Tag Archives: Orillia

A Kid At The Forum




When I was about 13, I took a bus from Orillia to Montreal with a friend to see the Canadiens for my first time. It was the original Forum before it was renovated in 1968, and I remember there were pillars throughout that caused obstructed views and I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn’t sitting behind one.

I also took a picture of Toe Blake’s Tavern on Rue Ste. Catherines, which is now long gone. (The tavern, not the street.)

On the bus ride back to Orillia, older guys were passing booze around and when my dad picked me up at the bus station, I was in rough shape.

A thirteen-year old kid with a hangover.


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.


Orillia pennant

orillia main 2

main 3


main 6

main 4

Orillia main

orillia 2

The School That Was


The field above is where my high school used to be.

Only recently it was torn down after being there for fifty years. I have no fond memories, except for the typing teacher and a little motorcycle.

I remember my first day in grade nine, sitting in math class, and the teacher started spewing rapid-fire equations and I never recovered. On exams I got marks like 9/100. My mother was concerned.

In agriculture class I did better. Maybe 40/100. I sat at the back of the class and once threw dirt from the plants at the teacher writing on the blackboard. I took out my false tooth one day, put ketchup around my mouth, banged my desk with my fist and fell to the floor, acting like I’d somehow had a collision with the desk. I was allowed to go home and went to the pool hall instead.

To this day I type with two fingers, but I took the course in this school and I appreciate the fact that the hugely-endowed teacher showed the guys how to type by rubbing up against us. She didn’t do this with the girls.

I caught wind that some football players were planning on grabbing me and cutting my hair but my neighbour, who was on the team, talked them out of it.

There was that time I had to create a science poster of the planets, and I asked my dad, who was a sign painter, to do it for me. It was the nicest poster in class. I got 0/100.

My English teacher was a cute little thing in her early 20s. For years afterward I’d heard that she’d had an affair with one of her students, my big Italian friend, and I was jealous. Not long ago I talked to my old friend on the phone after he’d come across my blog by accident, and I asked him about that affair. He said he’d never heard that rumour and it never happened. But he was happy about the story and couldn’t wait to tell his wife.

I was suspended several times, mostly because of skipping school and heading to the pool hall. I loved football day, when all the students were let out early to watch the team play the rival Orillia school. I never saw any of those games. I was at the pool hall.

Instead of walking or taking the bus to school, often my best friend would pick me up on his motorcycle and take me. It was only a Suzuki 80 but in those days, before bikes were common, it felt like I was on a monster Harley. Eventually I would trade about thirty record albums for that Suzuki.

I barely squeaked through grade nine and failed grade ten. In my second year of grade ten, I quit midway through. That summer I headed to Vancouver with a bunch of guys, got back to Orillia in October, went back to school for a month or so, and quit again.

This is full disclosure. Never before have I mentioned what a failure I was. It’s embarrassing and I’ve kept it to myself. But my dad only got his grade 8 so I did better than him.

I was basically someone who made my way through life by taking the most horrible jobs out there and gradually finding better ones as I went along. Unless you’re lucky, that’s how it works. I have no time for those who won’t do this.




Getting Benched

They’re selling things out of the old Orillia Community Centre arena, scene of some of my greatest triumphs.

Where I was a smallish yet shifty right winger for the Byers Bulldozers midgets and juveniles. Where I skated with two of the best-looking girls in town at public skating, maybe even on the same day. Holding hands. And maybe even more than once around.

Here’s the arena seat my brother in Orillia picked up for me the other day, which is still at his house. Twenty bucks.

Luci doesn’t seem to like it. But I think it would look fantastic in the living room if we take out the loveseat. It even flips up.

bench 1

bench 2

arena 1

Habs Fan Bank Robber

Thanks to Ron Green in Orillia for sending this from today’s Orillia Packet and Times.

I have the same hat!

Bank robbed in downtown Orillia


Police are looking for this man, suspected of robbing a downtown Orillia bank Thursday afternoon. (Submitted photo)

Police are looking for this man, suspected of robbing a downtown Orillia bank Thursday afternoon. (Submitted photo)

The OPP are investigating a robbery that occurred Thursday at a Mississaga Street bank in Orillia.

