Category Archives: Orillia

Rocket Signing The Orillia Book

The Rocket came to Orillia in 1962 to say hello and drop some pucks at the annual Variceties event at the arena, but something behind the scenes happened. The local sports reporter from the Packet and Times, who knew that I had a Habs scrapbook, asked if he could use one of my Richard pictures for the local program they were putting out.

I let him of course, and in return the reporter gave me this original photo he’d taken of the Rocket signing the Orillia registry.

******************************

Maurice Richard coming to Orillia was a big thing for me, that’s for sure. He was my hero, which is something that’s never changed over the years.

Here’s the program, with my picture of Rocket I lent to the newspaper.

The Rocket signed it, but the pen was beginning to run out of ink.

Rocket 3

Rocket 2

Orillia Var

A hockey friend of mine, Warren Howes, sent a team picture (below) from that night, with his younger brother, the goalie, in the front row.

As you can see, the entire team is wearing Habs sweaters but it appears they might have been worn to make Maurice happy. The kids had either their team sweaters underneath, or Leafs sweaters, which is what Warren thinks.

You can see the Rocket standing behind the boys. And in my pile of Habs stuff here in Powell River is a helmet identical to the one the kid in the front row, third from left, is wearing

Rocket in Orillia

 

Kid Stuff


Practicing my quick draw in Orillia.

American author Bill Bryson wrote a tender and funny book about growing up in the 1950s called The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I read it, and I was amazed by this guy’s talent (I’ve since read several more of his books).

I also saw how he and I have a couple of things in common.

We’re almost the same age (I’m a year older), we both lived in towns with great main streets, we wore Davy Crockett coonskin hats, we practiced our quick draw like Roy Rogers, we delivered newspapers, and occasionally we came across naughty skin magazines.

Both our dads were creative, his being a sports writer and mine a sign painter, although his dad got to go to baseball games in New York and Chicago, while my dad stayed in Orillia and painted letters on store windows.

Bill almost saw a naked girl once when he was about eight years old while playing doctor, but she backed out because she had a crush on him. I made sure I didn’t miss my chance because all I had to do was stand on my bike outside the window of the women’s change room at Couchiching beach and look in the window. I was doing great too, until one of my classmates from school, Carol Montgomery, saw me and gave me shit. But I’m pretty sure I rode away on my bike with eyes wide open.

Bill’s big job back then was his paper route, and it was mine too. I won a red transistor radio once for getting the most new customers, and sometimes on winter nights I’d pick up Habs games from Chicago where the homer announcer called the Hawks players by their first names as they moved about the ice.

I would tie my radio to my bike’s handlebars and listen to rock and roll as I made my paper route rounds, and it became the beginning of the end of my world as I knew it, because as soon as I heard Elvis and Roy Orbison and the rest, I began to grow up a little. Music was sure better than just about everything except maybe hockey and baseball, it was way better than school, and through it I began to learn more about girls.

Like Bill, I used to go to movie matinees and whip popcorn boxes like deadly frisbees at the screen and around the room. It was one of life’s great pleasures for me. If you’ve ever fired off a popcorn box missile and clunked some guy in the head who was making out with his girlfriend, you know what I mean.

Life then seemed to have only a small wrinkles, like hoping my classmate  Carol didn’t squeal on me about looking at naked women in the change room. Or trying to decide whether to spend money at the new Dairy Queen which had just opened around the corner, or pinball at the The Hub nearby, or maybe a new fishing rod or Hespeler Green Flash hockey stick at the tiny Canadian Tire next door to the movie theatre.

Back then the Antarctica wasn’t melting, the NHL only had six teams, Mickey Mantle was reaching the upper decks, and doctors recommended smoking for fun and relaxation.

It was great to be young. That’s for sure.

Canadiens Hijack Jets

A gutsy comeback by the Habs in Winnipeg, capped by Max Pacioretty’s overtime winner, and the boys glided off the ice with a nice 5-4 win.

What a difference a couple of days make. Incredibly lousy in Minnesota on Thursday night, and a hard-working, solid display on Saturday.

With Al Montoya in net.

With Andrew Shaw scoring two power play goals.

And with Hometown Hockey coming from my hometown Orillia tomorrow!

It’s elation, sort of! But they’re in Chicago after the Orillia piece, so the elation might be short lived.

The game in Winnipeg was a back and forth deal, with the Jets opening the scoring in the first, followed by Shaw’s first after he redirected Jonathan Drouin’s shot.

Shaw would strike again in the second, but after that it seemed all wrapped up for the Jets as they would soon even it up, take a 4-2 lead in the third after Blake Wheeler blew by a stumbling Jeff Petry, and we waited for the inevitable.

