Category Archives: General History

Happy (History) Holidays

Thanks to everyone, but especially to Lynn and to my family, who helped me through this past year. Lots to adjust to, but things are good. I know that many of you have experienced losses, or health issues, or other changes, in your own lives this year. I wish you all strength and hope that you (like me) have the love and support you need.

So, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, or anything else you celebrate at this season.
All the best to everyone in the New Year. (It’s going to be 2020! How did that happen?)

Montreal Gazette, December 25, 1913.
New York Daily News, December 25, 1926.
The American Israelite (Cincinnati, Ohio), December 30, 1948.
The Canarsie Courier (Brooklyn, New York), December 24, 1959.
Ottawa Journal, December 14, 1921.
Los Angeles Evening Express, December 15, 1928.

Barbara, Wally and The Great Escape

Even before the recent change in the stories I’ve posted to this web site, much of what I wrote —even some of the nerdiest of the hockey nerd stuff — was for Barbara. As I’ve said before, a big part of my enjoyment in all this was to see how she’d react. Quirky just hasn’t been as much fun without her.

This story — while not nearly as “romantic” as some of my recent ones — is definitely for Barbara. But, as is often the case, you have to let me work my way around to it…

This past weekend, the British and Polish air forces honored the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape — the actual breakout from Stalag Luft III, the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp in the town of Zagan (sometimes written as Sagan), now in eastern Poland. The events took place in the late night and early morning hours of March 24 and 25, 1944.

The movie came out in 1963. Barbara (on the right in the center photo) is with her
friend Peggy around then. That’s me with my father about the same time!

I won’t go into much of the story, but the Allied air force prisoners at Stalag Luft III had hoped to free some 200 men through a series of tunnels dug under the camp. They knew it was unlikely that any would make their way back to England, but they hoped to do as much as possible to disrupt the German forces who would have to chase them down. Due to a series of unforeseen circumstances, only 76 men got out before the Germans discovered what was going on.

Over the next few weeks, all but three men were recaptured. Hitler was so angry he wanted all 73 men shot. Other German authorities pointed out that an action showing such blatant disregard for the Geneva Conventions might endanger the lives of German prisoners held by the Allies. Even so, Hitler personally ordered that “more than half” should be shot. In the end, 50 men were killed. It’s the deaths of those 50 that was commemorated in Poland this past weekend.

Barbara first learned of this story — as did so many other people — when the Hollywood movie The Great Escape came out in 1963. Even then (and ever since she was a little girl), if Barbara was interested in something, she was INTERESTED! It wasn’t enough just to see the movie — which, of course, she did — over and over. She needed to know more! So, she got herself a copy of the 1950 book The Great Escape by Australian Paul Brickhill, who’d been held at Stalag Luft III during the War.

Barbara told the story of Wally Floody in her book, The Tunnel King. The Desert Hawk
is about Stocky Edwards, one of the leading Canadian aces of World War II.
She worried about glorifying war in books for children, but felt it was important
to put a human face on what happened.

It was through Brickhill’s book that Barbara first learned about Wally Floody, the Canadian who was so integral to the tunnel construction for the Great Escape. (The movie is actually a very accurate description of events – up to a point! – although there were a lot more Canadians, and a lot fewer Americans, who were involved.)

Wally Floody (the Charles Bronson character in the movie is based loosely upon him) lived most of his life in Toronto, not far from where Barbara lived most of her Toronto life. Older accounts of him always claimed that Wally was a mining engineer in Canada, and that’s why he was in charge of the tunnels for the Great Escape. But that was just a bit of British prejudice. The Brits simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that someone who’d actually worked in the mines might one day become a fighter pilot. Wally worked in both Timmins and Kirkland Lake as a young man, although his experience with hard-rock mining there was very much different from tunnelling through the sandy soil beneath Stalag Luft III.

