History of the A's

 
 

Rex Stimers Remembered

 
 

On April 1st 1966 one of the most colourful and beloved characters associated with the sport of lacrosse passed away. 

Rex Stimers, as much as anyone, symbolized the glory years of St. Catharines Athletics box lacrosse, and this even without ever playing the game. 

His friend Jack Gatecliff tried to pay tribute to Rex in his St. Catharines Standard sports column of Saturday April 2nd, but he found that one column was simply not enough . . . nor two, or even three. 

Today some will recognize his name only from the name on the wall of a non-descript arena in St. Catharines. But there was a time that he was the most renowned person in the Garden City, all built on his passion and support of local sports. 

But let Jack Gatecliff tell us the whole story of this Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Famer, as he did at that sad time in 1966. 

And the rest is history.  

REX STIMERS: SELDOM A DULL MOMENT 

by JACK GATECLIFF 

The St. Catharines Standard 

April 2, 1966 

Where do you start when attempting to chart, ever so briefly, the larger moments in the life of Rex Stimers. 

Do you go back to the autumn say in 1917 when the Royal Navy Q-boat on which he was second cook, was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean by a German submarine? 

The 16-year-old lad clung to a raft for 12 hours before he and just two other survivors were picked up from the icy waters, in one of the many World War I naval disasters. 

Or do you go back even farther, to 1909, when he was mascot of the University of Toronto football team which won the Grey Cup under coach Dr. Harry Griffith, later to become headmaster of Ridley College? 

Perhaps the Rex Stimers, as thousands knew him, really came into being when he made his radio debut in 1924 as a member of a Toronto singing group which presented Saturday night programs from the Prince George Hotel. 

It may be even more accurate to say that his career in radio actually got underway a winter night in Kitchener in 1926 when he broadcast a boxing card. 

For the next eight years he combined a sales job with Imperial Oil with freelance sports announcing for stations in Kitchener, Brantford, Hamilton and Preston. 

In 1934 he gave up his position with Imperial Oil, settled in St. Catharines and started an association with Radio Station CKTB which spanned 32 years and thousands of sports broadcasts. 

Rex may not have been born in St. Catharines, but he wasted little time in becoming this city’s No. 1 booster and certainly one of its best-known residents. 

His favourite answer when quizzed as to his background was “I was raised in Toronto, but the best thing that ever happened to me there was getting on the train which brought me to St. Catharines.” 

It was Rex who tagged his beloved Niagara District “The Banana Belt” and he, in turn, received more than his share of nicknames. 

His piercing shouts which threatened to blow out crystal sets, tubes and transistors, as radios developed over the years, prompted the late Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh to call him “The Voice” as long ago as 1935. 

Columnist Jim Coleman later dubbed him “The Lung.” His long-time friend Tommy Morrison of Welland, used the term “The Foghorn”; he was “The Tonsils” to Milt Dunnell, now sports editor of The Star; “The Larnyx” to Vern Deeger of the Montreal Gazette; “The Throat” to former Toronto Telegram sports editor Hal Walker. 

After sitting beside him during a junior hockey game, Toronto Globe-Mail sports editor Jim Vipond called him “Old Beetface,” referring to his complexion, which became more and more florid as the game progressed. 

These were not derogatory terms, mind you, but affectionate descriptions by his friends in the business of sports writing and sportscasting. 

Colourful both on and off the microphone, sometimes infuriating when he refused to give the score of the games (“Is it my fault if people tune in late?”), he was a man of intense loyalties to the people he worked for and with. 

During 18 years of traveling thousands of miles to out-of-town hockey and lacrosse games with Rex, we discussed subjects ranging from the first chain-driven car he drove as a youth to the Royal Family. 

He always insisted that the biggest improvement in automobiles in the past 50 years was the durability of tires. 

“I remember the day when anyone driving from the Niagara District to Toronto without getting a flat tire talked about it for weeks,” he once said. 

He was a great admirer of the Royal Family and one of his happiest recollections was being presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they made a brief stop in St. Catharines in 1939. 

