Friday, November 7, 2014

Like it Happened Yesterday - Part Two

At the last NHL Oldtimers lunch, Blaine Smith was kind enough to show me a scrapbook his Dad, Sid Smith, created when he was a young boy.  Born and raised in Toronto, Smith played his entire NHL career with the Maple Leafs. Upon reviewing the old newspaper clippings it is easy to see that Sid became a hockey fan very early in his life.

A page from Sid Smith's childhood scrapbook

This got me thinking about my very first scrapbook which dates back to to November 7, 1964. It's the oldest item remaining with me from my childhood. Just the fact it has survived this long is an indication of how meaningful it is to me.

Surprisingly, I have a clear recollection of Saturday November 7, 1964, when the first clipping was applied to the scrapbook. I recall Mom and I working at the dining room table after enjoying a delicious dinner. Mom took the lead on this project as far as materials were concerned, but my input wasn't ignored. While Mom got the scissors and blended her ingredients for a homemade paste, I held in my hand the initial entry for page one.

Each Saturday during the hockey season, I followed the same routine week-in and week-out. Most of the day was spent playing road hockey or working on my shot in the driveway. Once inside the house, the newspaper took over my attention. I couldn't wait to get my claws on the sports section. Also, there was an added bonus each Saturday as the Toronto Daily Star included the Canadian Weekly Magazine.

The Canadian Weekly immediately tweaked my interest on that glorious Saturday in November of 1964. A beautiful colour photo of Johnny Bower making a kick save graced the cover. Looking on as his teammate prevented another goal was forward Ron Stewart.

The cover of my 1964 scrapbook

In an age where black & white still dominated, the vibrant colours of the Leaf uniform, the giant white crest stitched to the rich blue sweater,  seemed to sparkle when viewing the Bower photo.

Another thing that caught my eye was the size of the cover. A bit larger than most publications, I knew it would make an excellent cover for my scrapbook. Up until then, my shoebox contained smaller photographs extracted from newspapers and magazines. The scrapbook opened up new possibilities and a place to safely store these bigger pictures.

When I recently viewed the scrapbook, one thing instantly struck me - I never saved the article on Johnny Bower, "Secrets of the NHL's Oldest Star." Curiosity got the best of me as I had to know Johnny's secret.

To determine the answer, I made a trip to the Toronto Reference Library. Armed with the date it appeared, I didn't anticipate having any trouble tracking down the article. Going directly to the source - the Toronto Daily Star, November 7, 1964 - I came up empty. Doing some digging, I discovered that Canadian Weekly was published by Toronto Star Limited and distributed in a number of newspapers across the Country. So, when the time came to transfer Canadian Weekly to film for library use, the decision was made to conduct this process once, thus saving on costs. Filmed copies of Canadian Weekly, stretching over a determined period of time, would be found in one specific newspaper. For example, the Johnny Bower piece could only be located in the Montreal Gazette.

Thanks to modern technology, I made a scan of the article so it could be reviewed later.

And what was Johnny's secret?

"I think I discovered the Bower secret, if you can really call it that," wrote the multi-talented Jim Hunt after watching Bower in practice. "I've always had to work hard," the Leaf goalie told Hunt. "I don't know any other way to play this game, you see."

The timing of the Canadian Weekly feature on Bower coincided with his 40th birthday on November 8th and Jim Hunt explored the question of Bower's age.  The native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, was born in 1924. Due to his longevity in the game many wondered if Bower had in fact been born in 1924. The guessing before and after 1964 was that the Leaf goalie wasn't coming clean with the real year of his birth. "I've lied so much about my age that I've forgotten how old I really am,"is a quote attributed to Bower at an earlier time, which Hunt included in his story.  However, the date is indeed accurate and tomorrow, Johnny will be celebrating his 90th birthday!

While at the library, I also sought out material on Toronto's home game played on the evening of November 7, 1964. I can't think of a Saturday when we didn't tune in the CBC to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. My dominate recollection of November 7th was the scrapbook. Thus, the newspaper archive came in handy to secure details of the Leaf game that night.

Once my Mom and I completed our work, it was time to watch the game with my Dad. Poor Mom was bombarded with hockey. The TV schedule listed a number of selections she would have enjoyed viewing. All her life, Mom has been a big movie buff. At 8:00pm, CFTO aired the movie 'Picnic' starring Kim Novak. Another film, 'The Jayhawkers',  with Jeff Chandler played on WGR-Buffalo.

Overall, a decent assortment of TV programming was available before, during and after the hockey game.

The comedies began at seven o'clock with the 'Beverly Hillbillies' and continued through with 'Jackie Gleason', 'Bewitched', 'Mr. Magoo' and 'Gilligan's Island'. On the drama side, 'The Saint',  filled the time slot on CBLT-Toronto before hockey came on the air. Other choices in the mix were 'The Fugitive', 'The Avengers' and 'Gunsmoke'.

Another staple in our household was the show which followed the Toronto Maple Leaf telecast -  'Juliette'.  Hosted by singer Juliette Augustina Cavazzi, this variety series ran from 1956 to 1966. In the opening, she was introduced as "...your pet, Juliette."

But it was Saturday night, time for Hockey Night in Canada. To her credit, Mom never waged a TV war. An avid reader, Mom would curl up on the couch and enjoy a good book. And that only occurred after she put my younger sister to bed and made sure Dad and I were fully stocked with ginger ale and potato chips.

Although the opening face-off took place at 8:00pm, those watching on television didn't get to see the action until 8:30pm.

The contest between the Maple Leafs and New York Rangers was a close affair, with the visitors winning 1-0. The only goal of the game was scored by New York forward Camille Henry in the second period. The shutout was earned by Jacques Plante.

On the day of the game, The Telegram ran an interesting story regarding Leaf rookie Ron Ellis. The previous night, Ellis attended a very special event. As George Gross wrote, Ellis "...stood on the platform as one of the class of proud Grade 13 graduates at a Downsview Collegiate commencement ceremony." The next night, Ellis was patrolling the right-side for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Making the visit to the library nicely helped to supplement some missing details. The new information filled in the blank spots on the canvass.

And that is how I spent my day/evening on Saturday November 7, 1964.

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