Professional foot racing was a booming sport throughout the Georgian Bay 70 years ago but few people know that Collingwood once claimed a professional distance runner of national reputation.
His name was Roy Hewson and for a decade between 1906 and 1916 he ruled supreme in races over distance between three and five miles.
He was the postmaster at Batteau Settlement, just south of Collingwood, for many years. Hence his nickname “The Batteau”.
No person heard of him as a runner until he casually entered the five-mile race in the annual Domination Day Celebration at Collingwood.
Dressed in street clothes, he literally walked away from the field of twenty better than average runners of that era.
He was only fifteen years old at the time and he did not take the sport too seriously until two Stayner backers persuaded him to take a crack at professional running.
In the spring of 1909, he gave up his amateur standing and entered a race over a seven-mile course from Duntroon to the old Globe Hotel in Collingwood. He lost that race to Ed Haverson of New Lowell.
Haverson was a seasoned runner with two big time wins at the Canadian National Exhibition to his credit. On April 25th, 1909, Hewson beat Haverson soundly for a purse of three hundred dollars and a two hundred dollar side bet. Collingwood sportsmen Joe Ganley and Paddy Stone won ten thousand dollars on the race.
The skinny kid from Batteau went home with a silver cup in his arms and five hundred dollars in his pocket. Hewson won a dozen more important races and repeated his victory over Haverson in Barrie.
Three years later he won the three-mile Canadian title in Toronto but interest in professional running had died out. The purse was only fifty dollars. The Batteau hung up his running shoes and went back to the post office. Twenty-nine years ago he collapsed and died outside on the street after attending a hockey match in the Collingwood Arena.
Marcella Keith was inducted into the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame in July, l984 through her exploits in Track & Field and Alpine Skiing.
Marcella was a recognized Track and Field Champion in 1946, 1947 & 1948 at meets in Kitchener-Waterloo, Owen Sound, Orillia. In 1947, she was the C.C.I. Girls Champion while in 1946 & 47 Marcella was 1st in C.C.I.’s inaugeral alpine ski meet. In 1947, 1948 & 1949 Marcella was combined champion at meets in Huntsville, Own Sound & Collingwood.
Marcella was a graduate of Blue Mountain’s first Ski Patrol class in 1949. When not patrolling the hills to assist others, Marcella was crowned Collingwood Ski Club Senior Ladies Champion in 1963 & 1964.
Ancel was part of Collingwood’s greatest long distance running team back in the first ten years of this century. The other two members were the late Hec Lamont and Jack Rowe the dean of all Collingwood athletes.
Williamson also excelled at lacrosse, basketball and hockey but most of his team games were played in Vancouver, Seattle and New West Minister. We cannot gloss over Ancel’s career without bringing to mind the time he hitched up with Rowe and Lamont in an exhibition race in Collingwood against the great Tom Longboat. The race was run in the old Pine Street Rink in Laps over a five-mile distance. The three Collingwood runners were supposed to each run a mile and two thirds against the great Indian racer. Instead they kept popping out from behind pillars at one-hundred yard intervals. They beat the champion by a few steps. Tom Flanagan, Longboat’s crafty manager, was fit to be tied. It was Longboat’s Canadian barnstorming tour. Williamson won the Canadian Junior one-mile championship inTorontoin 1908 and just missed making the Olympic team. He won the Georgian Baycross-country run and then moved out to the west coast. In 1910, he played with the Vancouver senior lacrosse team, the British Columbia champions.
He moved on to New Westminister in 1911 and once again he was a member of a provincial title winning club. IN the next two yeas he was a member of Mann Cup winning clubs in Vancouver and New Westminister. He played senior baseball and basketball for New Westminister and a member of the Mount Lehman soccer team in the Fraser Valley League.
After being out of hockey for almost twenty years, he donned a pair of skates and played one season in the Vancouver Senior Hockey League.
While serving as a Sgt Major in the Canadian Army, he was good enough to win the army featherweight boxing title.
While serving in the Army, he played on two army lacrosse and hickey teams and it was here that he realized his greatest athletic thrill. He was assigned to the task of checking the great Newsy Lalonde.
The careers of many great athletes have been directly or indirectly affected by wars.
Such was the case of Alex MacMurchy, undoubtedly Collingwood’s most successful long distance runner who twice represented Canadain International meets and crowned his brilliant career by winning the Canadian and Allied Army Cross Country championship in Holland in 1945.
At the tender age of sixteen he had the brashness to enter a race against such top Canadian runners as Percy Wyer, Jim Bartlett and Jim Wilding over the full marathon distance of 26 miles, 385 yards.
He was matching stride for stride with the big guns until he tore off a running shoe between Washago and Orillia and dropped back to 25th place. He changed over to a pair of ordinary street shoes, passed sixteen runners and finished in tenth place.
A few months later he gave Scotty Rankine a good run in the C.N.E marathon.
