Some Historical Highlights

1904 - 1954

Taken from FIFTY YEARS OF SPORT ON THE BACK RIVER a Historical Sketch of the Cartierville Boating Club 1904 -1954 Prepared for the Anniversary Celebration August 1954
On the occasion of our Fiftieth Anniversary it is interesting and inspiring to look in retrospective upon some of the events and conditions which contributed to the growth, progress and traditions of our Club.
A Chronological presentation of all the happy events and the many problems which rewarded the efforts or tried courage of the members who preceded us would be impossible and doubtless somewhat monotonous.
The course steered by a club such as we now enjoy is determined in a large measure by a multitude of 'little things' which do always find their way into the minutes of formal meetings; they are often recorded only in the memories of a few remaining charter members who were active at the Club's inception and of some older members who played a part in its early struggle for maturity.
But we can look back on some of the events, which have contributed to the present state of our assets, both tangible and intangible, and this should help us to celebrate our Fiftieth Anniversary in its proper perspective and with considerable pride.
Our history as a chartered club dates to 1904, but sometime before that (probably in the summer of 1903) the seed was planted. It seems that at that time an enterprising person living in the neighborhood of Bourdeaux had announced his intention of forming a boating club. He proposed to cater to a group of young men who were in the habit of congregating of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at one of the recognised gathering places - in particular the hotel at Bourdeaux. When it appeared to some members of this group that the proposition was motivated with a view to commercial gain, they conceived of idea of forming a club of their own at Cartierville.
One day soon after, three printed posters appeared at strategic locations in Cartierville, inviting those interested in forming such a club to attend a meeting. One of these posters appeared at the "electric car" terminus on Gouin Boulevard; another was placed at Meunier's Hotel where the meeting was to be held; the third was placed at the Lachapelle Bridge, which was then a toll bridge. The poster at the bridge attracted a few young men who kept their racing canoes in the tollhouse at the bridge, among them Elsdon Radford, Bob Costello, and George White. Motor boat owners who enjoyed their sport in the vicinity of Cartierville were also interested.
At the meeting in Meunier's Hotel there was an abundance of interest but very little money. But it was not long before an option on a piece of land was purchased by two of the organisers for $500. A builder was found who would construct a clubhouse for $1,000 and the struggle for the necessary money began. The clubhouse went up ion very short order a matter of two months and this was made possible by "advances" of $200. each from five of the original "members". How or when they were eventually paid is a matter of conjecture; but members, neighbors and friends were persuaded to subscribe for shares of $5 each.
On October 1904 the Municipal Corporation of the Parish of St. Laurent, acting with the authority invested in them by the Provincial Legislature, was pleased to grant them the request of the members to be constituted as a civil corporation. This authorization was duly registered in the supreme Court, share certificates were then issued to the subscriber, the property conveyed to the "corporation" and the Cartierville Boating Club Commenced its formal operation with Thomas Sonne as President, W. F. Thompson as Vice-President, E. Drolet as Secretary and Louis Madore as Treasurer. Mr. Drolet designed the Cartierville flag, without alteration, has been our emblem ever since.
Though the financial problem was severe, it was gradually being mastered and the members were able to hold a regatta in the same season that the clubhouse was built. Elsewhere in this booklet is a picture of the clubhouse on that occasion. Some of our present members may be struck by its resemblance to our present clubhouse. And well they might be, because it Is the same basic structure (with additions, improvements and new under-pinnings) that we still occupy.

Club in 1904

Your "historians" were surprised to learn that in the early years of the Club' existence Protestant church services were held in the clubhouse on Sunday mornings. They were conducted by the various denominations and the collection was sent to the Grenfell Mission.
At this point we should remind our readers that the water sports and regattas enjoyed a very prominent place among athletic events at the turn of the century. Many other clubs were well established and very active, such as Grand Trunk, Lachine, St. Lambert, Longueuil, Ste. Rose and several clubs on the lakeshore. In spite of transportation facilities being what they were in those days, one of the regattas staged in1903 attracted about 2,000 spectators. Another newspaper report of that era indicates that a steamer was scheduled to leave the Lachine wharf on Saturday afternoon to take spectators to a paddling regatta at one of the lakeshore clubs. Many of the regattas included motorboat, sailing and swimming races as well as canoeing and represented an important day's outing for participants and spectators alike.