Barbara always believed that Wally’s true story was worth telling, and she finally got to write about him in her 2004 book The Tunnel King, which was a big success. Floody had died in 1989, and Barbara regretted that she’d lived in Toronto for 20 years by then and had never tried to meet him. Wally’s wife, Betty, died just around the time that Barbara started working on the book, but she did get  a lot of assistance from Wally’s sister, Catherine, and his son Brian. They were both more than happy to share stories – and photographs – of their brother and father.

Wally Floody (left) wears his cap at the proper rakish angle for a
fighter pilot. He married his wife, Betty, very early in his air force career.

Just recently, I received a very nice letter from a man who works at the Museum of Northern History in Kirkland Lake. The city is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the museum is interested in telling Wally’s story among their centennial celebrations. His letter gave me the occasion to get back in touch with Brian Floody, and it got me thinking about all this again.

One of Barbara’s nerdiest interests was her love of movie soundtracks. Not just songs, but the full score. If a movie she liked happened to be on television and she was in the other room, I used to like to turn it up loud and see how long it took before she’d say, “Is that … To Kill a Mockingbird?” or whatever it was. When it was The Great Escape – no matter where it was in the movie – it only took a few seconds. And there was no question necessary…

Wally Floody (in the centre, with the tie) served as the technical advisor for the movie.
Brian Floody had some amazing pictures in an album from that time. This is my favorite.

Wally with the film’s biggest stars, James Garner and Steve McQueen.
Betty was much more taken with Garner, who signed the photo.

Wally with Charles Bronson, who played Danny “The Tunnel King.”

Fit For a King…

I haven’t posted anything since June 27. Have you missed me?

I hadn’t meant to take all this time off. I’ve just been very busy. Since May, we’ve been back at work on the NHL Official Guide & Record Book, which is scheduled to head to the printer around the middle of next week. In addition, since about this time last summer, I’ve been working on 11 different book projects for five different publishers. Only one has come out so far. The others have, in some form or another, kept me busy all summer. A couple of them still aren’t done. (One of my brothers is always commenting that “I must be rich.” Sadly, all I am is busy!)

It seems the combination of too much work and too little fun following the Blue Jays has meant not enough time for stories on my web site. Tonight (although in reality two nights ago by the time I post this) has actually been the first time all summer that I’ve had a story pop into my mind that I couldn’t shake. So I wrote it down.

This has been a story I’ve been thinking about since June 20 … 2005! At that point, we were nearing the end of the NHL lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. It was really becoming possible to search newspaper archives on line, and I had been collecting stories on the early history of the Stanley Cup, which would eventually lead to a 2012 book. While doing that, I came across this story in the Edmonton Bulletin from August 18, 1908:

The story goes on to mention that Charles King carried with him a letter from Thomas Shaughnessy, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, allowing him to walk across the country along the CPR tracks. He carried another letter from the Royal North West Mounted Police stating that he was “not to be molested.”

Something about this really spoke to me. I thought there might be a book in it too. So, within days of coming across the story, I had written to the Canadian Pacific archives in Montreal asking if they had any information on the Shaughnessy letter. They did not. (It’s been a few years since I last followed up, but archivist Jo-anne Colby promised to keep an eye out for anything for me.) An email to the RCMP Heritage Center in Regina also turned up nothing. I later searched through six months of issues of the Montreal Standard on microfilm, figuring that if the newspaper had a stake in this story they would be hyping it all summer long to try and boost their circulation. I found not one word…

Over the next year, I did come across a handful more stories of Charles King, mostly in newspapers in Western Canada, tracking his progress across the country. Some mentioned that King had developed his theories of nutrition and exercise at the Stymana club in Montreal … but I could never find any record of such an establishment existing.

Japanese print displaying the destruction of a Russian ship at Port Arthur,
Manchuria. This image will make more sense if you keep on reading!

