Canadian Sport in '67
Those were days in which a barrel of beer or a copy of Shakespeare were equally acceptable as rewards for athletic prowess
H. H. ROXBOROUGH
ON A bright Wednesday afternoon in the fading summer of 1867, nearly five thousand men, women and children forsook offices, homes and schools, and gathered on the green sward of the Toronto Lacrosse Club grounds to witness an eventful lacrosse match between the Six Nations Indians, from Onondaga, and the players of the home club. The Six Nations Indians had established a reputation for unusual skill, and hitherto had been defeated only twice by the pale faces. The contest aroused widespread interest. The sporting element were out in full force; the society of the city was well represented, with His Excellency General Stisted, C.B., a conspicuous figure. The crowd, dressed in the gay and exaggerated styles of the day, the men with flowing beards, chokers and top hats, the ladies in hoop skirts, and other then fashionable appurtenances, presented a gay and colorful scene, with the effect of picturesqueness heightened by the dark-skinned players, and their numerous attendants, all dressed in full regalia.
As the two teams marched on to the field they were greeted with resounding cheers,. Without formality the game began. In two minutes the Toronto club had scored; the Indians tallied six minutes later. The local team notched again in thirty minutes.
The team that first scored three goals would be victors. The Torronto team needed one more point.
The Indians redoubled their efforts, and after a further twenty-one minutes of play scored the goal that tied the score. Then the battle was renewed in deadly earnest. The players became desperate; the crowd, frenzied, flowed out on to the field. Twenty minutes of play followed, with players on both sides at the point of exhaustion. Then a redskin shook his check, dashed towards the opponent’s goal, and, amidst tremendous excitement and enthusiasm, with a final energetic burst, drove home the point that decided the battle.
When it was over, and the tumultuous cheering had died down, and the crowd had relaxed, Chief Onwanonsyshon, wearing a large silver medal presented to his father for his valiant service in leading the Indian party at the battle of Queenston Heights, delivered an address in English, and thanked the home team and their supporters for their good sporting spirit and the splendid reception accorded the visitors.
The Indians decorated with paint, feathers, tomahawks, scalping knives, and other fighting accessories, ended the proceedings by demonstrating a war-dance, to the delight of the palefaces.
Sport was a serious pursuit in the year when Canada had its birth.
On a wintry night in the same historic year, from the city of Montreal, a long, Indian-file company, dressed in white and scarlet-tipped blanket coats, scarlet stockings,
white knickerbockers, scarlet sashes, neat fitting moccasins and blue toques with scarlet tassels, began their snowshoe club tramp to the rendezvous at Côte des Neiges. A participant in the march records vividly:
‘A moonlight so glorious you could read fine print; the galaxy of stars reflecting their glimmer in the clean carpet of snow; the aurora shooting in magnificent beauty like a thing of life; with the sidewalks in town cracking with cold like the report of pistols, and snow you could trust for tramping. Up the hills slowly, and down the hills with a trot and at last the old house. Soon we sat down to our homely fare; the tables were cleared, and the floors shook with joyful dance and song. McGregor gave the highland fling; Stewart, the sword dance; then followed the many clubs with grand choruses; some choice bits of opera, some quadrilles; and then home.’
The Queen’s Birthday of Confederation year was the appointed time for the annual regatta of the Toronto Rowing Club. The aquatic events were the mecca for thousands of Upper Canada’s sport lovers. The afternoon sun beamed down upon Toronto Bay, with its congestion of yachts, luggers, rowboats, scows and punts, all weighted down to the water’s edge with human freight. For a circle of fully a mile the bay was crowded with this varied assortment of watercraft, while thousands of spectators thronged the wharves. As the sports were commencing, however, heavy clouds rolled up, and just as the starting gun was fired, lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and there followed a furious squall of rain and hail. The crowds were quickly dispersed, and every available inch of shelter crowded. The storm passed over, the keen rays of the sun driving away the remnants of clouds, and all proceeded merrily. The regatta was brought to a satisfactory conclusion under clear skies.
Skating carnivals were a popular winter pastime, and were the scenes of color, beauty and gaiety, although not always above criticism and reproach from
Eager For Originality
AND this eagerness 7*for originality was frequently indicated in the infinite variety of prizes given to successful athletes. How would to-day’s champions like receive a violin and bow; a parlor ve, and a ton of coal; a silver inkstand; a sewing machine; an annual bscription to a daily newspaper; an overcoat; a box ove and a cord of wood: a telescope: eight volumes of andard poets; a cruet stand; a photograph album; one >zen handkerchiefs; a fire extinguisher; a pair of shoes;
the fastidious. One critic records his impressions as follows: ‘Some gatherings were not select because many male bipeds still persisted in wearing feminine apparel. This criticism did not apply to the grand carnival held at the Ontario Rink, Hamilton, on February 1, 1867. The keen ice was crowded with graceful skaters, dressed in historic costumes. All the available space around the rink was crowded by eager beholders. The decorations were tasteful, and with the band of the Thirteenth Regiment playing suitable airs, the spectacle was entrancing. The skaters carried on until the small hours were at hand.’