Members of the Orillia OPP, Orillia OPP Crime Unit and OPP Forensic Identification Unit attended the scene.

At around 1:40 p.m., a man entered the bank and demanded cash from a teller. The man then fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of money. Police would not disclose the name of the bank.

The suspect is described as a white male, roughly 45 years old. He is six feet tall with a medium build, a thin, clean-shaven face and was wearing glasses. The man was wearing a red Montreal Canadiens baseball-style hat, black jacket, grey T-shirt and grey track pants.

The OPP asks for the public’s assistance in apprehending the suspect.

Anyone with information about this incident can contact Orillia OPP at 705-326-3536 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Happy Labour Day

Happy Labour Day, or Labor Day in the U.S.

I feel sorry for those who don’t work. They don’t get this holiday.

I’ve noticed that Sens fans aren’t crazy about Daniel Alfredsson right now. No loyalty to the Senators from Alfie, they’re saying. Go for a few bucks more in Detroit and end his career there instead of in Ottawa, where it should have ended.

Maybe he should have stayed, I don’t know. He probably feels that the city of Detroit is just too beautiful to pass up on. And I can’t talk. I showed absolutely no loyalty to the Otaco factory in Orillia when I went uptown for lunch one day and never came back.

Just saw on the news that man has grown 11 cm (4.33 inches) since 1870. It gets my heart pumping, because if I can live for just 115 more years, I’ll finally be a six-footer!  And if David Desharnais can play for another 143 years, he will be too!

Also on the news today was a story about 56 gnomes showing up at the water treatment plant in Parry Sound – Gnomes in Parry Sound . When I read this and saw that the gnomes were described as “human-like creatures”, I thought it was tremendously heart-warming that 56 Boston Bruins players would make the trip to Parry Sound to pay homage to the town’s most famous citizen, Bobby Orr, the greatest Bruin of them all.

But then the article said the gnomes were small and plastic and they didn’t mention hideously ugly, so I realized it wasn’t Bruins players after all. I wish news writers would sometimes be more clear.

Cool Clear Watters

Bill Watters, Bobby Orr, Mike Walton, and Rob Street at the Orr-Walton Sports Camp in Orillia. (from the Orillia Packet and Times).

Orr Walton

Thanks to Ron Green, Mike Mohun, and Don McIsaac for sending a story from the Orillia Packet and Times about Bill Watters, which you can see right here.

Watters, from Orillia, was, among other things, a players agent with Alan Eagleson, Team Canada bigwig, assistant general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a TV analyst for Sportsnet. Quite a resume.

Don mentions that Rob Street, on the right, was one of two Orillians to ever hoist the Memorial Cup, the other being Rick Ley.

Crests And CYO

Don, now living in Houston, Texas, grew up in Orillia at the same time as me, and after reading my post about the sloppy way players sign their autographs nowadays, he emailed his CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) hockey crests he’s kept all these years, signed by Bob Pulford, Ron Stewart, and, Gerry Cheevers, to show examples of how players didn’t scribble as much back then.

CYO was a fun league, run in the beginning by big Father Sullivan, who would sometimes curse and have his face go beet red when he was pissed off, which he would often be. It almost seemed like he shouldn’t have entered the priesthood in the first place. He was a forceful dude, and might have made a lousy factory foreman. Or an effective bouncer at Chez Paree.

I still haven’t forgiven him for coming to our class one day and informing all of us that we were now altar boys. We weren’t given a choice. And I became such a lousy altar boy. Never knew when to ring the bell. Sometimes I’d stumble on the altar steps. And I once caught my altar boy garments on fire while lighting candles and the priest on duty had to put me out with a coat.

Thanks to Don for sending these along. Brings back memories.

One of these players, Ron Stewart, was the guy who got into a wrestling match on the front lawn with Terry Sawchuk, with Sawchuk dying soon afterward.

crest 1