Things looked gloomy, yes they did. But Pleks, after great work by Gally down low, narrowed it to 4-3, and then Petry atoned for his big mistake by firing home the tying goal with just 4:44 left in the period.

Overtime it became, and as the clock moved toward a shootout, Max Pacioretty suddenly bulged the twine on the power play. And just like that, the Canadiens rack up four wins in six games.

Random Notes:

Habs outshot the Jets 50-23.

Brendan Gallagher has been a bright light on most nights, and Saturday was no exception. He just kept fighting, nobody works harder, and as my buddy Mike Williamson says, he should be captain.

Once again, if you get Sportsnet, tune in a half hour before game time and check out Hometown Hockey’s feature on Orillia, where I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for Byers Bulldozers midgets and bantams. A time when I had trouble focusing I guess, as I used to sing Beatles songs under my breath as I raced down the ice.

 

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Older brother me with younger brother Joel.

Years later Joel would end up playing bass in Canadian country singer Michelle Wright’s band. He and Michelle lived together, I visited them in Nashville at one point, and I went to one of her recording sessions there. Later that evening a bunch of us, including the producer who had been in a successful band in the 1960s called the Beau Brummels, went for dinner and the fellow told me about the time the Beau Brummels were on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Years ago, at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Calgary, my first wife and I were seat fillers, thanks to Michelle, which meant we’d always sit in the first or second row and sit in the seats of people who were onstage playing or accepting an award. I sat beside Sylvia Tyson for quite awhile.

The first time I saw Joel play was when Michelle and the band had a gig in Manotick, just outside Ottawa. There were about six people in the room. Since then, she’s won all sorts of awards.

She and Joel split up a couple of decades ago.

So Many Disturbing Questions

From my grade two art book, in Mrs. Williams’s class at West Ward Public School in Orillia, circa 1957. Yes, I saved it.

It’s obviously Elvis Presley because it looks just like him. But I kinda spelled his name wrong.

There are questions.

Either the female fan has two pens for his autograph, or she’s preparing to stab him with nails. Was she really a fan, or was she something else?

Elvis is playing his guitar left-handed. Why? Was it a signal?

Although I can’t make out most of the words in the speech balloon because they were coloured over with red crayon, I think I can read ‘A cat’ at the top, and maybe ‘bot it’ at the bottom.

Why were the words coloured over? Curious.

Was ‘bot it’ code for ‘bought it, as in ‘killed’? Did Elvis already feel he was going to buy it? Was he on the KGB hit list and he knew it?

Did Krushchev’s wife have  an x-rated crush on Elvis, which might not have sat well with Nikita, thus escalating the Cold War?

Who was cat?

Was Elvis actually singing? Or was it a cry for help?

And what about Mrs. Williams? Did anybody REALLY know her?

 

 

 

The Captain Came To Play

hooray

Captain Max put his team ahead just 14 seconds into the third period, and the Canadiens snag a big 2-1 win over their ungrateful guests, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Not a great game by the Canadiens, they were dominated by the Canes at times, particularly in the second frame when Carolina owned the puck and Montreal managed just 4 feeble shots.

But whatever. Carolina still lost. Ain’t life grand?

The boys were also outshot by the visitors 32-22 overall, and a hearty thanks it is to Carey Price, who shut the door when called upon, even though it is slightly disturbing to see once again that it was him to the rescue.

Maybe we just have to get used it. Maybe our man Price will take us to the promised land.

Thursday night was a night when silent guns suddenly became a bit louder, with Max chosen first star, and his linemates Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher collecting assists on the game winner.

Max even rang one off the post late in the third, so maybe the slump gods have found some peace and love up there.

Even DD got into the act when he (and Charles Hudon) assisted on Andrew Shaw’s goal in the first period that tied it at one apiece after Carolina had opened the scoring.

Spread the wealth, boys. It’s as basic a game plan as there is.

It reminds me of when I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for Orillia’s Byers Bantam Bulldozers and………

Never mind.

Random Notes:

The team now meets the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night, and then it’s off to California for a Tuesday lace-up in Anaheim, then Friday in San Jose and Sunday in Los Angeles before ending the journey in St. Louis the following Tuesday.

Long road trips can be good and bad. Just stay away from Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip, boys. And don’t worry about your wives. I’ll see to it that they’re in good hands.

Bonus Random Note:

I mentioned the other day that on November 22, 1968 my buddy and I sailed to England on an ocean liner, and here’s the ship’s weather log for each day of the journey.

ship-log

empress

 

Houses Of The Holy

Presenting the boyhood homes of four of the greatest players of all time.

