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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1950s

Published: September 3, 2016 11:26 am ET

Last Comment: September 4, 2016 7:23 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's edition of Rewind takes a 'Years Ago' trip back to the decade of the 1950's. A collage of old pictures recall many of the personalities of the day. It is interesting to note that most of the people mentioned have modern day ties with those who continue in the sport.

1951 - Thorncliffe Park In Its Second Season

July 7 - Thorncliffe Park welcomed the trotters and pacers for their second season at this recently renovated track in Leaside, Ont. Among the many small outfits bedded down for the six week session is the Hie and Gordon Stable of Cobourg, Ont. The two partners -- Jack Gordon and Cliff Hie are both capable drivers and have a unique way of sharing their duties. Jack is present at the track Monday through Wednesday and Cliff switches places On Thursday until Saturday. This allows each gentleman time to attend to their other business interests back home as Cliff picks up and delivers livestock and Jack tends to his farming duties while not at the track.

Their two top performers are full brothers: Thor Grattan, now a five-year-old; and Hal Grattan Patch, one year younger. This pair, which the stable owners secured from their neighbour John R. Ball of Baltimore, Ont., have been extremely consistent winners for the Hie - Gordon partnership. The stable has some pretty reliable caretakers in training who just happen to be homegrown products. Young Garth Gordon and Carman Hie are still quite young but both have already shown their interest and willingness to help in any way possible. One job they love is heading to the race office to pick up head numbers and saddle pads as well as the track-supplied silks which may vary with each race.

Thor Grattan is pictured at Thorncliffe Park with co-owner Cliff Hie in the sulky. This steady performer made a total of 34 visits to the winner's circle from 56 starts at a multitude of Ontario tracks during the 1951 season. He finished in the first three positions on 50 occasions.

1952 - Racing Showplace at Quebec City

The facilities at Quebec City are now considered the most attractive and modern track in Canada. Operated by the Quebec Harness Racing Club, it just set a new record for the number of meetings offered in a season when 98 dates were presented for 1952. A whopping total of 312,115 fans paid admission which is a far cry from the recent past. In 1948 an electrical system was installed thus allowing for night racing which has proven to be a huge success. Over the past few seasons the stabling capacity has been increased from 154 stalls to the current 485. During the off season the racing surface is being reworked and many observers believe it may become the sport's fastest half-mile track.

Much of the credit for the surge in popularity of this track is due to its efficient management. Pictured above are Henri Bertrand, Secretary; Jacques J. Gravel, President; Jos. Cauchon, Board Chair; and Jules Giguere, Race Secretary and Classifier (Harness Horse).


Shown above is an aerial view of the Quebec City track as it appeared in 1952. It was a beautiful spot which even had its own greenhouse to grow the more than 40,000 plants that adorned the track area. A jogging track can be seen inside the main oval. (Harness Horse).

1953 - Canadians Doing Well At Batavia Downs

October 1953 - With most of the major racing completed back in Ontario a couple more stables have relocated to Batavia Downs where the season will continue until November. A few of the trainers and drivers with Canadian connections previously present include Johnny Chapman, Floyd Milton, Ed Arthur, Harold Wellwood, Joe Hodgins, Bud Gilmour and Lorne Tolhurst. They have been recently joined by the stables of Duncan Campbell, and Jack Mehlenbacher, the latter a man who spends his winters as an N.H.L. hockey referee.

Dating back to its opening in 1940 Canadians have always done very well at the Batavia oval. With racing six nights per week and a long season, it is a desirable place to race as well as being just a short drive from many Canadian destinations with many crossing via the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie connecting with Buffalo.

Vanduzen, held by assistant racing secretary John O. Marra, after winning the Peter Provenzano Memorial Trot. Owner-driver Jack Mehlenbacher accepts trophy from Donna Lu and Barbara Ann Provenzano, daughters of Downs Pres. Pat Provenzano, along with Elliot Cushing, Assistant to the President. The race, an annual Batavia fixture, is named in memory of the late Peter Provenzano, Rochester sportsman and brother of the Downs' president. Young Miss Barbara Ann in later years headed up the Batavia management team. (Harness Horse Photo).


