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SC Rewind: Years Ago - 1930s

Published: July 8, 2017 9:51 am ET

Last Comment: July 8, 2017 1:25 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind, Robert Smith delves fairly deep into the sport's archives to recall many items of interest from the decade of the 1930s in the monthly feature Years Ago. As many of the old pictures portray, things were a bit different back then compared to today.

1931 - Dufferin Park Adds To Its Grandstand

This season racing fans attending both standardbred and thoroughbred meetings at Dufferin Park in Toronto will witness quite a change in the facilities. The old park benches are gone and a magnificent wooden grandstand has taken the place of part of the ancient one that has witnessed many close finishes and many a pocketbook emptied over the years. The old steps leading up to the stand which had grown weary with wear have been removed.

Dufferin now boasts plenty of sheltered accommodation for its fans and it is hoped that the many times that fans were forced into the infield even in stormy weather will soon become a thing of the past. A modern entrance will greet the throngs who so dearly love this famous spot.

Note: Dufferin continued for another 25 years after this, finally ending standardbred racing in March of 1955. As many people will recall (if only from reading about it) the last race at the fabled racecourse was won by a pacing mare named Nancy Patch driven by Allan Walker of Owen Sound, Ont. He and his wife Viola's family are still very prominent in the sport.

1937 - Eleven-Year-Old Driver Makes History

Miss Alma Sheppard, who at the time had yet to celebrate her twelfth birthday, dazzled the Lexington, Ky. crowd and indeed the entire world of harness racing with her driving performance behind the sensational three-year-old trotter Dean Hanover. In her first public appearance in the sulky she piloted the speedy trotter owned by her father Lawrence Sheppard to a world record of 1:58 1/2 over the Red Mile oval. With coaching from the Hanover Shoe Farms' head trainer Henry Thomas who drove the prompter, she gave a masterful performance that may stand forever as one of the single greatest feats in the sport.

The times for the mile were as follows and take note that the 1/2 fraction was then in use. They reached the first quarter in :29 1/2; the half in :58 1/2; 3/4 pole in 1:28 1/2 and the mile in 1:58 1/2.

The great trotter Dean Hanover and his driver Miss Alma Sheppard prepare for their history making time trial at Lexington (Hoof Beats)


Young Miss Alma Sheppard with veteran driver Henry Thomas resident trainer at Hanover Shoe Farms who drove the prompter during Dean Hanover's record breaking mile at Lexington in 1937. (Hoof Beats)

1937 - Listowel Holds Highly Successful Meeting

June 3, 1937 - One of the largest crowds in recent memory gathered to witness a fine afternoon of racing at the Listowel track. Once considered one of the banner racing spots in the Province its popularity and success had waned earlier in the decade mainly due to the Depression. Today's racing marked the first time in the young season that a full field of trotters could compete on their own. On previous occasions they had been forced to compete with hoppled pacers.

A total of 12 heats were contested and for the most part blanket finishes were the order of the day. The only trotting event of the afternoon was won by Bella Peters, driven by Vic Rowntree. The pair finished second to May Peters, driven by Floyd Milton, but won the second and third heats with the fastest time of 2:15 recorded by the Milton mare. Taking third place was Dr. Houze of Mitchell who piloted his own Calumet Brady.

The afternoons featured pacing event with a purse of $200 was won in three straight heats by Simcoe Harvester, owned by Mr. J.T. Payette of Penatang Ont. and capably driven by Cecil Champion. The 2:11 1/2 second heat time was by far the fastest of the day. Other familiar names competing on the card included Clint Hodgins, Harold Berry, Burleigh Hodgins, Gid Litt, Ed Lantz and Charlie Brough.

1930s - Fair Racing In New England

For many years numerous small Towns in the New England States hosted great harness racing events as part of their annual agricultural fairs. Because of their proximity to the Eastern Provinces of Canada our horsemen often competed, particularly in the States of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

A bay mare named Tulsa Brewer with an unidentified stable hand near the HussCline tents at Cumberland County Fair Grounds, Gorham, Maine in this 1937 photo. Just to the left a stable goat can be seen in the background. The photograph is signed in the lower right corner by photographer Guy Kendall.


Action in the first heat of the 2:20 Class trot at the Grand Circuit Meet, Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H., August 1, 1932. The race track scoreboard, race clock, and finish line marker can be seen in the background of the photo. (Kendall photo)


The above photograph of an unidentified man sitting on the steps of a concessions truck at Topsham Fairgrounds sometime in the mid-1930's. The photo captures the slate menu boards which include the specials of the day. Included on the menu are toasted frankforts and hamburgers for 10 cents; ham and baked beans for 25 cents; and a sirloin steak or grilled pork chop for 35 cents. Even the sound of it all kind of makes a person hungry. (Photo from Guy Kendall collection)

1939 - Former Canadian Horseman Successful On U.S. Circuit

Walter Michaels, a prominent Ohio horse owner, displays the trophy won by his horse Brooklin. He is flanked by the horse's caretaker on the left and his trainer and driver "Hump" Morrisson on the right (Harness Horse) ​

Sept. 1939: Former Canadian horseman Alvah T. "Hump" Morrison is holding his own on the tough Ohio racing circuit. In a recent event for two-year-old pacers, Morrison showed the way with a flashy colt named Brooklyn as he bested a field of eleven at the Columbus track. Six of the entrants were by sires who possessed a record of 2:00 or better, quite a remarkable happening at this time. The colt, which he developed for owner Walter Michaels of Bucyrus, Ohio, took all three heats and in the process recorded the outstanding time of 2:10. In addition to the purse money the owner was the proud recipient of a handsome trophy provided for the event by the Dayton Rubber Co.

Following the final heat Mr. Michaels took the microphone and heartily thanked the trophy sponsors and also gave high praise to his colt's conditioner, Mr. Morrison, who originally hailed from Tilbury, Ont. located in western Kent County.
Editor's note - Just exactly where the nickname "Hump" originated is unknown.

July 8, 2017 - 1:25 pmI am glad you are old enough

I am glad you are old enough to remember all this good stuff from the past Robert!! I actually worked for the Walkers on the OJC circuit in later years. GREAT family, I still am in touch with some of the Walkers. The groom of the horse Brooklyn looks amazingly like Frank Sinatra to me? I was born in 1945 and can vaguely remember being at Dufferin Park with my Dad. Something about a very large tree there when you went in ? Thanks for the memories Robert.

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