So, regardless of season, sport had its prominent place in the life of Canada’s makers.
True, there is a striking contrast between the sports of sixty years ago and those of to-day. The fathers and mothers of Confederation did not attend hockey games in a five million dollar arena; they did not pay professional baseball players thousands of dollars a year; they were not interested in prize fighting that provided receipts of nearly two million dollars for one short scrap; neither did they sell hockey franchises for a hundred thousand dollars, or spend one million dollars on golf, as it is estimated Canadians will do this year.
But, notwithstanding all these modern accomplishments, the folks of 1867 were real sport lovers. In originality of programs, variety of prizes, the featuring of native talent, the celebrations leading up to the games, and in leadership, the early settlers possibly excelled the modern methods.
To-day, most athletic programs are stereotyped—they lack the unusual—one sport rarely consorts with another on the same occasion. Back in the sixties, variety was eagerly sought. So St. Catharines demonstrated on one card; a matched horse race for sixteen hundred dollars; an ‘Indian ball game of lacrosse’ between teams of Indians from Canada and the United States, and a five mile running race. On another occasion, two Indian runners, Deerfoot and Steep Rock, essayed to run three and oneeighth miles while three horses, Empress, McClellan and Regulator, ran six miles, and the redmen won the wager of one thousand dollars by sixty-five seconds. Skaters against horses on ice was a common sport. Athletic programs also included such obstacle races as where a man carrying another on his back had to run forty yards, while a free competitor traveled a hundred yards. Still another variety performance was an event known as the ‘Water Can Derby’. In this contest, each contestant carried a pail of water on his head. At the word go the men sprang forward, and water flew out of the pails in a most profuse and cooling manner, scattering spectators and drenching competitors from head to foot. At the conclusion of the race the pails of the three leaders were examined and the runner havinS the most water in his bucket was declared the
The desire for novelty was expressed also in the method of choosing sides. The shorts played the longs; the smokers played the non-smokers; the officers played the men; the animated rustics defied the urbanites and, in spite of Kipling, the East often met the West.
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a gold watch-key; a pair of boots and Shakespeare; a barrel of beer; Longfellow’s poems; two sets of hoop skirts; duelling pistols or a dollar pork pie? What an orgy of record smashing would be initiated by that barrel of beer? Massive trophies, expensive statuary and valuable medals undoubtedly symbolize victory in 1927, but they do lack the practical touch of the rewards of the ‘long ever ago'.
In addition to the novelty in program and prize, the sports’ leaders of Confederation year were also alert to the desirability of securing some great attraction to lure the citizen from home to the athletic field. To-day, we secure at unreasonable expense, a Nurmi, a Wide, a Hoff, a Paddock or some other foreign star to brighten our card. Three score years back, the greatest crowd pleaser was our earliest settler, the native Indian. When the August regatta of the Lachine Club, Montreal, required an appetizer, the committee injected into the afternoon sport a mile race in bark canoes for squaws only. When an athletic meet needed a bracer the service of Deerfoot, a Seneca Indian, and one of the greatest distance runners of all time, were sought. The ability of this flat-footed redman is appreciated when we recall that his record of well over eleven miles for one hour of running was not surpassed for over half a century. If lacrosse needed reviving, a team of Indians was the best tonic possible. When Canada desired to demonstrate lacrosse in England, it was a team of eighteen Indians that spread the sport tidings to the mother Country. Our sportsmen of today when commemorating the union of the provinces of this Dominion, should pay homage to the redskin for the bow and arrow, the snowshoe, the toboggan, the lacrosse stick and canoe.
