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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1960s

Published: October 7, 2017 10:10 am ET

Last Comment: October 12, 2017 9:04 am ET | 5 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's 'Rewind,' Robert Smith reflects on the decade of the 1960s, a time of great growth in popularity surrounding all areas of harness racing. A number of performers both human and equine are recalled, along with a few old photographs that depict the times.

1961 - Ezra Deen Still Going Strong

One of the Country's top pacing stars, who was 11 years old and well into his second decade of racing, continued to show the form that had made him a consistent winner ever since he first set foot on the track back at old Thorncliffe Park in 1953. Ezra Deen was bred and raised by Mr. J.C. Cameron, an automobile dealer from Smith Falls Ont. who owned and raced both his sire Ezra Blue and his dam Wilodeen. This horse provided his owner with many pleasant memories through the years and apparently showed no signs of slowing down. A one time track record holder at Blue Bonnets while racing for driver Harley Harrison, he was still pacing within a couple of seconds of his lifetime best of 2:03 as shown by his time here of 2:05.2.

Ken Carmichael passed away in 2014 at the age of 76. The following tribute appeared on the SC Website:

"Ken will be forever remembered by his family and friends in the Ottawa Valley, friends in the Standardbred industry and the numerous friends he met throughout his life. All who met him felt the kindness, he was a warm, humble man who taught us to care about others, work hard and always take the time to help others whenever possible."

In 2015, an entire Rewind was devoted to this truly Canadian-bred horse.

Ezra Deen is shown winning a race at Richelieu Park with his young trainer and driver Ken Carmichael, who was 25 at the time, in the sulky. This was his first outing of the 1961 season that saw him win four races and add over $8,000 to his lifetime total which reached the $100,000 plateau that season.

1962 - Race Day At Parkhill Well Attended

Saturday July 27, 1962 - A great day of racing was held at one of the Province's oldest tracks and one often referred to as "Home of the Grattans" located at Parkhill, Ont. The day's activities were staged under the auspices of The Parkhill Turf Club headed up by President Robert McLinchey and Sec'y Treas. John A. McLeish. The program, which could be purchased for 25 cents, carried advertisements from at least 60 local businesses who purchased space as a show of support.

Favoured by sunny skies fans in attendance were treated to four races, each consisting of two heats and all four carried a purse of $200. Each contest resulted in close finishes but double-heat winners prevailed in every event. In the opener for green horses Mighty Stein was a double heat winner for owner and driver Cecil Crandon with Miss Amber Abbie driven by Jack Campbell for owner D.H. MacGregor of Parkhill second each time. In the second race Pat Forbes owner driven by Don McWilliams of Dutton was a winner in each heat while Curt Johnson owned by R. McNally and driven by Stu Simpson nailed down the place position each time.

In the third race Priscilla's Maid handled by Cecil Crandon for owner W.J. Shain of Stratford took both ends of the 2:25 Trot or Pace with a best time of 2:14 3/5 taken in the second heat. Phyllis Atom was second for Stan Williams.

In the feature event Deep Run Danny with Ted McLean of Goderich owning and driving was victorious in both trips and recorded the afternoon's fastest mile stopping the timer's watch in 2:11.4. A bang-up second both times was Beatrice Hat owned by W. McKeegan from Sombra and capably driven by Glen Tiffin while two horses shared third spot. In the first it was Calgary Hal (Mac Watson) owned by Orin Loomis and in the second stanza Coronation Derby got third money for owner and driver Stan Williams of Southwold.

A few other drivers listed on the program who did not hit the winner's circle that day were Marshall Moore, Earl Hyatt, Johnny Atmore, Lawrence Atmore, Lloyd Turvey, Ken Bogart, Morley Jones, Joe Booth, and Lee Taylor (Some driver names were missing from the program).

Note: Today like most of the old racing centres that once dotted the rural areas of our land, little remains at Parkhill beyond the memories. While annual races continued for a time after this they eventually were discontinued and after many years of use for training only, the track was removed. This spot will undoubtedly always be remembered as the home of the great performer Quite A Sensation that captured the hearts of race fans back in the 1980's highlighted by his victory in the 1986 North America Cup. Local owners Clair and Linda Porter trained their super horse at the old Parkhill location and to my knowledge still reside in the area. [One of the many ads in the program that day was sponsored by Porter Motor Sales & Service - Parkhill, Ont.]

1964 - Young Lady Driver Appears At Several Fairs

Racing is in full swing this season in Central Ontario, across the general area south of Georgian Bay. The tracks at Wasaga Beach, Elmvale, Orangeville, Arthur, Hanover, Listowel and Barrie have had well-attended race days. One rather unusual and interesting feature at a number of spots has been the appearance of young Miss Mary Phillips of Cooksville who has been in the sulky on a number of occasions. She first appeared in a powder puff derby at Wasaga Beach. She was assisted in securing her licence by well-known area driver Charlie Lawson of Orangeville, as she assists Chas. and his father Billy with the care taking and training of some of their horses. The senior Lawson even lent Mary a set of his silks for use on race days so his maroon and white colours are getting extra duty these days. Her licence allows her to drive at Fair meetings only.

