Tag Archives: Gordon Lightfoot

Ticket To Orillia Please

I think it’s pretty darn important that you include Orillia in your future travel plans.

Why would you not? It was the home of Gordon Lightfoot, Stephen Leacock, and Dino’s pool hall for goodness sakes.

In Bobby Orr’s new book “Orr, My Story”, he says his hockey school with Mike Walton was in the Muskokas. It wasn’t. It was just outside Orillia, which is below the Muskokas.

In fact, the only time he mentioned Orillia was when he said his former agent and ex-friend Alan Eagleson had a cottage near there.

It took Gordon Lightfoot about twenty years into his fame to say he was from Orillia and not Toronto.

Stephen Leacock changed the name from Orillia to Mariposa in his book “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”.

Dino’s pool hall burned down.

And my ongoing unofficial poll, which I’ve conducted for years, asks the question to old friends who now live in places not called Orillia. “Could you ever live in Orillia again?”, to which probably 98% say no.

I, on the other hand, could. And someday I think I might. I’ve dealt with my issues from when I was an older teen and into my 20s. I think.

See? It says on the pennant below that the Orr-Walton Camp was in Orillia, not Muskoka.

And about the Lightfoot thing, maybe it didn’t help that a guy I knew went in through an unlocked back door at a Lightfoot concert at Orillia’s Opera House and stole Gordon’s or one of the band member’s leather jacket.

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Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag

We’re in Orillia, home of Gordon Lightfoot and Stephen Leacock. And Samuel de Champlain for a day or two about four hundred years ago.

My birthplace. My hometown. A place I couldn’t wait to leave, but that was a long time ago. I love it all over again. Funny how that works.

Our trip tally was:

5500 kilometres from Powell River to Orillia, which took just over seven and a half days, and cost $355 in gas.

We saw one moose, didn’t get any speeding tickets, and noticed five identical tractor-trailers near the Soo with Taylor Swift’s name on the side, driving by on their way to Winnipeg (I know this because I Googled her itinerary).

I also saw a guy in Kenora wearing a Leafs jacket and a Habs jersey.

Today it’s down to Niagara Falls, which is way off the route, but Luci wants to go, and because I’m such a fantastic husband, I said of course. I yanked her out of Powell River so I could try out my new job in Montreal, so going to Niagara Falls is the least I could do.

I know. I’m a saint.

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If this doesn’t excite you, nothing will.

I bought a new duffel bag in Orillia yesterday. It’s more than 50 years old.

How’s your pulse now?

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Local Boy Made Good

I haven’t been able to do a lot of hockey-related topics in these last few days because I’ve been preoccupied with family matters, and between this and the fact that I can’t find any NHL games anywhere in the TV guide, I’ve decided to go with the following at this time.  I know you probably come here for hockey stuff and I apologize for the lack of such at this time. I’m doing the best I can do under the circumstances.

I was wandering through a second-hand store in Orillia a few days ago and came across an old Orillia high school yearbook, the Oricolle, from 1955-56. I bought it (cheap) because it has a whack of stuff about local boy Gordon Lightfoot in it. The name written on the front of the book says Terry Whelan, who was a member of Lightfoot’s little high school band.

But first, I went over to the house on Harvie St. where Gordon grew up, and took a picture of it.

Lightfoot

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Gordon seems to be number 32 in the middle of the back row.

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Proud

My dad was a self-taught sign painter, a profession he found himself in after working for Gordon Lightfoot’s father at Wagg’s Laundry, a place which cleaned, yes, you guessed it, laundry.

Along with the normal sign painting duties, he also drew cartoons which were published several times in magazines, he painted art on motorcycle gas tanks, he lettered trucks, and he painted landscapes, many of which graced the walls of our little wartime house in Orillia.

Our house also had an old garage, and twice my dad painted cars on the garage door.

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Argos Cancel Stamps

The big game, the 100th Grey Cup, is now in the books as the Toronto Argonauts outshone the Calgary Stampeders 35-22, and it wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreboard showed. Calgary’s offence, with Kevin Glenn at the helm, couldn’t put together any kind of attack, passes fell short, there was no pressure and too many turnovers. They reminded me completely of the Habs power play.

