Monday, November 21, 2022


 To swim through memories to high school and my career as a slow guard in football and then my anxious Telegram moments as a football scribe and editor is dangerous because my good old days were often not. But in 1955, just getting girls to smile at me and the coach not to suggest I was the slowest player on our team of future NHL, CFL, lacrosse and university stalwarts rated as A++.
The Santa Claus parade was key to boasting at Weston Collegiate, the second oldest high school in a city that had not yet exploded in every possible way to match a country that was busy growing up after stalling after the war. Eatons and Simpsons dominated retail and the giants cunningly had a couple of reps at each high school. They were the cream of the school. Eatons reached to their reps for the bulk of the Santa parade and they reached out to the inside crowd and you made sure everyone knew that you were one of the marchers. I remember little about the parade but the faces of the kids along the cold streets made it all worthwhile. It was a magical Saturday to match the radio broadcasts from Toyland in Eatons and standing in the halls to sing along with the carollers when Simpsons opened for the day. No wonder the two giant stores were our shopping destination and a cop had to control the pedestrians crossing between the two stores where Eatons was cheaper but Simpsons wrapped better.
The CFL, like the NHL, was smaller. But I noticed that despite all the references to Canadian players in the telecast on Sunday, the striking difference 67 years later was the absence of the names of Toronto high school athletes. I remember a halfback smashing over me for a TD at the high school final at Varsity who went on to star with the Tiger Cats and that our points were scored by Bob Pulford who was a solid Toronto Maple Leaf assistant captain. We had a tight end who played with the Parkdale Lions (longer than I did) which was the farm club of the Argos who used him on occasion.
At the Telegram, I was pressed into service as a fast typist who had played football for the special Grey Cup edition where I wrote the play by play of the entire game. I knew all about the special atmosphere at Exhibition Stadium, which was so adequate for football that they tore it down in hope of getting into the NFL, because one Cup afternoon I spent the entire afternoon sitting ignored on the bench of the losing team. The special Cup edition almost ended my journalism career because when I was in charge in the final Tely year, I didn't realize my news editor was so unconscious on vodka that he didn't know he was at work and screwed up our football stories. You didn't do that when your publisher owned the Argos.
Oh yes, my Sunday was more than a trip back 67 years. The good stuff shone like nuggets in a Klondike stream. The bad stuff, like my son getting so trapped in the jam downtown from the Santa Claus parade that my car exploded and had to be towed for expensive repairs, is deleted. After all, seven decades have passed while the city and sports have doubled along with the size of the defensive line.
We were called the Weston Ironman because the high school coach Mel Thompson believed that you played 60 minutes if you could still walk. I still have the leather football jacket and may even be able to get into it. Don't know but the memories fit just matter what the Downings say.


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Joana said...

It was an excellent read. I remember a halfback popcorn removal smashing over me for a TD at the high school final at Varsity who went on to star with the Tiger-Cats and our points were scored by Bob Pulford who was a solid Toronto Maple Leaf assistant captain

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