Several newspaper all across North America reported that King reached Vancouver on September 14, 1908 —  day 137 of his 150-day trek. According to some, he had only earned $120 of the $150 he needed, but he still had 13 days to earn the additional $30. Over the years, I’ve collected stories of his arrival in Vancouver  from 11 different newspapers … but I’ve yet to find a single one that followed up to report on whether or not he ever made the money he needed to win the bet. (Eventually, a story in the Vancouver World from Bellingham, Washington, on October 21, 1908, noted that “Charles King, who has just completed a walking trip from Montreal to Vancouver, B.C., winning a wager of $1000, arrived in the town of Nooksack yesterday and has proceeded on his way to Seattle…” so I guess he did earn those extra $30.)

Based on the stories I’d collected, I assumed Charles King must be from Montreal (I’d later find other stories indicating he was actually from Detroit) and that this was a Canadian saga.  But more recently, I’ve learned that King’s was a much bigger story. In April of 2015, I found stories in four different newspapers saying that he had left Seattle in March of 1909 to walk to New York … and that this dual crossing of North America was actually part of a bet that began on May 1, 1905 in Port Arthur, Manchuria, in which King had wagered that he could walk around the world within seven years.

I would later come across stories claiming that Charles Addington King was a former war correspondent who had covered the Spanish-American War (1898), the Boer War (1899-1902) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Some stories claim that the bet he apparently made with publishing interests in London, England, was for $12,000 in gold.

In stories from the summer of 1909, as King was leaving St. Paul, Minnesota for Chicago en route to New York, he told reporters: “I am now seven months ahead of my schedule, or in other words, I am 5,000 miles to the good.” But I have yet to discover if Charles King made it back to Port Arthur by May 1, 1912. I’ve never even found any stories about him beyond that summer of 1909.

Little Jeff

Last week, I caught some of The Prizefighter and the Lady on Turner Classic Movies. It stars Max Baer, who was a top heavyweight contender at the time, in his first movie role as the Prizefighter, and Myrna Loy as the Lady. It was made in 1933 and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Original Story. Generally speaking, it still gets good reviews. Admittedly, I didn’t see that much of it, but from what I did see, it seemed much more interesting now as a piece of history than it did as a movie.

I won’t go into the plot, but it builds towards a big fight scene at the end where Baer’s character (Steve Morgan) fights the real heavyweight champion of the time, Primo Carnera. (In real life, Baer would beat Carnera for the title a year later.) In the film, the fight is promoted and also refereed by Jack Dempsey playing himself, and before the bout begins Dempsey is joined in the ring by other legendary heavyweight champions of the past, Jess Willard and James J. “Jim” Jeffries. I recognized Jeffries right away from his strong resemblance to hockey legend Cyclone Taylor!

Movie poster plus the hand and footprints of William Powell and Myrna Loy at the
Chinese Theater in Hollywood. W.S. Van Dyke, who directed The Prizefighter and the Lady, would later direct Powell and Loy in the first of “The Thin Man” movies.

I first learned of Cyclone Taylor’s resemblance to Jim Jeffries in Eric Whitehead’s 1977 biography Cyclone Taylor: A Hockey Legend. (Reading that book, and then Whitehead’s biography of Frank and Lester Patrick, inspired me to write my first book, the historical fiction novel Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada.) Whitehead writes of hockey fans in New York City taking to Taylor because of his skill and because of his resemblance to the former heavyweight champ. He says they called him “Little Jeff.”

While I couldn’t find any newspaper references to that specifically, Jeffries was actually in New York at the same time as Taylor and the Ottawa Senators were there to face Art Ross and the Montreal Wanderers in a postseason series in March of 1909. Jeffries was very much in the news, with fight promoters offering him huge money for the time – $50,000 and up – to come out of retirement to fight Jack Johnson. (Jeffries would be the first “Great White Hope” to fight the controversial Black heavyweight champion when he lost to him on July 4, 1910.)

The clipping below doesn’t use the nickname “Little Jeff” but does come pretty close to confirming Whitehead’s account by referring to Cyclone as “Jeffries” Taylor…

TribArticle in The New York Daily Tribune on March 18, 1910, when Taylor
returned to New York as a member of the Renfrew Millionaires.