Half time was almost interesting, with good old Orillia boy Gordon Lightfoot warbling his Canadian Railroad Trilogy, followed soon after by Justin Bieber doing whatever it is he does. Gordon looks old, his voice is weaker now but it’s still there, and he needs a haircut. Justin of course is a couple years younger than Gordon, his voice is downright mediocre, and he doesn’t need a haircut.

Maybe I’m wrong but I feel Mr. Bieber won’t be having a brilliant 50-year career like Gordon has. If I am wrong, you can remind me in 50 years and I’ll apologize and buy you a beer.

An unfortunate offshoot to the game? Thanks to it, the hole in the ozone is going to get bigger once again. You think cows give off emissions? You blame the cows for affecting the ozone? They’re not the only culprits. There’s also the Grey Cup partiers who ate chili and drank beer and are now polluting the atmosphere with hideous gases. Chili and beer, lots of it, consumed by way too many football fans, turning the air into a horrific, smelly, ozone hole-creating mess. And sometimes they light lighters under their bums to show they don’t care.

Of course cows are a problem too. It’s disgusting how they spend their days. Maybe if we could get a billion people or so to eat nothing but cheeseburgers and meatloaf for a decade or two, the cattle population would decrease and the hole in the ozone would have time to heal.

Next year, the Grey Cup is in Regina, where the world’s greatest football fans live. Crazy, loveable, hard workin’, hard livin’ prairie football fans.

The ozone’s in big trouble next year.

Habs’ New Scout Knows Orillia

I’m proud to say that the new Habs pro scout for the NHL Western Division has a huge Orillia connection.

Ethan Moreau played for the Junior B Orillia Terriers during the 1990-91 season, has lived in Orillia off and on for quite some time, and his parents Ab and Ester still live there. Moreau attended Orillia’s ODCVI high school, while I went to Park St., one of the other secondary schools in town, before Moreau was born but I don’t want to get into that.

Gordon Lightfoot and John French also went to ODCVI

ODCVI seemed to always have a huge flock of good looking female students, including Lynn Sinclair, who I once made it to second base with.

Is all this exciting or what? And with this new Orillia/Habs connection, can my stick boy job be far behind?

All Together Now! “Couchiching, Couchiching, By Lake Couchiching”

From my 1959 Orillia and area phone book (which includes Bobby Orr’s family in Parry Sound), you can see the Lightfoot family on Harvey. Above that, as an added bonus, is Norman Ley, father of Rick Ley, former defenseman with the Leafs and the WHA New England Whalers, and coach in Hartford, Toronto and Vancouver. My mother went to school with Norman.

Not only that, as another extra bonus, there’s the Liberty Cafe, which was a restaurant on Orillia’s main drag where my dad would buy a bag full of hamburgers on special occasions, bring them home, and we’d sit and watch old war and gangster movies.

Okay, sing along – “Couchiching, Couchiching, by Lake Couchiching.”

Orillia, City Of Stuff

In looking at the CBC poll that shows Montreal leading as best sports city in Canada, followed by Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto etc, I’m wondering why Orillia isn’t mentioned as a serious player in this regard.

Rick Ley comes from Orillia. So does John French and the legendary Jake Gaudaur, and broadcaster and ex-Leaf executive Bill Watters. The Orillia Terriors won the Allan Cup in 1973, and my peewee baseball team almost won the All-Ontario championship once.

Four Orillia sisters, Bev, Barb, Brenda, and Bette Jean Clarke, were show waterskiers at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, and not only were they great waterskiers but they were also maybe the best-looking chicks in town and I didn’t stand a chance with any of them.

There was this red-headed guy at the Top Hat pool hall, Vern Smith was his name, whom I swear could give Minnesota Fats a run for his money.

Conn Smythe’s university football team lost to Orillia in an important game back in the 1920′s.

I saw Rick Ley hit a home run deep over the right field fence that bounced off the arena roof. And I’ve seen many an Orillian run faster than you can believe when chased by the cops. I personally have jumped fences higher than humanly possible.

I’ve never met Bill Watters but I played ball with his younger brother Rick, and it was either Bill or his dad who delivered the potato chips in the Hostess truck when we were on money-raising drives.