Coincident with the custom of using home talent for attraction was the thought given to pre-game celebrations. In the present era of sportdom, the daily paper, magazine, camera, radio and high-powered publicity campaigns all speed the fans up to a keen, nervous desire to see the ‘game of the century’, the ‘battle of the year’ or the ‘race of the age’. Prior to an important match, the crowds line up early; they crush through the opened entrance and grab the best seats; there is a distinct tenseness while the fans sit impatiently through the ‘warm UD3’ and anxiously await the referee’s whistle or the umpire's ‘play ball’. When the game is over, there is little fraternization, and a speedy exit is the apparent objective. Evidently, however, the fans of 1867 considered sport to po33ess social as well as physical possibilities. Quite often, the contests were preceded by parades of clowns, effigie3, floats and humorously costumed attendants. Frequently, the procession to the horse races attracted attention equal to the meet itself. Horses, high spirited and valuable; low-spirited and almost worthless, were eagerly sought after by those determined to see the sport. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes, ages and appearances, from the handsome silver— mounted carriage to the common dog and butchers’ cart were all turned to useful account. Ladies in carriages and on horseback, attended by gay cavaliers and mounted soldiers, appeared in great number, while all were closely followed on foot by those who could not afford such luxuries on these occasions.
A writer of the Confederation period vividly described a Montreal athletic crowd at a lacrosse game, and his description well illustrates the social side of pioneer sporting days in Canada.
‘The ladies’ stand was crowded tier on tier with sunny faces of beautiful eyed Canadian ladies.
With lovely bonnets dainty dresses, miraculous kids and flirting fans, they were a pretty spectacle. Across the field an occasional scarlet uniform contrasted brilliantly with the darker clothes of the civilians; volunteers with tiny standards stuck loyally in their military raiment;
Indian chieftains with
second-hand coats, black beavers, and bare feet, and some in such a state as to antagonize John B. Gough. On the fences roosted a large number of deadhead beholders, o.ie even was niched into a church window like—so far as position goes—a saint in a cathedral’.
The fans of sixty years back undoubtedly preferred a
leisurely prologue before enjoying the important game.
Equally as noticeable as the differences in the comparative attitude of the spectators, is the contrastbetween the leadership manifested in the two periods. To-day, sport government is well established. The Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, its provincial branches and affiliated bodies, the Young Men’s Christian Association, Industrial organizations, the Canadian Olympic Committee and others are now actively engaged in promoting and controlling play-life. But three score years ago none of these groups operated. Consequently laws were few, penalties for violations of amateur regulations were not approved, and the time that might have been spent in enacting legislation was devoted to the better purpose of arranging and playing games. But they did have leadership; it was enthusiastic and efficient. Instead of being provided by the civilians, it received its impetus from the military units and officers. Such groups as the Kingston Troop of Cavalry; the Thirteenth Hussars, of Toronto; the Civil Service Rifle Regiment, of Ottawa; the Montreal Rifle Brigade, the Seventeenth Regiment, of Port Hope; the Fifty-Third Regiment, of London; the Garrison Club, of Montreal, were all prominent in directing cricket, rifle shooting, horse racing and general athletics. Regimental bands were in constant attendance at skating rinks, carnivals and running events; military instructors gave interesting gymnastic exhibitions; each company received fifty pairs of snowshoes from the government; the militia in garrison cities frequently cleared the snow from bays and rivers to permit the civilians to exercise on skates.
Just prior to Confederation Day itself a resolution was adopted in a Kingston drill shed that was sporting in tone, musical in theme, and humorous in fact. It was reported that late in June, 1867, the Band Instruments held a meeting and during the interludes it was decided that—first; the Band Instruments would have a blowout on July 1st.; second—the city council, the hucksters and some distinguished senators would be invited; third —that a collection of ordinary common cents would be gathered to defray expenses; fourth—that as the band consists solely of wind instruments it hereby challenges the city council to a friendly trial of skill.
Allied with the militia in an endeavor to encourage clean sport, were the policemen and firemen, and many wrestling, boxing and athletic menus were served to the public by these enthusiastic leaders.
Women In Athletics
TN LEADERSHIP, originality of program, variety of prizes, attitude of spectators, ^the form of^attraction and constancy of sport there have been noticeable difier-
ences since the birthday of Canadian union. But in none of the respects already instanced has the contrast been nearly so distinct as in the attitude of women towards participation in athletics. During the past few years, the presence of Canada’s young women in sport has passed the experimental station; it has ceased to be a novelty, and now it is judged and accepted by the same standards as those accorded men's sport. Basketball, softball, lawn tennis, hockey, swimming, golf, speed and fancy skating, running, jumping and even weight throwing, are recognized games of the formerly so-called ‘weaker sex'.
The daughters of Confederation were honored guests at most sporting attractions in their day and they enjoyed the outdoor activities. But, if they ever had any ambitions to run a hundred yards in eleven seconds, to throw a baseball two hundred and thirty feet, to jump about five feet-high or to swim the English Channel, it was never more than a vision. Even had they desired to realize their objective they
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would not only have encountered the physical problem, but they would have had to face scandalized public opinion, and a handicap of clothing style better suited to street-cleaning than record making.