And while you wouldn’t exactly confuse one for the other (especially considering that Jeffries was about 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds in his prime while Taylor was 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds), there definitely is a resemblance…




The NHL’s First Game?

Ninety-nine years ago today, on December 6, 1917, at 9:04 Atlantic Time (just about the time I’ve set this story to be published), the French ship Mont-Blanc, with a cargo of military explosives intended for the First World War, blew up in the harbour at Halifax shortly after colliding with the Norwegian vessel Imo. The explosion – often said to be the largest man-made blast until the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima – destroyed the community of Richmond in the north end of Halifx, leveling buildings, snapping trees, bending iron rails and shattering windows throughout the entire city of 50,000. In fact, the blast shattered windows 100 kilometers away in Truro, Nova Scotia, and could be heard in Prince Edward Island.

Close to 2,000 people were killed and another 9,000 injured. Some 25,000 people were left without adequate shelter. The Halifax Explosion resulted in $35 million in damages, which would be close to $600 million today. Rescue efforts began almost immediately – although they would be hampered by a blizzard that struck the next day. Supplies and money soon arrived from across Canada and the northeastern United States.

Newspaper accounts of the Halifax Explosion, December 6 & 7, 1917.

The hockey community did its part too. In Montreal the new season opened on Saturday, December 15, 1917, with a pair of fundraising games for the Halifax relief effort. The second of those games was little more than a glorified scrimmage, but was, in fact, the first game played in the history of the NHL – or, at least, the first game contested by players belonging to NHL teams.

I’m not the first to write about this – although I only know of two other sources. (One is the excellent 2002 book Deceptions and Doublecross by Morey Holzman and Joseph Nieforth about the formation of the NHL and the other is the web site Third String Goalie.) Neither says much about the game … but that’s likely because there was so little written about it at the time, and what there was is rather conflicting.

The NHL had been formed from the ashes of the recently defunct National Hockey Association in late November of 1917 and would officially open its schedule on December 19. This exhibition game on December 15  – despite what the Montreal Gazette says in the clip below – was played by mixed teams made up of players from the Montreal Wanderers and the Montreal Canadiens. The lineups in both the Gazette and the Montreal Star show the teams as follows:

                  Team 1                                                     Team 2

  • Bert Lindsay (W)              G             Georges Vezina (C)
  • Jack Laviolette (C)          D             Joe Hall (C)
  • Dave Ritchie (W)              D              Bert Corbeau (C)
  • Joe Malone (C)                 F               Harry Hyland (W)
  • Newsy Lalonde (C)         F               Jack McDonald (W)
  • Didier Pitre (C)                 F               Billy Bell (W)
  • Louis Berlinguette (C)  Sub          Billy Coutu (C)
  • Phil Stephens (W)          Sub          George O’Grady (W)

Brief coverage of the game in the Ottawa Journal
(December 18) and Montreal Gazette (December 17).

Team 1 was the winner, but different sources list the score as 11-3, 10-3, and 10-2. The Montreal Star has it as 10-3 and reports the scorers as Lalonde (4), Pitre (3), Malone (2) and Berlinguette for the winners with Hyland scoring all three for the losers.

One night before the games in Montreal, the senior amateur season of the Ontario Hockey Association kicked off in Toronto on Friday, December 14 with its own exhibition for the Halifax Relief Fund. The defending Allan Cup champion Dentals Hockey Club of Toronto (and, yes, they were all either dental students or recent graduates of the dental program affiliated with the University of Toronto) defeated the Hamilton Tigers 5-4.

Toronto’s Globe newspaper ran an ad for the local benefit game on December 14
and had a brief summary of the game in Montreal on December 17.

Though it was advertised as a fundraiser (and said afterwards to have been a very entertaining game), only 1,200 fans showed up. No account seems to give the attendance for the games in Montreal, and nothing I’ve come across indicates how much money was actually raised in either city for the victims in Halifax.

