History of the A's
The Old Grounds Remembered
THE OLD LACROSSE GROUNDS
WHERE THE SPORTS ACTION WAS
St. Catharines Standard
June 19, 1976
great changes have taken place in that area of St. Catharines, on
Catherine St. from Maple to Elm Streets, where now stands the Collegiate
Institute and Vocational School.
and living one block west of the Collegiate until 30 years of age, I was
quite familiar with this area in my boyhood days. On Catherine between
Maple and Elm Streets, approximately where the front entrance of the
Collegiate is today, was Oak Street. It ran to the back of the lots on
Wall St. (now Woodland) and was a dead-end street.
my time, between 1864 – 1874, a Mr. Edward James purchased the property
(except lot 16) from Oak St. to Elm St. and from Catherine St. to the back
lots on Wall St., and called it “Cremorne Gardens.” A considerable
part of this area was covered with trees. Mr. James was a nurseryman and
1877 advertisement records the following – “Cremorne Gardens,
Catherine Street Florist has on hand all kinds of choicest bedding and
window plants, in great variety, during April, May and June. Also choice
grapevines, etc. – Cremorne Park is acknowledged the best place in the
city for picnics, excursions, and pleasure parties.”
my early days, 1905 – 15, Cremorne Park was gone, changes had taken
place on Catherine Street. Mr. Daniel Hetherington, a former
schoolteacher, now school inspector, lived in the large house near Oak St.
with a barn and some other buildings of the former florist greenhouses.
went to school with Mamie and Bert Hetherington and played tennis many
times at their place. The late Fred Hetherington, a local lawyer, was a
member of this family. Along Catherine St. to Elm, were the homes of Peter
Leith, Jack Downey, and Wm. Bennett and around on Elm St. lived Chas. Joy,
father of Jimmy Joy, a great trainer.
the north side of Oak St., down to Maple St. and from Catherine to Wall
St. was open land. This was the “Old Lacrosse Grounds.” The Athletic
Lacrosse Club was established in 1877.
old Lacrosse Grounds was not like what you might see today if you go to
Montreal to see the 1976 Olympics. Nevertheless in 1890’s and to
1905–6, visiting teams from Montreal, Cornwall and Toronto coming to
play the Athletics drew crowds of 6,000 to 7,000. Lacrosse was the sport
of that day.
eight-foot high, closed board fence fenced in this piece of property.
There were a few knotholes that boys used to peek through to see the game.
I have no recollection of it ever being painted, nor were the grandstands
Catherine St. at Oak St., was a building that had two ticket windows and
about 10 feet on was the entrance gate. In this building were two
individual dressing rooms and a common shower between them. No lockers in
those days. Just a row of nails along the wall for your clothes and some
benches to sit on. The shower was a platform raised 10 inches off the
floor and lined with galvanized sheeting. You guess it – the only supply
of water was “Cold.”
familiar figure always seen at every game, standing outside by the
entrance, was “Joe” with his white, glass-enclosed popcorn machine. On
Thursday evenings, “Joe” would be at the band concerts in Montebello
the grounds you came to some bleachers about 10 rows high and shaded by
tall trees. Farther on at the centre of the grounds was a covered
grandstand over 100 feet long with 10 rows of seats that you paid extra
for, plus another set of bleachers with no protection from the sun or
rain. In the corner near Wall Street was the usual outside plumbing
accommodations of that period. There was a three-foot wooden fence between
the bleachers and the playing field.
Catherine Street at the corner of Maple was another ticket window and
entrance gate. Inside, about ten feet from the high board fence and
running the full length of the field, was a four-foot high wire fence for
standing room only. Outside the high board fence along Maple Street and
about 10 feet from the fence was a row of trees. It was the common
practice of men with single horse drays to drive between the trees and
fence, and stand on the drays and have a good view of the games. There
were many others who climbed upon the drays besides the owner.
of the lacrosse players lived in that area of St. Patrick’s Ward and I
knew them as neighbours. Frank and Reuben Williams lived across George
Street from my home. George Kalls was across Edmund Street from my home.
Lorne Tufford, a relative of Tom Hopgood, was another player I knew well.
There was Jack Downey, George Bennett and Joe Bowdler on Catherine Street.
Several carpenters who worked for my father played lacrosse. On Saturday
afternoon I would be waiting at Catherine and Edmund Streets to carry Bill
Glintz’s club bag so that I could get in the game for free. Bill worked
for my father.
still have memories of many lacrosse games played at the Old Lacrosse
Grounds. Vivid is my memory of Tony Dixon in goal at the Catherine Street
end of the grounds, when he received a shot on goal he just scooped it
over his head and the ball went over the fence on Catherine Street.
Shamrocks from Toronto always provided much excitement. They were the
“fighting Irish,” but we had boys that were their equal. Ed Hagan, Ed
Harris and Murray Stagg would soon be in the fray. One man seen at all
games was Dr. Chapman. He always carried his little black bag and when a
player was hurt he was on the job promptly. Many of my pals of that
period, like myself, still remember Dr. Chapman, but not with his little
black bag. Whenever a fight started, Doc. Chapman was the first out of the
grandstand onto the field with both fists swinging.
were so many names I could record that I remember. There was John Dawson,
not a player but president of the Athletics for many years and a strong
supporter of the club. Trainers like J. Allen, C. Honsinger and Hedley
Phipps. Billy Fitzgerald Sr., Bill Hope and George Kalls were outstanding
in field lacrosse. I remember seeing the players on the defense receive
the ball and run three-quarters the length of the field – about 100
yards – then pass it to Billy Kalls or “Dubous” MacGlashan on the
home. These two small but very fast players would twist and turn, elude
the big defensemen and backhand it in the net. Every bit as exciting as
what you see in box lacrosse.
many years in lacrosse and baseball the name of one local family was
always in print, “The Gayders.” They were John, Fred, Art and Frank,
and they all gave a good account of themselves in every game they played.
the years 1900 – 1910, the Athletics Lacrosse team had a great supporter
in W. B. Burgoyne, the founder of the St. Catharines Standard. Looking
over the Standard of 1903 – 4, I noticed that every Monday’s paper had
large front-page coverage of the game that was played on Saturday
afternoon. No wonder they drew such large crowds.
Old Lacrosse Grounds was used for other activities than lacrosse, baseball
and rugby. Barbeques and other civic celebrations were held there; the
Collegiate Institute held it’s annual field day, as did the different
churches in St. Catharines.
Around 1930, box lacrosse replaced field lacrosse after the “Old Lacrosse Grounds” had been taken over for the Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in 1923.
see layout of the old lacrosse grounds...Map of the Lacrosse Grounds