For an understandable reason, I doubt there’s anyone in Pictou County who remembers the day Harry Trainor arrived in New Glasgow with razors and clippers in his luggage.
It was 100 years ago.
He had lived in the town previously, coming from Charlottetown with his family at the age of five. After attending St. John’s Academy until he turned 13, he returned to the island to pick potatoes.
Then, in 1920, with farming not his pleasure, he was back in New Glasgow, fully focused on becoming a barber.
He got a job quickly and, by 1937, opened his own hair-cutting shop on Provost Street. He’d spend the rest of his working days with scissors in hand.
Harry was popular and his barbershop was popular. There were no Tim Hortons or malls then, so his workplace was where sports folks gathered to chat. It became the local hot stove league.
I ‘d love to have a loonie for each time I dropped in for news or gossip.
It was a place to visit because, for an uncounted number of years, Harry was more than a barber.
Throughout my school and newspaper days in the town, he was arguably the best sports organizer in the Maritimes.
He promoted professional boxing cards that attracted the best fighters around. He simultaneously presided over senior hockey leagues with an iron fist that kept teams and leagues in business.
There were other fight promoters, of course, but none could cut it as well as Harry. There were other hockey leaders, too, but again, none could cut it as well as Harry.
He even found time to coach a championship team in the Stellarton Church Ladies Softball League during the Second World War.
Boxing and hockey, though, were his passion.
For what he accomplished in them, he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1979 – just seven months before he passed away. The next year, when the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame was reorganized in Halifax, he was admitted posthumously during the initial induction ceremony. Again, when the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame got into business, he was again one of the first inductees.
Trainor lived only long enough to attend his Canadian induction, and he was a happy man that day. Typically Harry, more than for his own selection, he was excited because he received that tribute alongside local boxing people like Bobby Beaton, Percy Paris, Kid Melanson and Bobby Allan.
No wonder there were many honours.
In boxing, he put on his first boxing card in his first year back in New Glasgow. It was staged at the Academy of Music movie theatre, where Roy Rogers and Gene Autry used to ride the trails on Saturday afternoons.
For over 50 years, Harry promoted bouts featuring some of the premier fighters from this part of the country – including Cape Breton’s Blair Richardson, who twice won Canadian championships on Trainor cards.
He also arranged one of the best battles I ever watched in a county ring — a Stellarton Memorial Rink scrap between Yvon Durelle, New Brunswick’s Fighting Fisherman, and P.E.I.’s Harry Poulton.
Besides the Richardson and Durelle fights, he organized bouts for Halifax’s Richard (Kid) Howard, Westville’s Jackie Hayden and Stellarton’s Lawrence Hafey.
One time I asked Trainor to name his most memorable promotion. The answer? A main event in the 1940s between New Glasgow’s Bearcat Jackson and Spinney Wright, who was the town’s police chief. The fight attracted 4,000 spectators.
Then there was hockey.
He probably displayed his best hockey smarts when he presided over the APC Senior Hockey League. At the time, senior hockey was collapsing everywhere, but Harry kept the local circuit going.
When the APC, a league that survived from the 1920s, finally succumbed, Trainor became president of the Nova Scotia Senior Hockey League. That league, too, hit a major snag when the Amherst Ramblers folded. Other clubs threatened to follow, but Harry convinced them to stick it out.
Something else that always impressed me was the way hockey players — locals and imports — loved the guy. Whether they were on teams in the county or clubs from outside, they enjoyed dropping into the barbershop to chat with the boss.
In the mid-1990s, Harry’s daughter Colleen returned to New Glasgow. She had some personal catching up to do.
Colleen told me it was time for a lasting memorial to her dad. So she got the wheels rolling to hold the first Harry Trainor Memorial Boxing Card. She had been thinking about the idea since Harry died.
It was then that I asked her to talk about her dad.
“Ever since I was a child,” she said, “Daddy and I were very, very close. When I got older, the boxing was the big thing. I loved the fights.”
She mentioned what used to occur almost nightly. At the dinner table, she and her brothers Gary and Sonny and their mother would hear all about the day’s chatter.
“When he came home, every day he would talk about the sports and what went on in the barbershop. He was always telling us the jokes and those little stories, and everybody that was in the shop that day. He had a passion for sports. It was his life. He didn’t have a lot of hobbies or anything like that. Sports were his hobby, I guess.”
So here we are now, in 2020, hopefully coming out of a pandemic that halted sports everywhere.
Last week, after a few drivebys, I finally got into my familiar chair at the Original Six Barbershop in Dartmouth to wipe out four months of inattention.
My regular barber — who’s from Westville, by the way — never knew Harry. I quickly told him how he had missed knowing one of the best.
Many boxing and hockey people would agree.