Cartierville's first regatta was staged with the help of the Grand Trunk Boating Club who very kindly lent their experience and racing equipment. Details of it are not available. But it was a good beginning and it attracted a good number of spectators from among the summer residents of the area and from city dwellers in the heart of the city. It marked the beginning of our relationships with our sister canoe clubs, with whom there has been a keen and intense rivalry ever since. The keenness of interest in those days is illustrated by the fact that the racing canoes were loaded on a horse-drawn wagon and left Cartierville on Thursday night in order to reach such places as St. Lambert, Grand Trunk or Lachine in time for the Saturday races.
Being one of the younger clubs, it was not until around 1910 that our Club could develop its paddlers to the point where they were a real threat to the champions from other clubs. But in the years 1912 and 1913 the Cartierville War Canoe, captained by G. E. Radford, dominated the regattas around the Island of Montreal and bowed only to a very strong Toronto Canoe Club crew in the Dominion Championship Regattas of those two years.
Most of the fifty-odd members who were on the membership roll in 1904 stayed with the Club for many years, and the list grew steadily. The shareholders took full responsibility for the policy of the Club until 1910, when it was felt that a committee elected by the membership at large, as distinct from the directors representing the shareholders, should take an active part in guiding the affairs of the Club. From then until 1931 the policies and problems of the Club were settled at combined meetings of the "executive" committee and the "directors."
The First World War placed the Club in a most precarious position as far as manpower and finances were concerned. Enlistments totalled 67 from a senior membership of about 125. Our members on active service brought distinction to themselves and honour to their Club. The Honour Rolls and plaques in the clubhouse are a tribute to their patriotism and a memorial to those who did not return.
After the war, able executives and loyal members were able to resume the growth according to the traditions and fine example set by their predecessors. Paddling competition was resumed, boathouses were added to those originally built in 1906, and there was even talk of a new clubhouse. More important, a fraternal spirit among members was firmly moulded. The property was not as "well-dressed" as it is today. It was not until 1929 that the retaining wall on the shore was completed to provide the lawns which we now enjoy. Many will recall an era when mudfights were an accepted form of amusement and relaxation on Sunday mornings. The ammunition was available in large quantities in the area that we now call the "centre lawn." A truce was always followed by a swim and the donning of the white flannels for the more formal relaxation of the afternoon. It will also be recalled that ladies were not, at that time, allowed on the Club grounds until after the noon-hour. The following extract from the minutes of 1929 indicates how conditions have changed: -
"Objection was voiced to resident members parking their cars on the new lawn overnight. Mr. Orkin volunteered to speak to the offending members, advising them if they did not keep their cars on the ground specified that they would not be allowed to bring their cars into the grounds at all."
In the late 1920's a project got underway which was destined to be the most important milestone in the Club's history. After a stupendous amount of effort on the part of two of the original shareholders who had been able to maintain a continuous close affiliation with the Club, Mr. E. W. Barlow and Mr. G. E. Radford, and other devoted but newer leaders in the Club, such as Mr. M. T. B. McIntyre and Mr. B. M. O'Sullivan, shareholders agreed to dispose of their shares to a new Cartierville Boating Club with a view to cancellation of the said shares. The "new" Club purchased the outstanding shares for $15. Each in 1931, cancelled them and began to operate under a new charter from the Provincial Government. The ownership of the Club since that time has been to meet changing conditions, is reflected in our present sound position. There is no doubt that it permitted the further development of the Club toward the objectives envisaged by the charter members.
From 1931 until the beginning of the Second World War our paddlers continued to make their presence felt at C.C.A. regattas. Most of us recall the particularly fine effort of 1938 when seven of our paddlers travelled to Kingston. Six of them scored points, but their aggregate of 19 points was just 1 point short of bringing Cartierville its first burgee, the flag which is emblematic of the Dominion Regatta Aggregate Championship. This honour has eluded us for fifty years.
During the Second World War paddling competition was not suspended, as was done between 1914 and 1918, but the main emphasis was put on juvenile paddlers. The results were very gratifying for our Club and very beneficial for the sport of paddling as a whole. As in the previous war, the mothers, wives and daughters of our members organized our efforts to keep in touch with our members on active service. Gift boxes and greetings were sent to them whenever and wherever possible. Enlistments in this war totalled 127, all of whom were granted honorary memberships for the duration and for one year afterwards. A review of the Honour Roll reveals that many of these fine boys were called upon to make the supreme sacrifice.
