The man behind the other team

Pictou Advocate sports

For those of us old enough to remember the great senior softball era in the 1950s and ’60s, it’s the Trenton Scotias we usually think about and talk about.

That’s only logical. The Scotias were the best team in Pictou County, the best team in Nova Scotia, the best team in the Maritimes during that period. Softball championships were synonymous with the Steeltown.

But, lest we forget, there was a second team in Trenton.

I for one have a legitimate reason to remember. My newspaper career began with a summer job at the Evening News. My first assignment from sports editor Ricky Fraser was to cover senior softball. My first game, with a brand new score book in hand, was between the two Trenton teams — the Scotias and the Aces.

That was more than 60 years ago, yet I can still recall that first official visit to the softball field in the north end of Trenton. I had been there many times as a young fan, thrilled by some of the finest softball I have ever seen. But this particular evening was something special. I was arriving at my first event as a newspaper representative, admittedly with a little apprehension as I approached the benches.

I had nothing to fear. As soon as I walked onto the field, a man who appeared to be in charge of the Aces walked towards me, extending a hand and sporting a big grin.

“I’m Eddie Purvis,” he said.

I had read and heard about him. His name was around softball for a few years. He quickly explained that Ricky “told me you would be here to do the game. Welcome.”

That simple introduction relaxed me. I knew I’d be okay getting my first game done.

It was the start of something else, too — a long friendship with a very kind, very personable man. It was a relationship that would continue in softball circles for several years, and would carry over into hockey and other places where Eddie was involved.

Many years later, when Purvis was retired from most of his activities and was by then a senior in his early 70s, he looked back at how he had gotten into softball.

“I remember I was working in the powerhouse and Ernie Hafey had just come back to work after being overseas for five years. We got to talking and out of the talk came softball. We soon decided we should get together and get a team going. There were enough players to have a second team in town.”

Eddie assembled a lineup.

“The Scotias’ players had come up through junior together, and I rounded up the older players who weren’t playing with them.”

It was a franchise Purvis would operate for 10 years. The Aces would compete in the shadows of the Scotias, but they were always competitive, helping to provide a strong rivalry. The Thorburn Mohawks were in business, too, but it was the Trenton-Trenton action that helped make the league popular.

Purvis never tried to hide why the Scotias were on top.

“They had steadier pitching than we had, especially with Barry Semple. Barry, in my mind, was the best pitcher I ever saw around here.”

All those years later, the names flowed easily for Eddie.

“Oscar Crooks, Elmer Cameron and Ernie Hafey pitched for us. That was our threesome for a few years. Out in the field, we had Fraser Kennedy, a good fielder who could have played with any of them. There was Terry McMullen in right field and Lloyd MacIsaac played left field for us. In the infield, we had Monk Cameron, Satan Ryan, Brad MacLeod and Lem Rogers. Cyril Carpenter caught for us. Later we had the best, Harry Reekie and Davie Cummings, Lonnie Reekie and Shorty Aikens.”

Eddie was in his realm.

“Softball was at its height in the county. In the ’50s, that was about all you had to do. Work wasn’t too great at the (car) plant. People didn’t have too much money, but they were certainly following the ball. That was our entertainment. So there were lots of good crowds.

“Thorburn was a real hotbed, too. They really had good fans out in Thorburn. And look at the huge crowds we had in Trenton, especially in the playoffs.”

But Scotias-Aces was a Steeltown show.

“We had a good rivalry going with the Scotias; a tremendous rivalry, really. It was almost to the point that people not knowing us were coming thinking we were going to battle. But it never went to that level. It was just a great rivalry between the two clubs.”

Purvis was a busy man.

At one time he had worked in a grocery store. When he was at the Hawker Siddeley plants, he was an executive with the steelworkers union. He sold cars and ran a service station. He repaired televisions and radios. He managed rinks in Trenton and New Glasgow. He served as Trenton’s mayor for five years. He ran a junior hockey team in Stellarton and managed the senior hockey Pictou County Pontiacs. He took many minor ball teams to provincial championships. He was president of the Trenton Athletic Association for years.

It was the sports that gave him the most gratification.

“I truly enjoyed sports,” he said. “The big thing really was the friendships. That might not be the answer you’re looking for, but it was the friendships. I was friends with most of the guys. I considered them good friends. We remained friends ever since. I have wonderful memories of all of them.”

In was in late 2015 that Eddie Purvis passed away at the Aberdeen Hospital. He was 89 years old.

For 60-plus years – ever since our long-ago first meeting at the Trenton field — I thought the world of him.