All four photos were taken by yours truly. Not that I’m bragging or anything.

Below, the house in Bordeaux, Quebec, just north of Montreal, where Onesime and Alice Richard moved to from the Gaspe area when Onesime took a job in the big city as a CPR machinist. This is where son Maurice grew up with brother Henri and six other siblings.

When Maurice was older his dad got him a job in his machine shop for $20 a week.

rockets-house

Bobby Orr’s place in Parry Sound, across the street from the Seguin River where young Bobby learned to play the game better than anyone else, except for maybe the fourth player on this page.

This house is only a couple of hundred feet from Parry Sound’s main drag, but I’m guessing he didn’t hang out there looking for trouble, like I did in my home town.

orrs-house

Wayne Gretzky’s pad on Varadi Avenue in Brantford. A fine house on a nice tree-lined street. Bicycles and a little hockey net sit in the driveway, probably for various grandkids visiting Walter.

gretzky

And finally, Elmer Ave. in Orillia, where the smallish yet shifty Dennis Kane grew up. This is a guy who, while playing for Byers Bulldozers midget all-stars, had his shot clocked at an incredible 29 mph. And aside from seven or eight others, was the fastest skater on the team.

It’s a shame that scouts were either drunk or weren’t paying attention when Kane was playing.  It’s a shame that he was too smalI with shitty muscles. It’s a shame his shot sucked. It’s a shame that the wild and crazy 1960s came along and he got sidetracked. It’s a shame that he had a hard time focusing and would sometimes sing Beatles songs under his breath while carrying the puck down the wing.

There are several other fine excuses as well.

denniss-house

Three Stories From Way Back

Three short stories on this April day as we enjoy all the Canadian teams in the playoffs.

Beef cattle, farm pond, Oklahoma

My friend and I (he doesn’t like me talking about him so I’ll just call him Fred), stuck out our thumbs in Vancouver back in the fall of 1969 and began to slowly make our way across the country to Orillia.

Late at night in Swift Current we hopped on a boxcar and rode for several hours until we saw the lights of Moose Jaw in the distance. We’d been warned that if yard security caught us we would end up in jail and that would’ve sucked, so we needed to jump off before the train reached the end.

As we began to slow down, Fred said we should jump and off he went, right into a cow pond that got him drenched from head to toe and smelling like a sewage plant.

About twenty seconds later, the train came to a complete stop and I walked off.

*************************************

tooth

My friends and I used to drink Four Aces sherry (95 cents) and other such marvels, down in the bush with the hobos. These old hobos would sit in their clearing deep in the forest, grumbling and cursing but not really talking a lot, with their campfire burning and bottles emptying, and we’d join them because it was safe as we were usually underage at that time.

After guzzling my Four Aces on one of these visits, I threw up and staggered out of Hobo Jungle, but minutes later realized that I’d lost my false tooth and plate. So I staggered back through the bush in complete darkness, and somewhere along the line put my hand down on the ground.

Although I couldn’t see a thing and was blind drunk, my hand landed right on my false tooth.

*****************************************

school-trip-1-638

In grade ten my school organized a class trip to Ottawa, but students had to have half-decent marks to qualify.

I didn’t qualify.

But I really wanted to go on the class trip, so I rounded up my friend Craig Ortiz and we hitchhiked there instead.

At the start, just outside of Orillia, we hid in the ditch as the school buses with all those students who were smarter than me passed us, but because we were lucky with rides, we beat those buses to Ottawa. At the Lord Elgin Hotel, where they were checking in, we surprised everyone and were allowed by the teachers to sleep on the floor of someone’s room.

It was good fun I think, but hitchhiking back sucked and Craig and I ended up at the Lindsay police station where we asked a cop if we could sleep in a cell that night because it was freezing cold, and he obliged.

Back at school, Craig and I were each given a month’s detention.

 

 

I Think It’s Good Anyway

Once again, for your possible reading enjoyment, some drawings from my grade two exercise book done at West Ward Public School in Orillia, and which I’ve managed to hold on to all these years.

Yes, some of you have seen some of this before, but I’ve added more this time, so that’s good right?

And as another added bonus, I include a photo of West Ward school in the process of burning to the ground in 1968.

But first things first, my art from grade two, lots of it, and which includes some Habs, a portrait of my teacher Mrs. Williams, along with Elvis Presley, which I spelled ‘Elive Prisie’.

If all this isn’t enticing, I don’t know what is.

1

15

16

2

3

4

5

6

7

19

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

17

18

 

West Ward