With due respect to the fine sportsmen and paddlers of earlier years, those representing our Club since 1946 have won more championships than any of their predecessors. Without detracting from the recognition due to the crews which won Eastern Division and Dominion championships, and to other fine crews which were sometimes separated from such honours by a matter of a few feet, we feel obliged to mention the record of our double-blade four crew of Ted Kenney, Vince Ramsay, Bernie Brunt and Bryan Gregor-Pearse. In the five-year period 1948 to 1952 this crew started in 40 senior races. They compiled a record of 28 wins, 9 seconds, 2 thirds and 1 fourth (totalling 40!).
In 1952, George Bossy was chosen as a member of Canada's Olympic paddling team after a fine record of wins in Junior and Senior Singles events in 1949, 1950 and 1951.
It was not until 1951 that our paddlers realized the ambition of winning a Dominion war canoe title. It seemed fitting that this boat should be captained by Walter "Buzzy" Radford, whose father had steered the boat that came very close to doing so in 1912 and 1913.
Not only have our Club members played their part as competitors in the paddling game but some of these same members and others have made a most important contribution to the executive welfare of the Canadian Canoe Association. Since 1919 four of our most prominent members have been honoured in being elected to the position of the Commodore of the C.C.A.
It would be remiss not to mention the generosity of members and friends who, over a lengthy period, have donated a large and valuable assortment of trophies to the Club. Many of these trophies have since been retired or won outright. Others are still in active competition, and their display is one of the features of our Annual Regatta Day.
One of the most recent additions to our property is a new "pontoon" which was constructed during the past year by a group of our own members. Mention of the "pontoon" should stir up many recollections in the minds of older members, because similar pieces of equipment which preceded this edition of our floating wharf were really the focal point of our activities. Many a young paddler took his first step into a racing boat, and hundreds of Montreal youngsters took their first dive into deep water from these pontoons. When anchored on the finish line for regattas, the "pontoon" is a meeting place for many an ex-paddler from our own and other clubs who makes at least an annual visit to Cartierville to help with official duties or just to meet old friends. These pontoons also gave rise to many problems from time to time when they suffered from storms, floods or just old age; or when it came to bringing them ashore for the winter with the tenderness necessary to keep them in a condition of seaworthiness.
The first pontoon, acquired from the Canadian Northern Railway, had previously served the construction of the railway bridge across the river just above the White Horse Rapids. It served its purpose well until 1921 when it broke its moorings in an ice shove and ended its useful life in the treacherous Laval Rapids which have long since disappeared through the erection of a hydro dam at Sault aux Recollects. The acquisition of its successor is best described by quoting a letter from Mr. Hugh Paton, a member of our club form 1904 until his death in 1941. Mr. Paton was one of the most prominent of Montreal sportsmen in his era, a keen supporter of innumerable sporting clubs and a good neighbour. In the later years of his long life Mr. Paton had to be content to follow our regatta events through high-powered glasses placed at strategic observation points on his "Island." Although Mr. Paton's annual gifts to the Club were many times the value of his membership dues, he insisted on being rendered his account for club dues in the same manner as other members. This is the interesting letter which Mr. Paton wrote wrote:
THE ISLAND, Bord a Plouffe,
28th May, 1921
Mr. E. W. Barlow,
Dear Sir: -
Your letter of the 4th inst., was duly received reporting the loss of the Club's pontoon and intimating that Mr. Galibert and yourself had been appointed a Committee to ascertain if I would loan my electric ferry for events occurring this summer, or otherwise selling her to the Club. As I would not entertain the latter proposition, I without delay advised you verbally that I would be glad to give the use of the boat for the whole of the season which offer was duly acknowledged by Mr Orkin, Secretary at request of the Members in a letter dated the 20th inst. Since then after further considering the matter I have come to the conclusion that I would donate the ferry to the Club, and having divested her of the storage battery, motor and other adjuncts which would not be wanted for your services, I sent a crew down and delivered her to your caretaker on Saturday 21st., and she is now moored alongside the Club premises where it remains the property of the Members, and I hope will long continue to be serviceable to them for the purposes intended.
A former ferry of mine was officially registered but the "LORD OF THE ISLES" never was, so I assure this letter will serve as a proper conveyance, but if deemed otherwise I can subscribe to such documents as may be considered necessary.