Rex was an alderman at the time. 

However, in all our conversations we can never recall him criticizing any fellow sports announcer of having anything but the kindest remarks for his employers…the sponsors and staff at the St. Catharines radio station. 

Two years after becoming a fulltime radio announcer (1936), he started his regular 6:45 p.m. show “The Spice of the Sports News.” 

His first sponsor was the Toronto-St. Catharines Transport Company, owned by his good friend and sportsman, the late H. G. (Touch) Woods. 

He immediately started a club for youngsters known as “The Trans-Sport Club of the Air.” 

There was no charge for membership, but each youngster, most of them ranging between the ages of seven and 15 years, had to sign a pledge card which bound them to doing homework regularly, playing sports cleanly, dressing neatly and abstaining from cigarettes. 

By the time the club ceased to exist in the early ‘40’s, there had been more than 10,000 card-carrying members from many sections of Ontario and deep into New York State. 

For a short while he carried a regular feature on his program known as “The Daily Boost” and “The Daily Knock.” 

A gong was hit a resounding wallop in the studio and Rex would praise an athlete for an especially good performance. 

Seconds later he would give “The Daily Knock,” criticizing some person or some incident in sport which had displeased him. 

This didn’t last too long. 

“I found plenty of athletes to praise,” he said. “But over the years I’ve found very few I could criticize.” He once said that he had never met anyone connected with athletics who he could honestly say he disliked. 

“The Daily Boost” and “The Daily Knock” thus disappeared from his program. 

Since 1942 his early evening program had been sponsored by Thompson Products Ltd. 

In its 30th year when he died last night, the program had the longest run of any sports show in Canada and he had interviewed countless numbers of championship athletes and local sports personalities during close to 9,000 programs. 

The slogan of his show “Good Sportmanship, Good Fellowship and Good Citizenship” together with his nightly closing remark “For Thompson Products Limited, A Good Place To Work” were as well-known locally as Foster Hewitt’s introduction to the Saturday night National Hockey League games: “Hello Canada and Hockey Fans In The United States.” 

The two men were pioneers in Canadian radio. 

Hewitt announced his first game from a telephone booth in 1923. 

Rex Stimers’ voice was carried on the air for the first time less than 12 months later. 

For the next 42 years there were few dull days in radio when Rex was in the vicinity of the microphone. 

Part Two of “Rex Stimers: Seldom A Dull Moment” will appear in The Standard Monday. 

Part 2.  Monday April 4, 1966 

The modern trend in sports writing and broadcasting is to take a rather dispassionate view of the sports events being covered. 

Slanting stories or comments towards the home club is generally considered passé. 

However, this trend was never for Rex Stimers. 

Rex, whose funeral was held this afternoon, was, as Hamilton TV and radio sports director Norm Marshall accurately described him, “one of the vanishing breed of broadcasters.” 

Rex never tried to hide the fact that he was strictly a “homer.” Just about anything which a St. Catharines team did was all right by him. 

As for the opposition? 

Well they were villains while the game was underway, although any supposed wrong-doing was quickly forgiven later. 

Marshall recalled a night in the mid-forties when Rex was broadcasting a senior hockey game in Hamilton. 

Rex was never reluctant in “refereeing” hockey or lacrosse games from the relative safety of the radio booth. 

And he received a few letters from irate wives of referees who suggested that he broadcast the game and forget about the insults. 

He was, however, held in the highest regard by the vast majority of the officials and he, in turn, respected them. 

Ontario Hockey Association secretary-manager Bill Hanley phoned this office Saturday to tell of a little incident involving Rex and an O.H.A. referee. 

Andy Bellemer, an OHA referee of 20 years, was seriously ill in a Toronto hospital during the 1960 Memorial Cup playoffs between St. Catharines Teepees and Edmonton Oil Kings.

“I was visiting Andy on the Sunday afternoon that the St. Catharines and Edmonton teams were playing at Maple Leaf Gardens,” said Hanley. 