So, in the six decades since the union of Upper and Lower Canada and the Maritimes, there have been many changes in our national sporting life corresponding to that in business, transportation, medi-
cine, law, science and other human in" terests. And yet, while there are distinct differences in many conditions, there are also some threads that have maintained the same size and color through all the years of weaving on our loom' of national recreation. Amongst these changeless threads are unreasonable alibis, wild-cat advertising, unwarranted wagering and the sportsmen’s desire to travel.
In Confederation year a skating carni-
val in Hamilton was introduced as a promiscuous gathering of glacial rovers, who in all imaginable garbs, will flit about the rink as if moved at the will of someone controlling the various gyrations with a fairy wand.
To-day, cricket is very conservative in its advertising, but in 1867 it was published that ‘cricket is a healthful exercise that will do more in one hour to keep away the ills of life than all the jorums, nostrums and boluses of doctors’.
There is noted, too, a constant desire to wager on results of games. Economists recommend a generous circulation of money, and one of the readiest and most modern means of inducing a general distribution of wealth, appears to be an important contest of brawn and brains. Yet, widespread as the habit is in 1927, it is not nearly so general as it was in 1867. In the year of union, a Montreal bowler and a New Yorker bowled for five hundred dollars a side; two swimmers swam Toronto Bay for one hundred dollars each; two pigeon shooters bet one hundred dollars a piece; the billiard championship of America was won by J. Dion, of Montreal, who wagered one thousand dollars on his chance of winning; a maritime province four-oared crew bet one thousand dollars against the ability of a Yankee rowing quartette. Sixty years ago, when a challenge was issued to a runner, an oarsman, a ball club or a race horse owner it was understood that money would do the talking. Fortunately, however, not all sportsmen were governed by mercenary motives, and many Canadian boys made great journeys to win fame for themselves, and honor for their club and country. To-day it does not create excitement if a Fort William hockey team visits Vancouver; if a Winnipeg lacrosse team tours Ontario; if a Toronto baseball club plays on the prairies or over the mountains on the diamonds of British Columbia; if our track athletes pursue Olympic honors at Athens, Amsterdam, London or Paris. But the champions of sixty years back were by no means ‘home-lot, stall-fed’ finalists. In Confederation year alone, a Caughnawaga lacrosse team journeyed to England; a renowned rowing four from New Brunswick visited Paris, France, and won memorable honors from European stars; the Maple Lead Baseball Club, of Hamilton, won a baseball tournament played in Detroit, U.S.A.; the Toronto Rowing Club sent their champion crew to the Lachine Regatta; the Garrison Club, of Montreal, tripped to New York; rifle shooters from all over the new Dominion competed at Quebec; while the curlers packed up on any pretext and seemed to enjoy playing anywhere except home.
In all periods there has been keen rivalry amongst various sports, each seeking to attract the greatest favor from the vast army of spectators. In 1867 lacrosse, cricket, baseball, football, rowing, curling, horse-racing, yachting, skating, billiards, bowling, shooting and racquets, each had its defenders, but lacrosse did appear to receive the popular acclaim.
It is more than appropriate that while this year witnesses the sixtieth anniversary of a national political union, it also commemorates the jubilee birthday of Canada’s national game, for it was at Kingston on September 16, 1867, that the National Lacrosse Association held its first convention.
Prior to this convention, rules had little uniformity. Goal posts were placed at any distance and in any position designated by the captains, and the number of players was equally indefinite. The 1867 lacrosse parliament decreed that thereafter the netting of lacrosse sticks must be perfectly flat; the ball must be furnished by the challenged party; distance between goals must not be less than one hundred and fifty yards; spectators were not permitted within fifteen feet of the flags; field captains not actually playing
could not carry crosses; repetition of striking, kicking or tripping would result in suspension for the match; two umpires —one for each side—-were to be placed at each goal; these goal-umpires were to select the referee; each side was to consist of twelve players—goal-keeper, point, cover-point, centre, home (nearest player to opponent’s goaljand seven fielders; except for injuries no player could be changed; the annual fees were to be five cents for each member.
The prominence of our Canadian national game even sixty years ago was remarkable. Amongst the leading clubs in Upper and Lower Canada were the Montreal Crescents, Aurora, Shamrocks, Star, Britannia, Dominion, Caledonia, Excelsior, Maple Leaf, Young Mechanics Mutuals, St. Regis, all of Montreal, and Caughnawaga Indians; Stadacona, of Quebec; Ontarios, of Ottawa; Prescott, Brockville, Beavers, of Gananoque; Kingston; Barriefield, and Toronto, Ontario, Deerfoots, Upper Canada College and Model School—all of Toronto; Hamilton, Brant, of Paris, and Kanyenkahaka, of Frankford.
