Pictou Advocate sports

It all began 65 years ago


Yes, as young people, many of us had to make decisions that would affect us for the rest of our lives. And yes, it happened to me.

When I was in my early teens, I was already facing increasing pressure to consider a career in the Anglican ministry. At the same time, I was being urged by others to become an automotive engineer.

Neither option appealed to me and, despite by young age, I somehow got the courage to handle both issues on my own.

Over Sunday dinner at our house, I told Bishop Robert Waterman that I had other interests in mind. Later on, at my father’s automoibile dealership, I met an executive from the Chrysler Corporation and gave him a similar message.

I never regretted those decisions.

I had already decided — in my own mind, at least — that I wanted to become a sports reporter. That’s why, at 11, I had my father sell my electric train and buy me a typewriter. That’s why, soon after, I was writing a family newspaper, Hugh’s Chronicle.

Someday, I thought, a door would open and I’d get a real job in the media. And that’s exactly what happened — on a November day in 1953.

As I left for school that morning I had no idea the opportunity was about to happen in a very unexpected way.

It was 65 years ago this week.

Rather than head home from school that afternoon, two Grade 10 classmates and I decided to attend a high school hockey game at New Glasgow Stadium.

We got to the rink a few minutes before the opening faceoff. Just then, we were approached by John (Brother) MacDonald, our high school athletic director, the coach of the school’s team, the sportscaster at the new radio station downtown.

Brother wondered if one of us had a pen and paper and could keep track of the game’s goal scorers for him. He needed the names for his radio program.

I quickly volunteered.

That could have been the end of it. But when the game ended, I couldn’t find Brother anywhere. I was told he left to get to the radio station.

So I went home and straight to my typewriter. I didn’t type just a list of goal scorers for Brother, I wrote a story about the game — a couple hundred words — and made a carbon copy for myself. I dropped the article off at CKEC.

Next morning, during breakfast, I had my copy of the article as Brother took to the air. I was amazed — and delighted — when he read my story, word for word, start to finish.

It didn’t end there.

During English class that day, there was a knock at the classroom door. The teacher, Wilf Burchell, told me Brother wanted to see me at recess.

He wanted to know if I would like to cover the hockey games for the whole season. I sure didn’t turn him down.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d still be writing sports this many years later.

But, thanks to the early opportunities, encouragement and support from Brother, here I am, 80 years old and writing columns for the Pictou Advocate.

There have been many phases to my career.

After that 1953-54 hockey season, I had a summer job with Brother as his statistician while he was broadcasting Stellarton Albions games in the Halifax and District Baseball League. All home games and trips to Truro, Halifax, Dartmouth, Kentville and Liverpool.

That summer Evening News sports editor Ricky Fraser got to know me and, after the ball season, he hired me to write high school sports for the paper. The next summer I was covering senior softball, then remained with the News during the rest of my high school and university years.

In October 1959, I joined The Chronicle Herald, the first 10 years as Pictou County bureau chief. Oh how I loved that job, covering sports, politics, courts, fires, accidents — the whole gamut.

It was off to Halifax-Dartmouth in 1969.

Years before retiring from the Herald, I began writing two sports columns a week for The Evening News. That was in 1998, and it gave me a chance to be involved once again with Pictou County and Pictonians.

After four years, the News dropped my column and, within a week, I was writing for this paper. It’s now almost 15 years since the switch.

I made another decision early on. As a result, I’ve spent much of my writing time cheering for my hometown of New Glasgow and the county as a whole.

It’s been so rewarding.

In sports, of course, I got plenty of pleasure covering and supporting baseball’s Stellarton Albions and Stellarton Keiths; hockey’s New Glasgow Rangers, Stellarton Royals, Pictou Maripacs and Pictou County Crushers; softball’s Trenton Scotias and Thorburn Junior Mohawks; the many boxers, golfers, bowlers, curlers and local athletes in all sports.

In my Herald days in the county, I was writing about major car orders for the Trenton plants, cheering the opening of Clairtone in Stellarton and Scott Paper in Abercrombie, covering the announcement of Michelin Tire coming to Granton, the opening of the Pictou causeway, and other developments that made the county stronger.

But there have been sad stories, too.

Pictou County has had its share — from the highway crash that claimed the lives of three young hockey players and a hockey mom coming home from a tournament, to the horrific explosion at the Westray mine in Plymouth that took 26 lives.

Though opportunities took me to Halifax-Dartmouth, I’ve been fortunate — from the early years, to the decade as Herald bureau chief, to the Evening News and Advocate columns — to have been writing Pictou County material over 36 years.

And no, I’ve never regretted those long-ago decisions regarding the ministry and engineering.