“I stepped out of the hospital room and phoned Rex, suggesting that it might cheer Andy up if he mentioned him on the broadcast.” 

“It wasn’t a month earlier that Rex had taken Andy to task for some supposed wrong-doing,” continued Hanley. 

But early in the first period he stopped his commentary of the game and talked about Andy Bellemer for at least five minutes. He said what a fine referee he had been, a credit to the game and that he was sure he’d be back on the ice the next season.” 

Hanley said that he’d never seen such a change come over a hospital patient. 

“He was pretty low and was only half-listening to the game,” added Hanley. “But as soon as his name was mentioned he cheered up and seemed like his old self again.” 

Although we never heard Rex mention this particular incident, it was in keeping with a suggestion made to him by Toronto Telegram sports columnist Ted Reeve 25 years ago. 

Reeve, a friend of Rex’s back to his early days in Toronto, was listening to a lacrosse broadcast from Haig Bowl during which one of the players was rather severely criticized. 

“I have no doubt that you were correct in what you said,” wrote Reeve. “But before this player retires, try to say something nice about him. You won’t regret it.” 

Reeve had, in turn, been given the same advice by an older reporter in his office. 

A scorching article had been written about a Toronto sportsman who had devoted much of his life to minor athletes. 

As it turned out, the information the reporter received about an alleged wrong-doing was incorrect, but before he could print a retraction the man under fire died. 

Andy Bellemer died six weeks after listening to warm remarks while in his hospital bed. 

The OHA referees, upon hearing of Rex’s death, phoned Hanley and told him that they were getting together to send a wreath. 

Several months ago Norm Lever contacted this writer suggesting that an “appreciation night” be held for Rex Stimers. 

We met a couple of times, lined up a tentative committee, but never really got the idea off the ground. 

What else can be said except that we’re sorry Rex died without knowing such an event was being planned. 

Part 3.  April 5, 1966 

“The most remarkable thing about the stories concerning Rex Stimers,” his long-time friend Jay MacDonald once said, “is that 90 per cent of them are true.” 

We don’t know about the other 10 per cent, but after being a close associate of Rex’s and travelling with him to various sports events for 18 years, our only comment is that it would be extremely difficult to enlarge on them. 

During his early years in St. Catharines, Rex broadcast out-of-town lacrosse games while sitting in the CKTB studios in Oak Hill. 

The procedure was that a contact man, Haggis Mackintosh at first, later Whitey Frick and yours truly, would phone the goals, assists and penalties to Marion Mosher at the CKTB switchboard. 

Mrs. Mosher would in turn relay the information to Rex and Tommy Garriock. 

The result was an amazingly authentic-sounding broadcast. 

Crowd noises were piped in, Tommy would change lines by placing players’ names in a board in front of Rex and for years there was almost as much controversy over whether Rex was actually at the games as to the relative merits of the Athletics and Orillia Terriers. 

This plan worked to perfection until one night in Etobicoke when the “leg man” was Haggis Mackintosh. 

Haggis dutifully reported the first three quarters of the close game. 

The intermission between the third and fourth stretched on . . . and on . . . and on. 

Phone calls were made, to no avail. 

Finally, in desperation, an announcer was brought on the air to report in mournful tones that “technical difficulties” had prevented the airing of the last quarter. 

The “technical difficulties,” as it turned out, were that Haggis had completely forgotten to phone in the final summary. 

There was the night in Waterloo, a bitterly-cold arena, when Rex shivered and shook his way through the first two periods of a junior A game. 

Just before the start of the third period, a messenger from the arena office reported that a communication from CKTB studios had just been received reporting that not a word had been received at their end of the line. 

It seems that Larry Holleran, usually a most reliable operator, had mistakenly plugged the radio equipment in Waterloo into a rural telephone line. 

Seven rather shocked telephone subscribers were the only folk listening in on the first 40 minutes of the hockey game. 

During the Eastern Canada junior hockey playoffs in 1954, several trips were made to Quebec City. 