The schedules in Confederation year were lengthy and evidence of temperate weather is emphasized by the fact that an important game was played in November.
Lacrosse leaders of the sixties were not only great promoters in their own land, but also carried the gospel of sport to the foreign fields. Indeed, within ten years of Confederation, lacrosse had overflowed its own boundary fences, circulated through England and to most parts of the Empire. Even an Indian Rajah is said to have imported tools of the game.
Closely associated with lacrosse in public esteem was the game of cricket. This good old English pastime was originally patronized largely by the militia, and it is claimed that a pitch was in play on the Plains of Abraham shortly after the historic battle. So popular was cricket fifty years ago that twelve of the best gentlemen players of England toured Canada, and exhibited their ‘hit and run’ ability, while the London Club conducted an entire week of games.
Rivaling cricket and lacrosse in popularity was the running, trotting and pacing of the ‘gee-gees’. Horse-racing has a history that seems to date back so far that an investigator might trace its ancestry to those misty days when the wild horse and the musk ox and the hairy mammoth held their forest steeple-chases.
It is recorded that prior to 1867, horse racing in Canada had been badly directed; managementshad encouraged disreputable practices of jockeying and selling races to the highest bidders; swindling replaced genuine contests, and finally gentlemen withdrew from the turf and race-courses became the rendezvous for native and foreign blacklegs, thieves and robbers. In Confederation year, however, new leadership had asserted itself; the militia and its officers were prominent in direction, and better days for horse-racing had dawned.
The first derby for three-year-old colts in Canada was run at St. Hyacinthe on July 1. 1867.
All interest in running, however, was not confined to the thoroughbreds, for human achievements in racing, jumping and throwing were also well supported. Track and field sports were the invariable accompaniment of picnics, and judging from the splendid performances under conditions far removed from the soft jumping pits and well-laid cinder tracks of to-day, we would assume that races preceded the heavy dinner rather than followed. The events at the Great Western Railway picnic at Hamilton usually included throwing the hammer; tossing iron balls; throwing the cricket ball; running high jump; hop, skip and jump, and vaulting; also sack races; three-legged races and hurdle races of four hundred yards, with eight hurdles three feet high. Records show that in
1867, J. Gates vaulted ten feet, eight inches; the high jump stopped at four feet, nine inches; hop, skip and jump distance was thirty-five feet, ten inches, and the cricket throw was ninety-five yards. At a military meet held on Toronto parade grounds in the same year, Pte. llowkett jumped seventeen feet; Pte. Fox leaped five feet, three inches high; Pte. Diaglin put the thirty-two pound shot twenty-four feet, ten inches. In middle distance running good times were frequently made. At long Island, New York, Kemble, a New Brunswick runner, ran two miles in nine minutes and twenty-two seconds, and George Munroe, a Canada East athlete covered five miles in twenty-six minutes and thirty seconds.
Aquatic Sports Popular
D OWING CLUBS always attracted a ^ high type of citizen, and regattas were not only tests of strength, speed and courage, but were also the magnets which so attracted society in all its splendor. In 1867, the Ottawa oarsmen competed for a fifty dollar silver championship cup, donated by Sir John A. Macdonald, G.C.B.; the Lachine Club conducted a regatta of eight races; the Toronto Rowing Club arranged an annual water carnival, including events for rowers, yachtsmen and paddlers, with special events for fishermen and Her Majesty’s seamen. In
this year a four-oared crew of New Brunswickers defeated picked quartettes of England, France and Germany.
Baseball—then as now—had its fans. The diamond pastime was typically American, and in comparison with cricket, racing, lacrosse and rowing it was really in an infant in years. Sixty years ago the curve ball was unknown; gloves were indications of fear; masks or protectors were not even contemplated.
The centre of Canadian baseball was the Maple Leaf Club, of Guelph. This club, with over one hundred and thirty active members, generated such enthusiasm that teams sprang up in nearly all villages within a radius of fifty miles. The Guelph ‘nine’ carried ten players, several of whom had received professional offers of fifteen hundred dollars a year to play in the United States. The Royal City Club competed against Alberfoyle, Independents, of Dundas; Young Canadians, of Woodstock; Mutuals, of Hamilton; Maple Leafs, of Hamilton; Ontarios, of Oswego; Alerts and Tecumsehs, of London; Clippers, of Hamilton, and Primroses, of Toronto.
Sports of Canada in 1867 were necessarily confined to the East, for only three per cent, of the population was west of the Great Lakes at that period. Since then, as the West has attracted the hardy lovers of the outdoor life, it has gained a position of eminence in playing ability.