This week's Rewind is the regular monthly feature 'Years Ago' and this month it's a trip back to the 1930's as Robert Smith delves pretty deep into the archives for a few old short stories about the people and the times as they then existed. Thankfully we have pictures that capture the people, the times and the ever changing evolution of our world.
A racing scene from the 1930's
1936 - Dominion Day in Orangeville
Left - Right: Clint Hodgins, Dr. Riddell holding trophy, Hon. Earl Rowe congratulating owner's son Fred Saint (authors collection)
The following is a recap of the 1936 race day at Orangeville, Ont. as it may have appeared back then.
Dr. Riddell's famous First of July race day was again a huge success with a large contingent of horses in competition. The featured Three-Year-Old Pace was won by a gelding named Lee Counterpart from the barn of Joseph Saint of Wallaceburg, Ont. In the bike was the young reinsman Clint Hodgins. His appearance was somewhat unexpected as he was sporting a cast on his arm as a result of an earlier racing accident. A special sling and attachment to the lines were made to accommodate his "handicap" which did not seem to bother him. Purse for the race was $500 and Hon. Earl Rowe was on hand to join Dr. Riddell in the trophy presentation made to Fred Saint, the owner's son and trainer.
1938 - New Record Set At Fredericton, N.B. Meeting
A four-day early fall meeting at Fredericton's Exhibition Park brought out some of the best horses in the region as racing was carried out under ideal conditions. Horses from four Provinces and several States shipped in for the race days. On opening day horses owned by stables from P.E.I., Quebec and Nova Scotia were winners in the three races, each one going three heats.
On closing day Saturday a large crowd was on hand to see a new record set for Maritime-bred horses. Josie The Great, described as a "stout hearted mare" was the big newsmaker as she paced a mile in 2:08 1/4 to set a new record. Owned by Lester F. Bickerton of Amherst, N.S., she was cleverly driven by noted reinsman Johnny Conroy. This event carried the top purse of the week at $300.
All of the week's events were run off on schedule but the last event of Saturday was called after two heats due to darkness. Sunshine Express owned by Jos. Turgeon of Edmundston, N.B. was declared the winner after taking the first two heats. Most of the region's top horse people were involved including Earl Avery, Heber Sweeney, Joe O'Brien, Ollie Ruderham, George Callbeck, Earle and Tyndall Semple and Richard Jabalee to name a few.
1938 - Fair Racing in Vermont
A scene from a race day at the Rutland, Vermont Fair many years ago. The first Vermont State Fair took place in 1846, making this one of the oldest State fairs in the United States.
The following item appeared in the "Down The Backstretch" column found in the Charlottetown Guardian issue of Sept. 17, 1938 penned by Col. Dan MacKinnon.
"Glen Rublee, secretary of the famous Rutland Vermont Fair, ran into hard luck last week when two days of racing had to be postponed on account of rain. However that did not daunt Glen who put the three days races on in one, making a total of 29 heats raced -- a world's record."
A view of the Rutland Vermont grandstand. A closer look shows that "Rutland" is shown on the roof of the old wooden stand. Year unknown.
1939 - New World Record For Team To Pole
The half-mile track located at Altamonte, N.Y. became the scene of a new world record in the summer of 1939. Although harness racing seldom includes teams of horses racing, the record books have always carried the existing world record. The record at the time was set in 1916 thus it had been in the record books for some 23 years. It was previously held by a team with the names Colleen, a five-year-old mare and The Deputy Sheriff, a six-year-old gelding. Their driver was listed as H.H. Thomas. There was no track listed.
On this occasion two very accomplished horses were teamed up for this trial of speed. This was somewhat of an oddity that such high class horses would be used for an exhibition mile. The two horses who set the record were Billy Direct 1:55 and The Widower 1:59 1/2. Driven by Charlie Fleming, one of several driving sons of the great Canadian reinsman Vic Fleming, the pair accomplished their goal of bettering the existing record. The new mark attained was 2:04 1/4.
Billy Direct on the outside and The Widower are shown racing as a team as they set a new world record for "Team To A Pole." Hitched in a modified sulky and driven by Charlie Fleming, they had an automobile with them used as a "prompter". Their time of 2:04 1/4 set a new world record which stood for many years.
Note: At the time this record was set Billy Direct held the world record for the fastest mile in history, 1:55 set the year previous to this in 1938.
Quote For The Week: "Why do I have to get old to be wise?" - Unknown
Who Is It?
The caption on this picture tells us where and when this was taken but one important detail is not included. Who is that strapping young man on the far left in the white T Shirt at the head of the winning horse? Let us know who you think it is.
Who Else Is It?
Can you put a name on this fine looking gentleman who was an important figure in Canadian harness racing for many years?
Blast From The Past: Car Vs. Horse
The above item was culled from a 1918 issue of the Exeter Advocate weekly newspaper. (Item courtesy of Exeter native and Rewind follower Bev Heywood)