Rex was in excellent health the night before the sixth game, but in the morning woke up, eyes and nose running from a heavy cold. 

We were dispatched by team president George Stauffer to obtain medication so that Rex would be fit to broadcast that night. 

The druggist prescribed nose and eye drops. 

Now, as anyone knows, prescriptions are difficult enough to read at any time. But in French…well, you can imagine the problem. 

The two bottles were handed to Rex and an hour later we returned to see how he was making out. 

It’s a sight we’ll never forget. 

A most excitable person at any time, Rex was absolutely beside himself. 

“I’ve gone blind,” he moaned from his bed. “And I can’t seem to get a breath of air through my nose.” 

He was indeed in rough shape. 

His eyes were cemented shut as if he’d stuck his head into a bucket of wet cement and his nose was little better. 

As may have been surmised by now, he had been unable to make out the writing and had guessed wrong as to which drops were for the nose and which for the eyes. 

His eyelids were finally pried open, his nose cleared and, as if by some miracle, the cold disappeared. 

He gave his usual partisan description of the game that evening with no noticeable diminishing of lung power. 

The Teepees won that series and advanced into the finals against Edmonton. 

They won the first three games, tied the fourth then defeated the Oil Kings on a Sunday afternoon in Maple Leaf Gardens to bring St. Catharines its first Memorial Cup. 

This was the moment long-awaited by Rex Stimers. 

After 10 years of junior hockey in St. Catharines, the Teepees, coached by Rudy Pilous and urged on by Rex’s vibrant exhortations, had finally come home a winner. 

There had been many pitfalls along the way and there was to be one more for “The Lung.” 

Hundreds of St. Catharines fans traveled to Toronto for that final game and the cars lined up outside the Gardens on Carleton St. to parade home, led, of course by the team bus and Rex piloting his auto just a few yards behind. 

Horns were blaring, pennants waving as the parade headed out of Toronto, along the Queen Elizabeth Way, around Burlington Beach and into the home stretch on the south side of Lake Ontario. 

The happy Rex was tapping his gas pedal in time with a tune on the radio when suddenly, just as the convoy approached Jordan Harbour, the Stimers car stalled. 

The three passengers, Larry Smith, Don Sinclair and yours truly from the Standard, were convinced that this was just one of Rex’s little gags. 

But we were wrong. 

After driving thousands of miles to dozens of games all season, the gas pedal had snapped and Rex was in imminent peril of missing the supreme moment of his life, the triumphant entry into St. Catharines with the champs. 

Fortunately, the car immediately behind him was a cruiser driven by one of his friends in the Ontario Provincial Police. 

The cruiser neatly moved up behind the Stimers auto and pushed it the rest of the way down Queen Elizabeth, up Geneva St. and right in front of Garden City Arena. 

As happened so often with Rex over the years, “disaster” was averted and he was there right on time to lead the salute to the conquering heroes. 

Part 4.  April 6, 1966 

It was sometimes said of Rex Stimers, that he could be heard equally well without a microphone; that all the technical equipment was not really needed when he was at his vocal best. 

He certainly did have lungs which threatened to burst the eardrums in the immediate vicinity and operators at the CKTB studios usually had to turn the volume down in preparation for his final warhoop “We Really Scalped ‘Em Tonight” after a St. Catharines victory. 

However with a microphone he was heard over a remarkably large area. 

CKTB received mail from many parts of Canada and the United States reporting that listeners had heard the radio station signal while Rex announced sports events. 

Barring the possibility that some of those green-faced gentlemen piloting flying saucers heard Rex in outer space, the record for distance was Australia. 

Almost 20 years ago a man in Melbourne picked up Rex’s 6:45 program by freak reception while driving to work in the morning. 

“It wasn’t clear,” said the man in the card he immediately sent to CKTB, “But I did manage to hear where the broadcast was from and thought you might be interested.” 

The card was one of Rex’s most prized possessions. 