[NOTE: I was later sent a story about the Montreal game in the French-language Le Devoir newspaper that stated “Huit cents personnes environ” – about 800 persons – attended. This newspaper also has the score 10-3, but again, no mention is made of how much money was raised. Thank you Daniel Doyon.]

As Wrist Watchy as a Bull Elephant

Since the picture of hockey legend Lester Patrick that appears below originally ran in the Sunday Oregonian newspaper in Portland on February 14, 1915, consider this story a somewhat strange, slightly belated, Valentine’s gift to my wife, Barbara.

Watch Lester

You see, it was Lester Patrick who brought us together. (OK, technically, it was publisher Malcolm Lester who brought us together by hiring Barbara to edit my first book, the 1992 novel Hockey Night in the Dominion of Canada. But Lester Patrick was the star of my story, along with his brother Frank, Newsy Lalonde and Cyclone Taylor.)

Barbara’s knowledge of hockey was pretty limited at the time. Raised by two parents from Montreal, it basically consisted of, “Canadiens, good. Maple Leafs, bad.” But Barbara loves history, and historic photographs, and soon she could pick out Lester Patrick in a picture from just about any period of his life.

The fact that Lester is posed with a wrist watch in this picture has nothing directly to do with Barbara and me. But it does fit nicely with our own quirky interests in history and the fact that among the strange bits of trivia we know is that to most people in North America in 1915, a wrist watch – often referred to at the time as a wristlet, or bracelet watch – would have been thought of as – well … girly.

Consider the following excerpt from a story by Christopher Klein that appeared last year on the web site of The History Channel:

Fashionable dandies with portable timepieces on their arms were belittled as “wrist-watch boys” while the tried-and-true pocket watch remained the masculine convention. “The fellow who wears a wrist-watch is frequently suspected of having lace on his lingerie, and of braiding his hair at night,” reported the Albuquerque Journal in May 1914. A New Orleans theater in 1916 assured audiences that the main character in one of its plays was not “portrayed by a wrist-watch, screen actor dude, but by a man’s man.”

Nobody would ever guess,” said the 1915 story accompanying the wrist watch pic in the Oregonian, “but Lester Patrick, ferocious, wild-acting captain and cover point of the Victoria hockey club of the Coast League, wears the daintiest, most cunning little timepiece imaginable, on his powerful left wrist… Patrick stands about six feet one and weighs 180 pounds and he is about as wrist watchy in action as a bull elephant on a rampage.

But Lester Patrick was in the vanguard as opinions began to change. Wrist watches had been popular with military leaders in Europe since the 1880s, and by the middle of World War I – even though the United States wouldn’t be in the fighting for almost another year – The New York Times on July 9, 1916, featured a story entitled Changed Status of the Wrist Watch. It reads in part:

Until recently the bracelet watch has been looked upon by Americans as more or less of a joke. Vaudeville artists and moving-picture actors have utilized it as a funmaker, as a ‘silly ass’ fad. Now, however, since preparedness has become the watchword and timepieces have become a necessary part of the equipment of soldiers, the status of the wrist watch is changing.

Lester Patrick had received his wrist watch from the citizens of Victoria, B.C. as a thank you for leading its hockey team to a second straight PCHA championship in 1913-14. The Oregonian called it, “Vindication for the wrist watch. Yes sir-e-e-e-e!” So much so that these days, “screen actor dudes” clearly aren’t worried about wearing one.

Watch Celebs

Of Pucks and Pilots…

In his 1944 autobiography Winged Peace (a follow-up to his 1918 Winged Warfare), Billy Bishop wrote about the interview process when he wished to transfer from the Canadian Cavalry to Britain’s Royal Flying Corps in 1915.

“Can you ride a horse?” Bishop was asked.

He pointed out that he was a cavalry officer.

“Do you ski?”

Bishop heard, “Do you she?” and only later realized what had really been asked. “Yes,” he answered, although he didn’t understand the question … and he didn’t ski. (He did enjoy the company of women, which he thought might be what had been asked of him.)