The following year he won eight major races and finished fourth behind Dick Wilding, Bill Reynolds and Jim Cummings in the Hamilton marathon. It was his third marathon in two months. He rolled up another string of victories with the Forest Hill Recreation Club and then won the three-mile C.N.E. race over a field of the best runners of Canada and the U.S.A. In the British Empire trails at Hamilton, he lost a shoe at the end of the first half-mile lap and finished in his bare feet, only five yards behind Rankine and Longman. He was considered a cinch to make the Canadian Olympic team in 1939 but the war cancelled out the 1940 Olympiad and Alex had already joined the armed forces.
There was also the duty of serving in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1944-45. “In those days, scholarships were not worth that much and you had to work as well as pay a lot for the schooling, and there wasn’t enough to support that at home,” he said. Among his achievements were high school records in the 100-yard, 220-yard, 440-yard, 880-yard and mile races, along with the broad jump and shot put.
He also won several regional and military events thanks in part to the tutelage of local native and star athlete Charles “Bus” Portland. Cook was a keen volunteer and organizer who served as CCI student council president, and with the help of Marion Clarke and Blue Mountain Resort founder Jozo Weider, established the inaugural Collingwood Collegiate invitational alpine ski meet in 1947. He worked, then managed at Walker Stores outlets across Ontario and would settle in the hometown of his wife Mary, Carleton Place, where his family would own a store for 38 years until selling it in 1995.
During this time, Cook also served as a town councillor from 1960-64 and chaired a committee that oversaw business development for this Eastern Ontario region. He has three children, Richard, Mary Jane and Melinda. His granddaughter, Alex Cook, attends the famed Nick Bolleteri Tennis Academy in Florida, and grandson Brock Matheson plays for Brock University’s varsity hockey team after a successful run with the Tier II Jr. ‘A’ Kanata Stallions. “I can’t say my family hasn’t been holding up the athletic end of the bargain,” he quipped. “It’s been enjoyable to travel and see them perform.” In his later life, Cook still rides 10 miles a day on his bicycle, and is an avid skier and recreational badminton player. “It’s not a competitive thing. I just like to stay active and healthy!”
This evening, October 23, 2004, the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame welcomes Wallace ‘Wally’ Cook as an enshrined member for his Athletic achievements.
Paul, nicknamed “Percy” was born in Rouyn, Quebec on March 29, 1930, living in Collingwood from 1945 to 1960. Alongside his wife, Isabel, they have three children Douglas, Constance and Patricia. Paul was a graduate of Collingwood Collegiate.
Paul favoured the warmer weather to excel in his sporting career. Throughout the greener months, his accomplishments were numerous on the baseball diamond and track & field pitch. As a member of the Collegiate Track & Field Team, Paul established a long list of school records including;
Senior Long Jump – 20’ 6”, Senior Pole Vault – 11’ 4 ½”.These records, alongside numerous invitational titles culminated in 1950 when Paul was the All Ontario (OFSAA) Senior Pole Vault Champion.
Upon the completion of the Track & Field season, Paul’s baseball career began to materialize from his early days in the Collingwood Shipyard Town League (Softball) in conjunction with his numerous Fastball teams. As a pitcher in both disciplines, Paul took home many team titles including: 1952 – Collingwood Shipyard League (Softball), 1953 & 54 – Coop Insurance League Champs (Softball), 1955 & 56 – Allenwood Georgian Bay Rural Champions and MVP (Fastball), 1957 & 58 – Minesing Barrie Senior League Champions (Fastball), 1960 & 61 – North Bay League Champs (Fastball), 1963 – Northern Ontario Intermediate A Champs and All Ontario Finalists (Fastball), 1978, 81 & 84 – Alliston Softball Champions. Paul’s fastball career featured a No Hitter, 1 – One Hitter, 13 Championships and 2 MVP awards.
Paul became a member of the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame on June 12, 1998 in the Players’ category
Barry Barker, as a multi-sport athlete, was inducted in the Collingwood Sports Hall of Fame, in 1996.
Barry Barker is probably most renowned for his years as a Collingwood Collegiate track and field star in the middle distances. His personal best times in the senior boys’ 800 metres and as a member of the school’s 4 X 400- metre relay team have not come close to being beaten in 20 years.
Among his accomplishments on the track were Georgian Bay region championships and a bronze at the Ontario championships in the senior boys’ 800 metre in 1976.
He also stands as the only CCI athlete invited to the world-class Maple Leaf Indoor Games, and was both a junior and senior athlete of the years at CCI. He also participated in football, basketball and cross-country running.
During his high school years, Barker also found time to play Jr. “B” hockey in Collingwood as a reserve netminder for the 1975-76 OHA finalists, and he reached the same stage the next year with the Alliston Jr. ‘C’ Hornets.
He has been coach of the CMHA Midget Rep. team throughout the 80’s and 90’s while playing on two local slo-pitch teams that went to the Canadian championships.