Clinton Page of St. Catharines phoned this morning to say that while he was in the Merchant Marine during World War II his ship often listened to Rex off the coast of Newfoundland. 

One story he liked to tell on himself was of the family in Northern Ontario which was spending a quiet Friday evening at home and decided to listen to radio. 

The dial was being turned for some soft music when out of the speaker blared Rex bellowing “They Scored!” during a playoff game against St. Michael’s. 

“The family cat was asleep in front of the radio,” said Rex. “I guess I must have shaken it up a bit. It jumped up, leaped right through the screen door and disappeared into the woods.” 

The frightened animal was never seen again. 

Rex was always the first to admit that he was the world’s worst loser. 

As a youth he played to win in baseball, later he showed no less determination as a fine amateur golfer. 

And he just couldn’t understand anyone who passed off defeat lightly. 

In the early years of junior hockey, he travelled on the Teepee team bus. 

When they won, he led the singsong on the way home. 

When they lost, he was the very picture of dejection. 

One night from Barrie after a defeat, the Teepees started singing a few old favourites but Rex refused to join in. 

“I don’t know what they’ve got to be happy about,” he said. “Don’t they realize they lost the game?” 

Soon after he decided to drive to out-of-town games and suffer in silence rather than listen to any hilarity. 

Rex was the answer to any promoter’s dream. 

Get him on the bandwagon and they need worry no longer about gate receipts. 

St. Catharines Athletics had an outstanding lacrosse team in the late 30’s and early 40’s but it was Rex who helped sell them to the public and pack Haig Bowl with upwards of 4,000 fans. 

Superlatives were his stock in trade. 

A team was either the greatest or the worst, a player either the cleanest, the fastest or the roughest and the slowest. 

There was just no in between. 

With Rex you could do no wrong or do nothing right. 

However those he liked out-numbered those he disliked perhaps 1,000 to one. 

The St. Catharines Collegiate senior football team asked his assistance one year in an attempt to interest more people in a championship game at City Sports Park. 

Rex, dressed in a wig, well-filled sweater and short skirt, led a parade down St. Paul Street. 

The startled shoppers fell in behind Rex as if he was the Pied Piper, followed the parade to the ball park and dutifully paid their way into the game. 

He did some promoting on his own too. 

He helped found a boxing club in St. Catharines 30 years ago and was virtually a one-man drumbeater in pushing boxing into the status of a major sport in this city. 

With Walt McCollum he organized the champion of champions golf tournament in the Niagara District and had set the date and site for the 16th renewal before he died last week. 

Part 5.  April 7, 1966 

In all fairness it must be said that Rex Stimers was not a “reporter” in the strictest sense. 

He wasn’t overly-concerned about statistics such as goals, assists or even the final score of a game and wasn’t beyond enlarging on things just a little if it suited his purpose. 

However, he more than compensated for these minor failings by his emotional involvement in every type of activity he broadcast. 

This enabled him to “project” himself, as they say, into every home which tuned in his nightly program or play-by-play broadcasts. 

Lou Cahill who, along with Tommy Morrison of Welland was one of Rex’s earliest pals in the Niagara District, recalled the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to St. Catharines in 1939. 

“It was typical Stimers luck,” said Lou, “that he only served one year on council, but that was the year of the Royal Visit to Canada.” 

Rex had to do double duty the day the King and Queen came to this city. 

To his intense pleasure he and his wife “Momma” were presented to Their Majesties along with other aldermen and Mayor Charles Daley at the CNR depot in West St. Catharines. 

As soon as the formalities at the station were over, Rex was whisked away by car to the corner of St. Paul and Queen where he was given a microphone and awaited his turn to describe the scene as the Royal Couple came down the main street. 

Lou, a reporter for The Standard at the time, was assigned to the same corner. 

“The cavalcade came over Burgoyne Bridge, went by Memorial Park and crossed Ontario St.,” said Lou. 

“There wasn’t a word out of Rex. It passed the end of William St. and he still hadn’t uttered a sound.” 

