggs McDonald.

Only a few years after this fancy affair, Jiggs would find himself broadcasting NHL games in Los Angeles when the league first expanded, and then in Atlanta and Long Island (along with stints in Toronto and Florida). Jiggs ultimately wound up in the Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award.

This is my program from that big night at Club Pavalon, a place where, on normal nights, gave us some of the best live rock bands from the province and beyond.

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Former NHLer Cal Gardner is in the Terriers lineup.

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My peewee team. They spelled my name wrong.

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Below, Rick Ley, who would go on to NHL and WHA stardom, is in the front row of the midget team.

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That Lingering Issue

Ernie Kane made the backyard rink in Orillia, and I practiced like crazy.

A few years later, when I was playing in an atom/tyke league, I smothered a puck with my knees just like I’d seen Doug Harvey do in a picture, which you can see below. The difference was, Harvey smothered the puck in his end, and I smothered mine in front of the other team’s  net.

I remember a man yelling from the stands, “Hey, wrong end!” and I remember hearing some other parents laughing. It’s stuck with me. Maybe it’s why I still have certain issues.

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