Sports in Pictures
by Mary and Paul Janes
Hockey and baseball may have been the two most common sports in Warwick over the years, but they are not the only sports in which Warwick residents have participated. The next few pages describe or show some of the activities in which Warwick residents have been involved. Once again, they are representative only, not exhaustive.
The September 24, 1886, issue of the Watford-Guide writes about a cricket match under the headline “The Crease: Watford Wins from Wyoming Wicket Wielders.” In part it reads:
Watford was sent to bat, and in a long stay there amassed 59 runs…. Watford’s second innings was illustrated by [J.] Cook’s brilliant stand. The first to bat, he remained on the crease to the end, and left it with a splendid sum of 54 runs, not out. This number, together with his 15 of the previous innings, gave him a grand total of 69 runs, an achievement for which he was nobly bouquetted by the Wyoming ladies.
Ball diamonds are common throughout Warwick Twp. Arkona, Forest, Warwick Village and Watford all have at least one. John Smith has included information about baseball in Warwick in his Memories of Warwick Village. Arkona, Forest and Watford all have published histories which include sports.
Jim Millier played softball and baseball in the Watford area and around Lambton County. He sent some of his memories.
Prior to the diamond being built in Warwick Village, local softball teams played games on different pastures around Warwick Village. The boys had to remember to close the gate going into Albert Bryce’s farm to keep the cattle in. The 4th Line team mainly consisted of Bryces. The players had to rush to get in a game before dark; before the game they had chores to do and had to eat.
The diamond with lights at Warwick Village increased interest in softball. It meant they could play doubleheaders in an evening. The Warwick Junior Farmers had a strong team with Don Blain, a “windmiller” as pitcher.
One interesting thing that happened at a Watford Atoms baseball game involved Bill Pardy, who worked for the agriculture department and boarded in Watford. He received the nickname of “Cricket” after he swallowed a live cricket on a dare following a game! Sam Janes was the Public Relations man and the scorer for the team at that time.
A ﬁeld sport that has gained popularity among youngsters in Warwick Twp. in recent years is soccer. The Taxandria Falcons Soccer Club was formed in the 1970s, with a single team of 20 players playing on a ﬁeld beside Taxandria Community Centre. In 2008 there are over 300 families involved, with over 500 players, coaches and referees. The Club teaches the fundamentals of soccer in a fun way, and continues its activities during the winter with indoor soccer at North Lambton Secondary School. The soccer pitches were sold in 2006 when Taxandria was sold. In 2008 the Club is in the process of developing a new soccer complex next door to the original one.
Roy Caley was the first Race and Publicity Manager of the Watford 10 Mile Road Race (in 2008 called the Watford-Alvinston Optimist Road Race and measuring 16 kilometres). The first race was held in 1957, when two Warwick runners, Hylke Van der Wal and Lorne Smith, discussed the idea with Roy. In the very first race nine men ran; seven finished. In 2007 approximately 500 runners were involved in either the 16 km or the 8 km race.
One old photo shows that lawn bowling was very popular at one time.
Not all sports were organized events. John Smith, in his Memories of Warwick Village, remembered a skating rink east of Bear Creek which had a building for skate changing and a four-foot fence built by volunteer labour in about 1910. At that time the village had a very good hockey team. The hockey team was made up of Vic Barnes, Ken Ross, Gunne Newell, Alf Smith, Clarence Barnes, Ben Dann, Bob Stewart and Jim Brush. This rink was eliminated when Hwy 22 was paved in 1927.
The November 1931 Watford Guide-Advocate recorded that now that the new bridge (a concrete arched one which replaced the previous steel-framed one) was open, a new skating rink was being constructed on the south side, on the Bear Creek ﬂats. It was 60 by 100 feet, with electric lights. The lighting system was supplied by Harold Cosens until 1935, when he sold his system. After that it was supplied by the Maple Leaf Hotel. To keep the rink in use, snow was removed after every snowfall and the surface was generally ﬂooded twice a week. John Smith remembered that the lunch after the ﬂooding was 10 cents — ﬁve cents for a 12-ounce bottle of Pepsi and 5 cents for a peanut- slab chocolate bar. The board fence was built from scrap wood from the Warwick sawmill. The hockey team of this era was made up of Allan Learn, Bertie Dann, Jack Jordan, Jack Prince, Norton Cox, Fred McIntosh, George Atkinson, L. S. Cook. Sr., W. Barnes, John Smith, John Main, Harold Barnes, John Dolan, George Brush, Kenny Inman, Gerry Barnes, Elmer Goodhand, George Smith and Cecil Shea.