Cahill said that he began to suspect that Rex had suffered some kind of fainting spell and was held upright by the mass of people. 

“I finally nudged him and told him he’d better start talking,” continued Lou. 

Rex turned to his friend and promptly burst into tears. 

He was so overcome by the excitement of the occasion that he simply couldn’t speak. 

That was one of the few times, we might add, that Rex was ever stuck for words. 

The only other broadcast during which Rex lost his voice was due to a physical rather than emotional problem. 

Suddenly his voice quit although his lips continued moving. 

He turned to this writer, a stricken look on his face, and indicated that we had to take over. 

Now as anyone will clearly recall who heard those final minutes, we have as much talent for play-by-play descriptions of a hockey game as Jimmy Durante had for singing the lead in Othello. 

Fortunately the crowd noises partially obliterated our puny efforts and the station didn’t lose its licence. 

And just as fortunately Rex recovered from his sneak attack of laryngitis and was able to announce the last three rounds of the Memorial Cup series. 

Two years earlier the Teepees were also involved in a playoff round with St. Michael’s. 

Radio Station CKTB did not carry Sunday hockey games at the time and as the seventh game was on a Sunday, Rex had to suffer in relative silence in a box seat rather than getting rid of his excess energy in the gondola. 

The Teeps led the Majors 6 – 1 going into the last period, but suddenly the tide turned. With less than six minutes to play they had cut the margin back to 6 – 5, and just to add to the tension Bill Dineen hit the goal post with Marv Edwards apparently beaten. 

That was enough for Rex. 

He left his seat and headed into the press room under the stands. 

He had no sooner got out of sight of the action than a tremendous roar went up from the capacity crowd. 

The pressroom attendant rushed in and yelled at Rex: “They just scored.” 

That was enough for his already churning stomach and he became violently ill. 

What Rex didn’t learn until later was that “they” were the St. Catharines Teepees, not the Majors, and the Teeps went on to win the game and the round. 

Rex had a special affection for the student supporters at St. Michael’s, even though they were the opposition. 

They in turn treated Rex, who was a Baptist, as one of their own. 

Win or lose, at Maple Leaf Gardens or at Garden City Arena, the exuberant SMC rooters usually finished the day with a “Yea Rex! Yea Stimers! Yea! Yea! Rex Stimers!” yell which brought a lump to the throat and a mist to the eye of the Toronto expatriate. 

Concluding Part.  April 9, 1966 

It was often said that Rex Stimers was one of the few radio announcers who could inject his own personality into such routine tasks as reading baseball and hockey scores. 

In hockey, for instance, it was never just the Boston Bruins, but the “Beantown Boston Bruins.” 

The New York Rangers became “The Biggy-Wiggy Town Rangers” and Detroit, of course, “The Motor City Red Wings.” 

With almost anyone else these phrases would seem trite at best. 

But with Rex . . . well it just wouldn’t have seemed right any other way. 

The nicknames and phrases he coined for his favourite athletes were too numerous to list. 

However, they included “Gus The Alibaba” for the late Athletic lacrosse defenceman Carl Madsen; “Stinky” Edwards for the former Teepee goaltender; “Mutt” Mowry for baseball catcher Doug Mowry. 

One of his best-known was describing the Cullen-Barlow-Cullen line with the 1954 St. Catharines Teepees as “The CBC Line.” 

Paul Mundrick, a senior hockey star here 25 years ago was the type of player who played brilliantly one game, perhaps not quite so well the next. 

To Rex, he became Paul “In The Mood” Mundrick. 

He rated stops by goaltenders in hockey and lacrosse by “bells.” 

The lowest was the five-bell save, but this, naturally, was used only for a routine stop. 

A 10-bell save was fairly difficult, a 15-bell stop was brilliant and when he used the 20-bell save you knew that a minor miracle had just been accomplished. 

Rex was often accused, and rightly so, of failing to give the score of games often enough. 

As we said in an earlier column, he tossed this criticism aside by saying gruffly that it wasn’t his fault if people didn’t turn their radio on in time to listen to the entire game. 