Bishop books

“How well can you drive a motor car?”

Bishop had never driven a car before. “Very well,” he lied.

“How well can you skate?”

Here was another question he could answer truthfully, although he exaggerated somewhat. “Very well,” he said.

“Did you go in for sports at school–running?”

Bishop was a crack shot with a rifle, but had never been much of an athlete otherwise. Still, he reasoned that the RFC wasn’t going to take the time to check on his records back in Owen Sound. “Yes,” he said, “a great deal.”

The future flying ace was beginning to wonder just how much running, skiing and skating he might be called upon to do, but in 1915 it was believed that people with good balance made good pilots. An ability to withstand cold temperatures was thought to be an asset too. No wonder so many hockey players who enlisted in the First World War found their way into the Air Force. Among them were Hockey Hall of Famers Harry Watson, Frank Fredrickson (both of whom were mentioned in a story recently) and Conn Smythe – as well as the first American-born hockey superstar, Hobey Baker.

For more on Baker (who died with his orders to return home in his jacket pocket while taking “one last flight” five weeks after the Armistice), you can read his entry on Wikipedia, or the One-On-One Spotlight at the Hockey Hall of Fame, or see the web site for the Hobey Baker Award. But for now, I share with you some newspaper clippings. Most of these were printed 98 years ago this month as Hobey Baker took to the skies over the Western Front.

Hobey 2 Hun
American Hobey Baker was big news in Canada too.

Hobey 2 Pro
The story on the left appeared in the New York Tribune on January 14, 1918.
The story on the right had been in the
Vancouver Daily World on December 27, 1915,
confirming at least one flattering Canadian offer for Baker to go pro.

Hobey Cartoon 1
From the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, January 20, 1918.

Hobey Cartoon 2
The cartoon appeared in the Washington Herald on January 18, 1918.
The poem had been in the same newspaper on January 13.

Hobey Story Click to enlarge.

Lest We Forget

Over the last few years, I’ve taken part in the Remembrance Day service in Owen Sound on behalf of Beth Ezekiel Synagogue. Unfortunately, I’m unable to participate this year, though I know the job will be more than capably handled in my absence.

Anyone who knows me can attest that I’m hardly the soldiering type, but I’ve often wondered over the years if I would have felt compelled to enlist during World War I or World War II. While I can’t see myself rushing off to join the army the moment war was declared, would I have succumbed to the pressure as the years went by?

WWI Posters

I can remember my father telling me once that when was a boy, he wished that the Second World War would last long enough for him to get in it. Those were different times, and he was very young. (He was still only about seven when World War II ended.) He had an uncle serving overseas, who was badly wounded in the fighting. When he finally returned home, my father would pester him to tell him his war stories. He never did. He could only convey that you wouldn’t want to be there.

Had we been of age 100 years ago, would my friends and I have been able to resist the call? Especially if it meant the chance as Jews to prove ourselves as Canadians? I found a story online in which Eric Levine, secretary-treasurer of Toronto’s Jewish Canadian Military Museum (which, until this writing, I did not know existed!) says that during the First World War, 38 percent of all Jewish males older than 21 in Canada served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I can’t recall where, but I know that I’ve read that in both World War I and World War II, Jewish participation was in greater numbers than their percentage of the population would have indicated.

Jewish League

If you’re interested to know more, you can follow any and all of these links:

Jewish Canadian Military Museum
Halifax Chronicle Herald
Ontario Jewish Archives
Jewish Legion – Wikipedia

And, on a lighter note, this was recently brought to my attention: “At the stroke of 1 pm on October 12, the end of World War I will be closer in time to the [Toronto Maple Leafs’] last Stanley Cup win than that 1967 win is to today.” I haven’t actually done the math myself, but even if it’s off, it’s awfully close!

Hod Stuart Was Here

On June 23, 1907, Hod Stuart died at the height of his hockey career. He was 28 years old. Some of you reading this will recognize his name right away. Others won’t. But 108 years ago today, news of his death would have been like hearing that Sidney Crosby or Jonathan Toews had just been killed.