Mary has had a number of drives behind Patty Counsel C. for owner Erd Brayford of Lisle, Ont., and also her father Gerald Phillip's pacer Earl Hanver. Her best day of the season occurred on Sept. 23 at Elmvale when she scored a two-heat victory with Patty Counsel C, edging out Royal Echo (Richard Carroll) who finished 2-3. Her winning time of 2:17 was the second fastest of the afternoon, one second slower than the 2:16 mile of Billy C Grattan (Wm. Carroll).

The Phillips family have enjoyed an interest in horses for some time; first with the show variety and later entered the harness sport through Dr. Hopkins also of Cooksville. Their longtime performer Earl Hanver's name is not misspelled; they were told by a rep. at the C.T.A office to drop the "O" as they could not use the Hanover tag when registering him. Earl's record currently stands at 2:11 taken as a four-year-old over the Milton track with Charlie Lawson in the bike.

Note: Mary did not take up driving as a career but has spent virtually her entire lifetime in the sport working along side her husband Richard Carroll and their children Alfie and Angie.

1967 - Connaught Park In The Winter of 1967-68: Fifty Years Ago

During this time period Sundays at Connaught Park created some memorable days as the horsemen braved the elements fraught with high winds, snow and frigid temperatures, while fans watched from behind the glass. During the winter of 1967-68 the temperatures were cold but the competition was hot. Rising to the top of the driver's ranks was 36-year-old Arthur Davignon, originally from St. Gregoire, Quebec, where he started his career in the business in 1950. An old clipping and a photo from Art's scrapbook help to tell the tales of the day.

Mar. 24, 1968 - All Excellence and driver Art Davignon appear in front of the Connaught Park grandstand following a rather slow winning time of 2:42. A check of the track footing may provide a glimpse of the weather conditions and thus the rather sluggish mile time.

1968 - Ten Young Drivers

​Can you put a name on all TEN of these young fellows? (Yes there are 10 as one is almost totally obscured by the young horse ?) I can supply names for the nine who are in plain view; the other I hope can be identified by someone in the reading audience.


I would like to send out a very special Thanksgiving greeting to the reading audience. This wonderful holiday provides us with a special reason to pause and give thanks for our countless blessings. For many it is an occasion spent with family and friends and the sharing of a meal that includes some great traditional items, many from the current harvest.

In the older days of harness racing Thanksgiving weekend usually signalled the end of the racing season. Certain places such as Simcoe, Norwood, Madoc and Burford were known for their late season race meetings; once they were completed horse people gradually eased into their winter routine. Some horses were let down for the winter and more attention was given to breaking colts and working on other tasks.

October 12, 2017 - 9:04 amI have heard from a couple of

I have heard from a couple of Rewind followers about this week's picture and they believe the person identified by Carman Hie as Gary Campbell may be his younger brother Glenn Campbell*? If anyone else can weigh in feel free to do so. Also the picture was taken at Garden City Raceway and the colt was supplied by Gordon Campbell, father of Gary, Glenn and Garth. The person partially obscured by the colt has been identified by several people as Larry Walker.

Back row (l-r) Wes Coke, Wm. Hicks, Carman Hie, Eric Langille, Larry Walker, *Glenn Campbell, Doug Arthur.
Front row (l-r) John Hayes Jr. (later Dr. John), Nelson White and George Wain.
Thanks for your input.

October 9, 2017 - 9:54 amI'll second Carman's

I'll second Carman's assessment, especially the comment about Hayes. Looks like Larry's colours.

October 8, 2017 - 9:39 amSpring Davignon sent the

Spring Davignon sent the following note :

Robert, thank you so much for including Arthur's history and success in your decades article. It did a tremendous justice for him and his family. At 86 he is still training one horse, a three-year-old at the Cumberland Maine fairgrounds in Cumberland, where he has been stabled since 1987.
Sincerely, Spring Davignon

October 7, 2017 - 2:09 pmWhenever you mention fair

Whenever you mention fair racing it brings a big smile to my face. I loved fall fairs and the chance to be up close and personal; not only with races horses, but show horses, heavy horses etc. Unlike most kids who headed for the midway when they got to the fair, I headed straight to the barns. Racing at the fairs was somehow different that regular racing. Oft times owners who didn't drive their own horses at race tracks, were in the bike at the fairs. There was a special sense of excitement when the horses were called, the gate started (or far more intriguing for me they started from a standing position or scoring from the inside horse) and then away they went as far and as fast as they could go. When you mentioned the Owen Sound track last week you didn't mention the famous third turn. I was only there once, but the track as I recall was an odd egg shape. Down the back stretch they came to what seemed a walk to navigate that turn. No wonder they were two or three seconds slower than other small tracks. I have several - I think maybe it might be or not - guesses for the ten drivers. I'll let people who are in the know tell us who they are.

October 7, 2017 - 1:22 pmI think its Larry Walker

Carman Hie SAID...

I think its Larry Walker behind the foal.
The others are, from top back left: Wes Coke (former version), Bill Hicks, Me (age 24), Eric Langille, Gary Campbell, Doug Arthur, George Wain, Nelson White and Dr.John Hayes (but I don't know whose colours he had on).

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