It is, of course, to be expected, after six or seven decades, but my list of surviving childhood heroes is quickly running towards empty.
Two more passed away this week, in Elsio Vanelli and Pinoke McIntyre.
Both were part of a remarkable sporting era which spanned from my birth during WW2 to a few years after my graduation from Crowe.
During that two decades, the Home of Champions developed its reputation – which led, of course, to its eventual naming as such – as a sports city extraordinaire. In almost every activity, this area produced winners – and winners, including teams, mostly composed of area natives.
I vaguely remember, for instance Elsio’s two hitter against King Eddy Feigner and his Court at Butler Park. It was a rare event, an opponent besting Feigner, but Elsio’s knuckle-dragging orthodox style flummoxed the King and the all-star calibre threesome that backed him up.
Trail’s victory in that game is likely the reason the King and his Court were a long term draw for promoters here, and a reason Feigner alway said this was his favourite place to play. The thought that games would be competitive drew partisan local crowds the way the mere spectacle of the King and his Court probably never could have.
Elsio went on, as so many of my other faves, to contribute long and well to his community. How good a guy must you be, for instance, to be a Cominco boss in a rougher area of operations, during a time of growing tension between the company and Local 480, and yet receive an award from that same union for your care and handling of the union members under your supervision? Nuff said.
During that time, of course, the area was also excelling in softball/baseball, track and field, curling, skiing, and hockey. Pinoke was an outstanding member of championship teams in two of those endeavours. In 1960 he played at the world championship of softball, in 1961 he became a world hockey champion, and throughout he was a well known member of local teams in both sports.
For the McIntyres, “good things come in small packages,” should have been on a family crest. Pinoke was the pre-eminent skater, but other brothers were pretty good, too, and a couple of those were actually better on the diamond than Pinoke himself.
Pinoke was industrious as a competitor, and off the fields/arena ice, too. Not mentioned in his obit is the grocery delivery business he ran for Super Valu – at which I moonlighted as a beginning Cominco worker. He was better know for dabbling in sporting goods, of course, but had a hand in lots of areas.
Pinoke was, of course, part of the 60 Allan Cup team whose national finals featured two of the, “Golden Age of Goaltending,” standouts from the area. Cesare Maniago and Seth Martin, probably the best amateur goalies in the world at the time faced each other from 200 feet apart in that series, which eventually produced Chatham Maroons as champions of Canada and the Smoke Eaters as Champions of the world.
Two images come to mind from that series. The first the sight of the diminutive Pinoke squaring off against the towering Cesare – home town ties be damned – in a mismatch in which one, “fighter’s,” fists could barely reach the other’s chin. The second was probably the hardest clean body check I have ever witnessed, in person anyway, administered by a Chatham defender named Copper Ledy (not sure of the spelling, but it pronounces right) Poor Eddy Christofoli bore the brunt of that.
Lots more accomplishments, and boyhood heroes and friends, came out of that golden era – more than a book’s, never mind a column’s worth, of worthwhile memories. The people that created those memories are dwindling away, in person, but the accomplishments, and the memories, persist.
RIP, old icons.