Tag Archives: Bracebridge

‘Thumbs Up’ To Chuvalo And Orr

When I was ‘slightly’ younger I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. Those tiring, mosquito and black fly-filled trips usually took about eight days or so.

I was always a hitchhiker, even before the cross country trips. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again, to Toronto, Buffalo, and also only 30 miles up the road from Orillia, where we saw two different icons in two different places, doing what they did best.

We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. A look at a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparring with a partner.

There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, giving and taking shots to the face and gut at a gas station parking lot.

After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid from the junior ranks was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, came back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. Barrie, Toronto, into parts of Muskoka, Sudbury. When I was 17  I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, I began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky of course. It was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that time in Bracebridge made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.

Bobby Orr And The Phone Book

 

I came across this while rummaging through boxes in preparation for another contest I’m going to throw at you.

Years ago my dad had this old 1959 Orillia and area telephone book hanging around his 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. 

Turns out 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 Harvie St, and my dad worked for awhile at a dry cleaners in Orillia with Gordon’s father.

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 also 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 1930’s and 40’s 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, the family home of respected Canadian writer Roy MacGregor in Huntsville, (who played minor hockey against Orr and the Parry Sound team), and John MacWilliams’ home in Huntsville.

Seeing George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr Do Their Thing, All In One Day

When I was young and not too bright, I hitchhiked across much of Canada three times. There was never any money for motels or hot meals in restaurants, only a few bucks for potato chips and cigarettes. These smelly, mosquito-bitten trips usually took about eight days or more each way.

 I was always a hitchhiker. At 14, while living with a family for a month in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec on a French-English exchange, my new buddy Normand Chaput and I stuck our thumbs out and toured a big part of the province, even camping out one night on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

 When Normand came to live with us for a month in Orillia that same summer, he and I hit the road again. And when we did, just a few hours later, only 30 miles up the road, we saw two different icons doing what they do best.

 We were let off at a gas station near Gravenhurst, where a small crowd had gathered around a makeshift boxing ring, and we had a look. We watched as a young George Chuvalo, then Canadian heavyweight boxing champ, sparred with a partner.

 There he was, the man who would twice take on Mohammed Ali, taking big-time shots to the face at a gas station parking lot.

 After the fight, Normand and I carried on to Bracebridge, to the big exhibition charity game between the Orillia Pepsi’s senior club, and the newly assembled Muskoka All-Stars. And because the Muskoka All-Stars were a bit of a stacked team with several pros on it, a young, slight, blond-haired kid was loaned to Orillia to help make the teams more equal.

 But it wasn’t equal at all. The blond-haired kid, Bobby Orr, having just completed his first season with the Oshawa Generals, was, at 16 years old, dominating the game so much, so thoroughly, he had both the fans and the other players on the ice laughing and shaking their heads in admiration. He owned the puck, skated through the older, more experienced opponents, skated back hard and broke up oncoming rushes, and controlled and dazzled. It was a major eye-opener for me, Normand, and a lot of people in the Bracebridge Arena.

 Hitchhiking with Normand was just the beginning. It seemed like wherever I went, I hitchhiked. A few years later I thumbed my way to Los Angeles after taking the train to Vancouver, and after that, at 19, began my three trips across Canada.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers now, it’s too risky. And it was probably almost as dangerous then, but I didn’t realize it. Maybe I dodged a bullet. And it was hard work, dirty, and uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

 But I got to see George Chuvalo and Bobby Orr in action, and that made the dirt and car fumes all worthwhile.