Parry Sound is only 60 miles away from Orillia, which means that Bobby Orr came that close to being an Orillian. But Orr made up for it when he and Mike Walton started a hockey camp there. I posted photos awhile back of Orr and Walton and others riding donkeys up at the arena. Bobby Orr Donkey Rider

Orillia is 90 miles north of Toronto, about 250 miles west of Ottawa, and about 400 from Montreal, which means, because of it’s perfect location, it should be considered for any future NHL expansion. It’d be a great place for Major League baseball too.

Rocket Richard came to Orillia once. He skated around the rink, dropped some faceoff pucks for little kids who buzzed around like whirling dervishes, and people applauded the great man like crazy, even though the majority probably cheered for the Leafs.

I’m not sure if Stephen Leacock, maybe Orillia’s most famous resident, was much of a sports guy. He was originally from England and had somehow managed to move to Orillia where he lived a mansion on the shores of Lake Couchiching. Leacock wrote the classic “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” which was about life in Orillia around 1910 or so, although he renamed it Mariposa.

But maybe Leacock was very athletic. Maybe he played hockey on the lake in winter, and rowed on it in summer. Maybe he was a real jock who spent his youth spitting tobacco and winning ribbons. I’ve just never heard that.

Orillia, at least when I was there, always had high school football teams, with one school, ODCVI, annually kicking the shit out of Park St. Collegiate. And even though I went to Park Street, I rarely saw one these titanic struggles between the two schools because it was easy to slip away to the pool hall when the games were on.

Glen Drinkle is the only high school athlete that I’m aware of to win the an All Ontario gold metal. He won it in Toronto in the intermediate boys javelin around 1967.

Gordon Lightfoot went to ODCVI and I don’t know if played on the football team or not. He never mentioned it in any of his songs.

All of the above is why I feel Orillia should be in the running in this CBC poll of best sports city.

 

 

Bob Hope In Orillia, Jiggs In Hollywood

In September of 1957, Orillia hockey star Rick Ley, who would go on to NHL and WHA stardom, was 9 years old. Orillia folksinger Gordon Lightfoot was 19. Bobby Orr, 60 miles up the road, was 9. I was a month shy of being 7.

And in September of 1957, Hollywood funnyman Bob Hope, fresh from hanging out with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, close friends with a bunch of Presidents, and star of stage and screen, came with his family for a nice visit to Orillia. (The above photo is Hope in Orillia and comes from one of my dad’s photo albums).

I was there, although I don’t remember it. But my dad told me we were all there. He told me about Hope and his wife and kids riding in a parade down the main street. And he told me the Hope clan were guests of my dad’s boss, who happened to own a local factory.

It seems Hope had been invited to Orillia to help celebrate the expansion of Orillia’s radio station, CFOR. I’m thinking he must have been in the area anyway.

It’s also a beautiful thing when I can tie in CFOR to NHL hockey.

CFOR’s sports guy was Ken McDonald, and Ken was a great guy. My sister worked with him when she was a radio copywriter, and he would not only do radio sports, but on the side he would broadcast minor hockey games from the Orillia Community Centre. I can remember my grandma and I huddled by the radio one night in the early sixties when Ken described Archie Rankin scoring the big goal with just seconds left as the Orillia juveniles captured the Ontario championship in dramatic fashion.

In 1966, the Los Angeles Kings were granted a team in the league’s first expansion, and Ken McDonald was offered and accepted the big job of being the Kings’ very first play-by-play guy. I suppose it was owner Jack Kent Cooke who decided the name Ken McDonald just wasn’t fancy enough for the Hollywood market, and from that day forward, Ken McDonald became Jiggs McDonald. Over the years, Jiggs became one of the NHL’s best and longest-lasting broadcasters, with gigs with the Atlanta Flames, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Florida Panthers. He also had a brief stint doing New York Mets games.

When I ended up in jail for a week in Los Angeles during the summer of 1967 (breaking curfew after Sunset Strip riots), my sister phoned Ken/Jiggs in LA and asked him if he could help. I never learned if he did or not, but after a week behind bars, a plane ticket showed up from my parents, who had absolutely no money, to get me back to Canada, and I was set free. 

Maybe Jiggs pulled some strings. If so, it’s taken 44 years but thanks a lot, Mr. McDonald.