Her name is taken from the old established and celebrated steamer which still runs daily from Glasgow down the famous river Clyde, and I should like the Members to know this.
Yours faithfully,
(signed) Hugh Paton
The members shared Mr. Paton's sentimental feelings for the "LORD OF THE ISLES" and spared no effort to keep her afloat for as long as possible. She was kept afloat until 1946 even though it was necessary for our well-remembered caretaker, Jack Harbison, to sometimes arise in the middle of the night to pump her out. Her replacement also came from "up the river" a small automobile ferry which had been in service on the Lake of Two Mountains between Oka and Hudson for many years. A party of our members engineered the towing of this one down the river, a feat which required considerable care and skill. The pontoon was replaced by the current edition launched this spring and considered by a group of our members in accordance with the current "do-it-yourself" craze which is so much publisized these days. C.B.C. members have subscribed to this doctrine for many years, the House and Ground Committee always being able to suggest some form of exercise not listed among the regular club activities.
Mention of the House and Ground Committee recalls that, almost without exception, the Club has been able to employ caretakers who took a genuine interest in their association with the Club. Two of them, Dave Coutts and Jack Harbison, served for a combined total of almost 40 years and their names were a by-word to the members of their times. Our present steward, George Sampson, is most efficient and obliging and continues his predecessors' keen interest in the Club's property.
Mention of outdoor exercise in the form of hard work brings to mind the Claub's hard surface tennis court. This fine court was dug out of the blue clay and bush top soil by a group of returned-soldier-members in 1919. Joe O'Brien and Fred Dello led many a boy who had learned to dig trenches in France in a far more constructive digging effort. In 1921 another "soldier-boy" arrived at the Club in the person of Fred Belanger. It didn't take the older boys long to discover that Fred could push a court roller and sweep tapes and he has been doing it ever since. "Mr. Tennis", as Fred is affectionately known, is the one most responsible for the many long hours of fine sport and relaxation which hundreds of boys and men have enjoyed on the court throughout the past 35 years. Fred's efforts for tennis were culminated in 1938 when the finest of flood-lights were installed over the best of playing surfaces.
A resume of this kind would be incomplete if we did not mention the Club dances. To the best of our information these dances were features of the social life of the Club since the very early years. It is interesting to note that up until the mid-twenties these dances were held on Wednesday evenings. Your historians can well remember war canoe practice ending in the late twilight to the accompaniment of the dance orchestra in the clubhouse. They well remember, too, the warning of Teddy and Cliff Bowles to get to bed and leave the choreography to the "softer" members.
While it is suspected Saturday evening dances were avoided in deference to some members who wished to avoid dancing after midnight (on the Sabbath), it is quite certain that this was not a point of consideration before the first war. At that time that last "electric car", the only means o transportation left the Gouin Boulevard station at midnight.
We are told the Club corn-boils were first held at the Mr. J. W. Percival's residence on the river front down-stream from the Club. There was ample wharf space to accommodate the many canoes and motor-boats, gaily decorated with Japanese lanterns, which journeyed down from the Club to enjoy the delicious corn and outdoor dancing. It appears that the construction of Belmont Park in 1924 and the danger of the bonfire to the park buildings made a move to the Club premises necessary, where this much enjoyed annual event has been held ever since.
One of the notable characteristics of the Cartierville Boating Club is the continuity of family interest and effort. We are struck by the repetition of family names. A picture of almost any war canoe crew since the beginning would include a "brother act" starting with the Barlow brothers, the Cameron brothers, the Edwards brothers and continuing with the Mooneys, Berrys, Bowles, Radfords, Donnellys, Brunts, Morrisons, Hughs and the Brown and Bossy boys. For a continuos fifty years the name of Radford appears in the list of Club executives. The name of Barlow appears without interruptions for nigh on the first 33 years and the name of O'Sullivan during most of the past 29 years. The second generations of these families took part in the executive work of the Club with a knowledge of Club affairs that was almost instinctive and indeed most valuable.
Those responsible for preparing this little resume of the Club's first fifty years wish to thank those who have enlightened us with respect to some of the earlier vents. We hope that any omissions can be rectified at the next anniversary celebration when another generation of Cartierville Boating club members will be reminiscing.
To all former members who may chance to read this, we send our greetings, particularly to those who are prevented by distance or advanced years from renewing their acquaintance with us as often as we would like them to do.
Montreal , July 1954