Hod Stuart was a defensemen (a cover point in his day), so a better comparison might be made to Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, or Erik Karlsson, one of whom will win the Norris Trophy tomorrow as this past season’s best NHL defender. Given his status as the game’s highest-paid player, perhaps Stuart was most like Nashville’s Shea Weber – although during the 1906-07 season when hockey players were first allowed to earn salaries in Canada, you’d have to add a lot more zeroes before Stuart’s salary (which was somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500) matched the $14 million Weber makes.


William Hodgson Stuart, the son of William Stuart and Rachel Hodgson, was born in Ottawa on February 20, 1879. His father was a well-respected contractor and the captain of the Ottawa Capitals lacrosse team. Young Hod played football and hockey in Ottawa at the end of the 1890s, but moved to Quebec City in 1900 on a contracting job for his father. He played hockey there too, and met his future wife, Marguerite Cecilia Loughlin, whom he married in 1901. By 1907, they had two young children.

Hod Stuart had yet to emerge as a hockey star while playing in Ottawa and Quebec, but did so quickly after 1902 when he began to play in the United States – where players were already allowed to earn a salary. Canadian fans needed convincing when Stuart left Pittsburgh in late December of 1906 to play for the Montreal Wanderers, but his play was outstanding and the press reports were just as glowing. Late in his life, Art Ross would say that Hod Stuart was the only defenseman he’d ever seen that was in a class with Eddie Shore.

Despite what many sources say, Stuart was not yet with the Wanderers when they defeated a team from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in a preseason Stanley Cup challenge at the end of December. He joined the team in time for its first regular-season game on January 2, 1907 and starred in the Wanderers’ Stanley Cup series with the Kenora Thistles two weeks later. The Thistles won, but the Wanderers bounced back to finish their 10-game season with a perfect 10-0 record and Stuart was a big part of their winning back the Cup in a rematch in Kenora at the end of March.

After the hockey season, Stuart returned to Ottawa but was soon at work for his father’s construction company overseeing a building project in Belleville, Ontario. On a leisurely Sunday, he spent the morning canoeing with friends. In the heat of the day around 3 o’clock, they returned to the waterfront. Hod was a strong swimmer, and he jumped in from the Grand Junction dock to cool off, swimming about a quarter-mile to a nearby lighthouse.

Hod Stuart’s wife and daughters, circa 1910, courtesy of johnnysgirl668 on

There was a small platform around the lighthouse, about six or eight feet above the water, and those watching from the dock saw Stuart climb up and rest for a few minutes before diving in again. He didn’t re-surface. Unaware of how shallow it was in certain places around the lighthouse, Stuart struck his head on a jagged rock just two feet below the waterline. He suffered a fractured skull and a broken neck, and was said to have died instantly. On January 2, 1908, the Wanderers defeated a team of all-stars in the Hod Stuart Memorial Game, which raised just over $2,000 for Stuart’s wife and daughters. In 1945, he was among the first inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The story of Hod Stuart’s death is what I intended to write about today, but in researching his life I came across something pretty amazing. In the spring of 1897, when he was just 18 years old, Stuart left Ottawa with another local boy, sponsored by a group that included Hod’s father, to seek his fortune in the Klondike, where gold had been discovered during the summer of 1896.

As I wrote last week about the Spanish-American War, the Klondike Gold Rush is among my many wide-but-not-deep historical interests, and in a letter written to his father on May 31, 1897 (as reported in the Ottawa Journal on July 27), Hod rhymes off many familiar names:


We left Dyea, an Indian village, Sunday…. We towed all the stuff up the river seven miles and then packed it to Sheep’s Camp…. A beautiful time we had I can tell you, climbing hills with fifty pounds on our backs…. We left Sheep’s Camp next morning at four o’clock, and reached the summit at half-past seven…. The Chilkat Pass [note: though the Chilkat Pass was a route to the Klondike, this is likely a misspelling of the more famous Chilkoot Pass, which was just beyond Sheep Camp] is not a pass at all, but a climb right over the mountains…. It was an awful climb – an angle of about fifty-five degrees. We could keep our hands touching the trail all the way up. It was blowing and snowing…