Another Batavia Downs cooler will make its way back to Canada as Argyel Grattan and owner-driver Duncan Campbell appear in the winner's circle. On the far right is London Free Press harness writer Jack Parks along with Elliot Cushing representing the track. (Harness Horse).

1954 - Locke Farm Standing Three Stallions For 1954

Broodmare owners in Eastern Ontario and Quebec have a trio of well-bred sires standing in the area at the farm of Parker Locke at Williamsburg, Ont. Offered for the 1954 breeding season are three stallions carrying exceptional blood lines. The farm is able to offer boarding for visiting mares at reasonable rates.

Mr. Locke is the son of the late Dr. Mahlon Locke, a world renowned foot doctor who treated patients from around the globe at his Williamsburg residence. The well-loved Doctor raced a number of horses back in previous decades most notably the roan mare Lily Part, who was handled by Cecil Champion. The stable currently has an outstanding performer aptly named Williamsburg who is the first foal of Lily Part.

An advertisement showing the Locke Farm stallions for 1954 (Harness Horse).

1959 - TDF Stable Scores A Win at Connaught Park

Stable names have been inspired by a wide range of ideas over the years but one currently in competition may rank up near the all time list for creativity. It is called the TDF Stable and is headed up by Mac Casselman of Pembroke, Ont. The stable, which started out with three partners -- Casselman, Jim Bryson and Cec Pappin took the name to stand for 'Three Damn Fools'. When one partner dropped out, the name was retained but then took on the meaning 'Two Damn Fools. Sure enough when the second partner dropped by the wayside the name was still appropriate with just a single owner as it then became 'The Damn Fool'.

While the stable's main performer Thunder Cloud was not exactly an overnight success, the group did get to have their picture taken in the horse's only trip to the winner's circle. The four-year-old son of Thunderbird made seven starts and earned $245.00 while taking a mark of 2:17.1. The smiling driver is Frank Baise.

September 4, 2016 - 7:23 pmThanks Robert for the TDF

Thanks Robert for the TDF Stable report!! That's my father Mac Casselman to the right of Thundercloud. TDF stable had many like Thundercloud. Our best horse was T.E.M. (named after Thomas Edward McCool from Pembroke, a hotel owner and car dealer). T.E.M. won "The Madawaska Mile" at Connaught. After that Frank Baise, our trainer, driver, (and a good one) took him to Montreal to race, and Connaught management told us to get the rest out of there. Zeron's had a whole bunch of barking dogs in stalls and we ask for those stalls and they let his dogs stay and threw our slow horses out !!! lol.

September 4, 2016 - 6:15 pmI wasn't very old back

Garth Gordon SAID...

I wasn't very old back then... 7, 8 and 9 years old in 1951, 1952 and 1953. But I have some great memories, like sleeping in the tack room with my dad and Cliff Hie. We were stabled beside Dunc Campbell when he had Argyle Grattan.

September 3, 2016 - 7:15 pmGreat job Robert. Brings back

Great job Robert. Brings back old memories. I just loved talking with Parker Locke. Parker was the brother of Ruth Locke (Rowe) who was married to William (Bill) Rowe.
Parker had the neatest droll and sure was a good horseman. He had many good horses that I remember being driven by Keith Waples. My first drive on the Jockey Club circuit was at Garden City Raceway.
I was driving the Favorite that night. My horses name was Harry Parker. A Don Parker colt. A really foggy evening. It had taken me at least 3 hrs to drive to Garden City.
Keith said to me. Watch my horse tonight. He's a little ouchy. His horses name was Bobbys Colt. Owned by Parker Locke.
I never saw Keith again. I made a break and finished last. Keith won with Parker's horse.
Keith and I have laughed about that many times.
I saw Keith at Georgian Downs last week. He looks great.
RIP Parker.

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