This rink operated until 1940, when the war took the players away and the work involved in its upkeep was too much for the people in the village.
Watford’s hockey has been somewhat more organized, with an arena and association with other minor hockey organizations. Roy Caley was one of the prime movers behind both the Watford Minor Hockey Association and Silver Stick hockey. The first International Silver Stick Hockey tournament in Watford was in January 1960. Caley was the tournament director for several years, commissioner of the Silver Stick Association in 1973, and then he sat on the Board of Directors. The Silver Stick Hockey program is organized to promote citizenship and international goodwill and to foster sportsmanship through hockey. The first tournament in Watford saw a total of 22 teams (Pee Wee and Bantam divisions) participate. In 1998 there were 77 teams in the Bantam division alone. The Watford event is now known as the Roy Caley Memorial Silver Stick Tournament.
Terry Holbrook was the first Watford Minor Hockey League player to play in the National Hockey League, when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1970, then traded to the Minnesota North Stars.
he Watford Curling Club was formed in 1961. Each February they held a bonspiel at which the May Bowl was presented. This trophy was originally donated by the May family who enjoyed curling before they relocated to another community.
The Watford Figure Skating Club was formed in 1961. It has held an annual carnival since then. Skaters progress through a sequence of tests and a select few compete provincially and then nationally. Diane Szmiett was one of the select few.
In the earlier years horse racing was a favourite sport, especially in rural areas. Nearly every urban village and town had their race track. The Roche Brothers of Watford — David, Thomas, John and Michael — were known all over Canada for their driving ability, their race horses and the interest they took in keeping horse racing popular.
The Roche’s most famous horse was the stallion Paddy R, who was especially good on the ice tracks of pioneer days. Paddy R raced in the late 1800s or early 1900s. During one of his races, Paddy R broke his leg. He won some of his best races after the leg had healed. After his racing days were over, he went to Western Canada, where he lived until he was 29 years old.
In 1946 W. Lindley Fraser of Forest, Ont., paid $500 for a five-year-old gelding named Dr. Stanton, which he described at the time as resembling “a truck horse.” Before long he was known as “the Cinderella horse.” Dr. Stanton was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.
Ron Ellerker’s best horse was Derby Dan. He started racing in 1972. From then until 1983 he raced 92 races, winning 91, with Ron driving. In one year Derby Dan won $64,000.
“Gavigan Farm to Be Site of Hot Rod Race Track,” proclaimed the headline of the Canadian Observer in November, 1951. Situated north of Hwy 7 at the eastern gates of Warwick Village, the race track was constructed in the Bear Creek ﬂats by diverting Bear Creek to the north of the natural ravine. This, with some grading and bulldozing, left a natural amphitheatre depression and a ¼-mile track.
Oﬃcials of the operation included Wilfred “Wick” Fraser as president, John Campbell as vice-president, Lindley Fraser as director, and Leo Gavigan as secretary- treasurer.
Preparations at the race track, including ﬂoodlights, ticket booths and concession stands, were completed by opening night of May 24, 1952. Unfortunately, a torrential downpour the previous night ﬂooded the track and postponed activities for another week. On opening night a crowd estimated to be between six and eight thousand witnessed a racing card of eight events. It was a standing room only event, as of those who attended, only 4000 were able to use the hard wooden bleachers.
Special events that year included some “powder puﬀ ” events. Mrs. Ida Gavigan was the top female driver at the track. The next year, on June 16, 1953, a special meet was held to aid the Lambton County Tornado Relief Fund, raising a net sum of $1,330.
Another attraction was the dance hall known as the Old Horse Barn that was moved to the raceway property from St. Paul’s church at Wisbeach.
In 1954 Ray Frayne, Warwick’s ﬁre chief, still unfurled the ﬂags, Sam Siskand was still master of ceremonies in the announcer’s stand, and Wilf Marriott’s Esso garage, at the track entrance, still provided a haven for race cars and drivers alike. What was no longer the same were the crowds, which now averaged around two thousand per event. Several things were tried in an eﬀort to bolster attendance, including a contest whereby the driver with the winning time in a feature event would receive the keys to a brand new Ford sedan courtesy of Rawlings Motors in nearby Forest.
In 1955 dismal crowds took their toll. The little creek- side oval turned oﬀ the ﬂood lights for the last time on July 2. The paved tracks of surrounding communities drew the crowds away from the dust of the Warwick track.