But it could be also said that it was not too difficult to ascertain which team was winning, even though the score might be kept secret. 

When a St. Catharines team or a St. Catharines crew in rowing was ahead, his tone reached an unbelievable pitch. When they were behind, sorrow dripped from every word. 

Rex was a man whose mood could change in a flash. 

One night in Barrie the score was tied and a St. Catharines player missed an open net. 

Rex put his hand over the microphone, leaned over to this reporter and whispered bitterly “Why they have that guy on the team I don’t know. He can’t skate, he can’t pass, he couldn’t shoot the puck into the ocean if it was staring him in the face.” 

Less than 30 seconds later the same lad picked the puck up in his own end, skated through the entire Barrie team, pulled the goaltender and scored the game-winning goal. 

Without as much as a blush, Rex informed his listeners that here indeed was one of the finest prospects in junior hockey. 

“If he doesn’t make the National Hockey League I’ll miss my bet,” he said. 

Unfortunately the boy never did turn pro, but he did play some fine hockey for the Teepees later that season. 

It was the same Barrie arena, although at a different game, that we had one of our more memorable experiences with Rex. 

During the course of the game, Rex remarked that the radio booth appeared as if it hadn’t been swept out since the building was erected. 

“I’m sitting here with peanut shells up to my knees,” he said. 

It so happened that the manager of the Barrie arena was listening to the game in his office and, not surprisingly, he was a little upset over the remarks about his housekeeping. 

He informed Hap Emms, then coach and manager of the Barrie team. There was a rather novel way of getting into the Barrie radio booth. You climbed up a long ladder, which was then hoisted up behind you by a pulley, much like a drawbridge. 

Once you were there, you stayed until someone was kind enough to release the rope from below. 

When the game was over the radio equipment was packed, but lo and behold, the “drawbridge” was still up. 

And there below was Hap Emms who informed Rex rather bluntly that until he apologized for his earlier remarks no one was getting down out of the booth. 

We pictured two of us up there in the rafters until the spring thaw. 

However, fortunately Hap relented (the Flyers won that game, otherwise we might still be there) and after 15 minutes the rope was released, lowering the ladder. 

That, incidentally, was the start of the “feud” between St. Catharines and Barrie which resulted in Hap bringing a gallon of paint to Garden City Arena one game “so that you can paint your dirty boards.” 

In some ways Rex was like Peter Pan. 

He just never seemed to grow older. 

In his early 20’s he was a champion ballroom dancer in Toronto. 

More than 30 years later, while the St. Catharines Press Club was in full swing, he entered a “Twist Championship” at the club headquarters on the corner of St. Paul and Ontario. 

The judges, perhaps as much in recognition of his stamina as anything else, awarded him first prize. 

He couldn’t have been more pleased had the Athletics, the Teepees and the St. Catharines Rowing Club all won North American titles the same day. 

One of his favourite stories was of his Royal Navy ship, the Ursula, being torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean during World War I. 

The date remained constant, Dec. 2, 1917, but other facts grew just a little with the telling. 

At first he was adrift six hours, later it was eight and gradually worked up to 12 hours. 

“I prayed,” said Rex, “that I’d be picked up and granted 40 more years of life.” 

The destroyer HMS Century rescued Rex and one other survivor just before sundown, and he was granted more than 48 years on this earth. Each additional year he considered a bonus. 

He had his problems the last few years, as many people realize, but few perhaps, completely understood. 

But they were years which he lived to the full. 

“Rex,” someone said at his funeral Monday, “may have been 65 when he died, but in actual fact he lived double or triple that length of time.” 

“The Banana Belt,” as he called his beloved Niagara District, will go on. 

But it won’t be quite the same, or quite as exciting, without its greatest booster, Rex Stimers.

Footnote: Rex’s long time broadcast partner, friend and brother-in-law, Tommy Garriock, passed away on May 26th of 2005 at the age of 89.

RETURN