Another letter, written on June 28, appears in the Journal on October 12, but there’s not much news after that. However, on April 7, 1898, the Journal notes that Hod was among the first Ottawa parties in the gold fields, and that his father “has learned from time to time that his son has been doing well.” Astoundingly, William Stuart had left for the Klondike the night before, having contracted to build the Bank of Commerce building in Dawson City. By September of 1898, father and son were back in Ottawa. Hod failed to seek his fortune in gold, but soon found fame as an athlete.

Pulford is Hockey Hall of Famer Harvey Pulford, although this clip refers to Hod Stuart’s senior football debut with the Ottawa Rough Riders on Thursday, November 24, 1898.

Fun in Black and White

Sometimes, it hard to imagine that the people in really old black-and-white photographs actually lived in a colorful world. Yes, their music sounds funny to modern ears (and their humor often doesn’t!), but they found ways to have a good time! Maybe hockey fans in the early days of the Stanley Cup weren’t making as much noise as the fans in Chicago at the Madhouse on Madison the other night, with their amped up, piped in sound explosions, but they weren’t sitting on their hands either.

A few years ago, I was reading old newspaper stories about the 1903 Stanley Cup series between the Montreal Hockey Club (usually known now as the Montreal AAA) and the Winnipeg Victorias, played between January 29 and February 4 of that year. A story in the Montreal Herald referred to the fans amusing themselves by shouting out “scraps of songs.” Often, they broke out into In the Good Old Summer Time, which came out in 1902 and quickly became a hit. It was decidedly the dead of winter in Montreal, but the weather was unusually mild that day and the natural playing surface was soft and slushy. “Was it a reference to the conditions of the ice is a question we must leave to the gentlemen who sang it,” said the Herald of that song.


But it was the lyrics from another scrap of song the fans were singing that interested me:

“Who drove the Spaniard back to the tanyard?
Why Mr. Dooley-ooley-ooley-[ooley]-oo.”

Among the many items of my wide-but-not-very-deep historical interests are Teddy Roosevelt and the Spanish-American War of 1898. Given the timing, I figured it must have something to do with that. But what?

Turns out, Mr. Dooley was a fictional character created by a Chicago newspaper writer named Finley Peter Dunne around 1898. Mr. Dooley – according to Wikipedia – “expounded upon political and social issues of the day” with sly humor. (Think Jon Stewart, or Stephen Colbert.) Mr. Dooley became so popular that Dunne’s columns were soon syndicated across the United States. By 1902, he’d published five Mr. Dooley books. Teddy Roosevelt was big fan.

That same year of 1902, the American songwriting team of William Jerome and Jean Schwartz put Mister Dooley to music. Though it seems to have nothing to do with the plot of either play, the song was added to the Broadway staging of a 1901 London show called A Chinese Honeymoon when it opened in New York on June 2, 1902. It was also included in a stage production of The Wizard of Oz which opened in Chicago two weeks later and had moved to New York earlier in January of 1903. Mister Dooley was so popular, it sold over a million copies.

Sheet music

It might not have the same celebratory quality as Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis, which has become a huge hit with Blackhawks fans in recent years, but Mister Dooley was definitely an early earworm. Think “Who Let the Dogs Out / (Who, Who, Who, Who?)” only a lot less Calypso-Hip Hop and a lot more Tin Pan Alley.

Despite the fact there were already ten verses, each with a different version of the chorus, people seemed to enjoy writing their own new words to suit various occasions. And everyone was singing it; from school kids, to advertisers, to the Grand Duke Boris, brother of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, accompanied by a bevy of chorus girls while in Chicago in the late summer of 1902.


And what did Mister Dooley sound like? Well, have a listen!