When I read the initial news that a young man had drowned at Park Falls near Sutherlands River, I was reminded of the many tragedies I covered when I was working for The Chronicle Herald in Pictou County through the 1960s.
Every time I went to a fatality scene — car accidents, fires and, yes, drownings — it was hard to witness up close, even when victims were total strangers. Sometimes, as I carried out my job taking photos and making notes, police or firemen would give me names. When it was someone I knew, or knew about, it was that much more difficult to be there.
No identification was included in the recent item and, having been away from the county for so long, I didn’t give it more thought — until I saw the obituary a few days later.
That’s when the shock came.
First, I discovered Kale Mason was a member of the Pictou County Scotians hockey club that, just over a month earlier, had defeated the Liverpool Privateers at the Pictou County Wellness Centre to win the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League championship. It was the first time the franchise had captured the honour in its 23-year existence.
I hadn’t recognized Kale’s name, but then I learned he was a defenceman, a big one at 235 pounds. He had played 12 of the Scotians’ playoff games on the way to the title.
When I read the obituary further, that’s when I discovered who the family was. Kale’s grandfather, Granville (Gun) Mason, was a good friend whose own sports career I followed from the early 1950s. Gun’s brother, Babe Mason, was a boxer who fought for Canada in the Olympics.
No wonder Kale was an athlete. The bloodlines were there. No wonder, at his tender age of 19, he was already involved in things like working in security at the Halifax International Airport and volunteering with the Little Harbour fire department. No wonder he was described in glowing terms. No wonder he was looking towards a career with the RCMP.
He was much like Gun and Babe.
Though I knew Gun quite a bit better than Babe, having been more closely associated with him, I profiled both of their careers at various times. They were both the kind of guys you like to say good things about.
I watched Gun’s hockey, baseball, softball and refereeing careers throughout. He played on hockey clubs I covered, he played on ball teams I watched and wrote about. In 1965, the year I was president of the Stellarton Keith’s in the Twilight Senior Baseball League, Gun was one of the valuable players who carried our team to the Nova Scotia title.
Gun was one of those fellows who really loved playing hockey, a sport he didn’t start until he was 14, but played until he was 50. He loved every minute. He was a defenceman most of the time, a dependable rearguard, from his days with the junior Northside Franklyns, to the seasons he spent with the New Glasgow Rangers and other senior clubs.
In his summers in the Twilight Baseball loop, he could hit a ball as far as most players of that era. When he was with the great Trenton Scotias softball teams, he could hit a softball just as far. He was truly a well-rounded athlete.
When Gun became involved in an ugly hockey incident and attacked a referee, he was suspended from hockey for two years. No, he didn’t sit idle or just watch games from the stands. He turned to refereeing and — no surprise — became one of the best and most respected officials in the game.
He refereed for 33 years.
When former referee Hal Lewis passed away, Hockey Nova Scotia created an award in his name, to be given to someone each year who donated or put in a lot of time with refereeing. Gun got that award the first time it was given. “It was a real honour because I liked Hal. He was a great fellow and he was a good referee himself.”
Babe’s boxing career took him to the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He was the first Pictou County athlete to become an Olympian in decades, the first local boxer ever to do so.
The Olympic experience was a high in his athletic involvements, serving him well when he became a physical training officer in the army. Talk about Gun’s talents in sports, consider one significant fact about Babe. He won medals, trophies and championships in — get this — 11 different sports.
There’s a comment Babe made to me during an interview years ago. It said a lot about his character and inner thoughts. I think it’s worth repeating.
“Barbara Ann Scott had won the Olympic gold medal in 1948 and came to Stellarton with the Ice Follies. Here was me, as a kid, going and sneaking into the rink and watching her. She was just like a God or something. And now, here I was, seven years later, I’m in the Olympics myself. It was just hard to believe you could go that far that fast. You never ever dreamed you would have the opportunity.”
Yes, the Mason brothers were good athletes — and good guys.
It’s no wonder, decades later, that Kale was a competitive hockey player and greatly interested in sports.
A comment in the obituary caught my attention: “Kale had a big smile, a big heart and a deep laugh that was infectious to everyone.”
I’ll add a few words: Just like grandfather Gun and great uncle Babe.
Indeed, that was a terrible tragedy for Kale at the waterfalls. A bright and talented young man will not get to further his achievements or live his dreams.
I would like to have met him.